Dr Michael Ellis


Poor nutrition is costing Australians approximately 6 billion dollars annually. The three major causes of preventable death in Australia are:Ischaemic heart disease 27.8% Cancer 24.3% and stroke 10.9%

representing a total of 63%. Nutritional factors play an important role in the causes of these three killer diseases1.

Over the past three decades there has been a virtual explosion in information in the medical and scientific literature relating nutrition to disease. Nutritional factors have been documented in the causation of most of our degenerative diseases including diabetes, arthritis, coronary artery disease, stroke, many cancers and neurodegenerative conditions, including dementia. A change in diet and life style and the appropriate use of nutrients reduce the risk of disease and are becoming increasingly important in the treatment of patients to either optimise health and well being, improve prognosis or achieve a state of well-being in serious disorders2.

Nutritional and Life style Medicine is the study of the interactions of nutritional and life style factors with human physiology, biochemistry, pathology and anatomy and the clinical application of these interactions in the optimisation of health and the prevention and treatment of disease2.

It is a system of therapeutics and counselling that favours dietary changes and the use of nutrient substances in appropriate doses to encourage physiological balance .It also encourages :

  • The elimination of age accelerating, cognitive depleting and life shortening habits, e.g. quitting smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, wearing a seat belt, avoid inhaling second-hand smoke, avoid breathing polluted air,
  • Weight Loss Over 50% of Australians are either obese or over weight and are inactive. It is essential to eat a low fat, complex carbohydrate, high fibre diet, including a lot of vegetables, salads and fruits with over 1 and half litres of preferably filtered water per day.
  • Establish a regular programme of exercise. The latest research shows that incremental physical activity is as important as sustained exercise, as long as e.g. one hour of walking a day.

Major factors to be considered in the evaluation of the nutritional status of the patient are the quality and the quantity of food eaten, the efficiency of its digestion, absorption and assimilation and, most importantly, the biochemical uniqueness of the individual. Environmental and genetic factors may influence these considerations, and modifications are made to the former when indicated3.

Most diseases are associated with nutritional disturbances Acceptable peer review literature, documenting the evidence of the nutritional factors involved, is available3-5.

The medical conditions which include degenerative diseases of our society, such as cancer cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, arthritis, osteoporosis and stress can be prevented by nutritional and lifestyle changes i.e., the use of nutrition and nutritional products, exercise, weight loss and relaxation. These diseases are also nutritionally responsive


The health of the public rests on three legs of a stool. These legs being, release of stress, a sense of mastery of ones own life, and support of the community. This concept of health promotion was pioneered by the First International Conference of Health Promotion which was held in Ottawa in November 1986. At that time, the Conference was a response to a growing world expectation for a new global public health movement. This charter emphasised promotion of healthy lifestyles prevention of disease increasing rehabilitation and community health services.

The Fifth Global Health Conference on health promotion was held in Mexico City in June 2000. It particularly emphasized promoting social responsibility for health, increasing community capacity, and reorienting health systems.

The 51st World Health Assembly – Health for All Policy at the United Nations pledged that all nations would act together to meet common threats to health and promote universal well being. This health for all policy was a result for research by the World Health Organisation which in April 2002 was seeking to stimulate a global health debate on the epidemic of illness in our society.

The health of an individual in society is tied up and inextricably related to, lifestyle change, reduction of stress and the fundamental conditions for resources and health including peace, shelter, education, food, income, a stable eco-system, sustainable resources, social justice and equity. (International Conference of Health Promotion, Ottawa 1986).

Medical science is now beginning to define these causes but unfortunately because of the kind of education that doctors receive, (the bio-medical model), this means that most of the profession are not willing to open their eyes to a holistic total picture.

Of course, the sentiment of total healing for wellness is being echoed by the public at large, seventy percent of whom are now also turning to naturopaths and alternative practitioners. People are looking for more than just therapy. They know that therapy can often be painful. People increasingly are seeking for something extra which I would term ‘quality of life’.

Just as the body is composed of mind, body and spirit and works in an integrated fashion, the various illnesses, which people suffer have a common nutritional functional and cellular cause.



Environmental Factors and Cancer

In the New England Journal of Medicine on July 13th 2000, a paper was published estimating the overall contribution of inherited genes to the development of cancer. The paper was the combined data on 44,788 twins in Sweden, Denmark and Finland that enabled the researchers to assess the risks of cancer in twenty eight anatomical sites

The conclusions provided remarkable information. In particular, it showed that environmental factors were the dominant determinants of site specific cancer. From this perspective, environmental exposure, particularly in regards to foods, and environmental toxins (xenobiotics) and stress is paramount in the causation and treatment of cancer.

Prevention and Reversal of Cardiovascular Disease

Dean Ornish’s work at San Fransisco’s Preventive Medicine Research Centre is impressive.(7) Over the past ten years, Ornish has demonstrated that a comprehensive group approach which includes an extremely low fat diet, aerobic exercise, smoking cessation, yoga and meditation as well as group support can unclog plaque narrowed coronary arteries.

He published a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 1988, in which two groups of a total of 48 patients with cardiovascular disease were trialed, the control with conventional treatment and the other group with a comprehensive lifestyle approach. The result showed massive differences in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. At a five year follow up, coronary stenosis was increased for11.8% of controls and stenosis had decreased in 3.1% of the treatment group.

The Dean Ornish program in America is supported by forty insurance companies and costs $10,000 compared with an average cardiovascular surgical intervention which costs at least $40,000-$50,000.

Release of Stress and Treatment of Cancer

The scientific work in medicine done on the effects of a stressed society on disease really started with the work of Dr David Spiegel at Stanford University(8). In 1989, his very significant work on the effect of psychosocial treatment on the survival of patients with metastatic breast cancer was published in the Lancet. 86 patients were split into two groups. Both groups had routine cancer therapy. However, the treatment group had a one year intervention consisting of a weekly supportive group therapy. The study showed survival time for the intervention group was 36.6 months compared with 18.9 months for the controlled group. This means that psychosocial treatment increased the survival of breast cancer patients twice.

The kind of information, regarding cancer, cardiovascular disease and lifestyle change has been all but ignored by the medical profession at large. But, it does point to the way stress and the release of stress has on the management and treatment of both cancer and cardiovascular disease and probably most diseases of western society.

I therefore feel that powerful psychosocial changes need to be implemented for the general population if we are to create a more co-operative and healed society.. There should be a new medicine based on the prevention of illness and the creation of health rather than the treatment of illness.


Dr. Matthias Rath - Matthias Rath, M.D., the world-renowned physician and scientific researcher who received the prestigious 2001 Bulwark of Liberty Award sponsored by the American Preventive Medical Association has stated "Throughout the 20th Century, the pharmaceutical industry has been constructed by investors, the goal being to replace effective but non patentable natural remedies with patentable and highly profitable pharmaceutical drugs. The very nature of the pharmaceutical industry is to make money from ongoing diseases. Prevention and cure of diseases damages the pharmaceutical business and the eradication of common diseases threatens its very existence"

.It should be understood that manipulation of our food by commercial interests has caused disease and suffering and the direct result has been a massive increase in cardiovascular disease, cancer, adult onset diabetes, liver and kidney disease, obesity, dementia and osteoporosis. Crops grown on chemical fertilisers, containing nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium do not contain essential minerals and therefore human bodies are also deficient in these essential minerals.

Such foods are further degraded by mass production methods of ripening, storing, dry-cooking and freezing. Food processing destroys virtually all of the essential nutrients that we require for our health.

Meat itself is infected with bacteria, especially salmonella and Campylobacter and there are also carcinogens in meat including for example, the antibiotic Sulphamethazine. Large fish are contaminated with mercury. Plants grown on mineral depleted soils require external pesticides which are potent carcinogens and also contain oestrogenising hormones that reduce human sperm count. With respect to water, there are about sixty thousand chemicals which are not filtered out by water treatment stations.

This is why in our society we have the burgeoning costs of a health system which is out of control ,where planned obsolescence is programmed into an ageing population in order that the pharmaceutical companies, through their band-aid approaches may make more money in treating new found degenerative diseases


It is no wonder that the health system is in crisis when the whole essence of health care is based on the use of allopathic drugs. Yet it is known that iatrogenic illness or illness caused by drugs or technological intervention is such that the treatment of illness is now the fourth commonest cause of death in Western Society. (Journal of the American Medical Association). Sixteen per cent of patients who enter hospital either die or come out worse than when they went in. (Medical Journal of Australia 1995)

It is obvious that the current system as it stands is not curing the population or enabling individual to prevent illness or enhance the body`s ability to cure itself. The answer does not lie solely in drugs. It lies in lifestyle, prevention of illness, modification of diet, relaxation and exercise. It also lies in creating a more surgent, caring and co-operative, integrating society which is less alienating and anomic.

What society does not amplify is the fact that degenerative diseases in our society, including heart disease, cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, strokes, cancer, diabetes, depression, osteoporosis and arthritis are due mainly to faulty nutrition, lack of exercise and stress.


The new medicine which is dawning is an integrated health system which is based on communication between all specialties of doctors, especially GPs, with the prime aim of giving members of public the opportunity to heal themselves by using the latest understanding of body-mind medicine, psychoneuroimmunology, nutritional, environmental and preventive medicine by accessing the very best of life style and nutritional medicine.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot is Professor of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London heads a research group of about 120 people investigating the epidemiology and prevention of cardiovascular disease and is the principal investigator of the Whitehall studies of British civil servants.(9)

Professor Marmot produced ten social determinants of health for the World Health Organisation, which are:

  1. Social and economic circumstances strongly effect health throughout life.
  2. Stress harms health.
  3. The effects of early development in the neo-natal period and infancy last a lifetime.
  4. Social exclusion creates suffering and morbidity.
  5. Stress in the workplace increases the risk of disease
  6. Job security increases health, well-being and job satisfaction. Unemployment is deleterious to health.
  7. Social support, friendship, good social relations and strong supportive networks improve health at home, work and in the community.
  8. Addiction to drugs and alcohol is influenced by social determinants.
  9. Nutrition is a key determinant of health.
  10. Transport through the use of walking and exercise in a sustainable environment.

There is an urgent need to change attitudes and mind-set so that we may have healing in the broadest possible sense- healing not only of our Australian society, but of our Australian environment and our planet as they are all related and all vitally connected.

There is an absolute lack of public education in medicine. There is a lack of understanding of lifestyle. People no longer know how to live

The support of the community is paramount if we wish to begin to treat people in our society (most of whom end up sooner or later as patients) as human beings. This process requires not only the development of partnerships between the health providers and the community and service coordination but also educating the public in a general understanding of how to take responsibility for their lives and the prevention of illness. We also need to debate what quality of life is. In our society we forget what it is to be a human being. The answer does not lie in drugs alone. It lies in lifestyle, prevention of illness, modification of diet, relaxation and exercise.

GPs feel compelled to provide their patients with the drugs and antibiotics that the patients call for and yet cannot give adequate care which requires a preventative, nutritional and lifestyle approach as they are not educated in these fields. They thus produce often band-aid approaches which serve the financial needs of the pharmaceutical companies more than the patients` needs for the optimisation of health. .

Dr Michael Ellis MB BS ,MRCP, , BA Hons, Post Grad Dip Nutr Med ( Swinburne University)


  1. Australia. Health targets and implementation (Health for All) Committee. Health for all Australians: Introducing the Report of the Health Targets and implementation (Health for All) Committee. Canberra: AGPS, 1988; 2-4.
  2. Brighthope I E "The role of nutritional medicine in general practice." Aust Fam Phys 1990;19(3)
  3. Brighthope I E "Lecture notes in nutritional medicine." J Aust Coll Nut Med 1984; (i)-(iv).
  4. Brighthope I E A recipe for health. Melbourne: McCulloch Publishing, 1989; 7-22.
  5. Brighthope I E "Nutrition Abstracts." J Aust Coll Nutr Med 1983-1998.
  6. World Health Organisation "The WHO MONICA project." Wld Hlth Statist Annu 42;27-149:189
  7. Ornish D, Scherwitz L, Billings J, et al. Can intensive lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease?

Five- year follow-up of the Lifestyle Heart Trial. JAMA. 1998;280:2001-2007.

Ornish D. Avoiding Revascularization with Lifestyle Changes: The Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration

_Project. American Journal of Cardiology. 1998;82:72T-76T

  1. Spiegel D, Bloom JR, Yalom ID. Group support for patients with metastatic cancer: A randomized

    prospective outcome study. Archives of General Psychiatry 38:527-533, 1981.

  2. Marmot M, Wilkinson R (eds) social Determinants of Health. Oxford University Press, New York 1999

Marmot M Epidemiology of socioeconomic status and health: are determinants within countries the same as between countries? Annals of the New York Academy of Science, 1999; 896: 16-29


Dr Michael Ellis

Dr Michael Ellis is a medical doctor, futurist, and peace worker, living in Melbourne.

Dr Ellis is Founder of The Medical Renaissance Group. The aim of The Medical Renaissance Group is to create a new kind of medicine which integrates mind, body and spirit, society and the environment.

He is also Founder of the Centre for Change which aims to create an openness of dialogue for men and women of goodwill, in order that we can find a way out of the current global crisis. It also aims to contribute to the creation of a planetary peace culture, which affirms our deepest respect for all life which makes up the biosphere.

Dr Ellis has higher qualifications in general medicine, paediatrics and nutritional medicine.

He has a special interest in mind-body medicine and in optimizing the physical, mental and emotional health of the individual. He is particularly interested in anti-aging , brain longevity and the prevention of dementia.