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Friday, April 13, 2012

Review: The End of Illness

To be honest, I don't know how I heard about The End of Illness, but somehow it made it to the top of my library queue, so I read it. This book is a bit of a mish-mash of various things.

The thesis of this book is that you need to take care of yourself. How? It turns out the answers aren't obvious. For instance, he says that studies have shown that taking multi-vitamins (and other kinds of vitamins) have been correlated with increased risk of cancer. He also points out that many times you'll read about some study in the press and then when you dive into the details, you'll realize that because of the demographics involved (say, all Caucasians, or all people living on the East Coast of America), the results don't apply to you!

He's a big fan of getting your vitamin D from sunlight (it goes to show that he lives in Southern California), getting your vitamins from fruits and vegetables (but not juices), getting fish oil by eating real fish instead of fish oil tablets, and exercise. What's surprising after all that previous stuff is that he's also a big advocate of baby asprins and statins, saying that even if you have decent cholesterol, you should take them as studies show that they have benefits even for people with normal levels. He prescribes getting on a regular schedule (sleep, eat, etc, should all be as regular as possible), and avoiding sitting (less than 3 hours a day if possible).

He does do a great job of debunking vitamins, though I'd have to listen to second opinions before abandoning vitamins altogether. He does make exceptions. For instance, if you're diagnosed with low vitamin D, you should definitely get onto vitamin D pills.

He advocates patients signing up to give data about themselves as much as possible, since that's the only way in the long run for medicine to make progress. I agree, but I'm probably one of the few who believes this.

All in all, the book was a good read, and comes with lots for you to think about, including a pre-annual physical questionnaire, and an explanation of what all the tests your doctor will order does. Unfortunately, as he mentions, there's a lot we don't know about human health, so everything he says should also be taken with a grain of salt.


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