The One True Cause of all disease (All 52 of them)

A few years ago, Harriet Hall googled "The One True Cause of all disease", just to see what the Internet would come up with. She counted 67 One True Causes before she got bored (52 of them made it into the handy chart above).

Besides making for an amusing anecdote, this little exercise also helps illustrate why there's a problem with ideologically driven medical treatments — the sort that comes from people who are pushing a lifestyle or a philosophy along with ostensible healthcare. It's both intriguing and convenient to think that, if we just open the right secret door, we can find the thing that's actually causing all our problems. The truth, unfortunately, seems to be that our bodies and the world they inhabit are complicated and messy and that lots of of things can lead to disease (doctors typically learn to divide these things into nine different categories, Hall says). In fact, a disease we think of as a single entity can have its roots in more than one thing. All of this is pretty obvious but it's the kind of obvious that's worth rubbing our noses in on occasion. If somebody tells you that everything from obesity to bipolar disorder to allergies to cancer all stem from the same root and can be treated or prevented with the exact same treatment, there's probably good reason to question what they're telling you.

Notable Replies

  1. I'll buy "lack of life" as the one true cause of all death...

  2. One implicit premise that seems to run through many of these (somewhat ironic, given how "They treat the symptoms, not heal the body!!!" is one of the stock attacks on those evil 'allopaths', with their chemicals) is the notion of some sort of ideal state of purity and harmony(with heavy moral overtones) that you either adhere to or deviate from, which is why all diseases can usually be resolved just by giving you a suitable shove back toward righteousness.

    Team biology, by contrast, suggests that even fairly simple organisms, much less humans, are a raging mess of (at best) dynamic equilibria between a few zillion cell types (a majority of them not even cells of that organism; but various sometimes-symbiotic fellow travellers), with deviation from the statistical norm (some of it harmless, some quite lethal) possible on an overwhelming number of different points, hence the proliferation of diseases and treatments.

  3. IMB says:

    The one true cause of all disease then, is life.

  4. Pfft. Everyone knows that the true cause of all disease is [REDACTED BY BIG PHARMA] but THEY won't let you know because [REDACTED BY THEY] would just go into their gardens and pick [REDACTED BY FDA] and [REDACTED BY GRAY ALIENS] enema to flush out [REDACTED BY NSA] leading to


  5. Take two peat moss and call me in the morning.

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