By James Marcum, MD
If I were part of the physician-led team treating George Washington years ago and suggested leeches were “not a good idea,” there is a good chance I would not be invited to the next meeting of the local medical society. Similarly, if I were practicing dentistry and suggested that cocaine might not be the best anesthetic agent, dentists from that time would have thought that idea “strange.”
Throughout the course of history new ideas and discoveries have often taken time to be accepted by leaders. This is not unique to medicine. This has been the case for scientific advancements, new business ideas, and even political achievements. Unfortunately, taking time has often cost lives.
People have been smoking for years. In the 30’s, it was suggested that smoking be used as a treatment for asthma. Now, years later, it is well known that smoking is a risk factor for heart disease, lung disease, and cancer. Smoking shortens life. Even though this is well established, people still smoke. The good news is that we know the truth, and individuals can decide. Those promoting advocating against smoking are no longer being looked at as strange. It just took time.
The American College of Cardiology has recently released new recommendations that urge hospitals to improve patient menus by adding plant-based options and removing processed meats, which have been linked to 60,000 cardiovascular deaths a year (JAMA, online March 7, 2017). This recommendation of one plant-based main dish at each meal with a variety of vegetables and fruit is not a new concept. Many have been recommending this for years and now those voices and research are being heard by professional organizations. Now lives can be saved. It took some time.
The American Medical Association has also passed a resolution calling on hospitals to provide healthful plant-based meals and eliminate processed meats. Why is this happening? Finally, voices are being heard. Evidence is being evaluated and disseminated. There will be much more to come. It took some time and effort. Now individuals are making time to evaluate this evidence-based information.
The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine has had a campaign to make hospital foods healthier. The World Health Organization has stated publicly that processed meats are carcinogenic to humans. Doctors including Ornish, Campbell, McDougall, Esselstyn, Diehl, Barnard, Greger and a host of others have been spreading this information for years. Organizations like, NutritionFacts.org, PlantPure Nation, The Center for Nutrition Studies, and Food Matters, to name a few, have been spreading this information for a time, often against public opinion. To all, we say thank you. Sometimes it just takes time.
I am thankful that with the Internet and other forms of modern media, this information has spread. There will be pushback as history has proven. What individuals will do with this information is a personal choice. At least the word is out. It took some time.
We are going to hear much more about this issue as history progresses and someday we will look back and ask, “Why did this take so much time”? We will also be learning of other revolutionary ideas as history progresses. Let’s make the time to look at the evidence when evidence is available. Let’s learn from history.
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