The End of Illness

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dr. David Agus, professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, talks about his book,The End of Illness  (Free Press, 2012), in which he argues for a systemic view of our bodies in order to avoid all illness - including cancer.


David Agus

Comments [45]

Mike C - Natural

Please oh please oh please my beautiful brethren, DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS MAN.
He is actually trying to scare you into thinking you have disease. You can find anywhere, that the research he cites about asprin, about vitamins and supplements- about benefits of statins- are funded by Pharmaceutical companies. If a man is foolish enough to be greedy, he will also be foolish enough to fudge a survey to add a false sense of credibility to his claim. if you still think "Dr." Agus is more knowledgeable because he's a scientist, think this instead, He's more money hungry because he's greedy.

I may be wrong in calling another beautiful human (Dr. Agus) Greedy, but forget him and focus on what he's doing by ignoring it.

Lastly, The bible says we are capable of moving mountains.. It doesn't say, "Take baby asprin, and then you can move mountains." Please folks, do not pay attention to "disease" for we create it in our own minds and instill fear or death from it by the use of B.S. statistics, and statins.

Jan. 14 2014 04:28 PM
Maggie Spilner-Brotzman from Lehigh Valley, PA

I saw Dr Angus by accident this morning and came to my computer immediately to question his authority -- particularly on statins and vitamin D. So easy to mention benefits of statins without mentioning side effects and risks! So easy to mention one study on vitamin D, without looking into all the other studies. Does he know that parents in this country are losing their children because they are born with rickets and nobody knows it - so when they are taken to a hospital and their bones are breaking/broken, the parents are accused of abuse and the children are taken away from them? This guy is dangerous and I am shocked that NPR is using him. I've been writing about health and fitness for 30 years. This guy is off the wall. Who's paying him?

Sep. 15 2012 06:48 AM

As someone who's relied on NON-"evidence-based" physicians for a long time, I've seen with my own eyes that, when my suffering means I can't wait until someone pays the right researchers to verify a theory, it's up to me to make an educated guess about a treatment.
These same doctors do NOT push vitamins willy-nilly. They do NOT recommend multivitamins, they know to be careful with Vitamin E and A and usually don't want people to take them.
However, that's not the case with Vitamin D. This Dr Agus is irresponsible in his approach. He conveniently fails to remind folks that you can almost never say that studies "prove" fact x or y *about nutrition*, because it is impossible to ethically test some substances, and very hard to test others -- or to rely on those tests (what an experimental subject eats in a given week can be easily fudged, is hard to monitor, etc.). Educated guesses are drawn from studies that show ASSOCIATIONS, not proofs. Consensuses come together around theories, etc.
There is a growing consensus about the value of Vitamin D for people who don't live in countries near the equator, and your guest failed to mention that. He's more concerned with making a dramatic impression with what he has to say than with imparting good wisdom.
And Marion Nestle was a horrible person to refer to as possibly representing the other side. She tows the line of mainstream nutritional advice... the same school of thought that blows off any recommendation not approved yet by, ie, the government.
The following is a response to the guest's position about Vitamin D:
I hope, Brian, that you will now have on a serious researcher -- with all the proper degrees and experience -- who advocates for Vitamin D. *There are lots of them* (... but don't tell David Agus, he would never agree!).

Mar. 01 2012 03:40 PM
Brant Cebulla from San Luis Obispo, CA

Also, just listened to the full segment. RE: vitamin D supplementation for infants.

The reason that vitamin D RDA has been historically set at 400 IU/day is because this is the amount doctors would arbitrarily give in the form of cod liver oil to infants to cure rickets. At minimum, infants needs 400 IU/day.

You need vitamin D for bone health. This is basic physiology. If your infant doesn't sunbathe (whose does?) or doesn't receive a supplement, you are compromising that infant's bone health (unless the breastfeeding mother's vitamin D level exceeds ~40 ng/ml and can provide it via breast milk, but these levels are rare).

You don't need data to show that vitamin D is essential for infant bone health, we just need a basic understanding of physiology. Dr. Agus is basically suggesting that we setup a randomized controlled trial, put half the infants on vitamin D and half the infants on placebo and measure rickets incidence. This is unethical. Physiology already tells us that without vitamin D, you increase the infant's risk of getting rickets.

Same thing with smoking. To date, there has never been a randomized controlled trial that shows that smoking is dangerous. We don't need one. Why? Physiology tells us that if you smoke chemicals, you are damaging your lungs.

Mar. 01 2012 03:11 PM
Brant Cebulla from San Luis Obispo, CA

Dr. Grant and the Vitamin D Council respond to Dr. Agus here:

In short, there are randomized controlled trials that show the benefits in higher blood levels of vitamin D.

Mar. 01 2012 02:34 PM
Marianne from Staten Island

The vitamin-industry, a HUGE mega-corporation is in the hands of Senator Orrin Hatch, who owns the majority of them.
He does not allow anyone close to regulate this industry for fear of harming his money-making cows.

Time and again, there were death due to lack of regulations and when people took vitamins on hear-say.

Orrin Hatch should either resign , (he is up for rte-election) OR the vitamin-industry need regulation ASAP@!

Feb. 29 2012 01:53 PM
Dagmar from Brooklyn

Wow, Brian! This interview makes my blood boil and gives me a headache. I guess a statin and an aspirin are in order!

Another "talking head" guest on NPR. I would recommend doing some homework before inviting a guest ( and are a good start on health issues).

The only programs on NPR that I can listen to without detrimental health effects are entertainment and general interest programs. Anything on health, politics, economics I avoid, since the views expressed are mainly those of corporate special interest groups and their representatives.

For some alternative views check out

Feb. 29 2012 01:37 PM
Albertha from NY

That doctor needs his head examined, or he needs to get out of the pockets of the drug companies. He pushes statins, but is completely against supplements.

Feb. 29 2012 12:05 PM
Kaye from Sunset Park

I'm sorry, but I need to attest to the fact that without iron pills or B vitamins I would not be able to get out of bed the week before my menses. I used to be so exhausted the week before my menses. Now I actually have enough energy to work the 12 hour days I need to work to keep my job.

I think this "Dr." is suspect, if he is denigrating vitamins in favor of statins and asprin. Anyone who eats an American diet, knows that the so called "veggies" we have contain less than half the nutrients they contained 40 years ago. That is because they are produced en-mass with very little quality control about what nutrients or flavors still exist. Just take a look at supermarket tomatoes versus farmers market tomatoes to illustrate my point.

Feb. 29 2012 12:04 PM

Re: Sally Morrow's comment @ 11:42AM -- I found the link below which has info on Ontario's health plan. It appears it was decided only certain diagnoses require Vit. D testing. Interesting that almost all older people would be covered due to osteopenia being one of those diseases. My reading indicates that as people age their bodies tend to make less Vit. D.

On Medicare testing for Vit. D was covered, but Vit D is not covered under the prescription plans.

I don't know about other provinces health plans.

Feb. 29 2012 12:02 PM
The Truth from Becky

You can get your own answers from the commercials for all of these drugs and supplements and what not...have you ever listened to the list of side effects??

Feb. 29 2012 12:00 PM
Jon Pope from Ridge, NY

So to all pro vitamin people posting here I have to ask, how do you know the vitamins you take are what they say say they are since the vitamin industry is completely unregulated? Where's the proof? Because it says so on the vitamin bottle? Why so much trust in the vitamin industry that also heavily markets its products like pharmaceutical companies (I see just as many vitamin commercials on TV as pharmaceutical commercials). What makes them anymore ethical since they are out to make a buck to?

Feb. 29 2012 11:59 AM
James from New York from New York

Apparently, the Vitamin E study was done only with synthetic vitamin E, not natural vitamin E. It did not include mixed tocopherols (D-Alpha, D-Beta, D-Gamma, and D-Delta). There is some evidence that D-Gamma Tocopherol, especially, is valuable. Many people take "mixed tocopherols." Since it has been alleged that vitamin E causes prostate cancer, there is an obvious need for more clarification.

Feb. 29 2012 11:57 AM
Kenneth Barta from Spotswood, NJ

This guy is quack of the worst kind. Just go to Amazon and read the reviews. Why do your producers put on such rabble?

Feb. 29 2012 11:53 AM
Kate from Boerum Hill

I read this book and found it weak. I think this author is as guilty of marketing
as any of the companies that are selling vitamins or eg. pomegranate juice and acai berry
as the new wonder foods.
The title is provocative and would entice people to look inside.
However, one of the many flaws in the premise of his book (imho) he really discounts juicing which is ridiculous - organic veg.juice is full of live enzymes. I have a twin gear juicer and have been juicing consistently and I feel and look much better.
His constant repetition on data implies that data is not out there about vitamins. We just have to look carefully .
A lot of the anti vitamin studies were funded by bigfood and bigpharma. Look who runs the FDA - the revolving
door between the drug companies and the boards of the FDA and Memorial Sloan Kettering.
These companies are more interested the American consumer eat the crap food and then take the nasty medicine they provide. Anything that can't be patented there's little interest in.
This country has been taken over by these monolithic companies and now our political system (see Citizens United decision).
We the people have to be more involved in order for this country to continue to be the beacon it has been for
opportunity and freedoms.
Let's bring it back to being a land that is for the people by the people.

Feb. 29 2012 11:51 AM
Lenore from Upper West Side

Did I just hear this guy say that people with normal cholesterol should take statins anyway?? Is he nuts??

Feb. 29 2012 11:48 AM

Regarding "real food".. you can't simply say eat "real food" when the soil is deficient in vitamins combined with all the pesticlides and monsanto engineering.. "real food" is sorely lacking in nutrients. Although I'm sure your doctor guest would disagree with this.

Feb. 29 2012 11:44 AM
Jennifer from Larchmont

I have joined, and marched with the "TOPFREE" movement to produce more vitamoin D to preveny breast cancer. Is going topless for more Vitamin D dangerous for women ?

I want to go to the national march in D/.C, next Summer.

Feb. 29 2012 11:43 AM

My blood levels indicate I am anemic and my doctor recommended an iron supplement. What is the research on the efficacy of this approach. I am a vegetarian and it is hard to adjust my diet to increase my iron levels.

Feb. 29 2012 11:42 AM
GEORGE from Astoria

Aren't there studies that have shown negative affects of daily aspirin use?
Aspirin is a pill as well.

What foods can lower inflamation.

Feb. 29 2012 11:42 AM
SALLY MORROW from Ottawa Canada

I was surprised to hear Dr. Agus say that "Vitamin D was outlawed in Canada" Where did he get that idea? (I take 3,000 units a day and my husband takes 5,000. Most people I know take Vitamin D.

Feb. 29 2012 11:42 AM
Cori from NJ

There is a theory that aspirin works by causing a tiny bit of bleeding and therefore a loss of iron.

Would Dr. Agus suggest that people give blood to reduce iron, and therefore inflammation?

Feb. 29 2012 11:42 AM
Robert from NYC

Hmmm, yet he pushes Lipitor which almost killed me!!!

Feb. 29 2012 11:42 AM
John A.

How many comments have I read elsewhere on how
enflaming a "joint" actually cures illness!

Feb. 29 2012 11:42 AM

isn't there always data supporting that these vitamins work? I don't know how asking for the data from a Dr. will help a patient. They always show data.

and are you saying don't take these vitamins? or is it ok that we eat foods with these vitamins in them?

Feb. 29 2012 11:42 AM
Tracey Friesen from Toronto, Ontario

Numerous studies have shown a relation between low vitamin D in infancy and developing multiple sclerosis later in life.

Feb. 29 2012 11:41 AM
brooklynista from bklyn

Instead of starting with vitamins and supplements, Dr. how about taking on the drug companies and the needless, incessant, over-marketing of prescription drugs (like statins) instead of the promotion of healthy diet, supplements, nutrition, and lifestyle?

Feb. 29 2012 11:41 AM
Kate from Washington Heights

I take a lot of aspirin for aches and pains - how many mg a day is good and how many is too much? Thanks

Feb. 29 2012 11:41 AM
Nicole from NYC

I agree completely with Dr. Angus about not having data to verify health claims. Very importantly, this includes cancer research as well. We have data that show the 5 year survival rate for cancer patients has improved, but that is because cancers are largely caught earlier. However there is little data showing that people live longer or healthier lives with many of the interventions, including preemtive uterus or breast removal to avoid those cancers, that are much more dangerous than taking vitamins.
The same is true for many medications, which often carry great side effects.

Feb. 29 2012 11:41 AM
Rosalie from Long Island

Please comment about vitamins w/flouride that are recommended by pediatricians and/or pediatric dentists. I'm not comfortable feeding man-made things to my children. Thanks.

Feb. 29 2012 11:41 AM

It came up on blood tests I had very low vitamin D numbers. I started taking a D3 supplement. Now my numbers are in normal ranges. Lack of vitamin D is linked to heart problems.

I would argue "getting the data" cuts both ways.. with supplements and pharma drugs.

Feb. 29 2012 11:41 AM
Robert from NYC

The inflammation theory is not a new thing in medicine. It's been out there for decades. BTW what does "inflammation" mean.

Feb. 29 2012 11:40 AM
Robert from NYC

Well he did accept that lack of vitamin D causes rickets, isn't that proof of how vitamin D is necessary?

Feb. 29 2012 11:39 AM

I was tested for Vit. D levels and came in well below half. My endocrinologist presecribed 100,000iu per week. After a few weeks, I began to have more energy, and after three months I began to lose weight (20 pounds so far, and my life is a diet), which my doctor had promised would happen.

My hair which had lost its curliness when my thyroid cancer was developing is now beginning to have more body and showing waviness (still not the curls which made living with it easier).

I was definitely skeptical about the promised results; now, I'm somewhat less so.

Feb. 29 2012 11:38 AM
Jon Pope from Ridge, NY

There are no regulations with vitamins. You could be taking pills made of drywall for all you know. Why would anyone think vitamin MFGs are any more honest then any other MFG.... You need to get your vitamins from food, not pills.

Feb. 29 2012 11:37 AM
Yanir from NYC

Question for Guest on Vitamins: I got appendicitis the same week I started on a multivitamin. The whole week before my severe pain, i felt bloated after taking the multivitamin. All my Dr.s said that it was impossible that a multivitamin was the cause. Any thoughts?

Feb. 29 2012 11:37 AM
Rick from NYC

does the doctor make a distinction between taking SINGULAR supplements (vitamins D,E) vs. a MULTI-VITAMIN which makes LOGICAL sense as it covers all the bases of a limited diet MOST americans follow?

Feb. 29 2012 11:37 AM
Kate from Washington Heights

Hi Brian - Thanks for this segment. I was interested in what he said about what we test for. I was talking to my 78 year old dad yesterday about how much trouble he has seeing the road when he's driving. His doctors tested his eyes and said he was good to go. He told me, "Sure, I can see everything in that controlled environment, but you put me outdoors where there's glare and I can't see a damned thing."

Western medicine is so wed to these tests - but key things are always left out.

Feb. 29 2012 11:36 AM
Debbie from NYC

What about pre-natal vitamins? Is it effective for women to take these while expecting?

Feb. 29 2012 11:35 AM
Robert from NYC

Well, did he advise Steve Jobs on health?

Feb. 29 2012 11:35 AM
Rosa from White Plains

What about prenatal vitamins? What are your guest's views on prenatal vitamins and its elevated amounts.

Feb. 29 2012 11:35 AM
Michael from Sunset Park, Brooklyn

Isn't quality of life is much more important than the length of a person's life?

Feb. 29 2012 11:34 AM
Cori from NJ

As one who believes that years of "low fat" food marketing has contributed to our species' declining health, how would Dr. Agus suggest we, as a nation, change this tendency.

Feb. 29 2012 11:30 AM
John A.

So, how would people die if there were no illnesses?

Feb. 29 2012 11:04 AM
Josh Levine

Is it true that nearly all older men are host to prostate cancer -- even though most do not die from this or even know they have it? Could your view change eliminate a universal cancer? ( I am seeking to eliminate any roadblocks in the way of my plan to live to 200.)

Feb. 29 2012 09:48 AM

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