For starters, please realize that I am not a medical doctor. My name is Henry Abbott, and I am a patient of Dr. Fuhrman's, and a father (and a professional blogger, part of the team who will contribute to DiseaseProof.com for Dr. Fuhrman).
My wife and I have a daughter who is about to turn two. Thankfully, she loves to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and is a very healthy girl.
But as I'm sure a lot of you know, there are times when it seems the world just really wants you to feed your child a "normal" diet of soda, french fries, chicken strips, nachos, milkshakes, and cupcakes.
This can come up almost anywhere--at day care, schools, churches, birthday parties, holidays, on vacation, visiting family... When other kids are snacking on doughnuts, pizza, or Doritos, we are often handing our daughter cantaloupe, broccoli, or date nut pop-'ems. (Which is not to say she hasn't had her share of cake and pizza--"stuff" happens.)
Sometimes, though, it just feels a little weird to be so bothered about diet. What would be so bad about being mainstream? So what if she eats chicken fingers and french fries for dinner? What's wrong with a "normal" American child's diet?
If you're reading this, chances are you already know more about healthy eating than I do. So you probably don't need this information. But there's strength in numbers, so I'll trot out my theory for you all the same: Dr. Fuhrman's book Disease-Proof Your Child is essentially 254 pages of answer to that question. And I'm not going to re-hash it all for you here. But as a reminder, the simple answer is this: the "normal" diet is no good! In the quantities we eat them, sugar, fat, and other unhealthy foods lead to all sorts of diseases. What's more, that diet lacks lots of things--from fatty acids to flavinoids--that we really need to have a good shot at living a healthy and happy life.
It's a strange (and I'd wager temporary) reality that the diet most kids eat these days is extremely damaging to young people.
We have all heard about the obesity epidemic. But that's just the beginning. As Dr. Fuhrman explains in the book's introduction:
American children are the heaviest around the globe, and they are getting heavier at a faster rate than other children around the globe1. This spread of obesity foreshadows an explosion in degenerative diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer waiting to erupt on our children's future. Together we can stop this tragedy from ever happening.
Before I read Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live, a year or so ago, I never really imagined that there was much evidence to support the idea that the junk food I eat today could become prostate cancer, diabetes, or a heart attack down the road. Sure, everyone tells you to eat a healthy diet to avoid such things, but it still seemed to be almost a random connection. The various nutrition coaches, talk show guests, and best-selling "experts" I had heard saying not to eat this or that always seemed a little unreliable, goofy, or too left-of-center to really be credible.
But it turns out there are studies upon studies from the most respected journals. Dr. Fuhrman's writing references hundreds upon hundreds of scientific studies that are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Annals of Medicine, the British Medical Journal and hundreds more like them.
To my admittedly inexpert eyes, the evidence looks solid that the diet Dr. Fuhrman advocates does, in fact, seriously reduce the likelihood of any number of diseases. It also just makes me feel better--more energetic, focused, and happy. (And a piece of news from the new book is that the younger you are, the more a healthy diet can benefit you. No kidding: Dr. Fuhrman reports that pre-conception is the optimum time to start eating well to maximize the child's chance of good health.)
Other doctors I have talked to agree with the basics of his diet without reservation. I have talked to "normal" doctors about my diet, and they have nodded, and said, in essence "of course that's why you're so healthy." Dr. Fuhrman reports that other doctors tell him all the time they completely believe what he advocates works.
So why isn't every doctor telling every patient to eat this way? I assume it's because they simply don't have the nerve to ask their patients to eat that way. They don't want to rock the boat that much. They don't want to tell their patients, in great detail, what to eat.
But some of that is changing. For instance, Dr. Fuhrman is currently in California for a number of media appearances and talks about his new book. Tomorrow, he will address doctors at a large health insurance company. They have even been talking about including some of his dietary recommendations as standard operating procedure. It makes a lot of sense for a health insurance company to lead the charge--every disease they prevent saves them hundreds or thousands!
In any case, no matter what happens with the insurance company, my point is that the truth has a way of spreading. Everywhere you go these days people are talking about fatty acids and omega-3s. More and more people are avoiding refined wheats and sugars. Organic food consumption is up.
My hunch: we who believe in feeding our kids healthy food--if we hang in there, we won't be the oddballs with the cantaloupe in the corner for long. As the truth about "normal" food spreads through the media, schools, doctors, insurance companies, families, and by every other means imaginable--well eventually they'll put the cantaloupe on the table in the middle of the room, and a few outcast parents will be smuggling cupcakes in the corner.
1 Vincent SD, Pangrazi RP, Raustrop LM, et al. Activity levels and body mass index of children in the United States, Sweden, and Australia. Med Sci Sports & Exerc 2003;35(8);1367-1373.