Joel Fuhrman M.D. is a board–certified family physician, best-selling author and nutritional researcher who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional and natural methods.
As one of the country’s leading experts on nutrition and natural healing, Dr. Fuhrman has appeared on hundreds of radio and television shows including: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, Today, Good Morning America, the Discovery Channel, TV Food Network, CNBC, the Dr. Oz Show. His own PBS television show, “3 Steps to Incredible Health,” aired nationwide in June 2011.
His book, Eat to Live, published in 2003 (Little Brown) has gone through over 20 printings and been published in multiple foreign language editions. The revised version was released by Little Brown in January 2011 and is still on the NY Times best-sellers list. His recent works include Disease-Proof Your Child and has had published a total of 7 books on human nutrition to date.
Dr. Fuhrman is actively involved in scientific research in human nutrition. His discoveries on food addiction and human hunger were published in the scientific journal, Nutrition Journal, in November 2011 entitled, The Changing Perception of Hunger on a High Nutrient Density Diet. His research activities include working with researchers at the National Institute of Health on dietary interventions for specific autoimmune diseases.
Dr. Fuhrman is the research director of the Nutritional Research Project—a project of the National Health Association. Dr. Fuhrman is on the board of directors of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. He is also a member of the Whole Foods Market scientific advisory board.
Dr. Fuhrman is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (1988), and has received the St. Joseph’s Family Practice Resident’s Teaching Award for his contribution to the education of residents. In addition, Dr. Fuhrman speaks to other physicians at hospital grand rounds and provides nutritional education to physicians for CME credit, his lectures have been approved for physician continuing education via the American Academy of Family Physicians and many doctors of all specialties have attended his conferences.
As a former world class figure skater and member of the United States World Figure Skating Team, in 1973, he placed second in the United States National Pairs Championships. In the World Professional Pairs Skating Championship in Jaca, Spain in 1976, he placed third. Today, he is an active participant in multiple sports and is a health and fitness enthusiast. His dedication to sports medicine, foot and body alignment, injury prevention, human performance and longevity speaks to these lifelong interests. Along with his nutritional expertise, Dr. Fuhrman has been involved professionally with sports medical committees, advised professional and Olympic athletes, and lectured to athletic trainers and world-class athletes for maximizing performance and preventing injury.
Hello I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Good afternoon and welcome. We get to talk for an hour about my very favorite subject—food. And as you know, we talk about lots of things when it comes to food—health, environment, animals—but today we’re going to get right to it and talk about the power of food on our personal health. I have…I’m speechless because I don’t even know how to describes this extra wonderful guest we have on today but we’re going to be talking with Dr. Joel Fuhrman. He is a board certified family physician, who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional and natural methods. He has been practicing for more than twenty years and established the center for Nutritional Medicine located in Flemington, New Jersey. He is a renowned speaker and author. His work has been acclaimed as a medical breakthrough for weight loss, disease reversal and prevention. His signature book Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Plan for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss first published by Little, Brown and Company in 2003, spawned multiple foreign editions and over twenty reprintings and due to its enduring popularity it was updated and revised for 2011. You can see it on the New York Times Bestseller List. Dr. Fuhrman has several other great books, Fasting and Eating for Health, Disease Proof Your Child, Eat For Health, and a new book that just came out Super Immunity. Whole Foods Market, a leader in natural and organic food selected Dr. Fuhrman as a partner to create their Health Starts Here initiative, a program geared toward promoting the health of Whole Food’s team members and customers. Dr. Fuhrman provides nutritional guidance via week-long immersion programs and in-store lectures. His books supplements and food products are featured in the stores. He is one of the leading experts on nutrition and natural healing. He’s appeared on hundreds of radio and televisions including ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, Today, Good Morning America, the Discovery Channel, TV Food Network, CNBC and many more. I want you to give a warm round of applause whether you’re listening right now or later on by iTunes or iPod, this is my personal very favorite doctor. Welcome Dr. Joel Fuhrman.
JF: Hi Caryn, I’m excited to be here on your show.
CH: Thank you, thank you so much for everything. You’ve had a great deal of success lately and you’ve put in decades of work. I’m so happy to see that so many people are listening.
JF: Thank you, you’re right. I’m pretty much surprised by how well my television show on PBS has done. Have you had a chance to see it?
CH: I saw a little glimpse of it but why don’t you talk a bit about it? How did that happen? Did they find you? Did you find them?
JF: What happened is that PBS actually, they were trying various people they got referred to in the past—this doctor would be good, that doctor would be good. Half the time they’d be on the money and half the time they wouldn’t, something would be good and something wouldn’t. So instead of doing that they tried to find all the best selling diet and health doctors in America and when they put a whole bunch of them together they had a competition where they gave every person a twenty-minute show, a short show, that they filmed in San Francisco and aired it in various test markets. My show did the best. My show was the most effective. And then they were able to give me my own show, my own hour and a half show which is now actually the best-selling PBS show, the best fund raising PBS show of the summer. It’s raised over five million dollars for PBS. We’re proud of this because PBS is a great mission. Without PBS where would we be? Where would we get this informational shows without commercial interest. The fact that I could tell people straight out what they need to know about health, nutrition and medications and drugs without being…
JF: …commercial interests and being censored. It’s just an incredible opportunity. The shocking thing is the wide amount of people that watch the show, the reception and how many people that actually have joined onto this nutritarian, we should say diet-style or lifestyle because of seeing that show. You know it’s like when the price of gasoline gets so incredibly high people are looking for hybrids and electric cars and things like that. Now with so many people sick and so many people dying needlessly of things that are nutritionally related and the medical care crisis makes it completely unaffordable for our country to ever have a good economy ever in the future if we don’t solve the medical care problem. We’re not solving it in Washington. Who’s going to pay for it, we just have to have fewer sick people. Our whole country is just so sick of what we eat. So I think that people are opening their eyes, they’re being woken up and I think more people than ever before are embracing this message.
CH: I’m so happy about it and your book Eat To Live which was recently revised has been, the last I saw for it, was fourteen weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List.
JF: That’s very exciting. My book Super Immunity actually for some reason, it’s been selling, how should I say it, selling well enough to be on the New York Times Bestseller List, one of the top spots. I have two books on the Best Seller List if it wasn’t for the fact that they pulled it off for some reason. Maybe they just didn’t want one author to have two books on the Best Seller List because it earned it by sales but they didn’t let it go up there.
CH: Or maybe they couldn’t have three books promoting plant-based diets on the New York Times Best Seller List at the same time.
JF: I don’t know, I don’t know what political wring of their hands went on to make those decisions behind the scenes back there. The book publisher is looking into it—what happened, the sales figures were up pretty high.
CH: I’m glad it’s doing well and I hope to see it soon on the list. What’s Super Immunity about? And is it different from your other books?
JF: Eat To Live is clearly my best-selling book. It still sells all over the world as my best book because of course it’s focused on weight loss and how to get rid of food addictions and food cravings. It’s also a book that tells people how to reverse heart disease and diabetes. It’s a very needy book. People who have those kinds of books generally sell very well because so many people are overweight and wanting to lose weight. But Super Immunity is a niche that’s not probably going to be as great a seller as Eat to Live, I don’t think, but it really tells you how to tweak your diet to make it more cancer protective. So we can win the war on breast cancer and prostate cancer and colon cancer. It focuses a lot on breast cancer but the interesting message of the book is that the same immune strengthening that occurs to give it protection against cancer also protects us simultaneously against viral infections, like the flu, like hepatitis, like AIDS. In other words it’s the same factors that improve the immune system and gives you protection and also the fascinating science that goes into the fact that without optimal nutrition or adequate nutrition most Americans are so immunosupressed that they are very vulnerable to a viral epidemic that could sweep across America especially with plane flights and us bringing in viruses from all parts of the world and the overuse of antibiotics in our human population and in animal feed that’s making it so we have bacterial infections that are not treatable with antibiotics any more. So in other words Americans are more at risk of having severe infections and more important than ever before we need to protect our immune system and build it up to protect ourselves from these infections with superior nutrition and that harmless virus that could result in not even a person being sick or mild illness can mutate into a virulent or dangerous infection that can attack the lungs, the heart, the nervous system and result in very dangerous or long-term morbidity or mortality just because we’re deficient in certain nutrients. So all these things are fascinating to me and I enjoyed writing the book and talking about it because obviously I think, just like my Disease Proof Your Child book I think this is critical information that everyone needs to know in America. We graduate from school, elementary school even, people should learn about nutrition as a core subject… talking about high schools, colleges, medical schools and the most important information people need to know to protect their precious health, their future life to keep themselves well and not have tragedies in their life, they don’t learn anything about. So I feel that this is just critical information that we can win the war on breast cancer right now and we have modern information to do it, we can protect ourselves tremendously and we’re getting such a weakened, watered-down, incorrect, socially-acceptable, commercially-acceptable message that’s allowing people to die left and right. It doesn’t have to happen.
CH: This is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. What are we hearing about all this great information during this month other than from you?
JF: Awareness means they want you to get more mammograms. It’s a joke, breast cancer awareness. Nobody’s not aware of breast cancer? Who has to be aware of it? People collecting money to give the drug companies, drug researchers more money to create a magic pill? Or is it all about telling people to go get their mammograms so the radiologists make sure every woman gets a mammogram? It’s all just a money-making scheme. We’re already aware of breast cancer. Why don’t we start educating people on what they can do right now to not get breast cancer? It should be a Teach People How Not To Get Breast Cancer Month. That’s what we should have them do. Information we have available now that’s been shown in scientific studies and how can we import those simple changes in women’s lives…you don’t have to get breast cancer. You’re right, nobody’s talking about that. It’s just silliness almost.
CH: Last week came out this recommendation to reduce the prostate cancer screenings for men over 40. How do you feel about that?
JF: I think that screenings for cancer have almost no effect on overall morbidity and mortality and death rate of the population. They may help some people and some people can swear that it saved their lives. I’m sure it is saving some people’s lives but it’s also hurting some people too. It’s also causing some people to get no benefits and just get a lot of fear and anxiety and worry and causing them to get sicker quicker. So overall I think screening tests that doctors do have some mild benefits when scrutinized but the benefits are very slight. For prostate cancer screenings I think the benefits are so slight that they haven’t really been discernible in the medical literature to be definitive yet. The point that I’m making is that, well there’s two points here. One is that screening and detection is not where our money should be, is not where we should be focused on primarily. Our focus should be on prevention and mammograms don’t prevent breast cancer, they are a detection tool. By the time breast cancer cells have multiplied to be large enough to be detected by a mammogram they’ve been there more than ten years, usually more than fifteen years. By that time in most cases it’s too late, they spread through the body already. The point is that mammograms don’t do very much and of course prostate exams and PSAs probably do even less. We have to do real effective things. The average woman out there knows nothing about what she could really do protect herself.
CH: I know, she’s eating yogurt. That’s what she’s doing. That’s what she thinks is healthy.
JF: Of course we’re going to talk about the idea, the concept that women who eat mushrooms every day, in a recent study, showed a 64% decrease risk of breast cancer compared to women who didn’t eat mushrooms. The point I’m making is not that mushrooms are the only food or that’s the best study in the world, but the point is why doesn’t every woman know this information about mushrooms and cancer? What about the 71 country study—71 countries showing the powerful link between the consumption of onions and cancer? The point is that this is something that should be on the tip of the tongue, in the forefront of everybody’s mind, as to what exactly are the tools we have available and what is the medical and scientific literature show what behaviors and what foods are cancer protective that can give people opportunities to prevent cancer in the future and how can we incorporate them in our lives and make them delicious and fun and how do we eat a cancer-protective diet style. Our population is just on the way to McDonald’s and Burger King and Pizza Hut and their food addicted and this is beyond even contemplation.
CH: I just imagine…you know how much money goes into the advertising for fast foods. It’s just obscene. If a fraction of that went to advertising mushrooms, advertising onions, it would just be amazing.
JF: The lower income areas…they don’t even have supermarkets available. The supermarkets move out, the fast food restaurants move in. I was just on the internet and I looked up I think West Oakland, California—they had one supermarket, thirty-six liquor stores and 683 fast food restaurants, 683 fast food restaurants for one supermarket. Can you believe that?
CH: And the fast food restaurants recently have been spending more money on advertising since the economy has gone down because they are targeting those people with very limited income.
JF: Right. Of course it creates a vicious cycle of fast food and poor nutrition and poor health, poor ability to perform intellectually and physically with diseases. And of course because of that area has 400% increase in risk of prostate cancer and a 40% increase risk of heart attack and a 30% increase of cancer compared to neighboring areas that are wealthier and have more supermarkets. In other words, we’re saying a 400% increase in cancer over the high risk of cancer that’s in the conventional American population for the crummy diet they eat. But then we have in these inner city areas where they have more fast food access and less supermarket access the cancer rate is 400% higher than that. It’s terrible.
CH: OK, what’s really unfortunate is that West Oakland is an area that is near enough to lots of great wonderful produce. But you get into some middle America places where there aren’t a lot of farms where they have access to food. So it’s really bizarre and extra-sad that that’s what’s going on in West Oakland. Is there a reason why you picked that particular place?
JF: No, not really. Just because there was only one supermarket there. So I figured ok there’s only one supermarket there, let me look up how many liquor stores are there. Let me see how many fast food restaurants are there because I know there’s only one supermarket, the other one left town, let’s see how many places there are to eat if there’s no supermarkets. Where are people eating? So obviously everyone’s eating at fast food restaurant joints. It’s almost amazing. They’re killing themselves.
CH: Now when we look at this list you’ve come up with in the Super Immunity book—greens, onions, mushrooms, berries, beans and seeds. For the most part, especially when we’re talking about beans, these are not expensive foods.
JF: Well, that’s true. Beans are an economical food, zucchini and leafy greens can be purchased very inexpensively. Wild and brown rices can be purchased inexpensively. Sunflower seeds are not expensive. We can have kitchens and farmers with excess zucchini and excess vegetables, you know they’re doing give-a-ways. The point is is that if people are out of work, if they don’t have much money, they should as much as possible people should be growing part of their own food themselves. If they live in a city where there’s no access to food they should be hiring their work out to people who have some land. Everybody has a grass lawn. Let’s take up some of these grass lawns and plant some kale and collard and bok choy and stuff and tomato plants. Put tomato plants and peppers and zucchini and kale in people’s front lawns, all over the country. And have neighbors who don’t have it go to a person’s house and ask them to cultivate their lawn for them for nothing and share the food with them. Many more people have to take charge of their personal health destiny.
CH: You’ve said it right there: People have to take charge of their own health because the government’s not going to do it for them. People are responsible for their own health.
JF: If we had more people growing their own food locally it would benefit the economy as well. The interesting thing here is that, because I’m claiming that my study on this subject has shown that green vegetables are an integral part of the immune system just like your white blood cells might be or your natural killer T-cells might be. In other words without green vegetables you are losing a critical arm of your normal functioning immunity and the anti-oxidant response element—one of the most important free radical controls in the cell—doesn’t even operate without the regular consumption of the ITCs in green vegetables. In other words we must have been designed or evolved in a green vegetable environment because we utilize those nutrients to function normally. Without those nutrients parts of our immune system do not even function. The amazing thing is that people, it’s not amazing that we have cancers and heart attacks and strokes and people dropping dead, we have the most sick population in the world, the most amazing thing is that people actually survive past the age of twenty considering what they put in their body in America.
CH: I was going to say that. I can’t believe that we don’t have some crazy virus going through us and dropping from so many things. It’s amazing how much the body can put up with. It’s also amazing how when you start to feed it properly how a lot of it can recover.
JF: You know, you made an excellent point there. And the point was that there are times in the history of humans and Europe and there were times when there were wars and poor nutrition and access to food went down, and there were epidemics and there were plagues and viruses that swept around countries and killed large percentage of the populations and with the fast food explosion that’s gone through and the processed foods now which encompass more than half of what America’s food dollar is—more processed and fast food and junk food that Americans are eating—we and our immune systems are grossly and powerfully suppressed by most Americans. The potential exists, especially with jet travel, to bring viruses and microbes in from all over the world, the possibility exists that many people could die if they don’t hear this message, if they don’t make a change in what they’re eating. The population is not going to be wiped out with ten, twenty, thirty percent are not going to die if we have strong immune systems. The immune system already has powerful and effective defenses against viruses.
CH: It’s amazing and I hope enough people get the message before something really terrible happens. But something really terrible is already happening. We’re having an epidemic of heart disease, an epidemic of diabetes, an epidemic of cancer, all of these things. It’s an epidemic.
JF: That’s correct and of course people don’t understand that it’s not whose paying for the sick people. It’s that no population could ever afford to support and take care of so many sick people from the way we’re eating. The economy is intimately dependent on the fact that we…and other countries, like China, recognize this. We can’t recover in America with so many sick people and they’re doing what they can to improve the health of their populations through better nutrition. Because they know if they get sick and eat as Americans eat there’s no way they are going to be able to… they’ll spread the dismal economic future that America has now because of our healthcare crisis that makes it unaffordable. You know we spend ten times as much on healthcare as we did 50 years ago in this country, ten times as much. Of course we spend one third as much on food, we’re spending less on food and more on healthcare. People wonder how they can’t afford anything these days it’s because if we’d only spend one-tenth of what we do on healthcare, then we’d have money for other things. Then we’d have money for food.
CH: The answers are really simple. I don’t watch television very often and certainly PBS is something that I look at when I am watching television but occasionally I jump around to the other channels and last night on one of news stations they were talking about gout. And they talked about some of the foods to avoid but they just could not come out and say it. They showed a salad bar and somebody reaching to it but they couldn’t say vegetables, they couldn’t say fruits. They showed it in a picture but they couldn’t say what would alleviate the symptoms and take care of the problem. I think they’re getting a little more courageous because the evidence is so obvious…I guess maybe they’re not allowed to say it.
JF: I think they’re heavily influenced by the industry that pays the money of commercials. That occurs in magazines, radio and on television. That’s of course why I was so excited to have the opportunity with PBS because it’s much more prestigious than an infomercial or something. You’re not selling anything anyway. The point is on a commercial, on a regular show, when you’re interviewed they just about cut out everything you want to say. You can’t say anything.
CH: That’s right.
JF: It’s funny, I once had a producer from 20/20 come to my office and interview me and a bunch of patients who recovered from lupus and headaches and fibromyalgia and all kinds of diseases and reversed heart disease, this is about ten years ago now or eight years ago, and the producer was super excited. They actually spent a lot of money and time preparing this television show and then it got canned the last minute because obviously there must have been drug company sponsors for some reason, must have canned the show, but at the last minute, it was ready to roll practically. They put a lot of work into the show and then decided not to run with it. I’m sure it was because the higher-ups just didn’t want to…you know it’s just not conventional enough.
CH: That was ten years ago so maybe 20/20 can air that show now.
JF: Maybe they should take it out of their files now.
CH: What about doctors? You have an opportunity to talk to doctors specifically about nutrition. What are some of the responses you’ve been getting to some of the groups you’ve been talking with?
JF: You’re right. I just got back from… I was in Kansas City at a medical conference speaking to women and I was in Virginia, I was in Roanoke and Salem Virginia speaking to doctor groups. I get an incredible response from doctors from the sense more and more they’re excited about this and trying to ask me how can I incorporate this in my practice. They are just as excited as other people are. But of course you have both sides. You have people who are for and against it, whatever. Many people are very, very excited, doctors…let me read you something. I just got a letter, just ten minutes ago.
JF: Let me read you this: “Dear Dr. Fuhrman,” (this is fascinating), “I’m currently a fourth year medical student in Chicago. The past three years I’ve spent in medical school was quite disheartening as I learn more about the direction the medical community has taken in healthcare. As I found out more about it, I found it difficult to find people who share the same ideas I had about wellness. A lot of my colleagues only cared about lab data and drugs and most often could not even practice the healthy behaviors they learned about in school. Nor could they stop themselves from participating in behaviors that lead to the diseases they constantly see in the wards. To be honest, though I emphasize disease-prevention and natural cure approach to medicine, I was more than ready to walk away from medicine upon my completion. However that was until I saw your special on PBS. I was absolutely floored by your talk on wellness and the studies you presented. It breathed new life into me knowing that there are other like-minded physicians out there like myself. How can I learn more? Are there people in Chicago I can get in touch with? How can I work more closely with you and advance your mission? Thank you Dr. Fuhrman. I get these letters all the time. A lot of medical doctors are disheartened by the way medicine doesn’t work. And they are disheartened by the fact that how do they get out of this and into something that can work. I think in many cases it airs a spark and a lot of doctors come up to me and say I love the work that you’re doing. They are at conferences learning stuff, they are excited about it, they are enthused it, breathing new life into their medical practices because they want to help people. They get rewards by seeing people get better too. When people come in heavier and sicker and more diabetic, requiring more medications, it’s got to be a downer for them.
CH: So what’s happening in medical schools? Are any of them moving forward with nutrition?
JF: I don’t really think so. The little bit of nutrition they get isn’t really that powerful. It’s going to change. It is changing. I also as part of my career mission is to do more nutritional research. And I’m doing some studies right now and I’m excited about new studies we’re starting and I’m working with the Nutritional Research Foundation, nutritionalresearch.org. I know you know about that. So we’re working with the University of Denver and we’re working with the University of Southern California and we’re working with…a few major research centers around the country and believe it or not these NIH and esteemed researchers are excited about doing research using my nutritarian approach. They are very excited about it, very positive. It’s just a matter of getting funding, getting the people involved, putting the studies together. We want to get funding for this of course, want to be able to do more but the researchers themselves are very enthusiastic, very excited and really want to do research in this field. In ten years things could change a lot more still.
CH: That’s just so exciting. Good for you. What do you find are the things that work for people that are challenged by their diet because a lot of people are overweight, a lot of people want to get well and they have a hard time.
JF: I think what makes my message unique is my discovery in the field of food addiction. I explain to people—I describe this in my book Eat To Live in more detail—I also published a medical journal study on it that’s accessible to everybody on the web called, it’s a medical journal so it may be at a level people are comfortable reading, but in any case, it’s in the November 2010 issue of Nutrition Journal called the “Changing Perception of Hunger on a High Nutrient Density Diet”, that’s the medical journal study that was published. Essentially what I’m saying here is that diets don’t work because people are already nutritionally deficient. When they cut back on calories they become even more nutritionally deficient and the body then develops a series of cravings and sensations that drives them to overeat, preventing them from successfully losing weight. Until the addiction is addressed and removed people can’t comfortably eat less calories. They don’t desire less calories, they desire more calories. Trying to tell them to eat less food is like trying to tell a person to breathe less oxygen for the next five minutes—they’ll be gasping for air. In other words, I’m claiming that without attention to nutritional quality, nutritional density and nutritional completeness you build up toxins in your tissues, like free radicals and other toxic waste products like advanced glycation end-products and as the heightened level of toxins rise in the cells it’s as if you were smoking cigarettes or snorting cocaine or shooting up with heroin. You become addicted to those toxins that come from the improper nourishment of the body. And then when you try not to eat or try to eat less then you feel shaky and weak because when you’re not eating, not digesting, when the body goes into a heightened phase of detoxification or cleansing and then when people who are more toxic start to feel shaky and weak and headachy and mental confusion and stomach cramping and they know food relieves it because it halts the detox. So they have to keep eating just to feel ok. But what I’m saying now is that one of my main principals, and I think that’s critically important, that makes my work unique and so successful, is that if people until they understand the powerful nature, the powerful addictive nature of conventional food, of processed foods and junk food and concentrated animal products…in other words, the point is they are not eating enough of the plant or right nutrients and fruits and vegetables and beans and greens and onions and mushrooms…when you’re not eating and getting the phytochemical exposure and the antioxidant exposure that the body is designed to get, it sets the person up for weight gain and it makes it impossible for people…to have a long healthy life. The point is nutritional quality does matter. It’s not just about the amount you eat, it’s not just about calories. Certain foods have powerful angiogenesis-inhibiting effects that make you lose weight irrespective of the calories consumed. In other words, 2000 calories in some person could cause them to get heavy and 2000 different quality calories in a different person could cause them to become thin based on the factors in the food, especially the factors in mushrooms and onions that have beneficial effects that make it difficult for the body to store fat. But basically I’m talking here about a whole biological system that gives us the instinctual connectivity between the amount of calories we need and how much we enjoy eating that works, it works and it makes people desire and enjoy the food they require and no more. We shouldn’t desire to eat to be 300 pounds or 180 pounds or 220 pounds. We shouldn’t desire to eat that much and we don’t when we eat the proper nutrients. When we don’t eat the proper nutrients we get unrelenting food cravings, we’re just uncomfortable, we become food addicts. And the average American person is a significant and powerful food addict.
CH: We know that. We really need to shift our whole perspective about nutrition. It’s not about a weight amount of food or a volume amount of food or even a caloric amount of food, it’s more a nutritional amount that’s important.
JF: That’s right. We have certain nutritional needs. The changing perception of hunger study showed that your hunger diminishes as you meet your nutritional needs better. And the perception of hunger changed. People felt hunger was a pleasurable sensation not a painful sensation. When they felt hunger it made food taste so much better because one of the powerful sensations of hunger is enhancement of the taste sensation. As you feel it in your throat your taste enhances tremendously. People actually prefer to wait to eat until they’re hungry and they prefer not to overeat at lunch because they want to be hungry in time for dinner because eating when they’re hungry is so intensely pleasurable. The body becomes an automatic computer directing people to the precise amount of calories, within 25 calories a day even, for the amount of calories they need to maintain the perfect weight. Then there’s no such thing, people do not become, overweight.
CH: I’m a believer and I love the food that I eat.
CH: I love the food that I eat—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, my green juices, everything green. It feels great, it tastes good. There’s just an infinite number of ways to make all of these great whole plant foods taste phenomenal. There are lots of people that are having lots of health issues and one of the things I’m wondering about is when people go to the doctor and get a blood test are there things that the doctor should be looking for that they don’t routinely look for?
JF: A lot of doctors nowadays are looking more at Vitamin D levels which is critical because obviously we work indoors most of us in Northern climates and Vitamin D deficiency could increase risk of cancer, not just weaken your bones. A lot of women who have developed osteoporosis due to Vitamin D deficiency and exercise insufficiency if thrown on medication instead of fixing the cause which is the Vitamin D and lack of exercise but they get thrown on medication and the medications can cause atrial fibrillation, irregular heartbeats and reflux and they get put on medication for the reflux and medication for their hearts…it’s just a craziness. But in any case, doctors also have to be aware that when people eat a diet as healthy as I recommend, that’s high in micronutrients, it drops down the white blood cell count. And a lower white blood cell count is associated with longer life. We’re talking about here the normal range is about 5 -10 and that a person eating a nutritarian diet or a high-nutrient diet which I call a nutritarian diet can drop the white blood cell count to 2.5 and a conventional physician, not knowing this, may then refer you to an oncologist thinking you need a bone marrow biopsy and workup. Really it just shows that you’re in better health, the white blood count is so low. I’m saying that doctors should be taught, that people who eat very very healthily with lots of green vegetables, berries and beans, then their white blood count is supposed to be low. It’s a good sign, not a bad sign. Just like doctors can think your cholesterol is too low if you’re eating so healthy so your HDL is too low but a low HDL is favorable. It’s only helpful to have a high HDL if your LDL is high and if you’re eating a diet that is atherosclerotic promoting. Once you don’t have any plaque your body’s not going to create any, HDLs remove plaque, low HDLs is indicative of a good sign, not a bad sign. Doctors don’t know enough about nutrition. They don’t even know sometimes how to interpret the differences in blood tests that occur. Even a TSH or thyroid test which a person who’s obese and eating American food, who’s prone to heart disease would benefit from taking thyroid medication with a borderline high TSH of between 3 and 6 because it will help them lose weight more and will help mitigate some of the bad effects of their diet. But when you eat healthy that’s not going to benefit you and you want the thyroid to slow down a little bit then it’s better to let your thyroid run a little slow because it reflects the fact you have a lower body temperature and you’re aging slower and you’re going to live a very very long time. So in those cases when a person’s already on an excellent diet it would be contraindicated or not indicated to give the person thyroid hormone.
CH: How low—I’m going back to what you said about low HDL—how low an HDL is ok? Lower than what’s considered ok?
JF: Right because most people think like an HDL is too low if it’s below 50, let’s say. I’m saying if your total cholesterol is 120 and your LDL cholesterol is 60 or 75 then who cares how low the LDL is–it could be anything, it could be 20. It’s not a risk factor to have a low HDL when your LDL is so low when you’re fit and eating properly.
CH: I’ve definitely known people who have been treated or had concerns from low HDL on a healthy diet like this. So that’s really good information. What about osteoporosis? Is there a way with diet and exercise especially for pre-, post-menopausal women to turn that around and strengthen their bones?
JF: Oh absolutely, we’ve seen hundreds of women do just that. We’re talking about build back bone density without medications is what we’re talking about now. Medications may make your bone density look a little better on tests but it doesn’t build the structure of the bone. The cortical bone is the outer portion and the inner portion is trabecular bone. The tests just measure cortical bone. If it’s weakening trabecular bone and building back cortical bone and your test looks a little better and you still have a fracture. Some of these medications actually increase your risk of having a mid-femur fracture because over many many years they build back bone and trabecular bone in an abnormal way. So we’re saying here that I do teach people about the proper exercises which involve tapping or hopping or skipping. It helps strengthen their bones. We’re talking about a type of motion like jump rope, jumping jacks or hopping, playing music and bouncing up and down to the music and actually leaving the ground a little bit, hopping on one foot and then the other. I put together a whole DVD of exercises to build back bones. Of course we do that in the environment of Vitamin D adequacy and of course we want to restrict the amount of animal protein so we don’t increase the hormone called IGF-1 or growth factor 1 that leads to cancer and aging of the bones and helps to solidify the body. And we supply K1 from vegetables and K2 to help build bone mass and of course the Vitamin D adequacy and the right form of exercises and sunlight, all the right factors for people to help maximize the regrowth for the normalization of bones. It doesn’t just help osteoporosis. It helps to prevent osteoarthritis when you do this nutritionally. It’s so many accessory nutrients that are important for bone growth including the phenols in berries have been shown to strengthen bone as well. We’re talking about the idea that a whole comprehensive diet style and I call it Comprehensive Nutritional Adequacy which means you don’t just tie in one nutrient like D. You make sure all the nutrients your body needs are adequate. That’s the way you best accelerate or maximize the body’s tendency to heal. You build your immune system or build back your bone mass. Everybody sees things too simplistically. We take calcium for bones because bones are made of calcium? Actually taking a 1000 milligrams or more of calcium a day has been shown to weaken the bones not strengthen it. People have an overly simplistic viewpoint.
CH: It makes studies a lot easier when you just focus on one item and isolate it and see what happens to it but that’s definitely not the way the body works.
JF: Right and also when isolating it to calcium it shows as people take a little more calcium—200, 300, 400—with Vitamin D of course, it does have some reduced risk of fracture. And that’s someone who’s not eating an ideal diet, of course. As we go to 800, 900, after you go to higher levels of calcium it actually increases the fracture risk because the higher calcium is probably inactivating the Vitamin D causing more nutritional imbalances.
CH: I’ve been hearing some things about cholesterol. We talked a little bit about the HDL before but something about how some people can have high cholesterol but it depends on the size of the cholesterol cell…whether…?
JF: The cholesterol molecule is floating around the blood that’s correct. So the large fluffy particles are not as dangerous. So your cholesterol may be a little higher than another person as the small, dense LDL particle.
CH: Is there some way to test for that?
JF: Yes, there are blood tests for that. Personally I think cholesterol is over-rated as a test because what’s most effective way of telling if someone is at risk of heart attack is a tape measure around their waist or pinching their belly button. In other words, it’s the fat on your body number one, your unmedicated blood pressure—if you cut it with medication it’s like covering it up and putting your head in the sand. You don’t know what it is but it’s still going to be high. Even some of the medications that lower peripheral blood pressure don’t even lower central nervous system blood pressure in the brain. It’s like you took your car to the mechanic and had the oil light flashing on the dashboard and he cut the wire so he didn’t see the oil flashing. But the point I’m making here is that a lower blood pressure without medication, you have to lower it naturally with superior nutrition, physical fitness with the right type of diet, a healthy level of nutrients in your tissues and a favorable cholesterol can assure you complete protection from heart disease. The cholesterol level itself is one of the least important of those measurements because it’s more important to be physically fit, exercising, even the right diet. Once you’re eating the right diet, eliniating inflammation, cholesterol’s running a little higher, a cholesterol of 220 may be less risk than a person with a cholesterol of 160 who’s not eating a healthy diet, who’s just taking the drug. So it’s not just the cholesterol level, there’s so many other factors—whether you have a clot or embolism or rupture of your plaque. You follow me?
CH: Yes, I do. I want to jump to another subject and that’s what you’re doing with Whole Foods Market because it’s really an exciting project—Health Starts Here Initiative. Can you talk a little bit about that and your involvement in it and how it’s going?
JF: Whole Foods and John Mackey and Walter Robb and the CEOs of Whole Foods and executives there are just incredibly thoughtful and people and individuals with a mission at this point. They are on a mission to benefit the health of Americans. I’ve worked with them closely. I’ve been in meetings. I’ve spoken to them personally. I know them as people. They really have a heart and want to leave a lasting image on improving the health of Americans the best they can. That’s all I can say. They really are trying to do what they can to better people’s health. I’m excited to be part of that mission. It’s a blessing that they’ve let me come along and do what I can to help them as well. So I really think that…you know everything in the stores aren’t great healthy foods. People could critique well they’re selling junk but they’re trying to get out a message. They don’t care if they don’t sell as much of this product or that product. They are really trying to promote the healthiest products in the store as much as they can and not promote the unhealthy products as much and then teach people to buy more of the healthy products. They are really doing what they can in the stores to teach their team members how to be healthy, how to have the healthiest workforce, support the team members to achieve that good health and they want it to rub off on the public so we can change the health of Americans. The work they’re doing on the Health Starts Here Initiative, my ANDI scoring system to rate foods based on their nutrient density. They’re putting literature in the stores. They have health specialists, teachers in the stores teaching people about health and nutrition. So they’re doing whatever they can do. They are starting a revolution. They are part of the revolution we’re all participating with. So I’m very excited I’m working with them on this.
CH: What I love about it is I believe that all businesses can profit and do good. This is the disconnect that we have because there are so many businesses that don’t want to be environmentally sustainable because they don’t think they can do it profitably and I don’t believe that. When we see a company like Whole Foods doing what they’re doing it’s just another example of—yeah, it is possible.
JF: That’s right, exactly. It’s possible and…with some people, they are trying with labeling their packaging to how animals are raised and with whatever they are selling…they are trying to improve what they’ve done in the past. They are always on the lookout to make things better for the environment and for the people. That’s the cornerstone. We have to move forward from where we are. Everybody has to do their part and the part that most people have to do right now is they have to take care of their own health. It’s the starting point. In other words, every person listening, the starting point to help America, help other people to do our part is to take care of our own personal health because only then can you be a good influence and have a good influence on the other people around you. Only then can we collectively improve the health, wealth, economy and well-being of everybody in America if we’re not taking care of sick people all the time. We have to have people that can perform, educate themselves and grow as they get older and not be sick people that are living their life with terrible health, taking pills and medicines and running from doctor to doctor. So clearly starting the foundation of the revolution in America is people start improving their own personal health.
CH: The thing that’s most heart breaking to me are the children that aren’t being nourished properly and we’re seeing more and more child obesity and it’s unfortunate because the child doesn’t really know or shouldn’t be able to decide what to eat. It really should be up to informed parents to feed their children appropriately. You wrote a great book Disease Proof Your Child and you’ve raised four incredible children. So you know what you’re talking about.
JF: Well, thank you. It’s funny, because obviously we’ve mentioned that Eat To Live is my best selling book and I think Disease Proof Your Child is a very critically important book but it’s not….I always joke around that people don’t care about their kids so they don’t buy that book, but the truth is that…you know this sounds a little crazy but because parents are so addicted to junk food that they’re the ones that are going to make the fuss when the teacher or nurse in school teaches the child to eat healthy and stop eating the junk, the mothers will come screaming that they want their children to eat the junk. So I speak to schools and I speak to kids and I tell them about how the older generation is destroying our nation with the food they’re eating and causing cancer and heart attack crisis and causing the worst life expectancy of any population of modern industrialized countries and I show and plot the scores and show them that the money spent on medical care in the United States, the dollars, the cost of medical care goes up and healthy life expectancy goes down and people go on…the more money they spend on drugs, the more exposed they are to the medical profession. They understand that and they say how do I get my parents to do this? How do I get my parents to change? Kids are not stupid and even elementary school kids can understand that the parents that really love their children don’t feed them crap and think about the long-term benefits and outcomes of what they put in their mouth. I do think that because processed food, fast food and junk food is so addicting it does take away people’s ability to logic and reason rationally. Part of the primitive brain now gets governed by their addictions and they no longer can think properly any more. It’s like the smoker. You know from experience that the person who smokes cigarettes always comes up with a million rationalizations and excuses why it’s never the right time for them to quit. They don’t really understand the facts that life becomes more stressful, they become more unable to handle the stresses of life. They’re an addict, smoking makes them sicker. They don’t understand that concept because the discomfort of stopping smoking just overrules their thought processes and the body comes up with these excuses. That’s almost what happens with food. So I think it’s a big effort to get parents to want to raise their children healthfully.
CH: It’s a little frightening thinking of that actually—that people cannot make objective decisions and it’s a cyclical problem because the more of the junk they eat the less they’re able to think rationally. It’s pretty scary.
JF: My parents bring these sick kids into my office. I look the kids straight in their eyes, I look them straight in the face and say you got to help me. You have to help me fix your parents. They’re eating a diet that’s going to kill them. You got to make sure they eat healthy. This is what you do to save your parents’ life. The parents bring the kid in…the parents think they’re going to force some diet on the kid that the parents aren’t going to eat? The whole point is if you don’t make the changes themselves, that’s got to be the starting point. The starting point is the parents have to eat, everybody, every adult in America, has to start eating a healthy diet. Kids grow up and they eventually wind up eating the diet their parents are eating. But in any case, the whole population has to change together, uniquely, as a unit.
CH: I agree with all of that but there are some kids that just don’t like to eat vegetables and their parents are eating vegetables and the kids don’t want to.
JF: There’s no such thing as a two or three-year-old who drives a car and has a credit card and shops for themselves. They eat whatever food is around and they don’t starve themselves to death. If there’s nothing to eat but healthy food…the parent is still buying the food and putting it in the kid’s mouth. The kid developed the dislike for vegetables because the parent made some choice to feed that kid that junk. Of course they’re going to like foods that have been designed by the food manufacturers, concentrated sugars, sweets and flours and oils and concentrated calories. They test them out in lab animals. They know what triggers addiction. It’s like feeding a little rat. Of course the rat or little chipmunks are going to take the potato chips over a green leaf, once you get addicted to potato chips. Nevertheless it’s a parental…why don’t they just give the kid whiskey and give the kids cigars and a snort of cocaine when they’re two years old?
CH: What I love about you Dr. Fuhrman is you really tell it like it is and you don’t take any BS. A lot of doctors just give up because they don’t think their patients want to hear the truth. They just assume right away they’re not going to change. And you don’t do that.
JF: I got in trouble the other day. I was speaking to a thousand women at a women’s health conference in the Midwest, right? We’re talking about over a thousand people in the room in a big auditorium and the conference was sponsored by a hospital. And I held up the candy in the bathroom, the potato chips and pretzels in the lobby and the candy on each seat and I said I thank the organizers of this conference for showing women how to get breast cancer, teaching them what not to eat by putting these foods around to sample them to show them what not to eat so they don’t get breast cancer. They didn’t like that too much. People were tweeting each other. People were really angry with me. I had to apologize. I couldn’t help myself.
CH: No, but you shouldn’t. You should be doing more of that. It’s ridiculous. First of all people aren’t paying attention. They don’t even realize what they’re doing.
JF: Can you imagine at a health conference—a women’s health conference?
CH: People talk about at cancer fundraisers they’re serving steak. They’re not making the connection there too. It’s like giving cigarettes out at a lung cancer fundraiser. That doesn’t happen but people still don’t get it when it comes to nutrition and health. OK, just a couple of minutes left. Any interest in founding a medical school?
JF: We are putting together certification programs for physicians for nutrition. I’m on the board of directors of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and I’m working with other people and myself we’re putting together doctor certification programs in nutrition. There’s going to be a huge flood of doctors. I think we can do this outside of medical school course work and doctors are going to start…if demand is there and more people adopt this lifestyle they are going to be looking for doctors with a similar way of thinking that they are. Just like the fast food restaurants. If we stop buying their products and people want healthy foods eventually we’ll see more competition and it will change what’s being served. But in any case we have to get this message out. It’s wonderful the work you’re doing Caryn, that you have this voice to get this message out to.
CH: Thank you. A lot of this stuff I talk about is just regurgitated Dr. Fuhrman information. And your ears if they’re not burning all the time they should be because I mention your name quite often and your website drfuhrman.com, it’s so important everything, all your books. I’m a believer. I know it saved my life. There’s no question about it. I am a green believer. I have a green juice every day. I’ve been cramming green foods for the last five years and I know that’s why I’m still here. OK, I’m getting a little choked up.
JF: I’m glad to be your friend and for the wonderful work you do.
CH: Thank you so much, thank you for this very special hour.
Transcribed by Suzanne Kelly, 6/13/2013