Americans are becoming more health conscience? Cardiologist, chef, and martial artist, Dr. Mike Fenster, author of “The Fallacy of the Calorie,” indicates there is no improvement in this country’s major health problem, obesity. The lack of physical activity or exercise is a powerful contributor to the poor overall health of so many Americans, say Dr. Fenster.
Read about Dr. Mike Fensters interview regarding American’s and obesity.
Q: As a cardiologist, nutrition and fitness expert, do you see any improvement in one of the major problems in this country, obesity?
A: The short answer to that question is no. However, a close and thorough examination of the findings yields some interesting observations. Many people are unaware of the relationship between obesity, commonly defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or greater and mortality. It is often assumed to be a straight line, when in actuality it is a “J” shaped curve. This means that at the extremes of underweight (a BMI less than 18.5 kg/m2) and obese and morbidly obese (a BMI greater than 35 kg/m2) there exists a significant increased risk of morbidity and mortality. While they currently represent a minority of the people who are either overweight (a BMI of over 25 kg/m2 but less than 30 kg/m2) or obese, they represent one of the most rapidly expanding groups.
There is also a very intense discussion about the merits of even using a metric like BMI to define what is normal, overweight or obese. Questions have arisen regarding the validity of the measure and its predictive value. What is more important than the absolute weight divided by a square of height may be the areas of fat deposition, particularly the deposition of abdominal fat, and even the different types of fat.
What is clear is that by any definition, the quality of the diet directly correlates to any health related outcomes. The many disabilities and diseases that we confront today as a result of the modern Western diet speak volumes as to the quality, or more specifically the lack of quality, to be found in such a regime.
Q: How does advertisement (e.g. commercials on tv) contribute to persons making change in eating habits?
A: Advertising, as we all know, is a huge and very profitable business. The food industry and agribusiness make money when you buy their stuff. The many forms of advertising utilized throughout many different media platforms are a key component of their obvious success. The combination of successful advertisement, extreme convenience and ingredient combination (insane amounts of enslaving fats, sugar and salt) make the modern Western diet a terribly addictive three headed beast.
Q: What other contributors are contributing factors?
A:In terms of ill health, there are many other modifiable lifestyle variables. The lack of physical activity or exercise is a powerful contributor to the poor overall health of so many Americans. Tobacco abuse is another important variable in the equation. Interestingly, however, tobacco recently fell from first to second with respect to the impact of lifestyle changes and overall health. Diet is now the most important change one can make to prevent disability and disease.
Q: What are your views on diet supplements, including foods?
A: Some people take dietary supplements for specific conditions. An excellent example of worthwhile dietary supplementation is prenatal vitamins for pregnant women. However, for the vast majority of people eating a wholesome, fresh and balanced diet I believe there is little need for exogenous supplementation. Many studies have demonstrated little to no benefit with the routine use of certain dietary supplementation’s, including certain foods and vitamins. Some have even showed potential negative outcomes with the routine consumption of such items. While snake oil continues to be advertised and sold, often in the form of miracle cures, super foods, and magic weight loss supplements the modern version doesn’t yield any better results than what has historically been hawked by charlatans and schemers.
Q: What is your advice to vegetarians?
A: First I would congratulate them for doing what everyone else needs to be doing more of, eating fresh fruits and vegetables. As for advice, I suppose that would depend on the impetus for their motivation. I have many friends, and know many people who embrace such a lifestyle for ethical and moral reasons. This is to be lauded. My recommendation would be to make sure that they consume adequate amounts of protein and obtain the necessary nutrition that is afforded by an omnivorous approach but may become lacking when one becomes much more selective. For those that embrace it as the only path to health and immortality I would simply say there is no salvation in deprivation.
Q: What is your eating advice for persons with diabetes and high blood pressure, two of the leading cause of death in this country?
A: My first bit of advice would be to continue to follow and undergo competent medical treatment. With time, effort and intervention you may no longer require adjunctive pharmacologic therapy. One of the most important steps toward that goal is to start eating healthfully. My new book, “The Fallacy of the Calorie: Why the Modern Western Diet Is Killing Us and How to Stop It,” provides a thirty day program to help break the addictive cycle of the modern Western diet. It also provides a game plan for a wholesome, helpful and most importantly delicious approach by following principles that are easily adapted for individual taste.
Q: As a cardiologist, what is your advice for a healthy heart?
A: I’m a simple guy, so I try to keep it simple with five basic rules; MEALS for a healthy life:
• Eat fresh, wholesome, real food- make most of it green stuff
• Activity (any kind of exercise is good)
• Laugh (a lot)
• Smile (even more)
Learn about Dr. Fenster’s“Eight Surprising Medical Facts about Healthy Eating On-the-go.”
Diet salad dressings are equally, or more, detrimental. Opting for a salad even with “light” dressing when dining out may not be the healthiest choice. Whether it is low calorie, low fat, or regular salad dressing, it’s often loaded with omega-six polyunsaturated plant oils—too much of which is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems. In fact, consuming too much of these salad dressings can be even more harmful to your waistline and overall health than what you presume to be “less healthy” menu items you were trying to avoid with the best of intentions. When opting for salad, stick with just a little olive oil, vinegar, fresh lemon juice or nothing at all.
Burgers beat deli meat. Despite conventional thinking, the consumption of fresh red meat that isn’t over processed has not been associated with any increased risk of heart disease, cancer or mortality. Many restaurants today, outside of the fast food variety, offer freshly ground, quality burgers—some even use beef that’s organic, grass fed and pasture raised. In contrast to fresh red meat, the consumption of highly processed meat and meat products like that typically used in deli sandwiches often presumed to be a healthier option over burgers- are proven to be associated with an increased risk of heart disease, cancer and mortality. Piling on a few zombiefied vegetables that have marginal nutritional value won’t give the meal much more health merit.
Diet drinks are tied to disease. The common misconception that you can avoid or compensate for poor food choices with diet drinks is a double edged exercise in futility. In fact, studies have shown women who drink more diet drinks are heavier and have an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Under-salted food may be a diet disservice. We season our food so it tastes good, and a properly seasoned meal leaves us more satisfied and less likely to binge and over-consume. What’s more, adding salt to fresh food only accounts for about 5% of the daily intake—well within bounds. But, “fresh” is the key word as over 75% of an average person’s daily sodium intake comes from eating highly processed and prepared foods. Seek out those restaurants that utilize fresh ingredients, from produce to proteins. In a worst case scenario stop into a market and grab some fresh fruit, optimally organically grown, to tide you over.
Low cholesterol advertising is a fat trap. Most are surprised to learn the cholesterol consumed in one’s diet has little or nothing to do with your blood cholesterol levels. Foods and menu items promoted as a “healthy” because they are “low in cholesterol” are often loaded with fat, sugar or other additives that cause more harm than a three egg omelet ever could.
Bars are bogus. Energy bars, protein bars, granola bars and other so-called healthy eating snacks are often marketed as an all-natural or otherwise nutritious choice. The fact is that many of these bars are highly processed and contain high levels of low-nutrient fillers and sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Diets high in added sugars, fructose in particular, has been associated with an increased risk of developing hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular disease and other life-threatening medical conditions. Bars are also often loaded with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame that’s linked to a myriad of health ailments. The short term energy boost bars provide are often followed by a “crash” that can cause you to eat yet more unhealthy bars or other food to get revved back up.
Bagels are the “other” white bread. Many people are aware of the empty calories and the lack of any nutritional redemption in a slice of white bread. Commercial breads are the number one source of sodium in the average American diet. They also often contain significant amounts of refined sugar and fat in the form of detrimental omega-six polyunsaturated fatty acids. While many health-seekers do already avoid that slice of white bread for these many unappealing reasons, they may not know a seemingly benign plain bagel is equivalent to several slices of white bread…even before the addition of toppings or fillings.
Counting calories is a fallacy. A calorie is measured by turning food to ash and recording the amount of heat given off. The caloric content of a food or beverage item doesn’t have much to do with how we actually metabolize our food. Additionally, calories alone do not accurately reflect a food’s nutritional value. For example, a 100 calorie soft drink is not the nutritional equivalent of a 100 calorie apple. Healthful eating isn’t about focusing on the quantity of calories, but rather it is about the quality of the consumable.
Credits to Dr. Fenster who provided excellent advice regarding eating healthy and living a healthy life.