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What’s New! – A Healthy Living Newsletter

June, 2001

My patients frequently ask my opinion about new health books on the market. And there's certainly no shortage of experts peddling their advice! While many of these books are excellent, others are written by people who don't have a clinical background in the subject. Simply put - they're inaccurate.

The people writing the books either don't regularly use the medicines they write about or they're presenting theories as if they are facts. Others can be valuable tools for improving the quality of your life.




The American Vegetarian Cookbook
By Marilyn Diamond

Ten years ago, Marilyn Diamond with her then-husband Harvey, reached the best sellers' list for several years in a row promoting a dietary program called Fit for Life. They recommended a low-protein, high fiber diet that was pretty close to impossible to follow. Even worse, it made many of us feel pretty weak. Marilyn wrote The American Vegetarian Cookbook as a guideline for her diet. I don't have very many positive things to say about her diet, but I really love the salads and salad dressings in this cookbook. And with the warm weather coming on, it's time to start cooking lighter meals - like salads.

Marilyn Diamond makes all different kinds of salads with lima beans, bulgar wheat, broccoli, orzo, nori, rice, shitake mushrooms, and of course, the usual components of lettuce, sprouts, tomatoes and cucumbers. It's how she puts them together that shows her mastery. Using international flavors, she offers Italian, Greek, French, Mexican and American salads. It's a far cry from the usual restaurant and standard cookbook fare of bean salads, anemic lettuce with one or two other vegetable salads, and pasta salads.

What about the rest of the book? The introduction on food quality includes valuable information about organic vs. non-organic, irradiation, and whole foods vs. refined. The recipe portion is inconsistent. Some of the recipes are excellent; some are too bland or unsubstantial for my tastes. But it's definitely worth checking the book out from the library if you are looking for new ideas for lighter summer meals.

Syndrome X
Overcoming the Silent Killer that can give you a Heart Attack
By Gerald Reaven, Terry Strom and Barry Fox

Most of us figure that if we have low LDL (bad)) cholesterol, high HDL (good) cholesterol and eat a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet, we have pretty much protected ourselves from having a heart attack. No so, says Stanford University's Dr. Gerald Reaven. Those carbohydrates that you thought were so safe could be increasing your risk of a heart attack.

Syndrome X starts out with the best description I have ever read explaining the workings of the heart and circulatory system in layman's terms. That means, unlike most of the popular diet and health books, you don't need a background in biochemistry to understand it. He compares the circulatory system to plumbing and the heart to a house. So far, so good.

Then, the authors launch into the 6 part program: 1) Get a diagnosis, 2) Eat the Syndrome X (45% carbohydrates, 15 % protein and 40% fats) diet, 3) Lose weight, 4) Exercise, 5) Adopt Healthy Lifestyle Habits (eliminate smoking and cut back on excessive alcohol), and 6) Take drugs if needed to control the cholesterol or high blood pressure, etc. that the diet and exercise may not be helping.

Here is where I become slightly disenchanted with the authors of Syndrome X. Oversimplifying a complex situation, they say that there is only one way to lose weight: eat less and exercise more. I used to believe that, too. I am a slender person, coming from a slender family. I can take off 5 pounds in 2 weeks by eating less and exercising more. It's really simple - right. Wrong.

My patients have educated me about dieting. Two, in particular, went on strict programs for a year and increased their exercise dramatically. One lost 5 pounds in the entire year; the other lost nothing. Why couldn't they lose weight following a sensible diet and 5-10 hours of exercise a week? I don't know. Neither one was on one of the many prescription drugs that cause weight gain. Neither one is hypothyroid - another reason for unexplained weight gain. Maybe, as Dr. Reaven suggests, it might be alcohol intake. Beer, wine and hard liquor are fattening. But one doesn't drink at all. Despite his "scientific" dismissal of fat genes and slow metabolism, I think some people just don't fit into this "eat less-and-exercise" mold. On the other hand, I thought his exercise options were excellent and comprehensive. Everyone should find something there that will work for him/her.

Dr. Reaven's overall point is an excellent one. It's the same one that the Carbohydrate Addicts, the Zone, Atkins and Andrew Weil make as well. Too many carbohydrates in our diet are wrecking havoc on our health. Syndrome X's solution is cut back on carbohydrates. But it's not the amount of carbohydrates in our diet; it's the form of carbohydrates. We need to steer away from the white bread, crackers, pasta, cakes and pastries, and substitute the whole grain versions. These over-processed and over-refined carbohydrates are causing a diabetes 2 epidemic, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes because they release sugar too quickly into the blood stream.

Wwhy not add complex carbohydrates like beans to the diet instead of adding more fat, another heart disease risk? In medical studies, beans have been shown to stabilize blood sugar and decrease risk of heart disease. As I looked at his menu plans, vegetables like collard greens, broccoli and cauliflower, along with nuts and beans and whole grains were not well represented. Maybe he avoided these foods because the general population is less familiar with them. They shouldn't be. I am staying firmly in Andrew Weil's camp on diet recommendations. Eat a whole grain, unprocessed, organic diet of 60% carbohydrates, 15-20% protein, and 20-25% fats for optimal health.


Unmasking Male Depression
By Archibald D. Hart

"My husband (boyfriend, brother, friend, father) watches hours and hours of sports on TV, always seems to be involved in some new project, bought (or talks about buying) a sports car, has started to listen to loud music, is hanging out with the guys, seems preoccupied with sex and/or has become a workaholic. When he's not doing any of these, he is criticizing the kids or me or the next-door neighbor and seems angry or genuinely unhappy. It's almost better when he stays distracted with these other things. And, in addition to having trouble sleeping, his blood pressure has been creeping up.."

If this sounds familiar, then according to Dr. Hart, your husband (boyfriend, brother, friend, father) may be depressed. And if this person is middle-aged, it is doubly important to read this book as the male suicide rate at midlife is 3 times higher than at any other time in a man's life.

Most of the medical literature focuses on female depression - withdrawal, passive, and quiet. Dr. Hart argues that male depression is a whole different story. For starters, men don't want to talk about it - or even admit it. Real men don't get depressed. And when they do talk about it, it is often for a medication rather than let's get to the cause. Men self-medicate by doing things that will pull them out of the depression such as getting angry, extramarital affairs, or using people and things to stay distracted.

Writing from both personal experience and 30 years of clinical experience, Dr. Hart talks about the sources of depression: genetics, hormones, and stress and therapies to help with the depression. One is called "positive psychology movement". Its goal is to teach people how to "live an optimistic, healthy, productive and meaningful life". And from his brief description, it sounds like a worthwhile approach to male depression.

Unmasking Male Depression makes one excellent point after another - until it reaches the part on male climacteric (analogous to menopause). Yes, men have decreased levels of testosterone. And yes, their hair thins, their waists thicken, their muscle mass decreases and they have decreased libido. But Dr. Hart's solution of giving them testosterone replacement therapy with its potential effects of aggravating prostate cancer, worsening sleep apnea and increasing blood pressure, isn't an optimal one. And though the side effects seem few, it hasn't been in use long enough to generate the controversy that female HRT (hormonal replacement therapy) has.

Written from a strongly Christian perspective, Unmasking Male Depression contains many short biblical references throughout the book. However, I didn't find it to be preachy, but rather a Christian person trying to decrease the guilt and weakness associated with depression. Unmasking Male Depression is an invaluable book for recognizing and coping with male depression.

Health Tip: As little as 1 serving (1/2 cup) of cabbage a week in any form, raw, cooked or even sauerkraut, decreases the average person's risk of colon cancer by 66%.

Here is a simple salad recipe you might enjoy.
2 cups cabbage - sliced very thin
1 tomato - cubed
1 scallion - sliced
1 tbsp. bac'un (soy) bits

Marinate for 1 hour in your favorite vinagrette dressing and serve. My family loves Annie's Shitake vinagrette dressing. (Available at Trader Joe's or most health food stores.)

Herb Tip: Recently, there has been a lot of press on herbs being incorporated into foods. Many cereals, snack bars, and sweetened drinks boast of fortification with ginseng, Echinacea, gingko or a whole host of other herbs. This isn't a good trend. Most people are aware of ginkgo's positive effect of mental acuity, but Gingko is also a blood thinner. Should the cereal box or drink contain a warning telling the potential consumer to avoid eating or drinking the product if on a prescription blood thinner? It could get really complicated very quickly. Instead, we should take medicinal herbs out of our foods and leave them in our natural food stores' pharmacies to take as safely prescribed

Copyright 2001 Dr. Suzanne C. Lawton, LLC

 

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Dr. Suzanne C. Lawton 11825 SW Greenburg Road, Suite A2 Tigard, OR 97223 503-443-2332