Signposts for the Future of Health and Medicine Found in the Past

By Chuck Norris

October 9, 2015 6 min read

Are you on the lookout for a new, natural food to add to your daily diet that's amazingly tasty? Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, has a recommendation you might want to consider.

"I consider good goat cheese, great bread and fine wine about the best culinary combination the planet has ever devised," he says. "This is not a health food! But then again, pleasure is good for health, and as an occasional treat for those who love it, goat cheese is very pleasurable stuff."

And it's not all that bad. A 1-ounce serving has 75 calories and 6 grams of fat — somewhat less than other soft cheese. Goat cheese also provides 5 grams of protein and 40 milligrams of calcium, along with about 3 percent of your daily iron recommendation. Some experts also believe that goat cheese increases absorption of iron and improves bone formation. In some instances, goat cheese can serve as a substitute product for people allergic to cow's milk. That's because of its unique protein structure. Recognized as one of the world's earliest man-made dairy products, this culinary delight we are being asked to "discover," has been with us for thousands of years.

When I read things like this, it makes me wonder anew whether in charting a course into the future — be it in the food we eat or the medicine we take — our footing is placed firmly enough in the past.

I know I have brought this subject up before, but the point is constantly being supported. Take this week's announcement of the three scientists awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for their work in discovering ways to fight malaria and roundworm parasite infections. One of the winners, scientist Youyou Tu of China, turned to ancient medicine for her discovery. Her breakthrough, artemisinin, was derived from extracting the active component of Artemisia annua, a centuries-old Chinese herbal remedy used to treat fever. Tu turned to studying ancient Chinese literature in order to unlock the secret of its medicinal properties. Malaria infects around 200 million people each year around the world, and her discovery has proven highly effective against it. In Africa alone, the drug is thought to be responsible for saving more than 100,000 lives annually.

Also in the news, researchers in Pompeii, Italy working on the remains of ancient Romans killed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 have come upon a curious discovery.

The 2,000-year-old, preserved remains they have been examining all appear to have been in surprisingly good dental health. Researchers equate this discovery to a diet containing few sugars and many fruits and vegetables, similar to what is now known as the Mediterranean diet. Massimo Osanna, archaeological superintendent of Pompeii, believes that the low levels of sugar in the Pompeians' diet resulted in far fewer dental problems than what is found in the modern human population.

In this ancient civilization, sugar was an expensive treat confined to the ruling class. Its widespread adoption into people's daily diet didn't happen until the 16th century with the establishment of sugar plantations in the West Indies and Americas. By 1750, it surpassed grain as the most valuable commodity in Europe. Today, global consumption of sugar is forecast to hit 173.4 million metric tons, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But here's where our story takes an interesting turn.

While too much added sugar can still be found in an estimated 80 percent of all supermarket foods, new federal regulations will soon require nutrition labels to carry details about added sugars. Health and wellness messages seem to be taking hold when it comes to the dangers of excessive sugar consumption, especially in the sugar-sweetened beverage market. The market, which went through the roof during the 1960s through the 1990s, is now experiencing a serious and sustained decline.

Over the past 20 years, sales of full-calorie soda in the United States have plummeted by more than 25 percent. According to The New York Times, the drop in soda consumption represents the single largest change in the American diet in the last decade. Experts believe the shift also represents a fundamental change in the way Americans think about soda. There seems little doubt that it will be a lasting one, considering that the decline in soda consumption appears to be sharpest among young Americans.

While soda sales continue to sink, water has now surfaced as the runaway success story of the beverage industry. According to one industry projection, water will surpass soda in sales over the next two years, becoming the most widely consumed beverage in the United States.

Though the major beverage manufacturers have their bottled water brands in place, they are not at all excited about this new trend, according to the Times. Bottled water is seen as a less reliable line of business for them. Customers appear to have less brand loyalty to water brands than they do to Coke or Pepsi.

Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

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