The 1st annual “Food for your Whole Life Symposium” shows we know a lot, but aren’t making good use of it

 

For the public and health professionals, NYC

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David L. Katz, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.P.M., F.A.C.P.

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Michael Roizen, M.D. and conceptualizer ofRealAge

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Eat your nuts and berries!

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The first of hopefully an annual event was held this past June 6 & 7– the“Food for your Whole Life Health Symposium” – spearheaded by Dr. Oz. It was a two-day free event held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City to explore how food and lifestyle choices affect overall health. And, to better arm dietitians to help patients make better food choices.

I happened to miss the first day that was open to the general public and drew 1,000 people, but attended the second day exclusively for health professionals, largely dietitians and some diabetes educators, and media. 

I find it interesting with all the constant information coming at us these days on health and healthy eating that people just aren’t indulging in it. So I asked the same questions of everyone I met while meandering between lectures and standing on the long line into the ladies room: “Why, with all the information out there on healthy eating, are people fatter than ever?” “Why are half the people with type 2 diabetes not managing their diabetes very well?” “What has to change so that people change their behavior?”

I heard the same reply from everyone—there is too much information out there and it has become too confusing. Some of it is contradictory, and none of it is laid out for people to act on easily.

In a private interview I conducted (yes, I’m still getting used to this Huffington Post blogger status) with a key speaker at the symposium, Dr. David Katz – a Yale University researcher and authority on nutrition, weight management, and the prevention of chronic disease and a leader in integrative medicine and patient-centered care – he confirmed these observations. He also pointed to the media’s collusion. With an endless need for “new” news and a ravenous appetite to titillate us, the media barrages us with an endless supply of findings that has left the general public reeling with confusion. The result:  heightened stress and not knowing what to do. The other result: people do nothing. 

Katz has been working along with several others on a nutritional ranking system called “NuVal™” that’s being piloted by Kroger, a chain grocery. Kroger is piloting it in 23 stores in Lexington, KY. It’s anticipated they will roll NuVal out to their additional 2500 stores in 31 states.

NuVal ranks foods from 1 to 100 as a guiding system on nutrition to help consumers make healthier choices among a category of food. For instance, you’ll know the healthiest crackers among all the available crackers in the supermarket.

Right now NuVal is in 600 stores with another 400 stores rolling it out later this year.  Katz believes if people begin to choose the most nutritious foods in most categories, these small shifts can make a significant health difference. Katz also shared with me that his wife, a PhD, returned to their house one day with five loaves of supermarket bread and said basically – You pick the healthiest one!  

Katz also said regarding diabetes that many doctors tell their patients in very vague terms what to do, like “Lose some weight” and “Get some exercise.” These directives fall right off patients’ shoulders as soon as they walk out of their doctor’s door. He also said most doctors think diabetes patients are “non-compliant” because they have no willpower, but Katz made it abundantly clear that it is not a matter of willpower, but the enormous lack of translating all this information into easy-to-understand, actionable steps.

The day I attended the symposium, the speakers elucidated us on the upcoming changing dietary guidelines, likely out in November, and took us through a healthy eating map from childhood through old age. The message, throughout however seemed pretty consistent: eat mostly fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats.

Dr. Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer at the Cleveland Clinic with numerous other impressive titles behind his name, and Oz’s writing partner, closed the event outlining Cleveland Clinics’ progressive “Lifestyle 180 Program” that they first test-piloted on employees of the Clinic with remarkable results and a cost-savings to the Clinic well worth the investment.

For patients, the program encompasses a six week immersion program that is geared to change the four factors 75% responsible for chronic illness: smoking, food choices and portion sizes, physical inactivity and stress.

Very briefly, the program includes overhauling one’s cultural climate, largely your kitchen ridding it of toxic foods, having participants experience “I can do it” aha moments, muscle memory of right eating and exercise and a buddy system. One of the bottom line messages was – while our genes are our inheritance, our lifestyle determines whether they get turned on or not.

For those with diabetes who have gone through the program, Roizen said 60% were able to discontinue one or more of their medications for blood sugar, cholesterol or hypertension (high blood pressure) within six months.

Most of the people I met at the event thought it was of value and, for me, it only points to the urgency with which we are all recognizing we must turn this ship around that is so badly headed in the wrong direction.   

The principal sponsor of the event was the California Walnut Commission. Affiliated sponsors numbered 7, including Healthcorps and the Wild Blueberry Association of North America.  

I did manage to sample the delicious wild blueberries which I was told are available in my favorite grocery, Trader Joe, as well as other chain groceries. I also got to grab a few packets of 1 oz servings of walnuts – that’s about 7 whole walnuts. Unfortunately, I also managed to forget the bag I stowed them in, leaving it under my conference table. 

Obviously, I need to eat more berries and walnuts to improve my aging memory!

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