The attached PDF is the revised Arabic translation of the chapter, Wirds from Sea Without Shore.
Wu is an eighteen-year-old boy from China. He weighs 175 kg and has a BMI of 59. Unsurprisingly he has a whole host of medical problems, most of them caused by inflammation. His weight was not due to excessive calories. His food was the standard fare for Chinese teenagers of meat and noodles, and while he was eating slightly more than he should, it was not enough to make him 100 kg overweight. Wu was fortunate to find the clinic of Professor Zhao, a world expert on diet and gut bacteria, who examined his gut and discovered it had been colonized by Enterobacter, an aggressive bacteria that provokes inflammation. Professor Zhao put Wu on a diet that encouraged friendly bacteria growth in his gut. The diet was gluten free, free from meat, and high in fiber, comprising legumes, oats, peanuts, and Chinese herbs. After just nine weeks Wu lost 30 kg. After four months he lost 51 kg. After six months the Enterobacter bacteria was undetectable, Wu’s hunger vanished, and his inflammatory markers were normal. As an experiment Professor Zhao took Wu’s bacteria and implanted it into lean mice. Within one week the mice were fat, had diabetes, inflammation, and high blood lipid levels. The experiment was repeated by implanting different strains of gut bacteria from obese humans into lean mice, and in every case the lean mice became fat and unhealthy. To date, Professor Zhao has replicated Wu’s success with over 1,000 obese people.
David Servan-Schreiber sensed something wasn’t quite right a year after his thirtieth birthday. A professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, he felt his brain didn’t work. Eventually he was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. This type of cancer is rare with a poor prognosis. People often survive less than a year, even after aggressive treatment. Being a medic he asked what he could do to fight the disease. This was in 1992. He drew a blank. Oncologists did not think there was anything to do beyond radiotherapy.
The rich and noble history of Hyderabad has led the Indian government to recognize the city as one of the most important heritage sites in all India. Since medieval times the banquets and food of the Deccan have been legendary—perhaps second only to Lahore. Recently, however, Hyderabad has gained a new title: the diabetes capital of the world, with more diabetics as a percentage of population than anywhere. One in every six people above the age of twenty-five is diabetic; over the next five years this is predicted to rise to one in three people. Doctors at the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences predict that half of all Hyderabadis will develop diabetes over the next ten years. This epidemic of diabetes is not limited to the Deccan. Hyderabad might be the capital city of diabetes, but India has more people with diabetes than anywhere in the entire world. And the problem is only getting worse.
Death, blindness, paralysis, and stunted growth were ever present in childhood until the latter half of the twentieth century. Let us begin by simply noting the number of children affected by preventable diseases before vaccinations. Measles infected four million American children every single year, 10,000 of whom were hospitalized, 500 of whom died. In the early 1900s diphtheria killed 12,000 American children. Rubella meant 20,000 babies were born deaf or blind. While 300,000 cases of whooping cough led to 7,000 deaths. It wasn’t just the deaths, the grieving and the hospitalization that caused such misery; the illness itself was quite tough on the young child. Whooping cough is not just a bad cough that causes discomfort. Here’s what happens when a child gets whooping cough. First there is congestion, coughing, and a runny nose. Then a thick mucus coats the windpipe, which is impossible to cough up. The child coughs and coughs then panics. While panicking he continues to cough, though now without breathing in, depriving himself of oxygen. He becomes blue in the face. The bacteria then travels to the lungs causing pneumonia. Seizures commence as the brain is starved of oxygen. As the mucus continues to block the windpipe the child starts to suffocate. Some cough so hard their ribs break. Some die. A simple, harmless vaccine prevents all of this.
Mothers influence their child’s dietary preferences while their baby is still in their womb. The food that she enjoys during her pregnancy will shape whether her child eats his vegetables or gorges on high-sugar junk food. From the womb until the age of two, the child inherits his microbiota from his mother. The microbiota is huge amounts of bacteria and flora, that vastly outnumber human cells, and which contribute to our immune, brain, and overall health. It is transferred from mother to child by the birth canal, through breast-feeding, orally by kissing, and topically by touch: touching and loving your young child is as important as breast-feeding. If the mother’s or even grandmother’s microbiota is not optimal then the health and well-being of the child might be compromised. Lest anyone think blame is being attributed solely to mothers, note that epigenetic changes in DNA are passed from father to child. Epigenetic changes in DNA relate to cellular memory, as the information encoded upon DNA is passed from one generation to the next. These cells learn bad memories such as ignoring signs of infection or overreacting to antigens. This adversely affects the child’s immune health.
Remember that hot slice of toast dripping in butter you ate for breakfast? Perhaps it had Vegemite on. That bagel, that croissant, or those cereals you wolfed down. Think of the fragrance of coffee and freshly baked bread that you inhaled—two wonderful, wonderful aromas. Remember the anticipation, the delight, the contentment you experienced? Or the euphoric pleasure from eating a doughnut. This pleasure is no surprise. The gluten in your Anzac biscuits and baked goods breaks down in the stomach into a mix of polypeptides that cross the blood–brain barrier. They then bind to the brain’s morphine receptor—the same receptor to which opiates bind—producing a sensorial high, inducing both reward and desire. It’s one reason why industrial food producers load their products with gluten. They also load your food with sugars that light up the same pleasure centers in the brain as cocaine. Unfortunately this is a big deal, a very big deal indeed. Wheat and gluten containing grains can and do cause a myriad of serious health problems, some of which may not manifest until old age.
Getting richer is no longer making us happier—if it ever did. Depression, self-harm, and suicide are on the rise. Families are splitting up. Children are increasingly pressured and some desperately unhappy. Success and happiness are now conditioned by job status, by the cars we drive, the brands we wear and consume, the loyalty cards we are admitted into, the airlines we travel on, or the neighborhood we live in. Success is determined by our salary and what we buy with that salary. A successful marriage is defined by how much we provide for our spouse, or by how much money that spouse can leech from her husband. However much we have, we seem to want more. More wealth, more information, more food, more happiness, more possessions, and more luxury. We never seem to have enough regardless of the cost to ourselves and the world in which we reside. This desire for more things is facilitated by a sorry overstimulated, self-obsessed culture, in which our lower instincts are aroused, and the parts of our brain that help to make us civilized are diminished. The upshot is that we fight greedily over ever-decreasing resources, to feed our overstuffed, fat lives, gorging on junk infotainment, junk food, junk religion, junk aspirations, and junk loyalty to grasping corporations. The overriding message of our current culture is we do not have all we need to be satisfied. It is now time to say enough.
Some forty years ago a theory that a growing tumor could be “starved to death” by cutting off its blood supply was presented in the New England Journal of Medicine. It was met with skepticism, ridicule, and dismissal. This theory was called anti-angiogenesis. Today there are twelve anti-angiogenic drugs on the market for cancer treatment, with twenty-six more in the final stages of human testing, and another hundred-plus in human trials. Every major pharmaceutical company has an angiogenesis program, and the first FDA-approved anti-angiogenic cancer drug, Avastin, is becoming a household name.