NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 23, 2005

Healthy lifestyle choices can prevent or postpone many ailments that require drug therapy, says USA Today:

  • A 1999 Duke University study found that exercise worked as well as Zoloft in treating depression; exercise was even more effective in preventing relapses.
  • A 2003 University of Toronto study found that a diet high in soy protein, fiber and almonds lowered cholesterol as much as statin drugs.
  • A Diabetes Prevention Program study in 2001 found that people with impaired glucose tolerance who lost 5 to 7 percent of their weight cut their risk of diabetes by 58 percent, more than preventative treatment with the diabetes drug metformin.
  • In 2001, a Harvard University study found that a low-salt, low-fat diet lowered systolic blood pressure in individuals with hypertension by about the same amount as hypertension drugs.

Americans are keeping prescription drug demand high in two ways, says USA Today:

  • They want brand-name drugs even when cheaper options work just as well; Americans think newer is better.
  • They are lazy and are not taking care of themselves: When a drug exists that can effortlessly ease pain, people prefer to skip the effort of behavioral medicine; observers say doctors find it easier to write prescriptions than to teach new diets.

Observers admit that there are limits to prevention, but on average, people who exercise an hour a day, eat right and don't smoke will require fewer drugs in the long run.

Source: Laura Vanderkam, "Want lower drug bills? Look in the mirror," USA Today, February 15, 2005.

For University of Toronto study - published in JAMA (subscription required):


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