It has socialized medicine

BM: Doesn’t France have socialized medicine?

CL: It has socialized medicine. It also has a big private system.

BM: I don’t know France’s system, but I know something about Britain, which also has a dual system. I knew a woman who had to wait something like five years for a gallbladder operation, because it wasn’t an emergency. Could this waiting line for nonemergency surgical procedures have anything to do with the lower rates of surgery in other countries?

CL: I don’t think so–more people have surgery in the United States than any other country; it’s not just a matter of when they get it done. It’s a cultural thing, and it’s an economic thing.

For instance, although the United States spends more per capita on health care, it is rated the 21st country in terms of infant mortality, which is a measure of medical care. It’s not that the United States does not have good high-tech medical care, it’s because there’s a social-economic gap.

BM: We also have a lot of young women who are abusing their bodies while they’re pregnant–smoking crack, for instance.

CL: Yeah, they’re poor, they’re in the ghetto, and they have no prenatal medical care. But that’s a reflection of our medical system. It’s a private system. Only the people who have money or insurance are going to have good care.

BM: There are public clinics. No one’s going to argue that they’re the ideal, that there are enough of them, or that they necessarily give the kind of care you’ll get in a private ob’s office on the North Shore. But a lot of young mothers-to-be don’t seek out any help. They don’t go to the clinics.

CL: Right; they get discouraged by the system, so they don’t seek it out.

The main thing about Western medicine is that it doesn’t emphasis preventive care. It doesn’t emphasis noninterventional things. It doesn’t emphasis diet. The longer I practice medicine, the more I think diet is the number-one item that has to be dealt with. In medical school, you’re taught practically nothing about nutrition and diet; in residency, you’re taught practically nothing about nutrition and diet; and when you practice, you don’t do anything about it. The American diet, and the diet that’s served in hospitals, is pretty horrendous. It’s unhealthy.

I predict that, in future, diet will be the number-one therapy that will have to be dealt with in terms of both cancer and degenerative disorders.

BM: What do you think should be the dietetic emphasis? You were talking about herbs earlier.

CL: Western medical training does not teach you about the energetics of food. All foods have energetic properties. I don’t mean just calories per weight of the food; I’m talking about whether they’re hot or cold, and how they affect your body; whether they make you tense or relaxed, whether they moisten or dry you out. The traditional Chinese medical system has classified and done a lot of empirical studies of the properties of food and the effect they have on a person’s health. Literally you are what you eat, and peoples’ diseases are what they eat, too. I think things like gallstones, breast cancer, irritable bowel, and degenerative disorders are all related to diet. It’s because we live in a toxic environment, and we’re exposed to too many chemicals–not just the chemicals we inhale but what goes in our food, the processing of our food, modern farming techniques, the way animals are treated with antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, hormones. These are all coming out 20 or 30 years later in the person’s life, and causing all their medical problems, really.

BM: All of them?

CL: The degeneration of people with Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer–I think eventually they’re going to trace them to diet. Maybe some people have predispositions toward these disorders, but I think the diet and the life-style really make it manifest.

The environment and diet are the two main problems that are going to have to be dealt with in the future. I mean, the United States has the number-one cancer rate in the world, and there’s a reason for that. If you look at breast-cancer rates in women, they’re five times higher in the United States than in Japan. It has a direct correlation with the amount of dairy products and fat that’s taken. The ironic thing is that the government was doing a study on fat intake in women, and studying to see if it had any influence on cancer rates, breast-cancer rates–and then they canceled that particular study [before the results were in]. But the epidemiological studies have shown that the Western countries’ high-fat diet has a direct correlation with breast cancer. Women move from Japan to Hawaii, and their rate goes up; they move to the mainland, and it goes up to where American women are.

BM: When they’ve switched to an American diet.

CL: Yeah. So actually, people thought maybe it was a genetic thing, or maybe a local environment or toxic pollution. But Japan’s just as polluted as the United States. It’s the diet that makes the difference.