Are you familiar with the acronym NNT? NNT stands for number needed to treat and is something that every person should ask his or her doctor for if prescribed medication or advised about surgery. According to neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, this statistic is a quantitative measurement of “the number of people that need to take a drug or undergo a surgery or any medical procedure before one person is helped.” Unfortunately, the NNT for a variety of prescriptions and surgeries is much higher than one. For instance, Levitin states that the NNT for statins is 300. Yes, you read that correctly (Levitin).
Besides the NNT, Levitin suggests that the general public also ask their primary care physicians about the side effects of the medications they are considering ingesting, as well as the statistics concerning the quantity of patients who experience side effects from the medications. Levitin acknowledges that the side effects of statins can include suffering in the gastrointestinal system, joints, and muscles. Additionally, five percent of patients who ingest statins will experience these pains. According to Levitin, “300 people take the drug, right? One person’s helped, five percent of those 300 have side effects, that’s 15 people. You’re 15 times more likely to be harmed by the drug than you are to be helped by the drug.” (Levitin).
As a result, the next time you visit your primary care physician keep the above questions in mind if he or she suggests a certain medication or surgery. In addition to keeping these questions in mind, I’d like to add one of my own:
How may I first attempt to combat this health issue through nutrition?
It is compelling to me that, unlike the majority of medications, whole foods do not carry with them a host of side effects. Rather, it appears to me as though whole foods offer what I like to call side benefits. This is because in addition to addressing certain health problems (i.e., wild blueberries lower cholesterol), whole foods boast an expansive array of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that will not only restore health in the afflicted area, but will also benefit the body and the mind in unexpected ways.
Until Next Week… Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,
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Levitin, D. (2015, September). Daniel Levitin: How to stay calm when you know you’ll be stressed [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_levitin_how_to_stay_calm_when_you_know_you_ll_be_stressed/transcript?language=en