Tag Archives: diet

The China Study (Book Review Pedcast)

 

Feeding your children the healthiest diet possible is the goal of every parent but exactly what is a healthy diet? Answering that question is the reason that we at the DocSmo.com blog thought a book review of a major new book on nutrition might be helpful to parents.  The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II, MD, is a cumulative work based on the findings from  careers in nutritional research and medicine.  A myriad of research is discussed in the book but the core conclusions are derived from a longitudinal (20 year) study called “The China Study” in which researchers from Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine collected data from 65 counties in 24 provinces in China, comparing diet, lifestyle, and disease characteristics in this huge population.  (The New York Times called this data “The Grand Prix” of epidemiological studies when the results were first published in the early 1990s.) The father and son team of Drs. Campbell digest the China study data and a wealth of other scientific observations. Their main conclusion is that populations consuming the most animal-based foods are afflicted with the most chronic Western diseases. The China Study therefore advocates for a diet that consists exclusively of whole plant-based foods as well as discussing the science behind this conclusion, barriers to its introduction in the American diet, and lifestyle tips for readers ready to transition to this nutritional mindset and lifestyle.

Similar to many books on nutrition, the authors start with an overview of the problems related to childhood and adult obesity and chronic disease in the United States. This highlights the general confusion that many feel with an overwhelming amount of  health and nutrition information. This book may provide a useful guide for providing better nutrition for their children. Their goal is to clarify confusion by referencing sound scientific data, instead of providing the latest sensation in rapid weight-loss. They seek to demonstrate a strong connection between eating animal protein and the high incidence of chronic disease plaguing Western societies; cancer, diabetes, and coronary heart disease.  The authors continue with manageable chapters about the nutrition science and mechanisms of disease.  The authors believe that the consumption of animal protein trigger breast and prostate cancers, cause obesity that is at the root of adult onset diabetes, and contributes to diseases of the heart and blood vessels.  The book  highlights the correlation between nutrition and disease, citing a wealth of scientific evidence.

In our opinion, the useful sections in the book are right in the middle, where the authors list eight principles of how to rethink nutrition and provide an eating guide for parents and children. Aside from eliminating all animal products and minimizing added vegetable oils such as peanut or olive oil, he encourages plants and whole grains. The authors are especially harsh on added supplements, believing that a sound diet should provide individuals with everything they need, except for a nod to vitamin D for children and adults who spend the majority of their time indoors and vitamin B12. The last third of the book discusses with the barriers to adopting this way of eating, exposing some startling realities of powerful lobbying groups and their influence on formulating government dietary recommendations.

Overall, this book highlights the important relationship between nutrition and chronic disease. If the authors are right, our health and the future health of our children depend on us adopting a plant-based diet, now.  It promotes a whole-grain, plant-based diet in order to avoid chronic disease, and reverse them once they have developed.  This book presents sound scientific data based on decades of biochemical research and explains the science behind the studies in a clear and manageable way. As the authors say, they take us where the data leads.  To be clear, this book is not a weight-loss solution or another fad diet.  It is a scholarly look at decades of research illuminating the connection between poor nutrition and incidence of chronic diseases. Despite its length and complexity, we would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in diet as it relates to your children’s long-term health. The authors believe that not only can diseases like cancer, heart disease, and adult onset diabetes be prevented in our children with a plant-based “vegan” diet, but that these diseases can be REVERSED with food after they have developed.  The Dr. Campbell father/son team challenge traditional nutrition teaching which advocates a diet rich in animal based protein and dairy foods, vitamin and mineral supplements, and often diets with an imbalanced nutrient profile such as the “Atkins” diet.  The authors claim that a completely plant based diet is the key to prevention of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.  Time will tell us if they are right.  Pass the broccoli, please. We give this book 4 out of 5 DocSmo stars.  Until next time.

Written collaboratively by Angela Solis and Paul Smolen M.D.

Fast Food: More bad news (Article)

It is common knowledge that fast food is not good for our children’s health. Recent research confirms what we already knew: an extensive new study correlates consumption of fast food with a child’s increased chance of developing asthma and allergies. The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood surveyed nearly half a million six- and seven-year-olds and thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds across 31 and 51 countries, respectively. The study found that teenagers who consume fast food more than three times a week are 40% more likely to develop asthma, while children aged six or seven who also eat fast food more than three times a week are 27% more likely to suffer from asthma. Additionally, both the six- and seven-year-olds and teenagers who frequently dined on fast food suffered from increased frequency of food allergies, eczema, and allergic rhinitis (hay fever).

Clearly, the researchers have provided us with valuable information, but much more work needs to be done to confirm the study’s results. Many factors are undoubtedly at play beneath the surface. While overconsumption of fast food seems to be associated with an increase in many allergic diseases in children, excessive eating of processed fast food may not totally explain why children are, on average, more allergic than their older relatives. Other factors undoubtedly contribute to the problem.

Nonetheless, this new information provides us with things we can do TODAY to lessen a child’s chance of allergy: providing a more traditional diet rich in fruits and vegetables may be part of the solution. By simply visiting the produce aisle instead of swinging by the nearest drive-through, a child’s health and quality of life can be changed for the better. Replacing processed sugars, carbohydrates, and preservatives with natural foods is the first step towards a healthier lifestyle and possibly less allergy disease for both you and your children.

Your comments are welcome at www.docsmo.com. Let me hear what your think. For more timely medical updates about children, subscribe to DocSmo.com on iTunes or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.  Until next time.

Smo notes:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jan/14/fast-food-child-asthma-allergies

Authored by Keri Register, Davidson College intern and Paul Smolen MD

From the desk of Doc Smo: Dietary supplements improve health? (Article)

The news had not been kind to the vitamin and nutrition supplement makes recently.  Many have heard of the conclusion of the Iowa Women’s Health study which found that supplemental vitamins and iron were not only not helpful to the health of older women, but they may actually be detrimental. Death from all causes were higher among the women who took supplements that those that did not. large epidemiologic studies have found that eating the whole fruits and vegetables does improve health.

On the heels of this study comes on in the British medical journal that found eating fish 2 or more times a week reduced ones chances of stroke but taking fish oil supplement did not show the same benefit. Once again, supplements seem not to be effective in preventing disease whereas the natural whole food is effective.  I think the message is clear from these studies: nutrients work in concert with one another, probably optimally in the balance that are found in whole food. Nutrients work in concert with one another, much like a symphony of musicians. For an orchestra to sound right, all the instruments need to be in balance, playing together in synchrony. Our cells are much the same, needing a steady diet of all the nutrients that are found in the whole foods that we know are essential to health. Improving your child’s health by finding just the right mixture of vitamins and nutrients is probably not going to happen.  Providing them with  a wide variety of whole foods and limiting or eliminating entirely processed foods is your child’s ticket to good health, now and in the future.

Your comments are welcome at www.docsmo.com.  Until next time.

 

Smo notes:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21987192

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/11/more-evidence-against-vitamin-use/

http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1105975

http://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e6698

A doctor’s advice: harsh or life changing? (Pedcast)

 

-Welcome to another edition of DocSmo.com.  I am your host, Dr. Paul Smolen, the hardest working pediatrician east of the Mississippi, bringing you pedcasts… short, informative, entertaining mp3’s discussing everything kid:  subjects ranging from the crib to the country club , from the play pen to the prom….from diapers to the dorm.   Well, you get the idea. With his permission, I am going to tell you a story about one of my patients who we call Drew that I think you might find interesting.  I did.  So sit back and listen to how a visit to the pediatrician changed Drew’s life for the better.

-Drew’s story starts at a party at the University of North Carolina a few years back…when my daughter was an undergraduate there.  Sarah, my daughter and …the web master of this blog, was introduced to Drew at this party. When introduced, he asked Sarah was she related to a  Dr. Smolen, and of course Sarah answered yes. Smolen is an unusual name and I happened to have been Derek’s doctor growing up in Charlotte.  Derek then spontaneously goes into the story of how I changed his life…  you heard me right…changed his life.  As he tells it, he was in for his routine physical where, of course,  we discuss all the routine subjects… height, weight, BP, BMI, exercise, diet etc.  It turns out that Derek was overweight at the time of this physical and his diet was very poor… lots of sweet drinks and processed food.

–His recollection of our conversation was that I was rather blunt about his weight problem and his poor diet.  I told him he had to change his diet or he might well go into the adult world being overweight and in poor health I told him that men generally reach their peak physical capacity at age 17 years and if he wasn’t healthy then, when would he be?  I strongly encouraged him to stop drinking soda, sports drinks, sweet tea, and processed foods so that his weight would normalize.  He informed me that “he was a football player and that he burned plenty of calories.”  “Everyone drank these drinks”, he explained.   At that point we had a short discussion about calorie balance I explained to him that unless one runs marathons, keeping a normal healthy weight with excess calorie intake is almost impossible. “Our weight is much more about what we eat than how much we burn. “  I explained.

-You need to understand, I have these conversations all the time with teens.  I see about 5-8 teens everyday and diet is a big part of a checkup.  I don’t remember him getting upset or angry during the visit but apparently I struck a cord.  As he tells it, “ he was very angry when I left that day.  He felt that I had been overly critical of him and he resented it.”…buuuut , the message got through.  He said the other doctors just danced around his weight but I was direct and he heard it.  Maybe he was just ready to hear it or maybe he understood that I cared about him and really wanted him to change… but for whatever reason, he decided to take action.

– After that visit, he stopped drinking soda and processed foods and his weight quickly normalized.  Activity was not his problem since he was quite athletic… it was his diet.  The short conversation we had at his checkup had truly changed his life.

-So here is what I learned from Derek’s experience:

People hear messages when they are ready to hear them…Derek was ready the day I saw him

Showing concern for someone’s well being, even if what you tell them is painful, is worth the effort.

Direct communication is the most effective way to connect with young people. My rule is, listen first, then speak.

And finally, people in positions of authority need not be afraid to use their influence in a positive way.  Children respond to honesty and direct communication.  We owe it to our kids to help them with direction and guidance when we can.  Remember, someone did it for us.

-Thanks for joining me today for this edition of DocSmo.com.  If you enjoyed this podcast, fell free to check out the myriad of other topics discussed in this blog.  And if you really get excited, write a comment about this story or any others you find interesting.  Don’t forget to “like” DocSmo on Facebook, or to subscribe on either my website www.docsmo.com, or on iTunes. This is Dr. Paul Smolen, hoping you won’t find it too strange, to adjust to inevitable life change.

Until next time