Recently, USA Today published an article about widespread belief in health conspiracy theories. Apparently over half of American adults believe that federal agencies, the government, and/or corporations are involved in some cover-up of health information. This was based on a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine that was based on an online survey of 1351 adults. Not exactly a large sampling but I have no doubt that many people believe this.
Some of the theories presented by those in the survey included that the FDA is covering up a natural cancer cure because of pressure from the pharmaceutical companies, that cell phones cause cancer, and that vaccines are pushed even though they cause autism and other psychological disorders. The article made a fleeting reference to “other theories” involving fluoride, genetically modified foods, and the deliberate infection of African Americans with HIV.
The article went on to say that people believe these things in spite of scientific evidence to the contrary such as studies showing no link between autism and vaccines. Then the article linked the beliefs to certain “health behaviors” saying that those surveyed who believe in multiple conspiracy theories are less likely to use sunscreen, get flu shots or check-ups, and more likely to use herbal remedies and eat organic foods.
I say bravo! While the author appeared to be depicting these folks as “crack-pots”, I prefer to think of them as intelligent and enlightened. I am not a conspiracy theorist but I do believe that the pharmaceutical companies have undue influence on the FDA. And I am a cancer nutritionist. So I have spent many hours reading research studies and articles (aka scientific evidence) about the impact of foods and food compounds (aka natural cures) to prevent and even treat cancer.
I believe that many public health centers and medical personnel “push” vaccines, some in a genuine effort to to reduce the number of people who will get sick but some are simply tied to pharmaceutical profits. The health status of the American population is not good. Most of us are overweight, obese, and probably have compromised immune systems making us unable to fight off the occasional flu viruses and cold bugs roaming around. A policy of recommending vaccines for these normal viruses may not be unwise for those who don’t have healthy immune systems. But a better policy would be to educate people on the relationship between diet and disease and to improve the quality of our food supply and the individual diet so that more people can rely on a strong, healthy immune system to ward off viruses and bacteria.
As far as vaccines and autism, we are able to study most disorders at a much better level now with our knowledge of genes due to the Human Genome project. It is entirely possible that something in the genetics of certain children makes them more susceptible to environmental influences such as components in food, beverages, chemicals, air, and yes, even specific ingredients in vaccines to trigger a gene mutation or behavior that results in autism or some other disorder. But there are plenty of incidents of autism that have no connection to vaccines.
And I specifically take issue with the attempt to paint people who use herbal remedies, avoid genetically modified foods, and consume organic foods with the same brush as “conspiracy theorists”. I do turn to alternative remedies for certain health issues. They have been working in Asia for thousands of years with lower risk of the side effects of so many of the OTC medications and pharmaceutical drugs. I also avoid GMO foods and try to eat organic foods. There is scientific evidence of the dangers of genetically modified food. The modified proteins can elicit a heightened immune response that can compromise the immune system over time. And neonicotinoids in pesticides cause damage to our gastrointestinal system. GMO crops are typically engineered to withstand higher levels of these pesticides. Glyphosate, specifically, has been shown to negatively impact our gut bacteria, leading to a compromised immune system. So eating organic is one way to avoid GMO food components and high levels of pesticides in our food.
I don’t know that I would characterize the current public health situation as a cover-up. There are numerous examples of corporate executives who have moved into positions within the agencies that are expected to regulate them. Corporations pay lobbyists and special interest groups to promote ideas that will result in favorable policies for them. It’s not a conspiracy on their part … it is pure greed. I would actually love it if half of the American adult population realized that many of those big companies producing our food don’t really care about our health!