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When I was a young man growing up in London Ontario there were some family health problems that bothered me. My brother, Jack," a type A lawyer" at the age of 38 had a massive heart attack that nearly ended his life. For the sake of his wife I tried to be positive hoping that: " it was good that he was a young man." The Cardiologist shot me down declaring that: " young man have bad heart attacks."

My mother was diagnosed with Colon Cancer at the age of 60 which involved surgery and subsequently a Colostomy that sadly defined the rest of her life to live in discomfort.

I was completely unaware of what caused my motherís Cancer until I was able to go to the Medical Library at Western. I was saddened that momís consistent constipation perhaps led to her illness. Colon Cancer seems to be most prevalent in societies that are well off. I was amazed to find that the incidence of bowel cancer on the content of Africa amongst the less affluent of people was not a factor in their deaths. When they immigrated to the West they had the same proportion of cancer as the rest of the people.

A diet of fruits, vegetables and legumes, non saturated oils along with small size portions protected them from the ravages of obesity that sadly is the norm in Canada/USA.

I just finished reading a very informative book: "The Story of the Human Body" by Daniel Lieberman - Chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University.

Knowledge for me beats ignorance and I am still trying to figure out the facts of life. Here is what I have learned from the book.

"Americans and Canadians are failing shamefully at preventing childhood obesity. Since 1980 the percentage of children who are obese has tripled in the United States. More and more children (and their parents too) are growing fatter and overweight children are so prevalent that they are now perceived as normal.

People today are more likely to get ill from type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and colon cancer then from communicative disease such as polio, measles or diphtheria.

For those in the more industrial affluent societies our daily lives has little or no physical work requirements. Cars, airplanes, subways, escalators now do the walking for us. The average American walks less then a half kilometer per day while commuting for hours on average 51 kilometers in their cars. We do not have to get up from our poorly designed "Lazy-Boy" chairs to change the channels on our TV that we spend countless hours whiling away our time and health.

The average American or European consumes about one third of all of their meals outside the house. Most of the food we eat is now as industrial as the cars we drive and the clothes we wear. Most of the restaurants really do not cook our high caloric food, preferring to open a pail/frozen packages to heat/warm our meals. All you can eat menus of 188 choices have smorgasbord buffets are offered by many of our restaurants.

Sugar has become so superabundant and so cheap that the average American consumes more then 100 pounds a year. Soda consumption in the US has more then doubled to about 160 quarts per year.

Type 2 Diabetes, a preventable disease, that was once rare has increased seven fold in developed countries. It can lead to heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, amputation of limbs, dementia and ultimately death.

Heart disease, the "silent killer", is the leading cause of death in Canada/USA. My brother Jack, was a type 2 diabetic, who neglected his health for wealth. He was a perfectionist very tense "type A lawyer", who hated dead-lines.

He used to laugh at me because I enjoyed jogging to help relieve the stress of counseling some students who were at high risk. He preferred to play tennis on Sunday mornings with a group of doctors. One day he charged the net to put the ball away and felt a massive pain in his chest. He beat the odds and changed his life by reducing his hours of work: he even took up swimming, changed his diet and ultimately his life style and he lived to see his grandchildren.

What can we do to be healthy? The obvious, fundamental solution is to help more people eat a healthier diet and to exercise more. The other key solution is to be pro-active and focus on the causes of ill health rather then treating the symptoms of these maladies. Overweight or obese people do not have a disease. Merely focusing on their weight rather then their health and casting blame is counter productive and does not help.

The October Nutrition Action Health Letter featured a "Lancet Medical Journal" report: "Extra Pounds & Cancer." "Excess weight may increase the risk of more cancers than previously thought". Researchers tracked five million people over a seven year period and the following are their findings.

"Heavier people had a higher risk of leukemia, as well as cervical, colon, gallbladder, kidney, liver, ovarian, uterine, and post menopausal breast cancer than leaner people."

Just as this is not a perfect world your body is not the best of all possible bodies. But itís the only one youíll ever have; and itís worth enjoying, nurturing and protecting.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com