The end of illness?

A ‘rock star’ doctor says throw away the vitamins, load up on baby aspirin, and keep moving

The end of illness?

A. Bello/Getty Images

Take statins if you’re over 50, and baby Aspirin, too. Drop the vitamin supplements like they were a lit cigarette. Junk the juicer. If the vegetables at the supermarket aren’t today-fresh, opt for fresh frozen. Wear sensible shoes. Eat lunch and go to bed at the same time every day. Get your flu shot. Move around a lot, even when you aren’t exercising. Digitize your medical records, family history and genetic profile, and store this information on a USB stick. Carry it with you always. Share it, anonymously, with the world.

Think of yourself as a system: cancer is not something the body gets and health is not something it has—both are states, dynamic processes really, that the body undergoes. And your system is not the same as anyone else’s: the daily glass of red wine that does wonders for your friend may be killing you. Take note of the specific, unchanging details of your system. Is your ring finger longer than your index finger? That ups the risk of prostate cancer for a man, and of osteoarthritis for a woman. (No one knows quite why, but the marker is well-established.) Keep an eye on your more changeable fine points. Check your nails: yellowish hue bad (go for a diabetes check); white crescent at the base good (iron levels are sufficient). Check your ankles: indentation marks from your socks or loss of hair could mean circulatory problems and increased risk of blood clot.

Do all these things, which essentially add up to two commandments—cut down on daily sources of life-threatening inflammation and take an active part in your own health care—and you stand a very good chance of living to see the end of illness.

So argues Dr. David Agus in The End of Illness, a passionate and provocative assault on the rut in which he believes modern medicine is stuck, especially his own speciality, oncology. It’s been almost a century since deadly infectious disease was pushed into the background of the West’s mortality tables. Yet while deaths from the leading chronic killer, heart disease, have declined by 60 per cent in the developed world since 1950, the cancer death rate has barely budged.

Agus, 46, has the credentials to demand a hearing. He’s a professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California, the 2009 GQ “rock star of science,” founder of two personalized medicine companies and a man who “looks at death two or three times a week,” as he sombrely notes in an interview. “Every week I tell people, ‘I’m sorry, I have no more drugs to try on you.’ I don’t want to do that anymore. It’s killing them, and it’s killing me.”

We need to admit our mistakes and radically reorient ourselves, Agus says. In chorus with a growing number of chronic disease specialists, Agus thinks it’s time to forget the lessons erroneously drawn from the victorious war against infectious diseases, time to realize chronic illness is different. It is not discrete parts that can be targeted with drugs or surgery like a colony of alien bacteria, but the whole system. Cancer is a verb, he repeatedly and strikingly stresses: the body of a leukemia patient is “cancering.”

And with most types of cancer, we are scarcely likely to win a war, not if victory is defined as a complete cure. But if we look at the body as a system, with a few simple lifestyle changes, plus new technologies already in the pipeline, three inexpensive medicines, and a change in the way we store and share medical information, we can achieve a different sort of victory: prevention, delay, control. The end of cancer, the end of all illness, Agus says, is in sight.

For all his faith in technological fixes coming down the road, Agus’s present-day advice has a decidedly old-fashioned feel. And with good reason: “Because that’s where the data is.” Agus is a fierce critic of shoddy and misleading medical tests, ones that are too observational (not controlling for variables and allowing bias to creep in) or too short in the time span covered or involving too few subjects. But there’s no debating the studies, many involving thousands of participants, that demonstrate the deadly effects of simply sitting around.

For example, a 13-year study showed that sitting four hours in a row doubles your risk of dying from or being hospitalized for heart disease later in life, even if you regularly exercise, and almost surely elevates the risk of cancer as well. All told, sitting is almost as deadly as smoking. Agus, surprised to find after measuring his daily steps that he moved around his office far less than he thought, now conducts all telephone calls while walking.

Inflammation is the danger embedded in prolonged sitting, and the killer risk factor that lies behind Agus’s advice. As far as wearing sensible shoes, Agus would not be surprised to hear that wearing high heels lops years off a woman’s life since they are known stressors of leg joints and the lower back. Stress means inflammation, and chronic inflammation kills, probably by slowing or blocking the body’s DNA repair processes. It has been linked to cancer, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and accelerated aging. The more of it you avoid, the better your long-term prospects.

Hence the comfortable shoes and the regular sleeping hours. The human body craves predictability, and stresses out when its daily rhythms are upset. Going to bed and rising at the same times every day is possibly more important than the amount of sleep you get. Avoid naps, unless, of course, you already have a well-established nap habit. And stick to your schedule every day: no sleeping in on weekends.

Likewise, eat at the same time as much as possible. If you have to work through lunch, try to have a snack at the accustomed hour. Something healthy, which means—in conscious echo of Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food—“as unprocessed as possible; not too much; mostly plants.” Agus has a deep suspicion of the obvious targets (french fries, say), but also of foods and food processing that can plausibly claim to be healthy. Juicing, for instance: “Does your body really want 10 carrots at once?” he asks. Or of supposedly fresh produce that has travelled hundreds of kilometres, leaking its nutrients all the way; better to eat fresh-frozen produce. It’s vital to get your nutrients from the real thing, because for those who think they can make up any dietary deficiency by taking vitamins, Agus has some very bad news.

Vitamin supplements would be bad enough if they were merely useless, he says. The money Americans spend yearly on vitamins—some $25 billion—is sorely needed elsewhere in the medical system. They aren’t getting much for their money now. Consider claims that vitamin D significantly cuts cancer risks and that three-quarters of the U.S. population had insufficient levels of it. For Agus, these results are found in not very high-grade studies; for one thing, he’s at a loss to understand how anyone can claim to have established the correct dose for appropriate D levels. The bone disease rickets is long gone and age-related fractures are not on the rise, meaning that by the only indications we have, the population has quite enough vitamin D. Moreover, some of the miracle stories record what he considers absurdities, one even declaring that vitamin D cream rubbed on tumours can “make them vanish,” which ignores the general fact that the human body reacts differently than lab-grown tumours and that actual tumours in actual patients are difficult to reach with a salve.

Lost in the buzz created by such stories are the results of tests that far better reflect Agus’s gold standard—double-blind, placebo-controlled—one of which concluded elderly women taking D supplements had an increased risk of falls and consequent fractures, and another that found the vitamin had a potentially negative effect on prostate cancer. If our bones are doing well, Agus asks, why add more to a complex system when we don’t really know what it’s doing? Vitamin D feeds healthy cells, so it may also feed cancerous ones. Vitamin C certainly does. Tumours, Agus says, “eat it like candy.” And while vitamin C does indeed attack free radicals, a key villain in inflammation, that’s not always a good thing. The body makes free radicals for a reason (the immune system uses them for killing invading bacteria) and has its own ways of keeping them in check (a store of neutralizing enzymes). When we take supplements that excise an undue number of them, Agus says we are upsetting a delicate balancing act to ends we cannot predict.

Some of the new evidence on vitamin supplements pushes the conclusion from useless to very dangerous. A 2003 meta-analysis that looked at 82,000 patients in total found vitamin E use inconsequential and beta-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A and a common element in over-the-counter supplements) to be deadly enough in prompting heart attacks that the researchers suggested it no longer be studied because of the risks to participants. A major Finnish study found that for the five to eight years patients took the supplements and eight years afterwards, the vitamin A precursor upped lung cancer incidence by 18 per cent. The vitamin E had no effect on lung cancer, although it cut prostate cancer (by 32 per cent), albeit at the cost of a 50 per cent spike in hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding in the brain). “Death is a pretty serious side effect, don’t you think?” sums up an exasperated Agus.

Unless you are correcting a real deficiency or are pregnant, ditch the supplements: “I’ve had more push-back on what I have to say about vitamins than on anything else I argue, including heated conversations at dinner parties with people who have whole shelves of multivitamins. But there are no shortcuts to nutrition and health, except ones that might shortcut your life.”

Agus’s book, which published this week to massive U.S. media coverage, is likely to shake up not just vitamin champions (and manufacturers) but his own colleagues. When he stood before thousands of doctors at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in 2009, and uttered The End of Illness’s core theme—“We’ve made a mistake”—the “hisses that I heard leaking from the audience were disheartening.”

Once you have done what you can do in your lifestyle, and changed the five things that are reducing your lifespan, Agus thinks the battle to reduce chronic inflammation should move to your physician’s office and to the three medicines he believes all middle-aged people should consider. Like neurobiologist Paul Patterson, who has studied the links between children in utero and later diagnoses of autism, schizophrenia and depression, Agus says people take the flu too lightly. In his 2011 book Infectious Behavior, Patterson recorded the final health effects from the great flu pandemic of 1918, which killed more people than the Great War. Those who were in their mothers’ wombs during the pandemic went on to lifetimes of health problems disproportionately worse than those born before or after, including higher rates of diabetes and heart disease—the effects on fetal brains of the mother’s immune system ramping up to fight influenza. Agus too emphasizes the ferocity of the immune system’s response to influenza, reacting “like an irrational personality that blows everything out of proportion, and producing staggering amounts of inflammation.” Every bout of flu leaves “ghostly marks,” aging your blood vessels and leaving you vulnerable to all kinds of inflammation-induced diseases later in life.

So take the vaccine, and if you won’t do that, at least adopt common-sense hygiene: wash your hands and avoid airplane flights if at all possible. The stakes are higher than you thought.

More important than any vaccine, he says, is baby Aspirin, famous for helping to prevent blood clots and thereby staving off heart attacks and strokes, and now revealed to be far more of a panacea than previously thought. Last year British scientists, looking at eight long-term studies involving 25,000 participants, found that 75 mg a day reduces the risk of dying from common cancers by 10 to 60 per cent. And how does Aspirin do that? It’s a powerful anti-inflammatory. Until very recently, baby Aspirin offered a trade-off for physicians and patients—blood-thinning benefits (anti-clot action) versus blood-thinning disadvantages (bleeding). Agus thinks the balance has now tipped decidedly in favour of the benefits.

Then there are statins, which the skeptical oncologist hails as the major wonder drug of our time. Statins like Lipitor and Crestor have dramatically reduced the ravages of cardiovascular disease over the last two decades. They were designed to do so by inhibiting a liver enzyme that plays a key role in producing cholesterol, the bad kind that clogs arteries. But study after study has shown that cholesterol reduction is not the only beneficial result and perhaps not even the most important. They reduce heart attacks even in people without high cholesterol, because they too reduce inflammation. They also shrink your risk of death from respiratory illnesses and infections, even long after you’ve stopped statin therapy, in a multi-year “legacy effect.” Statins are one of the few drugs that will keep you off a ventilator if you ever come down with swine flu. If you are approaching 50 and not on statins, Agus advises, ask your doctor why.

The system-wide effects of statins is a key factor that led to one of Agus’s most arresting conclusions: we probably already have all the drugs we will ever need. “I know that’s a little provocative,” he allows. “But I firmly believe it. Look at the drugs we have now. We can hit every major system in the body. What we don’t know is the dose and the timing and the particulars of individual bodies.”

Agus’s frustration with this state of affairs, the single greatest roadblock to his illness-free world, is palpable: he’s clearly walking faster as he discusses it over the telephone. There are terabytes of medical knowledge out there, but it is not combined or organized. “A patient goes to a doctor who sends him to a specialist, with a side trip to a technician, and there’s hardly any communication between them. Sometimes we can’t communicate. We don’t even have standard nomenclature—what one doctor calls a “fractured” leg another calls a “broken” leg, and they don’t end up in the same data collection.”

There are magic bullets on the horizon, but without data they can’t fire. In 2009, Agus and Danny Hillis—a former Disney engineer who pioneered the development of so-called parallel supercomputers—set up a way to measure 100,000 different types of proteins from a single drop of blood. The goal is to evaluate and make sense of the body’s intricate inner workings in a way that’s much more dynamic and insightful than what’s offered by DNA, which can only tell us about risk rather than predict the actions of your proteins. Within a decade, Agus predicts, people will be able to upload their protein information onto a personal biochip for an individualized plan of action, including both preventive measures and therapies for identified ailments like imbalances in blood sugar (diabetes) or uncontrolled cell growth (cancer).

Their doctors won’t just examine them once a year; they will continually monitor them. But they will only be able to know what to do because patient data will be continuously added to a universal database and fed into new trials and experiments, speeding up our understanding of which drugs work best for which people. This database of millions upon millions of patients might show, for example, that people with a particular genetic profile respond to one type of cancer treatment but not to another. As more people anonymously add their health data, the database would become more and more effective as a tool for preventive medicine. The problem with health care today is that not enough is known about the body to practise preventive medicine, Agus argues. We’re stuck in the diagnostic model, waiting for an obvious symptom to emerge—and at that point, doctors are usually treating a disease that has had every opportunity to progress.

If we continue to “hoard” our health information, as Agus puts it, the future will never arrive. He’s impatient with privacy worries—“I’m talking about taking all identifiers off”—and is hopeful, in a Facebook-era that demonstrates little concern with privacy, that the justice of his cause will bring people around. “I’ll tell them that if we have this information, maybe their children will never have to suffer from the problems they have had. It’s their right to demand an end to illness, and this is how it will have to happen.”




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The end of illness?

    • Awesome video! Thanks a lot for sharing.

  1. Get started on tracking your health and compiling your medical data at https://www.bestliferewarded.com  Free rewards and great tools from Canadian health non-profits.

  2. Wow, glad to know the “data” sharing is being endorsed and with a viable method!!!  Mainstreaming thinking will catch up with the innovators. 

  3. Indeed adjustable lifestyle, healthy food choices, exercise, positive mind and positive attitude are the answers. Fidela, Worcester.

  4. Assume article!!

    Chronic Inflammation is the enemy of most diseases related to aging….. 

    • “Assume article!!” What do you mean? Assume the article is true? Assume it is false?

      • “Awesome article”

  5. No stopping it now, word is out…end of disease

  6. “we probably already have all the drugs we will ever need.”
    Not just provocative, but in all honesty that statement is on a par with “God dun it” with regards to discouraging research and anticipating future requirements. Totally drug resistant TB has been discovered in India and I don’t think aspirin and statins will cut it there.
    Either the reporter miss-understood or the good doctor’s ego got the better of him there.

  7. End of Disease would be good but the end of your life will come eventually.
    I don’t want to be some 100 y.o. wrinkled old man.
    I’d rather keep reincarnating into a brand new, young and healthy looking body.

    • We’ll see what you say when you start getting close to that magic number. While I agree about being old and sick, just being old by itself isn’t such a bad thing if you’re healthy and living life.

      I believe in reincarnation too, but really, it’s not all its cracked up to be eh? I mean who wants all that stress? LOL

      And highschool…again? Kill me! LOL

      • My aunt died at 97.  She was ready to go even though she was in great health, lived in own apartment and still travelled.  Her heart actually stopped and she dropped dead while packing for a trip.  The problem was that all her cohorts were dead….her brothers and her sisters, some of her neices and nephews; her husband.   Everyone she loved had left her behind.  She was tired of loss.  Do you really want to outlive your kids?  This physician has admitted he can’t fix people’s cancers….not everyone can live for ever.

        • Certainly it depends on your perspective on life and death as well as what kind of social network you’re able to maintain, or even the kind of community you live in.

          I find our society has an unhealthy obsession with living for its own sake and forcing others to live with horrible pain and disease, which I object too, but I have a hard time imagining that I won’t want to live to see my great grandchildren and care for them in whatever capacity I can.

  8. This atricle represents inacuracies and is dangeroius to your health.
    Only a  moron would take daily drugs like asa- the number one cause of gastrointestinal hemmorage , and a statin which is the number one cause of peripheral neuropathy & errouneously links cholesterol to heart disease.
    «shame on  mcleans for printing such irresponsable dangerous advice of another  pill pusher .

    • If you look back at the article, he’s recommending them for older people, ie people over 50 and it’s perfectly reasonable to do so given the studies. I doubt very much he’s saying to do it without consulting a doctor or that it will be smart for everyone. After all, he does point out early in the article that what’s good for one person could be terrible for another.

      I think his point is to be sensible, eat well, exercise everyday and pay attention to your bodily cues.

      What I appreciate about his attitude is that he’s trying to get people to stop relying on quick fixes or some concept of what future medicine will be able to do as an excuse to ignore your health.

      Seems pretty smart to me.

    • you’re kidding about the “errouneously [sic] links cholesterol to heart disease” statement right? Good God I hope so given how well-established that is…

  9. This comment was deleted.

  10. If the legs of our desks were longer we could stand up and move around a bit as we work.

    • Wendy, if someone could invent an attractive, functional, and supplementary “standing” computer workstation, they would get rich.  For example, if I could rig up such a station to tie in a wireless laptop, I could get away from this darn desktop.

    • They have been around for a while now. You can kick your chair out of the way, stand, and raise your entire desk to a comfortable height while standing. I have one.
      BUT they do cost more, and there is the problem, corporations are the masters of most desks on the planet, and their philosophy does not have anything that addresses the health of their employees, no profit in that. Much like an old desk, just get rid of the employee (or desk) and get a new one.
      All hail capitalism!

    • we did that at home.  It helped my wrists and my hips tremendously

    • Prolonged standing isn’t the answer either. It can lead to many more physical problems than prolonged sitting. The best solution is a desk that can be easily raised and lowered to alternate sitting and standing. These desks typically have a hydraulic system that works in much the same way a common desk chair does, but they are pricey. Frequent mini-breaks are helpful, especially when partnered with common-sense practices like walking to speak to a nearby colleague instead of emailing them(from 15 feet away).

  11. Interesting article. I don’t really take supplements or vitamins and I do get regular activity plus I buy fresh food and make everything myself. Moderation is key – no matter what it is. Do a little bit of everything, but not a lot of one thing and the rest is out of your hands. 

  12. “victorious war against infectious diseases”  That’s a good analogy.  The fact is we HAVEN’t won the war against infectious diseases.  We just got a long reprieve and that war is heating up again.  The same may hold true for cancer:  We will find a broad spectrum solution that will work against a wide variety of cases but not all.

    As a matter of fact in the long term I think we will “cure” cancer more than we will Infectious diseases because Cancer is about the body going wrong…which is limited….Infectious diseases are about outside organisms continually adapting against our defenses, which will never stop.

  13. I think its great that people are finally starting to realize some of these points, however as a nurse studying a masters in gerontology and as a believer in alternative health practice, this is nothing new to me and my peers. I do feel that his plug for cholesterol drugs over 50 is a little rich, its much better to not eat food that makes you high levels in the first place, and avoid ANY drug therapy if able. I agree aspirin is good for stroke reduction though.

  14. This guy is a total nutjob and obviously hasn’t a clue about orthomolecular medical research.
    Statin drugs cause Alzheimers, Diabetes and a pile of other problems.
    Excess calcium circulating in the bloodstream causes arterial damage. The cholesterol myth was exploded 20 years ago. The increased risk of heart disease and atherosclerosis in women can be attributed to the “osteoporosis” scare that has sent them scrambling to gobble calcium supplements.
    Trust the medical industry to sell “sickness” and then “sickness care”. No cures, just suppression of a symptom or two.
    No one has ever died from taking vitamins. Ever. Not so for prescription drugs. Since consumers
    pay for vitamins out of pocket, how is this diverting healthcare dollars? What a load…
    Even the pharma company executives will admit that drugs may have a beneficial effect for about 40 per cent of those who take them to suppress a stated condition but are totally useless for the other 60 per cent. But for that one beneficial effect there could be 200 unwanted effects. What a deal.

    • lauriej1 – Correct me if I am wrong but aren’t you one of those anti-vaccine people who a few weeks ago was preaching how vaccination has been a failure?
      If you have research that you can provide sources for which proves that “statin drugs cause Alzheimers, Diabetes and a pile of other problems” please provide them so we can all peruse them.
      Further, the physician didn’t say vitamins ‘kill” people …..he said they didn’t give people any bang for their buck…..if the money invested in vitamins was invested in other places in the healthcare system, some real good could be done.

    • Just checked DynaMed (I’m assuming you use that as well, or something similar that pools all research to date and provides summarative information regarding evidence), and statins are NOT presently known to be associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, atorvastatin may actually improve cognitive impairment in pts who have already developed Alzheimer’s. But please feel free to provide pubmed access numbers to the research you’re referring to that says statins cause Alzheimer’s–I’d love to read those studies.
      Also, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE provide the pubmed access numbers to the research debunking an association between cholesterol and atherosclerosis–I’m dying to read that, given the strong, well-established association between the two. I’m a third year medical student at a Canadian university and I’m SHOCKED that this is the first time I’m hearing about this.

  15. Interesting. However, the good doctor, like everyone else, ignores the biggest public threat to health of all: second-hand smoke.
    The well-off manage to live in their own, detatched homes. So they don’t worry about this.
    But millions of ordinary people are forced to live in attached dwellings: apts., condos, duplexes, etc.
    There isn’t a single attached dwelling that is effectively insulated against 2nd hand smoke. In most cases, 90% of the polluted air at the neighbors’ is drawn into your own apartment or condo.
    There are technical solutions, but, since only cold outside climates are insulated again, these solutions are not even considered. Needless to say, the smoking neighbor’s wall is not the outside air. There are social and legal solutions, which is to make smokers go out and smoke on the porch or balcony. But not a single jurisdiction that would mandate that.
    Also, there isn’t a single filter on earth that can trap the miniscule particles of tobacco smoke, among the smallest, therefore the deadliest polluting particles on the planet.
    Therefore, millions of smokers are killing their neighbors by smoking inside.
    There isn’t a single landlord who has the guts to evict an illegal smoke who’s paying him rent each month on time (unless the landlord lives in the building and smells the smoke).
    There isn’t a single public figure or politician, either, who’s made all this his or her business to object to.

  16. I’m not sure if I agree or even understand all what he said, however, I do remember that when only aspirin existed, there were less heart problems, less blood clots, less of many illnesses.  When Tylenol came on the market, with all its hipes, there was a difference, and not all good.  Food for thought.

  17. sustained use of a.s.a. can cause a blood clotting deficiency, with serious risk of hemorrage. No sustained drug use is without side-effects. 

  18. 46 is about the point that stuff starts to go bad, we will see what he believes in a few more years.

    Now that Statins are off patent protection folks are going to be coming out of the woodwork pushing them.

    Multivitamins are a waste of time for the most part.  But Vitamin C is much needed, sure cancer tumors love them, I am sure tumors love everything the body has to offer, that is their job.

  19. does this doctor have any books out I’d like to read them.

    • This article is a book review….his book is called “The End of Illness”.

    • This article is a book review….his book is called “The End of Illness”.

  20. There are MANY problems I have with this article. First of all, its not realistic! Its bogus! Comparing sitting at a desk (whih most of us do, due to our jobs, schoo etc) being compared to smoking? C’mon! Recommending a drug to population at large???? Dangerous! Eating fresh wholeosme food? Not possible all the time,not for everyone! We don’t have access to organic, fresh fruits and veggies all year round. It can get expensive and not everyone can afford it. How many people manage to get their minimum 5 portions of fruits and veggies daily anyway? How many people really make sure they have a balanced diet? How many people can afoord to ditch a desk and exercise everyday? How many people can afford to have a normal sleeping routine? Supplements are not meant to cure or replace anaything, they are meant to supplement. ANd you cannot put all suplements and vitamins in the same pot. There are many forms of supplements out there, whole food vitamins, plants, herbs, greens, minerals, amino-acids etc…
    I think we need to be realistic! In the environment and society we live in, these “ideal” conditions are not always possible. That is when supplementation can help.

    These type of articles disgust me! A poor attempt to promote himself, his book and be “sensational”.
    I hope you enjoyed your 15 seconds of fame mr Agus

    • Okay…you had me until you said things like “how many people can afford to have normal sleeping routine?”   Come on.  A normal sleeping routine doesn’t cost anything…..As for exercising each day….it is about getting off your couch and going for a walk or taking the stairs at work.   If you got rid of your tv and only spend a limited time online, you would be amazed at the time that would free up.  As for your veggies & fruits…they don’t have to be organic…eat a big salad…that will take care of 3 or 4 servings right there.  1/2 a banana is one serving so if you eat the whole banana, you just ate 2.  He wasn’t talking about plants & herbs…just vitamins.  It is kind of well-known that supplements don’t “work” as well as real food due to the digestive process…ie iron supplements aren’t as well asorbed as iron from meat.  He is just saying that the vitamin supplements aren’t worth the money people are spending…..eat a cup of strawberries …full of vitamin C, tasty, full of fibre. 

      • by affording sleep I’ve meant… new parents, insomniacs, busy people, students. You cannot schedule rhythmic sleeping, all the time, like he suggests.It would be ideal, but not realistic.  Eating well, of course it can be easy, but easier said than done. How many people I wonder get their daily intake of veggies and fruits? He trashes supplements, but I beg to differ. When a diet is less than perfect, supplements can come in handy to well.. supplement dietary deficiencies. Iron supplements (natural) can be a great alternative  for vegetarians or anaemics. (and there many forms of iron out there, along with many other combinations ie iron is better absorbed when taken with vitamin C) Vitamin C is a great antioxidant with many many benefits. B12 and folic acid along with iron are essential for women trying to conceive or pregnant ones.  The B complex is amazing for the nervous system, stress among other things. Vitamin D does play a crucial role in our mood and immune system. And those are just a few examples, backed up by data, supported by studies. To go ahead and claim that tumours eat up vitamin C like candy is mind boggling!  

        Supplements are very complex, and I don’t find it right to trash everything, and make bold unfounded statements just for the sake of getting some attention. I believe life is about balance. Diet plays a huge, major role, along with overall lifestyle. I KNOW supplements are amazing and can be beneficial when needed.

  21. There is no magic trick that will save us from disease and death, but there is a lucrative market for tricks that purport to. 

    I was once a conscientious health-seeker. I was skinny – and afraid of everything I ate. Didn’t drink – alcohol or coffee, became alarmed if I tasted sugar, I didn’t smoke, and then one day in a Greek food restaurant I caught a whiff of the flaming meat being served at a nearby table. 

    I shocked – and delighted – my dinner companions by ordering that very same flaming meat and shared wine to go with it. We ordered another bottle. 

    Afterwards I felt better, more human,  than I’d felt in years. 

    I will not go back to that caution. I will not die thinking “Oh darn! What did I do wrong?!  I did everything right but still here I am dying.”

    Or – ok. Maybe stem-cells will come through so that you can live forever. As long as you jump up from your desk and do the twist every hour. And watch out what you take for a headache. And remember that statins will kill you faster than bacon – or no, wait. You aren’t going to ever die.

    This stuff drives me nuts. 

  22. Not being a physician I cannot argue the medical points but as an IT expert and with years of working in health information systems the points on gathering medical data are spot on. Data needs to be standardized, shared, and as complete as possible for medical progress. Patient data is often subject to hording and many medical data systems are not designed to allow information sharing or query due to being in 
    a non-interchangeable format.

  23. Sigh. But wasn’t there just a study saying the danger of aspirin causing bleeding outweighed the possible benefits?

    So confusing, so never-ending….

  24. This article scares the heck out of me. I’m not one to freak out over medical articles, but there’s a lot of truth to this.

  25. Really love the title “End of Illness”. I also just found out about taking the bay Aspirin instead of the regular doses. Great for thinning out the blood, making it easy for the heart. If only it was all this simple. Healthy diet and exercise, avoiding sugar.

  26. Health is all good, but like it or not, you will die eventually.

  27. I can’t believe this guy is recommending
    statin drugs to the general over-50 public. Does he have shares in these
    companies or something? Do you ever listen to all the possible side-effects of
    these drugs? Also, a daily dose of baby aspirin shouldn’t be taken just because
    you are over 50. There is a risk of internal bleeding with daily usage. Look at
    the photo of him. He is 46 years old? I am almost 57 now and I look at least 10
    years younger than him. White crescents on the nails indicate healthy iron
    levels? I have no white crescents at all and my latest blood test reveal that I
    have healthy iron levels.

  28. I can’t believe this guy is recommending
    statin drugs to the general over-50 public. Does he have shares in these
    companies or something? Do you ever listen to all the possible side-effects of
    these drugs? Also, a daily dose of baby aspirin shouldn’t be taken just because
    you are over 50. There is a risk of internal bleeding with daily usage. Look at
    the photo of him. He is 46 years old? I am almost 57 now and I look at least 10
    years younger than him. White crescents on the nails indicate healthy iron
    levels? I have no white crescents at all and my latest blood test reveal that I
    have healthy iron levels.

  29. Shame on Brian Bethune for writing, and McLeans for publishing, this pile of rubbish. If this description of Dr. Agus’s book is accurate then I would avoid ‘The End of Illness’ like the plague and plan to live a lot longer. His blanket statements about multi vitamins and vitamins D and C in particular are laughable. I caution readers to check many resources before believing anything you read these days. For a good overview on the reams of studies on the benefits of Vitamin D check here http://www.mercola.com/article/vitamin-d-resources.htm or read The Vitamin D Solution by Dr. Michael F. Holick.  Before making a vaccine decision and rushing to get a flu shot (or any other vaccine) go to http://www.nvic.org/ and check out the non-profit national vaccine information center and read the statistics people are reporting. For a vaccine that provides immunity an estimated 25% of the time (and nobody seems to be checking titre levels of antibodies to see who did get immunity) it certainly has a lot of potentially harmful effects. As for the use of baby aspirin and statin drugs by everyone over 50 you might want to take a look at the side effects and often overrated benefits of each. http://search.mercola.com/search/Pages/results.aspx?k=statin drugs is a great place to start to be more informed, especially about the dangers. One of the few recommendations I can agree with here is for everyone to get moving and exercise more. The best, video I’ve seen describing why, can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUaInS6HIGo&feature=youtu.be  by Dr. Mike Evans.  I question much of the advice relayed in this article and it leads me to ponder over who is backing Dr. Agus, his book, and current work. Hmmm I wonder if Big Pharma has anything to do with it… because who stands to benefit from these recommendations? Certainly not us. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but hopefully most will do their homework and see through the shoddy information presented in this article.

  30. Interesting article for sure, but this magazine seems to come out with similar “health journalism” stories every month or so.  Did Maclean’s not just publish the Wheatbelly interview wherein another good doctor (with a book to sell) claimed wheat free diets would be a significant panacea?  A few months prior, the “health journalism” story was about the caveman / paleo diet.  And now…Baby Aspirin… really?  Was this product not just placed on the “what were we thinking” shelf a few years ago?  (I did not know you could still buy this in Canada.)  And now it’s back?  That’s health journalism for you.  Health news is pretty engaging reading (with titles like End of Illness) and big business.  Maybe Maclean’s could start from this angle when considering future stories in the realm of health journalism. 

  31. Regarding vitamin D and cancer. Dr. Agus’ summary dismissal of the benefits of solar ultraviolet-B and vitamin D in reducing the risk of cancer incidence and death shows that he has not studied the literature carefully. Rather than arguing wtih him, I suggest that interested readers do their own review of the findings through these websites:  http://www.pubmed.gov (search vitamin D, cancer), http://www.VitaminDCouncil.org, http://www.Grassrootshealth.net, and http://www.VitaminDWiki.com. Many of the findings from ecological, observational, and clinical studies have no other explanation after consideration of various other factors than substantial benefits of vitamin D. For optimal effects, serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations should be above 40 ng/ml, as shown in one randomized controlled trial. 

  32. Statins, according to other experts, not necessarily all good…check out Davis’ The Healthy Skeptic and a link to The Statin Effects Study web site http://medicine.ucsd.edu/ses

  33. Aspirin a day can lead to Reyes syndrome.  It is not a natural anti coagulant. Try ginger and tumeric also high in antioxidants.  Can your aspirin do that?
      They have done studies on people with control groups on those who get annual flu shots and those who never get the flu shot.  The regular flu shot group have drastically less antibodies in their system for fighting illness. Put that in your pipe & smoke it.

  34. How can he ignore all the horrendous side effects of statins? For me this cancels out all his other arguments.

  35. You state that the long ring finger on a man raises the risk of prostate cancer. The book and questionnaire both say it decreases the risk by one third. Please check your facts for those who have not read the book.

  36. There are just way too many inconsistencies with Mr. Agus’ facts and many, many other studies and anecdotal evidence. Statin drugs now suddenly become the drug of choice with all the evidence of organ damage. Health is about balance and lifestyle, and that balance is different for each of us. If there is anything noteworthy in this article, it is to dump the pharmaceutical regimen that has been literally forced down our throats. And, in spite of the millions of dollars dumped into medical research, America lags well behind many Eurpoean and Far Eastern countries in terms of life span and quality of life? As long as the current medical system and the multitude of pill-pushing physicians are driven by profit motive, there will be disregard for holistic and non-invasive approaches that can and will keep our bodies in balance.

  37. I read the book and this is a good summary. Dr. Agus, himself, admits that he is just theorizing and admits that these are just facts to put into our own thinking on what to do for ourselves. This article sums up the book perfectly but should’ve directly quoted Dr. Agus on the fact that he is just theorizing. Dr. Agus also predicted that present knowledge will not be good 10 yrs. from now. This book is good for learning to think for yourself, though, for the concrete thinker, it may be very confusing.

  38. this is a true display of what is wrong with our medical system. What a bunch of hogwash, did the govt pay this guy to help sell DANGEROUS MEDS JUST TO MAKE A BUCK? shame on you macleans.

  39. shame on you macleans. This is hogwash. Seems as though our pill pushing govt paid this guy to push even more dangerous meds, with terrible side effects. When will the world wake up? They even went so far as to make natural health sound dangerous? Come on people, dont buy this crap.

  40. I believe

    - OHIP coverage should include naturopathic medicine
    - Ministry of Health should educate more Canadians esp. women planning to have kids about bad bacteria a.k.a internal parasites a.k.a worms. Every single human has them but not everyone understands that its overgrowth means more toxins in our body.
    - gov’t should eradicate importance of good probiotics to everyone, including very young kids ( doc told me my 3 yr old son will hve to endure lifetime of eczema and steroid cream to keep it at bay— total bull, my son’s eczema is gone thanks to a Japanese probiotic)

    I wish there will be a Canadian manufacturer who will make a children multivitamin similar to the one i buy from New Zealand called Total Balance and a probiotic similar to that Japanese brand.

  41. Interesting. Check out Canadianhealthmatters.com This is on track with what he says about keeping your medical records with you.

  42. Can anyone help me with this?

    When I was reading this, I thought the main idea was to provide an alternative of consuming drugs to keep yourself healthy (to end illness) with more physical movements and etc.

    Is this correct? Can someone expand on this?

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