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Health Care Reform Starts With You

Posted Mar 22 2010 7:13pm
I recently attended the Texas Dietetic Association’s (TDA) Food and Nutrition Conference & Exhibition (FNCE).  This year it was held in Dallas.  There were several excellent workshops and presentations, as well as culinary demonstrations and vendor expos.  One of the most engaging presentations was our opening session. Some of you may be familiar with the speaker we had, Dr. Michael Roizen.  He is a good friend of Mehmet Oz (also known as Oprah’s doctor, who now has his own TV show).  Dr. Roizen is also the medical director of the Cleveland Clinic’s wellness program .

The title of Dr. Roizen’s presentation was “YOU and Your Genes: How Lifestyle and Foods Change Everything.”  During Dr. Roizen’s talk, he showed a clip of one of Dr. Oz’s shows where they put a meat-eating Cowboy named Rocco on a vegan diet for 28 days due to his extremely blocked arteries (over 95%), and diabetes.  His results were amazing.  In those 28 days, he lost 6 inches from his waist, dropped his fasting blood sugar from 179 to 99, and raised his healthy HDL cholesterol from 33 to 45.  Those are extremely dramatic results in just 4 weeks.

Now as a dietitian, I am well aware of the fact that food can have the effects seen in Rocco.  What I didn’t realize was how dramatically food can effect all of our genes.  Dr. Roizen also had lots of data regarding how diet can effectively turn “on” and “off” certain types of genes.  One very telling slide he showed was regarding prostate cancer.  He showed a slide of men who ate a typical American diet, and how many of their “cancer” genes were turned on, while the genes that kill these cancer causers were turned off.  When these men changed their diet to avoid what Dr. Roizen refers to as the top 5 worst foods (saturated fat, trans fat, simple sugars, syrup, and refined grains), they were able to turn off the cancer causing genes and turn on the cancer-killing genes.  Absolutely amazing data!  This means that we do not have to be a victim of our “genes,” we absolutely have control over preventing the vast majority of chronic diseases (including type 2 diabetes). 

One disheartening piece of data he showed was that if you “indulge” in one of these top 5 “bad” foods, it can take between 7 and 21 days to recover.  That speaks volumes of how important it is to eat a healthy diet consistently, and avoiding those “cheat” days.  I know for me personally, I rarely eat “junk” food, and when on occasion I do, pay dearly for it!  My stomach will ache, sometimes eczema on my hands will flair up, I may get a headache. . . in short, I just plain feel lousy!  Then I ask myself, “Was it really worth it?”  For me, there is not any food worth feeling bad for! 

Some other interesting data Dr. Roizen showed was comparisons of Americans and Europeans.  I was not going to mention this, but with all the recent Health-care Reform hoopla, I saw a person holding a sign that said: “We don’t want to be Europeans.”  Well, Europeans have lower rates of virtually every type of chronic disease than Americans (by half or more).  Hmm. . . maybe those Europeans know a thing or two more than we do!  They are definitely much healthier than we are as a country.  Could it be that they exercise more?  Could it be that they eat less?  Could it be that they eat healthier?  Who knows, but one thing is for sure, we as a society need to start making healthier choices ourselves or we are headed for a lower quality of life, as well as a lower lifespan due to physical pain (e.g. joint pain) from being obese, diabetes, heart disease, various types of cancer, etc.

Dr. Roizen has authored several books, including the newly revised “YOU On a Diet,” and works with several registered dietitians in his clinic.  He, along with Dr. Oz and several of their colleagues, will be holding a health symposium called “Food for your Whole Life” this June in New York, NY.  One day is geared toward the general public, while another day is geared toward healthcare professionals.  For more information, visit the symposium website

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