DEAR READERS: Alarm bells are ringing over recent health news postings. One topic of concern is the increased incidence of colorectal cancer in younger people, associated with high consumption of beef and processed meats high in nitrites (cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2020/colorectal-cancer-rising-younger-adults). Another is a report from the 2023 World Obesity Atlas that 51% of the human population will be obese or overweight by 2035, bringing health care costs of over $4 trillion (World Obesity Atlas 2023, worldobesityday.org).
These bells have been ringing louder and louder for many years and are largely ignored by government food regulators and educators. Their usual line is, "Eat more fruits, vegetables and fiber," rather than saying to reduce salt, sugar, sugar substitutes, nitrites, food colorings, preservatives and "flavor enhancers" such as monosodium glutamate. The same is true with most manufactured cat and dog foods, which contribute to obesity and its associated health consequences, notably an increased incidence of diabetes and various cancers.
More sedentary lives and lack of regular exercise for people and their pets are contributory factors. Flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds such as pugs have difficulty breathing, which makes them exercise-intolerant and notably prone to obesity.
With increasing body weight from pathogenic diets filled with high-glycemic index ingredients, we see associated joint stress and generalized inflammation; these can lead to less desire to be physically active, and ultimately depression. This has opened a profitable market for Big Pharma via antidepressants and analgesics, which in turn can lead to more and more medications, causing liver, brain and other organ damage.
I have expressed my disbelief at the U.S. government's approval of the artificial sweetener aspartame, used in many "diet" sodas, that increases appetite and has other questionable side effects. Xylitol, another sweetener in many snacks and candies, has killed dogs. The sweetener erythritol has been linked to heightened risk of cardiac arrest, stroke and death in humans.
What we eat and feed to our animal companions influences what kinds of good and bad bacteria flourish in the digestive system -- the so-called microbiome. Good nutrition helps sustain and restore a healthy microbiome, which plays many vital roles in digestion, immune system function, mood, cognition and behavior. Bayer-Monsanto's herbicide glyphosate, in their widely used Roundup herbicide, disrupts this gut microbiome and is linked to the increased incidence of cancer (non-Hodgkin lymphoma) worldwide.
More members of the medical and veterinary professions are realizing the importance of a healthy microbiome, and are taking long-overdue corrective steps. Simply adding probiotics and prebiotics (more healthful fiber) to junk foods for humans and pets is not the solution, though this is now being widely promoted by the manufacturers of highly processed pet and human foods.
DEAR DR. FOX: Why don't you just be a veterinarian and write about animal care, as your "Animal Doctor" column is supposed to, rather than use it as a platform for your woke politics? -- R.S., address withheld.
DEAR R.S.: I see it as my professional responsibility as a veterinarian to address those social, economic and political issues that affect animals wild and domesticated and the natural environment we share with them.
According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, the term "woke" originated as a Black American slang term meaning "being aware of and actively attentive to important societal facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)." It also relates to an awakening awareness of, and involvement in, environmental justice, conservation and animal rights, of which I have been a longtime advocate.
Being "woke" means caring for the common good -- including the atmosphere, land and oceans. The recent agreement by members of the United Nations to establish protected marine areas in international waters is a major step forward, strengthening the U.N. Biodiversity Conference's pledge to protect 30% of the planet's land and waters.
Those who use the term "woke" in a derogatory, disparaging way see all such bioethically enlightened initiatives as barriers to "progress" for their own vested interests. As citizens in a democracy, all Americans need to be "woke" and see through the denial and disinformation coming from the "anti-wokers." We must not shy away from using word "fascism." To help save our democracy from fascism and technocracy, all high school seniors and college students should take a course in the humanities.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)