This month I’m spotlighting three books that make startling claims. Each book is backed by solid research. All three emphasize the extraordinary impact of lifestyle on health, whether dealing with diabetes, cancer, heart disease or any other of the chronic diseases that plague us today. Following are my brief reviews of these excellent books.
Dr. Wes Youngberg’s recent book, Goodbye Diabetes, tells the stories of many diabetic patients who successfully reversed their disease, even when it had reached life-threatening levels. His extensive work in this field and his good research references provide solid support for his thesis.
Using a striking analogy of the Titanic, where passengers, crew and officers alike ignored advance warning signals of danger ahead, the author notes that early warning signals in diabetes are often ignored until disaster is looming ahead. At that point, life-saving treatment can be difficult and may be impossible. Dr. Youngberg, a faculty member at Loma Linda University, depicts early warning signals for diabetes very clearly, describes effective treatment measures, and finally spells out lifestyle measures that can prevent and even reverse clinical diabetes.
He states flatly that “90 percent of diabetes cases need never exist.” Many, if not most cases of diagnosed type 2 diabetes can be reversed. After describing the many complications of diabetes, his book informs us how healthy lifestyle measures can prevent and reverse most of them. An added plus is that these measures are also effective in preventing many other chronic diseases.
This book by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber is remarkable on many levels. First, it’s a riveting story of how he accidentally discovered his own brain cancer, a self-diagnosis that must be rare in the annals of medicine. He goes on to tell the extraordinary story of how he coped with his devastating disease. He had the best surgical and chemotherapeutic treatment possible, and had five years of remission in which he pursued his academic research in neuroscience and his career as a clinical professor of psychiatry.
Then, his brain cancer returned. The news was again devastating. This was an aggressive type of brain cancer, and its return signaled a poor prognosis (a life expectancy of about two years). Dr. Servan-Schreiber again received the best treatment possible, but this time he asked his oncologist, “Can I do anything to improve my chances with diet or anything else?” His oncologist told him, “You can eat anything you want. Diet won’t make any difference.” It was the kind of response typical in mainstream medicine at the time.
As a neuroscientist himself, Servan-Schreiber was aware of cutting-edge research being done in cancer. With own his life at stake, he set out to “understand the complex inner workings of the body’s natural cancer-fighting capabilities.” From his exploration into the work of top scientific labs around the world, he learned that environment, food and lifestyle modify cancer genes and play huge roles in health. He made big changes in his diet and exercise regime, applied stress reduction techniques, and for a span of fourteen years, he enjoyed superb health.
Sad to say, Dr. Servan-Schreiber had another recurrence nineteen years after his initial cancer. This time it was fatal, but in his last months, he wrote a reflective little book titled Not the Last Goodbye. It is a very honest appraisal of his journey. He believed the Anticancer way of life he discovered gave him many years of good health that he would not have had otherwise. Whether this was true or not, he had no regrets about living the Anticancer way. Over and above any added years he gained, his new way of life enhanced his life beyond measure. He died at peace with himself and the universe.
Disease Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well
David L. Katz, MD, MPH, the author of this powerful new book on preventing our worst killing diseases, is the founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center at Griffin Hospital. He has published more than 150 scientific papers, has authored or co-authored fifteen books, and is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Childhood Obesity. In 2012 he was named one of the 100 most influential people in health and fitness. When Dr. Katz speaks, people pay attention.
For years, most scientists thought that our genes determined our fate. Completion of the human genome map in 2003 and follow-up research gives us a much different understanding. The startling truth is that each of us influences our genes to a much greater degree than we thought possible. As Katz puts it, “The power of your lifestyle can reshape your destiny at the very level of your genes. Healthy eating and exercise habits can reduce your risk of developing a chronic disease, and sometimes it can reverse a disease you already have.”
The science supporting this is fascinating. Nutritional genomics, the new branch of science that studies the impact of food on our genes, reveals that bioactive elements in fruits, veggies, and other healthy foods can turn off cancer genes and turn on health-promoting genes. Having this knowledge is good, but it’s not enough. According to Katz, “Real power depends on being able to put what you know to work.” He adds, “The challenge is to care deeply enough to turn what you know into a routine.”
In Disease Proof, he gives readers dozens of practical tips on smart shopping, healthy cooking, eating out, and other healthy activities. His tips are well tested, many based on research done at Yale’s Prevention Research Center. Putting them to work can slash your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases by 80 percent, statistics backed up by solid research. Disease Proof provides much practical wisdom about learning and applying the skills of a healthy lifestyle.
All three of these books are well-written, thought-provoking and well worth reading. Any of them would make a great present for anyone wanting to learn more about healthy living.
Best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving and a happy holiday season!
Ed Dodge, MD, MPH
This post was published first in Dr. Ed Dodge’s Wellness Newsletter, Nov. 21, 2013 • Volume V, No. 11.