COMMENTARY

Healthy Holiday Eating for All, Ho, Ho, Ho!

Disclosures

December 22, 2016

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Hello and welcome. I am Dr George Lundberg, and this is At Large at Medscape.

My intrepid Medscape editor, Laurie Scudder, to whom I owe much, suggested that I return to my traditional holiday greeting for this December, so, here we go.

Ho, ho, ho! No, no, no, not that kind of Oxford English Dictionary "ho," but the Dickensian kind of verbal "ho" that could emanate from the mouth of a 21st-century Santa Claus, or a sarcastic Scrooge.

Ho, ho, ho! STOP EATING!!! Seriously, not literally. Do not starve; do not fast for long periods of time; that can be counterproductive. But do stop eating so much; such large portion sizes, so often; such high-calorie foods; so much sugar and fat; so much processed foods; breads made from refined flour.

Stop drinking! Stop drinking sugar-packed drinks and so much alcohol. Be aware of what you are consuming. Take control.

Start eating! Start eating fewer calories; smaller portion sizes; plenty of vegetables, cooked or raw, fresh if possible; beans, peas, lentils, peanuts and tree nuts; sweet potatoes, whole grains, fruits; and a wide range of meats, poultry, and seafood in moderate portions.

Dairy products, including milk and cheeses, are also fine, especially if fermented, as are organ meats, soy products, and natto—the Japanese fermented soybean "superfood" and the best source of vitamin K2. Some nutritional supplements are useful, especially magnesium.

Coffee and tea are fine, but hold the sugar. We are all indebted to the Glantz group for discovering, exposing, and teaching us in 2016 about the Great Sugar Scam perpetrated by Big Industry and Big Academia in the 1960s.[1] In terms of human lethality, the Great Sugar Scam rivals the Great Tobacco Scam perpetrated by Big Tobacco, Big Academia, and Big Medicine, exposed earlier by this same stellar group at the University of California, San Francisco.[2]

Wine and other alcoholic drinks are acceptable in moderation, if you are neither addicted now nor have the genetic predisposition for alcoholism or an addictive personality. Of course, you should not drink and drive, ever, or try to fly an airplane while drunk, or have a big dispute while drunk, especially if there is a gun around.

In the 2014 version of this holiday greeting, I emphasized new information tying the worldwide obesity epidemic to changes in the gut microbiome, perhaps brought about by vast overuse of antibiotics.[3] That may well be true, and is another very good reason to avoid antibiotics except when seriously indicated. Much is left to be learned about the intricacies of the gut microbiome and nutrition.

The obesity and diabetes epidemic is so big and so bad that on October 17, 2016, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) dedicated its entire annual meeting[4] to the topic. NAM brought together many world health and medicine leaders to teach the assembled hundreds of members as well as the public, through secondary media, about the newest and most trustworthy information on obesity and diabetes. I listened intently all day, but I was disappointed to learn almost nothing that I did not already know.

These are my three take home messages from the Academy:

  1. The worldwide obesity epidemic must be countered by interventions at the levels of both personal health and population health. Although genes, bacteria, culture, and the commercial environment all play roles in this complex issue, individual lifestyle changes—that is, perpetually balancing calories in and calories out—works for virtually everyone.

  2. On a population level, interventions at the point of food/drink sale, such as taxes to increase consumer cost, are most likely to be effective.

  3. The control of alcoholic beverage use in the United States during the 20th century, deemed successful by historical standards, offers a real model for the control of harmful eating. Obviously, no one "must" drink alcohol and everyone must eat food, so there are profound differences between them. However, when individual actions are out of control and harmful to that individual and to many others, population-based actions can be justified. Alcohol Beverage Control has models worth considering for population food control.

Meanwhile, take charge of your nutritional health. Do the right things; you know what they are.

Then exercise; get on that scale every day, and do not let that number go up. And have a happy ho, ho, ho! For real.

That is my opinion. I am Dr George Lundberg, and this is At Large at Medscape.

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