Last year, two Princeton economists discovered that middle-aged, working class, white Americans are experiencing skyrocketing death rates for the first time in history. In their new paper, published last month, they delve deeper in the problems of increased mortality in certain groups of whites. And they shed some new light the “Hispanic Health Paradox.”
(Interesting that two economists continue to make some of the most important insights into health in America, isn’t it?)
Of course, researchers first identified the “Hispanic Health Paradox” back in 1980 in the Hispanic Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (following the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES). They called it a paradox because they couldn’t understand why first-generation Hispanic-Americans have fewer health problems, despite having more supposed risk factors — such as smoking, obesity and sun exposure.
Of course, research published since the 1980s has shown that the government’s favorite risk factors were either partly wrong, mostly wrong, or completely wrong.
In the new report, the Princeton economists point out that Mexican-American immigrants and first-generation Mexican-Americans have less high blood pressure, heart disease and cancers than the general U.S. population. But by the third generation, people of Mexican descent no longer appear to have this health advantage.
Researchers observe the same progression with Asian immigrants and succeeding generations of Asian-Americans, as I studied for my Ph.D. dissertation in the mid-1980s.
In my view, this supposed health paradox isn’t a paradox at all when you consider the three factors often overlooked by mainstream researchers.
Emotional health supports physical health
First of all, Mexican immigrants support one another emotionally, financially and physically. And these strong social and community networks help migrants and first-generation immigrants. These community and family practices promote keeping calm, staying active, and keeping a positive attitude.
Second, Mexican-Americans also still have access to safe and effective folk remedies. For example, Mexican-Americans use a variety of medicinal plants. These medicinal plants effectively help common health problems, such as upper respiratory and digestive tract infections and disorders. For example, they often use gordolobo (Gnaphalium) and Manzanilla (Matricaria) to relieve menstrual and GI cramps.
These herbal remedies are inexpensive, natural and safe. By comparison, Mexican-Americans are afraid to use most drugs. They see mainstream medicine as a last resort. And they think overmedication undermines the health of most Americans.
Indeed, Mexican immigrants report that traditional Mexican health practices often prevent or resolve problems before they require medical intervention.
Of course, the science shows we should try all the other safe, effective and inexpensive natural approaches first. And always reserve failed, dangerous and invasive drug treatments, medical procedures and surgeries as a last resort. That approach would really reform healthcare in America and solve the cost crisis.
The third overlooked factor that contributes to the “Hispanic Health Paradox” is that first-generation Mexican-Americans consume traditional foods.
For example, most Mexican women routinely cook meals made with corn, beans, meat, and vegetables. Of course, corn, beans and squash form the “three sisters” of traditional agriculture used throughout the Americas.
Mexican women also prepare fresh food with a variety of healthy seasonings, including chili peppers, cumin (coriander), garlic, mint, onions, and oregano. It is beneficial to use healthy herbs, ingredients and spices in every dish at every meal.
Mexican-Americans say they are healthier because other Americans consume too many pastillas (pills) and too much fast food.
In the July Insiders’ Cures newsletter, I will report on a major new study published in the Journal of the AMA that shows eating more healthy foods and nutrients is more important than eating fewer unhealthy foods. (So if you’re not already a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.) A diverse, truly balanced diet — as opposed to a restrictive or fad diet — goes a long way toward good health.
While the crony-capitalist government focuses on giving Americans more and more mainstream medical care, Mexican-Americans see too much healthcare as a potential threat. And now, we have the data to back them up.
“New research identifies a ‘sea of despair’ among white, working-class Americans,” Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com) 3/23/2017
“Mortality and morbidity in the 21st century,” The Brookings Institution (www.brookings.edu) 5/1/2017