The title is from the German book “The Disease Inventors” by Jörg Blech, original in German, translated by my friend, Herbert Nehrlich, a family physician in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, especially for my use. The contents of this chapter are drawn heavily from that translation. Like the “free” check up camps in India there were traveling healers roaming the countryside in Germany. They also do not ask for any payment like their Indian counter parts. They used to come in their vehicles stopping in public squares or church yards. They lure people into their vans and examine them thoroughly only to release many of them as patients! “The gleaming bone-white Osteoporosis Research Mobile went on its maiden voyage in the summer of 2002, from Hamburg to Erfurt, through much of Germany. Women over 60 were urged to have a thorough preventive check-up done, with bone density measurement included. With this method, the aim is to find and identify those female citizens who suffer from age-related deterioration of the bone structure: the so-called Osteoporosis. This search for sick women is not entirely devoid of self-interest. It is sponsored by a foundation and by 14 pharmaceutical companies and makers of medical equipment and products.
“Men were not spared, either. Workers from Pfizer criss-crossed the country, visiting about 30 cities in their blue-white truck. “The Healthy Man” is displayed on the truck in large letters. The truck’s platform can be extended so that the space on the ground floor is tripled in size. Inside are five examination cubicles as well as an “information bar”. There, the assessment of visitors and passers-by is done inside of 10 minutes. Medically trained personnel measure cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and weight. “If the man doesn’t come in for his check-up then the check-up must visit the man”, so says Pfizer. In the vicinity of a large golf tournament, for example, 6297 normal men were processed through the diagnostic vehicle. And, see the result: half of the men showed increased blood pressure and in 44 % the blood tests were outside of normal limits.”
“The Osteoporosis Mobile and the Pfizer Truck seem like messengers for a medical profession that wants to permeate all of society. Reminiscent of Medici and charlatans of medieval times, sickness merchants today actually go out hunting for patients. The fact that they apparently find sick people everywhere affirms the nature of the situation. While it is true that Germans today are quite alert and long-lived, as never before in their history they do not fit into the norms of modern medicine. The medical risk factors have been deliberately set so that everyone can potentially be sick.” And it works like this:
A laboratory test is performed on a large number of healthy people, for example on blood donors, military recruits or sport students. The next step is the calculation of the average of all the measured results. The 95 % in the middle are then arbitrarily declared Normal Value and the 5 % outside of this –up or down- are declared “conspicuous “, even though all subjects were healthy people. It follows that one can label all of mankind as ill: If always 5 % of a population shows an abnormal lab value then every subsequent testing raises the number of “suspects”. After 20 measurements only 36 % of the subjects will be regarded as healthy. And, after 100 procedures this number shrinks to less than 1 %. Doctors deduced from this a malicious result: A healthy person is one who has not yet been thoroughly examined!
Some risk factors, however, were set from the outset in such a way that not 5 % but large segments of the population are instantly affected. Take cholesterol, where several years ago in Germany the margins were determined so that people with ‘normal’ values were in the minority and those with abnormal values were in the majority. How can this be? A large study of 100,000 Bavarians resulted in an average cholesterol value of 260 mg/dl. The “National Cholesterol Initiative”, a private interest group of 13 medical professors, nevertheless recommended in 1990 an upper limit of 200 and was able to have this accepted. The doctors of this “Cholesterol Initiative” represent lobbying groups, among them the industry-friendly “German League against Blood Pressure” as well as the “Lipid League” and the “German Society for Lab Medicine”. In a “strategic paper” they demanded an aggressive expansion of the diagnosis. “Every doctor ought to know the cholesterol values of his patients”.
Through the dedication of financially interested medics, the majority of the German population has been declared risk patients. In the 30 – 39 year age group, according to the arbitrary upper limit, 68 % of men and 56 % of women displayed abnormally high cholesterol. In the 50 – 59 year age group this rises to 84 % for the men and 93 % for the women. The absurd consequences of such margin limits: The patients alleged to be at risk feel healthy and fit. The Viennese satirist Karl Kraus is right: “The DIAGNOSIS is one of the most common diseases”. Pre-occupation with cholesterol values is widespread, promoted and encouraged vigorously by certain doctors and institutions because of the immense profits that can be earned.
One example, the National Association of Practicing Cardiologists, together with margarine manufacturer BECEL and pharmaceutical company PFIZER, as well as ROCHE DIAGNOSTICS regularly undertake “Health Initiatives” which are designed to persuade many people to have their cholesterol tested. In a brochure, available to anyone visiting a pharmacy, it states: “Starting at age 30, everyone ought to know his cholesterol level and have it re-tested every 2 years.” The motto is: An increased cholesterol level is one of the most important risk factors for heart and circulatory diseases. The “New Pharmacy Journal” designates cholesterol as the “TIME BOMB” for your health. Yet, this wax-like substance is an essential part of life; it is needed in large amounts by the brain, which consists of 10 – 20% cholesterol (dry substance). Most cells of the organism can manufacture cholesterol if it is lacking in the food, which is fortunate as without this devilish molecule the cells would be doomed. However, many people become fearful of facing an early fatal heart attack at the mere mention of the word cholesterol. It spoils the breakfast egg for many and causes concern at the thought of buttering their bread rolls and having a piece of sausage. Driven by a guilty conscience, over one million people have had their cholesterol tested in 2001 as part of a “Health Initiative”. Not unexpectedly, over half of the ones tested showed values above the arbitrarily set figure of 200. The participating doctors and companies of this “Health Initiative” reap direct profits: ROCHE DIAGNOSTICS manufactures instruments for cholesterol testing. Cardiologists get new patients who are immediately told to stop eating butter – which in turn helps BECEL, the margarine manufacturer.
PFIZER then sells cholesterol-lowering medicines – its world-wide sales are in the billions of Eurodollars. It is rare that a medical campaign which puts the label “PATIENT” on the vast majority of the population has been carried out with such force and marketing investment expenditure. A committee of the American Heart Association demands that regular cholesterol testing of 5-year old children be carried out. As soon as the child starts on solid food, doctors urge the parents to give their offspring only cholesterol-poor foods. Blood pressure would need to be checked from the 3rd birthday on. Actually, such early tests permit no conclusions as to future health of the tested children. “The screening of children, including of those 25 % whose families have been identified as having a high incidence of raised cholesterol levels and early heart disease, is a waste of money which probably does more harm than good”, says Thomas B. Newman, epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco.
If these recommendations were to be taken seriously, breast milk could not be given to babies, as it is a veritable cholesterol bomb. The reality however shows that breast-fed babies do rather well in their development, which isn’t a miracle - the bounty of cholesterol from the mother’s milk is used for construction of nerve cells and the brain. The general impression that the public campaign clearly gives is that the cholesterol theory is an established fact. This is incorrect. Many physicians are very doubtful about cholesterol’s alleged bad-guy role in the drama Heart Attack. As early as in 1990, when the dubious upper limit of 200 was announced in Germany, cardiologist Herald Klepzig of the German Heart Foundation in Frankfurt distanced himself from this. Surrounded by cholesterol hysteria he said: “We would be happy if we could point to a single medical controlled study that shows that lives are saved through reduction of cholesterol. However, it is not difficult to find ten studies that show that a reduction of fat actually is correlated with increased mortality.”
And Paul Rosch, president of the AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF STRESS and medical professor at New York Medical College comments: “The brain-washing of the public has been so successful that many people believe ‘the lower the cholesterol values the longer the life span’ , nothing could be further from the truth!” Indeed, the label of the ‘evil cholesterol’ is not supported by proof, only by circumstantial evidence – and of those, many are unable to stand up to scrutiny. In 1953 the researcher Ancel Keys of the University of Minnesota published an article which eventually became the foundation myth of the cholesterol theory. In his paper he shows a diagram that suggests a clear relationship between fat consumption and mortality from coronary heart disease in six countries. “The curve shows that there is hardly any doubt that there is a correlation between fat content of the food intake and the risk to die of coronary heart disease.” (Comments from LANCET).
Impressive though the curve is, it has a flaw: Keys considered data from six countries only, even though data from 22 regions were available. And, when these are examined the correlation between high fat consumption and heart death disappears. Says Swedish physician Uffe Ravnskov “Had Keys included all countries nothing would have come of the curve”.” For example, mortality from heart disease was three times higher in the U.S. A than in Norway, although fat consumption in both countries was roughly identical.” Critics like Ravnskov do not deny that there is a correlation between blood fats and coronary heart disease. Considering that 0.2 % of a population suffers from familial hypercholesterolaemia. People with this inherited illness do not have sufficient numbers of cholesterol receptors. Thus the cholesterol can barely be transported out of the blood into the cells. The result: Raised blood cholesterol. Levels are between 350 – 1000 mg/dl. The affected people have an increased risk of dying earlier than others, from heart infarct because they often suffer from a severe form of arteriosclerosis. Post mortems on people who had familial hypercholesterolaemia have shown that the cholesterol does not only get deposited in the blood vessels but everywhere in the body. “Many organs are practically impregnated with cholesterol”, says Ravnskov. Therefore, it is a mistake to extrapolate this relationship between cholesterol and arteriosclerosis to people with normal cholesterol levels.
When the physician urges “risk patients” to switch to low cholesterol foods the consequences for old people can be potentially dangerous. The nutrition of old people is “already compromised through dentures, constipation, lack of appetite and food intolerance to many foods’, says U.S physician Bernard Lown, a well-known heart specialist who, as a member of “International Physicians For The Prevention Of Nuclear War” received the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. He was my Chief at Harvard. As a doctor, Lown witnessed how a very old female patient lost weight rapidly and became emaciated because of her attempts to lower her cholesterol levels. Lown stopped the dangerous nonsense. “I recommended that she ignore all doctor’s advice eat whatever she fancied. Within six months she regained her lost weight as well as her vitality and spirit.” The devilish cholesterol –we need it from cradle to grave.
This in short is the essence of the whole book. There is another chapter on how blood pressure became a disease but I could not get it translated. That shows how the disease high blood pressure was born out of the necessity to sell more drugs on long term basis to net billions of dollars of profit! Since this book is difficult to get for the common reader, I thought I better give the gist in the form of a chapter in this book. I am grateful to my friend, Herbert, for translating it to me so willingly. Herbert is a great humanist and an excellent doctor and a great writer. His ancestors came originally from Germany.
* Jorg Blech. Disease Inventors. German 1999