Dietary Troubles - Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease

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Dietary Troubles - Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease

The Monterey County Herald, California -- 02-26-07


It wasn't exactly what you want to hear when you sit down to a nice meal.

"We are afloat in a sea of dietary troubles," keynote speaker Dr. David Katz of Yale University announced to a large audience as we enjoyed a luncheon at our hospital's annual meeting.  "For the first time in history," he began, "there are more overweight individuals on earth than those who are hungry."

Obesity is just the tip of our health-risk iceberg, Katz continued as I dug into my dessert.  He explained the intimate link between excess body fat and chronic (lifelong) disease ... particularly diabetes.  And with diabetes comes heart disease, the No. 1 killer of men and women in this country.

Children are at risk as well, said Katz.  For the first time ever, medical experts are seeing type 2 diabetes (what used to be called "adult onset" diabetes) ... in children.  "What was once a chronic disease of midlife is now a pediatric scourge in children the age of 10."  I put my fork down.

What's the answer to this problem?  Katz says obesity is not a character or willpower issue.  Nor is it all genetics.  He reminded us that "human physiology is the same as it always was."

In short, our culture has an abundance of tasty calories that are always available.  And we have technology to do everything calorie-burning muscles used to do.  "We are victims of our own success," said Katz.  "We have created a perfect storm ... a public health epidemic."

The simple solution - eat less and exercise more - is not always simple, according to Katz.  Here are some ideas:

-Don't make kids clean their plates.  Help them learn to stop eating when they are no longer hungry.  The old ploy about starving children in China is no longer valid, says Katz, because children in China are overweight as well.

-Realize that "all-you-can-eat" buffets really mean "you will get fat at no extra charge and spend thousands to repair the damage."

-Stop giving in to hocus pocus diets.  All diets work but only when you stay on them.

-Eat a "reasonable" diet - one that emphasizes fruit, vegetables and whole grains and is low in calories and fat.

-Practice portion control.  Don't eat a burrito as big as your head.

-Avoid salty, sugary and highly processed foods.  These are the foods that encourage our tastebuds to overeat, says Katz.  "Very few people binge on apples," he notes.

-Cultivate "skill" power.  Learn to read food labels and steer clear of less desirable ingredients.

-Let no child be left (on their) behind.  Katz explained a program of ABC's (Active Bursts in the Classroom) to help teachers incorporate short "bursts" of activity into classroom teaching.  Find the details at

-"Denial is not just a river in Egypt," Katz concluded.  "The solution (to our worldwide obesity epidemic) falls to all of us to make healthy eating and physical activity the pathway of least resistance."

-As I left the meeting, a valet offered to bring my car from the parking lot.

I decided to walk.


(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. E-mail her at

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