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On an average, trainee doctors spend less than three months studying the subject of nutrition, and this is over a five to seven years learning period. This is both astounding and disturbing, but slowly and surely the ‘allopathic professionals’ (i.e. doctors, dentists, vets, etc.) are beginning to realise that high quality, natural products have a significant role to play in the prevention, the treatment and the management of certain conditions, ailments and yes, even diseases through optimum nutrition. Thomas Edison, the great inventor is known to have said, “ The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and the cause and prevention of disease.” So as the science of nutrition advances, we discover more and more naturally occurring substances in food that are both necessary for good health and which can enhance our resistance to illness. First there were carbohydrates, proteins and fats; then vitamins and minerals; then enzymes; then essential fats; then antioxidants and now ‘pyto-chemicals’, a catch-all phrase for chemicals found in plant food like Aloe Vera, which have positive effects on our health and resistance to disease. Very often such natural remedies, which sometimes have thousands of years of healing history behind them, may not have gone through ‘official’ clinical trials but that does not mean that they do not have a part to play in maintaining good health and improving overall well being. On the other hand, it is alarming to note that many pharmaceutical drugs that have gone through these ‘official’ clinical trials have had to be subsequently withdrawn because of the damaging or toxic side effects they have had in spite of the so called satisfactory ‘official’ clinical trials. However, it is important to appreciate that there is no documentary evidence anywhere that would suggest that taking nutritious plant food like Aloe Vera might be harmful in any way provided the product is of the highest quality.

Today there is need for an increasing realisation that what we eat has the greatest effect on our health and that the causes of most of the diseases we suffer from stem from the fact that we are moving increasingly further away from our natural design. Every single cell in our body is made form the food we eat. For this reason, nutrition is considered the cornerstone of our health. It is high time we took advice from ancient scriptures like the Gita, ‘if we eat wrongly, no doctor can cure us; if we eat rightly, no doctor is needed’. Where the average diet contains less fibre, the rate of cancer of the colon is high. Many of today’s diseases are known to be the accumulated result of knowingly or unknowingly, consuming thousands of anti-adaptogens in the form of toxic agro-chemicals, pharmaceutical drugs, food chemicals and eating a highly processed diet. Modern day living and eating are causing fatigue, decreased resistance to disease and stress and a whole lot of other health problems that make life less enjoyable. The body simply gets exhausted from trying to extract a small quantity of useful nutrients from the bulk we eat while struggling to eliminate the waste. “It is my firmly held belief that with an adequate intake of micro-nutrients – essential substances we need to nourish us – most chronic diseases would not exist. Good nutritional therapy is the medicine of the future. We have already waited too long for it,” said Dr. Carl Pfeiffer brilliant scientist who had a massive heart attack at the age of 51 and was given a maximum of ten years to live, provide he had a pacemaker fitted. He chose not to do so and then spent the next thirty years of his life researching and developing optimum nutrition. Indians are rarely conscious of what they are shovelling into their arteries when they stuff themselves with eggs, meat, sweets and snacks containing high fat, high sugar and high salts. The arteries keep getting blocked silently and surreptitiously and there is a heart attack all of a sudden. Sometime back Mumbai’s noted heart surgeon Dr. Nitin Mandke who has done over 10,000 heart surgeries himself suddenly died of a massive heart attach although he never had any such ailments in the past. These chilling incidents clearly indicate that we are not very safe from such sudden and deadly attacks, which may not give any warning symptoms for timely diagnosis and treatment like in the case of Dr. Mandke who being a heart specialist could not save himself from a fatal heart attack.

Currently, the conservative estimate is that 75% of the diseases we die from are diet related. Every 33 seconds, someone dies of heart and blood vessel diseases which is India’s number one killer. Our country – particularly urban India – is reeling under a diabetic epidemic, affecting national productivity adversely. The WHO pegs the number of diabetics in India at about 20 million, putting it at the number one slot in the world. The estimates for 2025 are a staggering 57.20 million since rich diets and sedentary lifestyles are making us prime candidates to fall prey to this disease. All the chemicals from pesticides and fertilizers used on cereals, vegetables and fruit are having a cumulative, continual and highly detrimental effect on our immune system. Here starts the journey of human guinea pigs to the world of crippling diseases, unhappiness, constant visits to doctors for medical examinations, laboratory tests and the pill popping culture ending in misery, pain and death.

Yet in most cases, the treatments recommended by the medical profession are based on a cocktail of pharmaceutical drugs – substances that are completely alien to the human body – which can often be toxic and can have highly undesirable side effects. While some drugs produce mild side effects like rashes or itching, others can lead to life threatening complications. For instance, ephedra products are powerful stimulants that help weight loss. But they are believed to have caused deaths when combined with caffeine, says Dr. G.M. Bhatia of the association of Medical Consultants. Besides their lethal potential, such side effects also push up health-care costs. Doctors say they would benefit from access to a database of potential complications. “Drugs with known toxicity like thalidomide, drugs that are very potent like anti-cancer drugs, and drugs marketed in the past five years particularly need monitoring,” says Dr. S.M. Sapatnekar, the director of the Haffkine Institute. Vaccines are a key area of concern, too. However, there is little in Indian hospitals by way of Adverse Drug Reaction (ADR) monitoring – which also is known as pharmacovigilance. Attempts to police pharmaceuticals are largely confined to tracking substandard or spurious drugs. The National Pharmacovigilance Centre at AIIMS, New Delhi, and three ADR monitoring centers across the country are largely unheard of. It is astounding and disturbing to note that they are about to be replaced by 30 new centers because of their non-performance. Brijesh Regal, the World Health Organisation consultant to the Drugs Controller General of India, contended that there is no worthwhile ADR monitoring in India. “Whatever data is filed by the centers hardly constitutes pharmacovigilance.” he said. Pharmaceutical companies are supposed to collect data from patients and doctors on the efficacy of drugs. But experts say only a few companies actually do so. The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, which is in charge of enforcing these data surveys, does not have adequate machinery to do so.

Because of the absence of product patents in India, there is a surfeit of drug brands – more than 6,000 licensed drug manufacturers and over 60,000 branded formulations. For instance, nimesulide, a non-steroid, anti-inflammatory analgesic, is available in 57 licensed brands. As a result, all brands may not be surveyed because the active ingredient may be the same in all of them, says Dr. S.S. Mahajani, a pharmacologist with the Haffkine Institute. In addition, said medical research consultant Dr. Arun Nanivadekar, “Practicing doctors, who are the sense organs of pharmacovigilance, are not trained or accustomed to suspect and report adverse events either to manufacturers or regulatory authorities.”

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