Mehmet C. Oz, M.D.
Director, Cardiovascular Institute
Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center
Although the United States is the most powerful nation on earth, the one area where this country does not excel is health. The future is not bright. Almost a third of our young are obese, and many do not exercise. No matter how much information becomes available about the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle and a diet heavily dependent on processed foods, we don't change our ways.
Ideally, Americans should be able to translate financial well-being into habits that will lead to longer and better lives, untroubled by expensive and chronic medical illnesses. Yet, in the U.S., as well as Western Europe, Russia, and many other affluent countries, the majority of adults are overweight and undernourished. While high quality nutrition is readily available throughout the United States, the American public, rich and poor, is drawn to overeating food that is unhealthy. Indeed, the list of top calorie sources for Americans includes many items many would not consider "real” foods, including milk, cola, margarine, white bread, sugar, and pasteurized processed American cheese.
Though smoking has received a lot of attention for the danger it poses to public health, and cigarettes have been heavily lobbied against, obesity is a more important predictor of chronic ailments and quality of life. In a recent survey of 9500 Americans, 36% were overweight and 23% were obese, yet only 19% were daily smokers and 6% were heavy drinkers. Several causes for this epidemic of modern life have been offered. There is the pervasive role of advertising in western society, the loss of family and social cohesiveness, adoption of a sedentary lifestyle and the lack of time to prepare fresh foods. In 1978, 18% of calories were eaten away from home; the figure is now 36%. In 1970, Americans ate 6 billion fast food meals. By 2000, the figure was 110 billion.
Poor nutrition can also result in less productivity at work and school, hyperactivity among children and adolescents, and mood swings, all of which heighten feelings of stress, isolation and insecurity. Even basic quality of life concerns such as constipation are affected, resulting in Americans spending $600 million annually on laxatives.
With time, the ravages of obesity predispose the typical American adult to depression, diabetes, hypertension, and increase the risks of death in all ages and in almost every ethnic and gender group. The U.S. Surgeon General has reported that 300,000 deaths annually are caused or related to obesity. The incidence of diabetes has risen by a third since 1990 and the treatment costs $100 billion a year. The illnesses caused by obesity also lead to the most number of lost workdays of any single ailment and increase pharmaceutical and hospital expenditures to palliate untreatable degenerative ailments.
Government policy has had limited power to stem the tide of obesity, yet our nations leaders have supported formal reports calling for a national effort to raise awareness of the dangers of being overweight. As a part of Healthy People 2010 initiative, the federal government has proposed several steps to reduce chronic diseases associated with diet and weight through promotion of better health and nutritional habits. They have set dietary guidelines and have encouraged physical exercise, but like most advice that comes in half-measures, these efforts have not managed to change the minds, or strengthen the hearts of most Americans. It is clear to the public that a minor change in one's eating habits will hardly transform one's life so readily. So the public turns to magic cures, pills, supplements, drinks and diet plans that simply don't work or are unsafe. After a few failures, they give up hope.
Unlike many diseases, the cure for obesity is known. Studies with thousands of participants have demonstrated that the combination of a dramatic change in eating habits with daily exercise will result in weight loss, including a 60% reduction in your chance of developing chronic ailments like diabetes. Disseminating detailed information on these barriers is relatively easy, yet the plethora of diet books and remedies have created a complex and contradictory array of choices for those who are desperate to lose weight. With the publication of Dr. Joel Fuhrman's book, outlining a perfectly rational, straightforward and sustainable diet, I believe we are witnessing a medical breakthrough. His diet can work, even for those who have given up hope of retaining an ideal weight.
In creating this plan, Dr. Fuhrman, a world expert in nutrition and obesity research, has gone beyond the dietary guidelines set up by the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association. Importantly, Eat to Live takes these nationally endorsed standards a quantum step further. Whereas conventional standards are designed for mass consumption and offer modest adjustments to our present eating habits, Dr. Fuhrman's recommendations are designed for those seeking breakthrough results. I have referred my patients to Dr. Fuhrman and have seen firsthand how his powerful methods excite and motivate people and have witnessed wonderful results for both weight reduction and health restoration.
I am a cardiovascular surgeon infatuated with the challenge and promise of "high-tech" medicine and surgery. Nonetheless, I have become convinced that the most overlooked tool in our medical arsenal is harnessing the body's own ability to heal through nutritional excellence.
Dr. Fuhrman is a doctor and a teacher; he makes applying nutritional science to our own lives easy to learn, compelling, practical and fun. His own common sense and his scientifically supported solutions to many diet, induced ailments will enable many readers to achieve unexpected degrees of wellness, quickly and easily. He reminds us that not all fats or carbohydrates are good or bad and that animal proteins catalyze many detrimental side effects to our health. He pushes us to avoid processed foods and seek the rich nutrients and phytochemicals available in fresh foods. Finally, he offers a meal plan that is tasty and easy to follow. However, make no mistake, the information you will find in this book will challenge you; the scientific evidence he cites will make it harder for you to ignore the long term impact of the typical American diet. Indeed, it is a wake up call for all of us to make significant changes in our lives. Now is the time to put this information into action to bring optimal health to all Americans. Go for it!