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Disease Proof by Dr. David Katz

Disease Proof by Dr. David Katz

Disease Proof by Dr. David Katz

Imagine if a pharmaceutical company introduced a drug that promised to cut your chances of contracting all diseases (including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease) by at least 80%? I imagine you would immediately have four questions: How much does it cost? What are the side effects? How can I get a prescription? And, How can I invest in the company? While such a drug is not available, you can achieve an incredible 80% reduction in your chance of developing a devastating disease by making a few simple changes to your diet and lifestyle. Disease Proof, a new book by preventive medicine specialist Dr. David Katz, provides a road map for making the diet and lifestyle changes that will “add years to life, and life to years.”

David Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP, is a remarkable physician. He received his BA from Dartmouth College and his MD from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. According to his website, Dr. Katz “helped develop and found one of the nation’s first combined residency training programs in Internal Medicine & Preventive Medicine, and formerly served as the program’s director. Dr. Katz currently co-directs a one-year post-doctoral residency program in Integrative Medicine at his center in Derby, CT.”

The basic premise of Disease Proof is that you can slash your risk of disease by making just four adjustments to your diet and lifestyle—don’t smoke, eat healthy foods, exercise, and maintain a healthy weight. The book begins by analyzing the past 20 years worth of medical research and concludes, “the leading causes of death and disease are largely within our control because they result from what we do or don’t do with our feet, our forks, and our fingers—namely, whether they are physically active, consume a healthy diet, or smoke—on a daily basis.”

While it is true that some diseases are inherited (such as Huntington’s disease, sickle-cell anemia or cystic fibrosis), the truth is that eight out of ten serious illnesses could have been prevented by changes in diet in lifestyle. And the fact is that most medical doctors find that prescribing drugs is a lot easier than instructing patients on how to develop a healthy lifestyle—and I really don’t blame doctors for this sad state of affairs! Thirteen years ago my physical health was horrible—I was morbidly obese and suffered from a multitude of major medical problems. My family practice doctor would load me up with prescription drugs and send me on my way. When I hit my lowest point I decided to turn my life around. I am not a physician, but I do know how to thoroughly research a subject, so I started reading dozens of books on health, exercise and nutrition. Then I went on a healthy diet and started a serious exercise program. The next time I saw my doctor he said I looked fifteen years younger than the last time I was in his office, so I explained what I had done. Before I left his office I asked him, “Why didn’t you tell me to eat healthy and exercise?” He cracked a smile and said, “You know, after telling that to thousands of patients and having them all ignore me I guess I just gave up.” He was probably right—the vast majority of people have to hit bottom before they are willing to even consider changing their diet and lifestyle.

While Disease Proof does discuss DNA, genetics and the Human Genome Project, it is not a difficult book to read (medical jargon is kept to a minimum). “One of the eye-opening revelations provided by the Human Genome Project, which was completed in 2003, is that the genes themselves don’t lead to disease. It’s the interaction of certain high-risk genes and unhealthy environmental influences (including poor diet, physical inactivity, and smoking) that combine to trigger disease.” Dr. Katz discusses how diet and exercise can literally change the behavior of our genes and how heart disease, cancer, stoke and diabetes are not really the cause of death, but rather “the results or effects of how people live.”

Over half of the book is spent on nutrition, and while it does not offer a strict Paleo diet, it is what I would call “Paleo friendly”, i.e., eat a lot of fresh fruit, vegetables, lean meats and skip the pre-packaged garbage that makes up most of the typical American diet. Dr. Katz wisely observed, “The longer the shelf life of a food product (such as neon-orange cheese puffs), the shorter the shelf life of the person who consumes it regularly.”

I realize that most of the readers of this blog are probably already following a fairly healthy lifestyle, but I am certain you have a lot of family members who could use a bit of a nudge towards healthy living—this book would make a wonderful gift for them! The hardcover edition of Disease Proof retails for $26, but is available from Amazon.com for only $17. The Kindle edition sells for $12. This book was published in September of 2013 and was printed by Hudson Street Press (304 pages).

 

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Paleo Diet: The Proof Is In The Blood Tests

Time For My Annual Physical

Time For My Annual Physical

Because I love my wife and want to spend many more years with her I go to my doctor every November for my annual physical. About a week before the physical I go to a lab to get blood drawn (Comprehensive Metabolic Panel, Lipid Panel, and Hemogram). The health care group I use is fairly sophisticated so I can see the results of the blood work less than 24 hours after the blood was drawn. If you ever wondered how a Paleo Diet would impact your health I can sum it up in one word: fantastic!

You’ve probably read articles or blog posts from people who claimed that the Paleo Diet caused them to lose weight, gain energy and give them a general feeling of awesomeness—but this is just anecdotal evidence and it doesn’t do much for me. I live in a world of facts. Many diet programs lead to weight loss, but often at the expense of overall health. The placebo effect easily explains the “increased energy” that many people claim comes for their new diet plan. I’ve been on the Paleo Diet for a little over three months and, yes, I have experienced weight loss, increased energy and a significant decrease in recovery time after strenuous exercise—but what impresses me the most are the results of my blood tests!

Before I explain the results I need to set the stage first. Thirteen years ago I was a morbidly obese workaholic and was experiencing more health problems than time would allow me explain here. The doctor I had at the time was a nice guy, but he was content to load me up with prescription drugs and send me on my way. Somehow I came across of copy of Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution and it changed my life! I took up cycling, weight lifting and kayaking—and in just a few months I dropped most of my excess weight (and also dropped most of the prescriptions). As I became an endurance athlete I started eating healthier foods and have basically followed the Atkins’ Diet until three months ago.

Switching from the Atkins’ Diet to the Paleo Diet was not a problem at all—basically I just had to give up dairy products and cereal grains. The surgeon who repaired my esophagus back in June had already told me I needed to give up dairy products, and I’ve always felt uncomfortable after eating cereal grains anyway. So, switching to the Paleo Diet was easy.

In the past few months on the Paleo Diet I’ve eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with red meat, fish, turkey, chicken, sausage and bacon (mmm…bacon). In fact, about one-third of my calories now come from fats and protein. So, you have to wonder, what did eating all that meat do to my blood work? Drum roll please… not only did my cholesterol and triglyceride levels drop, but so did my fasting blood sugar level! None of these things were a problem with me before, but the point is that the numbers got even better on the Paleo Diet!

In the spirit of full disclosure I believe that the testing of cholesterol levels is probably the most worthless thing your doctor does (well, except for hanging up that stupid “Food Pyramid” chart in the waiting room). As a group physicians are among the brightest people in the country—but, in general, what they don’t know about nutrition could fill volumes! If your doctor wants to measure something that really impacts your health have them check your homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is a common amino acid—high homocysteine levels lead to vascular inflammation and is associated with low levels of vitamin B6, B12, and folate (more about this in a future article).

 
 

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The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Cordain and Friel

The Paleo Diet for Athletes

The Paleo Diet for Athletes

Unless you have lived under a rock for the past few years, you have probably heard about the Paleo Diet (“the caveman diet”). The diet purports to emulate the diet that our ancient ancestors had—a lot of meat, vegetables, fruit and nuts, but no refined sugar, grains, legumes or dairy products. For the past couple of years a friend of mine has encouraged me to try the diet out, but diet’s restriction on carbohydrates pretty much ruled it out for me—I am a distance cyclist and on long rides my muscle glycogen stores would be depleted before I got halfway through my ride. However, while browsing on Amazon.com a few months ago I found a book titled, The Paleo Diet For Athletes: The Ancient Nutritional Formula For Peak Athletic Performance, by Loren Cordain and Joe Friel (Rodale Books; revised edition; September 2012). If you are an athlete and have either started or are considering starting the Paleo Diet you really need this book!

The entire Paleo Diet is summed up in just one paragraph from the book: “The fundamental dietary principles of the Paleo Diet for Athletes is simplicity itself: unrestricted consumption of fresh meats, poultry, seafood, fruits, and vegetables. Foods that are not part of the modern-day Paleolithic fare include cereal grains, dairy products, high-glycemic fruits and vegetables, legumes, alcohol, salty foods, processed meats, refined sugars, and nearly all processed foods.”

While I disagree with Cordain and Friel on the origin and development of mankind, I sincerely appreciate this book. The first third of the book deals with the nutritional requirements of athletes and this section alone is worth the price of the book! This is absolutely the best treatment of the nutritional requirements for athletes I’ve ever seen—especially for endurance athletes. The second section of the book discusses the authors views of the development of our stone age ancestors (interesting reading, but we all have different views on this matter). The last section of the book give 80 Paleo “energy-packed” recipes—again, interesting reading but there are better Paleo cookbooks on the market.

Thirteen years ago, before I started cycling, I was morbidly obese and in terrible health. In hindsight I realize that the majority of my problems came from a poor diet and lifestyle. At that time I held elected public office and served on the board of directors for nearly a dozen civic groups, which meant I seldom found time for a real meal, and never had time for either proper exercise or sleep. My road to recovery started with the Atkins Diet and cycling—then I gradually withdrew from public life and started focusing more on my health.

While I’ve basically followed the Atkins Diet for thirteen years, I couldn’t follow their guidelines while cycling because a low-carb diet just isn’t compatible with endurance sports like distance cycling. The Paleo Diet is more of a “sensible carb” diet than a “low carb” diet. In fact, The Paleo Diet For Athletes has convinced me to consume more carbs during and after a long bike ride than I had before! Switching from the Atkins Diet to the Paleo Diet was not a problem at all for me—basically I just had to give up dairy products and cereal grains. The surgeon who repaired my esophagus back in June had already told me I needed to give up dairy products, and I’ve always felt uncomfortable after eating cereal grains anyway. So, switching to the Paleo Diet was really easy for me and the food tastes so much better!

The biggest difference between the normal Paleo Diet and the Paleo Diet For Athletes is the use of carb gels before, during and after exercise. As the author states on page seven of the book, “Perhaps the most important refinement made to my original Paleo Diet was Joe’s recognition that consumption of starches and simple sugars was necessary and useful only during exercise and in the immediate postexercise period.” In my case, for example, they would recommend that I consume a 100-calorie pack of carb gel 10 minutes before my bike ride, then 300 calories of gels and/or sports drinks per hour during the ride, followed by 600 calories of carbohydrates within 30 minutes after the ride (along with protein powder). The amount of carbs gels you need will vary depending on your weight and the length and intensity of your exercise.

I realize that some people would never try the Paleo Diet because it involves the consumption of red meat. If you are a vegetarian due to religious beliefs I can accept that without any problem. If you are a vegetarian because you think that makes you morally superior to the rest of us, well, you have my sympathy. If you are a member of PETA please feel free to stop by my office and I’ll grab a crayon and big piece of construction paper so I can explain the facts of life to you in a way you can understand (hint: human beings are carnivores and we have eight incisors for a reason—and it’s not so we can tear into pieces of tofu).

In case you can’t tell, I really like the Paleo Diet For Athletes! Like most men, I would rather die than count calories or have to measure my food before every meal. On the Paleo Diet I’m eating a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, along with a sensible portion of animal-based protein (red meat, fish, turkey, chicken, etc.) at every meal. It seems like I am never hungry and my weight is still dropping and energy levels are increasing.

The Paleo Diet For Athletes retails for $16 in paperback, and Amazon.com has it for $13 (or $9 for the Kindle version). As I mentioned above, if you are an athlete you need to read the section of this book on the nutritional requirements of athletes, even if you don’t follow the Paleo Diet.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2013 in Book Reviews, Sports Nutrition

 

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