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Better health: Better food or drugs, or better morals?

From the December 24, 2012 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

Adapted from an article by Eric D. Nelson, a Christian Science practitioner in Los Altos, California, published September 7, 2012, in “Communities@WashingtonTimes.com.” Eric is also the Christian Science Committee on Publication for Northern California.


Eric
Credit: James Ludwig

The latest research out of Stanford University confirms something the scientific community has probably known for years but only recently has begun to admit more openly: When it comes to better health, we don’t really know what we think we know.

After analyzing 237 studies comparing the health benefits of organic and non-organic foods, Dr. Dena Bravata, a senior affiliate with Stanford’s Center for Health Policy, concluded, “There isn’t much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you’re an adult and making a decision based solely on your health” (“Stanford study shows little evidence of health benefits from organic foods,” September 4, 2012, “FSI Stanford, CHP/PCOR News”).

What’s that? You mean all the money we spend on highfalutin fruits and veggies—over $24 billion a year in the United States alone—ain’t worth it? That depends.

The decision to buy organic products may be based on other considerations such as the effect of certain farming practices on the environment and the desire for better animal welfare. But if it’s better health you’re looking for, the Stanford analysis suggests you won’t get it through upscale produce.

This all-too-common pattern of “what we once thought was a great idea may not be so great now” relates to other aspects of health care as well. 

In a New York Times opinion piece, Dr. H. Gilbert Welch reported that randomized trials showed that both hormone replacement therapy for women and screening for prostate cancer in men tended to cause more problems than they solved (“Testing What We Think We Know,” August 19, 2012). 

So, if it’s not organic food or the latest medical procedure, what can we rely on for better health?

The prospect that "moral conditions will be found always harmonious and health-giving" is certainly worth exploring further.

Nineteenth-century religious reformer and medical pioneer Mary Baker Eddy states, “Moral conditions will be found always harmonious and health-giving” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 125). Taken in its fuller context, Eddy’s shrewd analysis seems particularly relevant today, and provides even further insight into the nature of health itself. 

She writes: “The elements and functions of the physical body and of the physical world will change as mortal mind changes its beliefs. What is now considered the best condition for organic and functional health in the human body may no longer be found indispensable to health” (Science and  Health, pp. 124–125).

In just three short sentences Eddy offers not only an explanation for the apparent unreliability of various medical theories and practices, but also the groundwork for achieving reliable health.

Even though she wrote these words well over a hundred years ago—describing, from a spiritual perspective, a phenomenon well documented throughout the Bible—medical researchers are just now beginning to understand the link between physical health and such moral qualities as generosity, forgiveness, honesty, and compassion.

For instance, in a recent Huffington Post column, Dr. James Doty, Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, comments “While survival of the fittest may lead to short-term gain, research clearly shows it is survival of the kindest that leads to the long-term survival of a species” (“The Science of Compassion,” June 7, 2012).

Certainly on the road to better health, what seems like a good idea today may be seen as a wrong turn in the future. But the prospect that “moral conditions will be found always harmonious and health-giving” is certainly worth exploring further. It is a path that is already reforming mind and body in ways that are safe and effective.

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