Archive for the “News and Reviews” Category

Hey Fat Heads! Long time.

Tom’s still off on the Low Carb Cruise, so I get to staff the Big Chair for a bit. Folks on the cruise are going to get to see the almost final cut of the Fat Head Kids DVD. Tom, being Tom, in order to avoid disaster (long time Fat Heads may recall there was an audio issue on one of the first cruises), took a copy on his laptop, a DVD, a backup drive, an extra laptop, and an extra projector. Just in case. He’s also left copies at home, and at the in-laws, just in case the ship sinks and his house burns down at the same time. I asked him if the odds weren’t pretty astronomical on that kind of coincidence, and all he said was

“Three words: President. Donald. Trump.”

That pretty much took care of that argument.

I meant to post last week, but, in addition to a flooded basement (again) and a mouse-infested camper to deal with, I also officially passed into old age last Tuesday. The Big Six-Oh. Doesn’t actually feel any worse than the day before, to tell you the truth. Tom called to rub it in a bit under pretense of “Happy Birthday” wishes, and we agreed that hitting a calendar date really never had much psychological impact.

Over the years, I’ve only had a couple of those “OMG, I’m getting OLD” moments. The first was a couple of months past forty — which I’d pretty much shrugged off – when the friend who’d been cutting my hair for the previous ten years or so was finishing up and nonchalantly went for my face with the scissors, explaining “I’m just going to trim those eyebrows up.” I was thunderstruck – “holy crap, my eyebrows have forgotten which direction to grow!”

The next time was a few years later. The same friend had just finished my hair (okay, and eyebrows) and then — just as casual as can be — shifted to my side and said “let’s get those ear hairs taken care of.” Fortunately for my self esteem, she retired shortly thereafter, and I was able to find a new barber with bad eyesight.

Anyway, on account of the milestone, I thought I’d give myself a present and commandeer the Big Chair and talk a little about health care and piss everyone off.

You were warned.

The source of my most current irritation wasn’t at the health care system, per se, but at some really good news. The good news being the amazing story of Jimmy Kimmel’s son. The boy was born late last month (April), and Kimmel did an emotional monologue on returning to his show on how the baby was rushed into surgery immediately after birth with the deadliest version of a rare heart condition. During the monologue, as he described the procedure he said the surgeon “did some kind of magic I can’t even begin to explain…”

And then kind of turned the whole experience into a morality tale on why we need to keep Obamacare, only bigger.

I don’t have a problem with Kimmel projecting his personal experience onto a larger issue that I’m sure he’s not particularly well-informed on. I do have a problem with how the media instantly elevated Jimmy to the status of Economic Savant, and I find it sadly not surprising that politicians on both (wrong) sides of the issue felt compelled to rush for a camera and pontificate as if this was some new large issue that hadn’t been debated.

As it turns out, I’m actually familiar with the condition and can also explain the “magic” to Mr. Kimmel.  The condition is called a Tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia, where there’s a blocked valve with a hole in the baby’s heart. It requires immediate surgery, with a couple of more “upgrade” heart surgeries as the child grows, because the replacement valves don’t grow along with the child.

See, the Oldest Grandson — the one we lucked into when the Middle Son got married last year – was born with the exact same thing. He’s nine now, so it turns out that treatment was available before Obamacare. Within a couple of hours of being born, he was whisked via helicopter from Springfield — where we have pretty damned good neonatal hospital departments – to Saint Louis, MO, ninety miles away where they had specialized facilities and pediatric cardiologists.

The actual Magic — the reason Jimmy Kimmel’s son and my grandson are alive – is called “the Market.” You see, if Jimmy and his wife, despite the blessings of wealth his talent and hard work have brought him, had been in Canada (the current darling of the “free” health care advocates) I suspect it would’ve been a much darker monologue.

Not necessarily, of course. They might’ve been lucky enough to have their baby in a city with one of the seven pediatric cardiology units within Canada’s 3.8 million square miles of land mass. There are 122 in the continental U.S., despite having 20% less area (3.1M). Caring, forward-thinking Canada has 81 Pediatric Cardiologists. Here in health care’s evil empire, we’ve got 2087 on tap.

And I do mean in a city. Ninety miles away doesn’t get it in Canada, like it works here. If you don’t believe me, ask Liam Neeson. In case you don’t recall, his wife died because it took over three hours to transport her 77 miles by ambulance as helicopters weren’t available where she was injured. But hey, what are the odds of needing an airlift for emergency medical care at a ski resort, right?

[Another helicopter story – several years ago, my brother-in-law’s niece was critically injured in an early morning slippery roads/tree vs. car accident on her way to school. This was in very rural North Carolina. They got a helicopter shortly after the accident was discovered. She flat-lined three times in the air, but she pulled through.]

It’s not like we don’t have major issues with the health care system in the good old U.S. of A. But the issues are with the availability of dollars, not doctors, and Obamacare makes both worse, not better. And Jimmy Kimmel is a terrific entertainer and wonderful human being and I am truly overjoyed at his good fortune, but he’s not a very good economist. Better than Paul Krugman. But not very good.

I’m going to address those dollars next, and my thoughts on that happen to dovetail nicely with Dr. William Davis’ book that Tom just reviewed. If you haven’t got your own copy yet, you’re missing a really good read that can do more to improve your health than any elected official can possibly do for you.

Cheers,

The Older Brother

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Here’s the short review:

Undoctored, the terrific new book by Dr. William “Wheat Belly” Davis, covers pretty much everything I’ve been saying on this blog about how the Wisdom of Crowds is crowding out conventional (but lousy) health advice, then adds a heckuva lot of good step-by-step advice on how to monitor and improve your own health — partly by leveraging the Wisdom of Crowds.

Now for the longer review:

A couple of years ago, when I was kicking around the idea for the Fat Head Kids book and film, I drove to Wisconsin to interview Dr. Davis on camera.  We ended up conducting the interview in a downstairs reading room because the desk in his upstairs office was piled high with stacks of research.

Over dinner later, he told me the research was for a new book.  But before he described the contents of the book, he told me why he felt compelled to write it:

Dr. Davis grew up as a dirt-poor kid in New Jersey.  After rising from such humble beginnings, working his way through medical school and becoming a cardiologist with a busy practice, he felt a sense of pride in what he’d accomplished.  For most of his adult life, he enjoyed his status as doctor.

But that was then.  Nowadays, Dr. Davis views the health-care system as little more than an industry designed to shuttle people through a series of expensive drugs and procedures.  Actual health isn’t the priority.  The movers and shakers have no interest in, say, preventing or treating type II diabetes with diet, because they view diabetes as the gift that keeps on giving.  Diabetics are paying customers for life.

As a result, he explained, he hesitates to tell people who don’t already know him that he’s a doctor.  He doesn’t like being associated with the modern medical industry.

So the new book (which was untitled at the time) would include two major sections:  The first section would explain to readers why the “health-care” system is more interested in their dollars than their health.  The second section would arm readers with the knowledge and tools to monitor and improve their own health, and thus avoid ending up in the belly of the health-care beast.  With all the bad advice coming from the medical establishment, people need to do their own research and direct their own health instead of relying on doctors to do it for them.

That, of course, led to a long discussion about the Wisdom of Crowds effect.

You can gauge a doctor’s opinion of the general public by his or her attitude towards the explosion of health information available online.  In a post last December, I pointed out that Dr. David Katz – a big-time promoter of arterycloggingsaturatedfat! hysteria whose idiotic NuVal system ranks sugar-laden soy milk as far healthier option than a turkey breast – sees social media as a danger.  An essay Katz wrote for the Huffington Post basically boils down to this:  Dangit!  All those bloggers and podcasters and health discussion groups online are causing the stupid, gullible public to question true experts like me!  This is very, very bad!

Let’s just say Dr. Katz doesn’t believe in the Wisdom of Crowds effect.  He believes we should all bow before the superior expertise of The Anointed – himself included, of course.

Compare his attitude to the attitude expressed by Dr. Davis in the introduction of Undoctored:

I propose that people can manage their own health safely and responsibly and attain results superior to those achieved through conventional healthcare – not less than, not on a par with, but superior.

And later:

Self-directed health is a phenomenon that will stretch far and wide into human health.  It will encompass preventive practices, diagnostic testing, smartphone apps, and therapeutic strategies.  It puts the astounding and unexpected wisdom of crowds to work, providing you with a depth and breadth of collective information and experience that far exceeds that of any one person, no matter how much of an expert.

Just a wee bit different, eh?  Dr. Davis thinks it’s perfectly okay for you to do research online and question your doctor.  In fact, he WANTS you to do research online and question your doctor.  He says so over and over in the book.  That’s because unlike Katz, Dr. Davis believes people have brains and are capable of using them to find the advice that works and ditch the advice that doesn’t.

Undoctored offers plenty of specific advice on how to gather information about your own health and leverage the wisdom of crowds:  sites for exchanging ideas and data with other people, places you can go to order your own lab tests, sites that help you interpret the lab tests, and so on.

But that’s a bit later.  First, Dr. Davis gives the modern medical industry the blistering it deserves.  Here are some choice quotes:

There’s no ham in hamburger, Grape-Nuts don’t have grapes or nuts, and health does not come from healthcare.

There is a continual push to medicalize human life.  Shyness is now “social anxiety disorder” to justify “treatment” with antidepressant medication; binging in the middle of the night is now “sleep-related eating disorder” to justify treatment with seizure medication and antidepressants; obesity, declared a disease by the FDA, justifies insurance payments for gastric bypass and lap-band.   Don’t be surprised if sometime soon, bad dreams, between-meal hunger and excessive love of your cat are labeled diseases warranting treatment.

I was reminded of what Dr. Malcolm Kendrick wrote in Doctoring Data:  normal human conditions are now classified as diseases just in time to be diagnosed and treated with a new wonder drug.

Dr. Davis goes on to describe how Big Food and Big Pharma have corrupted the healthcare system from top to bottom, from the research, to the health advice, to the treatments when the advice doesn’t work.  Your doctor may mean well, but her (ahem) knowledge of what to diagnose and treat often comes from seminars sponsored by Big Pharma.  Prevention, of course, isn’t on the agenda.

Despite the book’s title, Dr. Davis isn’t suggesting people never visit a doctor again.  He lists a number of conditions that absolutely, positively require medical attention.  He wants doctors to treat what they treat well.

But he wants you to take control of your own health by leveraging the wisdom of crowds and the experiences of others.  If you do that, there’s a good chance you’ll become what Dr. Davis calls undoctored … meaning you only need to see a doctor for actual emergencies and perhaps a bit of monitoring, not for conditions you shouldn’t develop in the first place.

Reading that, I was reminded of when I went in recently for a dermatology checkup.  (I had a skin cancer removed from my back 15 years or so ago, so I get called in for occasional checkups.)  Part of the conversation with the nurse went something like this:

“Who’s your primary-care physician?”

“Uh … sorry, I don’t remember his name.”

“You don’t know your doctor’s name?”

“I’ve lived in Tennessee for seven years and I’ve seen the guy once.  That was because I decided to have a checkup when I turned 55.”

A big part of becoming undoctored is, of course, adopting a diet that enhances health instead of breaking it down.  You won’t be surprised that the Wheat Belly doctor prescribes a diet devoid of grains.  And sugar.  And industrial oils.  And almost all processed foods.  To make it easier to adopt the diet, the book lists several weeks’ worth of recipes.

But there’s more to it than diet alone.  Dr. Davis refers to the whole program as Wild, Naked and Unwashed.  No, that’s not the description of a fraternity party.  It’s a reference to the lifestyle of our paleo ancestors.  We don’t have to actually forgo bathing and run naked in the woods to be healthy, but we do need to recognize that our genes were coded for an environment very unlike the modern industrial world.

With that in mind, Dr. Davis spends the next few chapters describing the nutrients that civilized humans rarely ingest in sufficient quantities, including magnesium and vitamin D.  He also gives specific instructions on how to monitor blood levels of essential nutrients (vitamin D included) using direct-to-consumer tests.  He offers similar advice for checking thyroid health.

The book also includes an entire chapter on the importance of bowel flora (a subject he talked about at length when I interviewed him).  He explains how to obtain at-home test kits, and which specific supplements to take if necessary.  He also provides dozens of recipes for prebiotic shakes using ingredients such as green bananas, inulin and bits of raw potato.

I don’t find the “Appendix whatever” sections of most books particularly useful.  Undoctored is an exception.  In fact, I suspect these final pages will become dog-eared.

Appendix A lists several common ailments – from constipation to fatty liver – with a protocol for identifying and correcting the source of the problem.  Appendix B lists hidden sources of wheat and gluten.  Appendix C describes how to ferment your own vegetables.  Appendix D offers a list of sites where you can exchange ideas, do research, order at-home lab tests, etc.  It also lists the brands of supplements Dr. Davis considers high-quality.

Like I said, this is a terrific book.  With all the junk advice being handed down by doctors, government agencies, and organizations like The American Heart Association, it’s also a very necessary book.  Readers of this blog don’t need to be convinced that a huge chunk of what passes for health advice these days is garbage, but plenty of other people do.  And fairly or not, a lot of them will need to hear it from a doctor before they’ll believe it.

Dr. Davis took on the grain industry in Wheat Belly.  He takes on pretty much the entire medical establishment in Undoctored.  I’ve asked him to please stay out of dark alleys and to consider using a stunt double for public appearances.

Kidding, of course.  Well, half-kidding.  We need Dr. Davis to stick around for many more years and continue writing books like this.

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Well, one of the nice things about having a book released is that I get to be a return guest on podcast shows I enjoyed the first time.

Back in November, I had the pleasure of talking to Brian Williamson on his Ketovangelist podcast show.  The book was rounding the bend towards completion at the time, so he invited to come back after the release.

You can listen to the new episode here.

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Last month I was a guest on the Cameron J. English podcast show.  We of course talked about the book, but I don’t believe Cameron had a copy at the time.

He has a copy now, and he wrote a review that provides an excellent summary of the book, both the content and the tone.  Here’s a quote:

The quality I like most about this book is that the Naughtons don’t condescend to their young audience. To be sure, there are colorful graphics and helpful characters (like Mr. Spot and Dr. Fishbones, the science officer and medical officer of the Nautilus, respectively) who help make the subject of the book more comprehensible. But as a science writer, I say without hesitation that the nutrition and food chemistry covered in Fat Head Kids is more comprehensive than anything you’d read in a typical New York Times editorial about obesity–or even many undergraduate nutrition textbooks.

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Well, this is a great way to start a Friday …

Dr. William “Wheat Belly” Davis posted a very nice review of Fat Head Kids on his Wheat Belly blog.  Here’s a bit of the review:

Even though intended for kids, this book is also perfect for any adult who also wishes to understand why we persist in hearing such dietary fictions such as “Move more, eat less” or “Cut your fat and cholesterol.” Anyone who reads Fat Head Kids will come away with a clear understanding of healthy eating and why following advice like the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans is a recipe for disaster. Imagine Tom’s book became required reading in school–you might just witness a marvelous transformation in their health, appearance, weight, and learning.

Since the book slams the USDA dietary guidelines, I doubt it will ever be required reading in schools.  But we can dream …

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I was the guest recently (very recently … as in yesterday evening) on Dr. Ron Hoffman’s Intelligent Medicine podcast show.  The episode is available here.

We talked about the book, the Tim Noakes witch-hunt, and other stuff.  Enjoy.

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