Return to Transcripts main page


Mom Credits Pot for Son's Cancer Remission; "Eat It to Beat It"

Aired January 12, 2014 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Hey There. And welcome to SGMD.

I want to start off by telling about this fascinating new poll about one of the most divisive issues in America today. It has to do with marijuana and making it legal for adults over the age of 21. And more Americans told CNN/ORC that that's good rather than bad, but most said let's hang out a minute and see how it goes. We're talking about places like Colorado which just passed a new law.

Now, I have done a lot of reporting on this topic, I had some surprises, and also some concerns and one of them is about the people who want easy access to marijuana as a medical treatment.



GUPTA (voice-over): Back in September of 2012, 3-year-old Landon Riddle developed a sore throat and swollen lymph nodes one night. It was likely just a virus, his doctors thought. But the reality ended up being much worse.

Acute lymphocytic leukemia or ALL, it's a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. It's one of the most common cancers in children. It's also one of the most treatable, but the therapy was going to be tough.

SIERRA RIDDLE, LANDON'S MOTHER: They started him on chemo, but told us that he probably wasn't going to make it, that he only had like an 8 percent chance to live 24 to 48 hours.

GUPTA: The chemo made the little boy very sick, nauseated, vomiting, barely able to walk or talk.

RIDDLE: Good job.

GUPTA: His mother, Sierra, wanted to try anything to help, and eventually found medical marijuana. Now again, Landon is just 3 years old.

They'd come from Utah where medical marijuana was not legal to Colorado where it was. And for Landon, it seemed to work. He rebounded, able to eat, sleep, just be a kid. But Sierra told us something else, something surprising. She believed that the marijuana was healing him. Not just from the ravages of chemo but from his cancer as well.

RIDDLE: I think that chemo in combination with cannabis did put him into remission. And now, cannabis will keep him there.

GUPTA: To be clear, ALL is one of the most curable cancers. More than 95 percent of children go into remission with existing therapies. But still, Sierra was so sure of marijuana's healing properties that six months after her son started the treatments, she decided to stop his chemotherapy all together. Her argument, the chemo was too toxic and the cannabis was not. She said the doctors were stunned at her decision.

RIDDLE: The options were to either voluntarily agree to the chemo and steroid plan for the next three years or to refuse it in which they would take us to court and have it court ordered anyways. And the possibility of them removing Landon from my care would come into play at that point.


GUPTA: So Riddle found a lawyer willing to take on the case, Attorney Warren Edson.

RIDDLE: They said they were willing to work with us. They said they were willing to alter the chemo plan. And they're not. They did not do that at all.

GUPTA: And that's not surprising. While many mainstream doctors do support the use of cannabis to offset the side effects of chemotherapy, as things stand now, no doctor would recommend cannabis instead of chemo, myself included.

But there is a growing body of promising research. Dr. Julie Holland is the editor of "The Pot Book."

DR. JULIE HOLLAND, EDITOR, "THE POT BOOK": It turns out it actually fights the cancer itself.

GUPTA (on camera): You're a doc. You've studied this, talked to the researchers. You're saying marijuana can kill cancer cells.

HOLLAND: I'm saying that and there are many other researchers who are saying that, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got lung samples from our treated mice.

GUPTA: Like San Francisco researchers, Pierre Desprez and Shawn McAllister, who say they've seen firsthand what the cannabis compound cannabidiol or CBD can do. In their lab, they use CBD to kill mice and human cancer cells.

We asked the American Cancer Society what they thought about all of this. And in a statement to CNN, they said "There is no available scientific evidence from controlled studies in humans that Cannabinoids can cure or treat cancer."

Even Landon's doctor who prescribed his marijuana and is a firm believer in medical cannabis is cautious about this.

(on camera): Sierra has decided to stop the chemotherapy for Landon. I mean, as a doctor and as a doctor who's seen his progress, is that something you would be on board with, that you recommend?

DR. MARGARET GEDDE, LANDON'S DOCTOR: As a physician again, I'm not sure that I could recommend that to a parent, to say -- I can't say to them, I know that the CBD is a treatment that can work and you don't need the chemotherapy.

GUPTA (voice-over): For the time being, Sierra Riddle is afraid of losing her son, so she is allowing chemotherapy once a month. She's still also trying to find an oncologist willing to take Landon off the chemo. So far she's had no luck.


GUPTA: And Colorado is one of 20 states plus D.C. that now has medicinal marijuana. But it's also one of just two states, along with Washington state, where adults over 21 can use it just for fun, recreationally. And that does bring up a whole other set of health issues.

Joining me to talk about this is Staci Gruber.

Good to see you again, Staci.


GUPTA: I know you have been following a lot of this news carefully. There's a new poll that says 88 percent of the country supports legalizing medical marijuana. But I'm curious when you see a story like the one we just did, what do you think of them? Do you think there's a potential for backlash here?

GRUBER: You know, I think anything is possible. And I think it's certainly a compelling argument for a parent to want the very best for their child. And I think medicinal marijuana has a number of tremendous utilities and applications as we have seen.

The question is once medicinal marijuana becomes more widespread and/or recreational marijuana is legal across the country as it's sort of becoming, what do we expect will happen with use rates and specifically with regard to research what happens to emerging adults and adolescents with regards to their use?

GUPTA: I want to ask about that. Some of it is trying to look at history and trying to predict what's going to happen to usage. Let me ask about this. According to the Colorado law, you have to be over 21 to buy marijuana. You have to buy from a licensed vender. We did this poll and asked if that's a model for the whole country -- 33 percent said yes, 29 percent said no, and 37 percent say "let's wait and see how it plays out."

GRUBER: Right.

GUTPA: What do you think? First of all, let's look at the age -- 21 and older. You specifically look at the impact on brain development. What do you make of that age of 21 being the cut off?

GRUBER: You know, during development, lots of things happen to the brain. And we're not -- it's unfortunate that we don't have a definitive time at which we know the brain is finished developing and it's all clear you can go whatever you'd like. But while the brain is developing the frontal cortex, as you know, is the last really to come online. But the most important for things like regulating impulsivity, and inhibiting inappropriate responses.

So, we already know that lots of emerging adults have difficulties making good decisions for not being impulsive. If you add to that, different types of drugs or alcohol, it's going to be more difficult for them to behave appropriately.

And what we have seen is some longer term impact in terms of brain structure and function in people who start smoking early versus those who started smoking later.

So, we like to say it's worth the wait. Just give the brain time to develop before you get into this. It's an important thing to be mindful of. And that's the -- I think the focus of most educational efforts or should be these days.

GUPTA: And I think facts matter in this discussion, which is part of the reason we wanted you on the program today. Thanks so much for joining us. And thanks for being part of our documentary as well.

GRUBER: Absolutely. Of course. Oh, absolutely.

GUPTA: Staci Gruber.

Up next, we're going to talk about this epidemic that you may have heard about. And I will tell you as a preface, as a father of three girls, it has me increasingly concern. I'll explain.


GUPTA: A headline this week caught my attention. Some of us here found it surprising. The producers of the show certainly did. It said that teens who sext are more likely to engage in other sexual behaviors.

Hey, as a father myself, I wanted to know what this was all about and how I could influence my own kids to do the right things. So I decided to invite sexologist, sex educator and author Logan Levkoff on to the program, back onto the program. And she joins me now from New York.

Thanks for joining us, Logan.

LOGAN LEVKOFF, SEX EDUCATOR: Thank you for having me.

GUPTA: Logan, I know you're not an alarmist and it's part of the reason I wanted you on the show. So, put my fears at ease here. What exactly did the study show?

LEVKOFF: Well, the study was 410 at-risk youth in Rhode Island. So it's not representative of middle schoolers at large, but it does give us some insights.

And basically what the study says is that a little over 20 percent of those 12 to 14-year-olds have engaged in sexting of some kind and it makes them 4 to 7 time more likely to be engaging in other sexual behaviors.

This isn't a huge shock, but, of course, the headline makes it very scary. But I'm here to alleviate some of your fears, because we have a tremendous opportunity to help our kids through this and help make good decisions when it comes to sex and technology.

GUPTA: Yes. A lot of people become more acquainted with this term sexting. And, certainly, Congressman Weiner and other stories like that have put it in the public domain. But, you know, I sort of thought myself is this kind of like when we were kids, you know, passing a note in class or a seemingly harmless flirtation of a wink or a wave, and sexting is that for this generation? Or is this more sinister?

LEVKOFF: A little -- I mean, a little bit of both. I have trouble with the word sinister, but I think it's not really a surprise that young people use whatever they have available to them to express their sexuality. I certainly did it. We had those chat lines that cost a fortune and your parents would get billed later on as a nice monthly surprise.

And we sent these pretty wild and graphic things on those chat-lines in an attempt to safely navigate our sexuality. It didn't have the long-term outcomes that sexting can have because once it was out there, it couldn't get into anyone else's hands. So it's not a surprise that young people want to find ways to express their sexuality. It's just that this is not the greatest way to do it.

GUPTA: One of the things you told me in previous discussions is that you have to be clear when you're having conversations, for example, with your kids regarding expectations. What -- how do you have that conversation? And how young is too young?

LEVKOFF: It's never too young to have any of these conversations. Our kids know what technology is. My own son who is 8 asks if he can post things to YouTube. And I say to him all the time, first of all, no. And here's why.

I mean, our culture provides us endless opportunities to engage in these conversations with our kids. But I think that if you're going to give your child a smart phone or any kind of technological device, you really need to spell out and maybe it's having some kind of contract with them.

I will not use my phone to send pictures of myself or others engaged in compromising positions. I will get people's consent before I post a photo of them. I mean, really spell out clearly, and then your kids know what your expectations are. And that means if someone asks them to do something, they are going to back and say, uh-oh, this was one of the things that wasn't OK.

GUPTA: I have an 8-year-old as well. And we had that exact same conversation, Logan, recently about whether she can videos posting to YouTube. They were dance routines or things that she had been learning, but it's really important. I think a lot of parents think about this quite a bit.

I want to let people know that you've got this great book coming out next month about this very topic -- the doctor mom's guide to sexuality, social media and other adolescent realities, available for preorder now.

Logan, I have three girls, as you know. And so, the wisdom that you have is something that I think about and crave all the time. So, I appreciate it.

LEVKOFF: Thank you so much. I really appreciate that.

GUPTA: All right. Logan Levkoff, thanks for joining us.

LEVKOFF: Sure thing.

GUPTA: Now, you may know him as the rough and tumble patriarch of the "Orange County Choppers" family. What you probably don't know about Paul Teutul is that he's also a recovering addict.


GUPTA (voice-over): Grinding, blowing things up and building bikes. It's what Paul Teutul Sr., star of the show "Orange County Choppers", does best.

But there was a time that Teutul's future didn't seem so bright.

PAUL TEUTUL SR., "ORANGE COUNTY CHOPPERS": Back in the day I kind of started early drinking and getting high and -- you know back then, you think that that stuff is going to go away as you get older and what it does it gets progressively worse.

GUPTA: As a younger guy, Teutul and his buddies hit the sauce early and often.

TEUTUL: I could drink a quarter of a whiskey at lunch time and then go back to work.

GUPTA: And after years of giving everything to alcohol, he realized it all came down to a simple choice -- live or die.

TEUTUL: I was pretty fortunate that you know, I was able to get in a 12-step program. I went nine years straight and I was afraid to miss a meeting.

GUPTA: And that's why Senior who's now been sober for 29 years continues to share his story.

TEUTUL: After 12 years of TV being myself, and everybody knows how (EXPLETIVE DELETED) crazy I am. So, it's no secret. It's kind of like I always look at it, if I can get sober, anybody can.


GUPTA: And the season finale of "Orange County Choppers" air this is weekend on TNT.

Now, up next, eat it to beat. How does that sound?

The author of the best selling "Eat This, Not That" book, he's going to stop by with some good news because it's about food we all crave that can help you lose weight.

Stick around.


GUPTA: We are back with SGMD.

"The U.S. News and World Report" is out with its annual, much anticipated best diet's list.

Number one now for the fourth year in a row is the dash diet. That's dietary approaches to stop hypertension diet. Take a look here. It got high marks for nutritional completeness and safety, and role at supporting heart health, as well as weight loss.

The Paleo diet, now this was the most searched diet term online last year and it ranked dead last of the 32 diets evaluated. Take a look. The whole premise was experts said if the cave man didn't eat it, you shouldn't either. But they also said it's too restrictive for most people to follow long-term and also limits essentially nutrients. Weight loss is sort of mixed on that as well.

David Zinczenko, he knows a lot about these things. He's been on the program before, talking about the best foods to fuel our bodies. He knows about this. It was editor in chief for "Men's Health" for more than a decade.

And he's got this a new book, "Eat It To Beat It!" You should read it.

David, you know, good morning to you. You know what you and I have in common on?

DAVID ZINCZENKO, AUTHOR: Good morning. What's that?

GUPTA: We both get a lot of grief for telling people whatnot to eat. We're sort of the grim reapers of diet. People don't like to hear that. They --

ZINCZENKO: Yes, I'm constantly bumming people out.

GUPTA: I know. Me too. But, you know, some of this is important information people need to hear.

But you also say you can eat the foods you love, lose weight, and still keep it off.

ZINCZENKO: Yes, that is the entire premise of the new book. One of the things that I wanted to do is to have a plan that was reasonable, that was realistic that everybody could follow, because that's the problem. Diets are really restrictive. Foods, confusing. Weight loss is hard.

I know. I was a chubby kid.

So in this case, I scoured all the restaurant menus. I went aisle by aisle through the supermarkets because your average supermarket is 50,000 items and they are all trying to convince you that their products are good for you. I put it all in "Eat It To Beat" so that you could lose a lot of weight without ever dieting.

GUPTA: It's a great book. Again, people should read it. And one of things that strikes me is you're led to believe certain things based on the title of the restaurant or the type of food that it's healthy and you believe other things are unhealthy. And those things may not necessarily be true.

And especially when you're out to eat, for example. So, you -- one of the things you looked at was the best, if you will, on breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

What did you find there?

ZINCZENKO: So, for example, you can go to a restaurant like Panera Bread and you get a breakfast power, egg sandwich on whole grain, which is 340 calories. It's great. It's got a really nice blend of protein and fiber, low in calories, real egg, which is great because a lot of eggs out there are egg blends.

GUPTA: Right.

ZINCZENKO: That's sort of creepy. There's a lot of weird stuff in our food these days. But that's really great. The yolk is packed with vitamins.

So I recommend that. It's a great way to start your breakfast. Much better than like 1,500 calorie pancakes, which is all empty calories, sugar and fat.

GUPTA: It's amazing how the difference in calories. So, you said 340 calories for that sandwich. There are breakfast out there where you can get the entire calorie allotment just from breakfast alone.

What about lunch?

ZINCZENKO: Yes. Well, for lunch, you could go to a place like Wendy's. You can have fast food.

GUPTA: Really.

ZINCZENKO: You can have a junior deluxe cheeseburger, which is only 350 calories. It's pretty low in sodium.

The tough thing for consumers is that the food has blown up these days. Everything is super sized. There are 1,500-calorie cheese burgers out there. And, you know, that thousand-calorie difference, or 1,100-calorie difference is a third of a pound of body fat you'd have to either work off or learn to live with.

GUPTA: You know, you're absolutely right. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised to see Wendy's up there, but this idea you can eat smaller amounts and takes a little bit for your stomach to catch up to the brain that, in fact, you had enough food. If you eat the multiple pound cheeseburger, you're going to feel stuffed, you're going to feel terrible and you're going to pay the price for the calories.

What about dinner, quickly?

ZINCZENKO: Well, dinner, you could have pizza. Again, you can have your favorite foods and still lose weight. We really like the pizza hut's veggie lovers, 180 calories per slice. It's got a hand tossed crust. The thinner the crust, the thinner you. So, we really like that, particularly again when you look at some of the really fatty, caloric, highly caloric pizzas that are out there that just make it hard really to stay on any kind of reasonable diet plan.

GUPTA: And, you know, if you want to see the worst in each category as well, who doesn't want to see that. You can log on to We're going to have a big reveal there, from David.

Appreciate having you on the program.

ZINCZENKO: Thanks, Dr. Gupta.

GUPTA: All right, sir.

And still ahead, keeping on topic, there's a federal lawsuit out there against unfounded and unproven weight loss plans. I'll tell you, these are some of the product names you're going to know and may even use them. We'll tell you what's up. That's next.


GUPTA: You know, this week, the Federal Trade Commission charged four companies with false advertising related to weight loss products.

This isn't going to surprise a lot of people. But Sensa, L'Occitane, HCG Direct and Lean Spa are going to collectively pay $34 million to refund consumers for unfounded promises. That's a quote.

Sensa, for example, it was telling people that it's clinically proven to help you lose an average of 30 pounds in six months with no diet, no exercise.

Look, we talk about this all the time. To lose weight, to stay healthy, there's no gimmicks, there's no shortcuts. But it doesn't mean it has to be hard. That's what we're here for.

A safe amount of weight loss beyond the first few days is just one to two pounds per week. If a product is promising more, chances are it's either exaggerating or it could, in fact, hurt you. So be careful.

Bottom line: losing weight is about burning more calories than you take in. At the end of day, the food you eat and how much you get up and move is all that really matters. So, pay attention.

That's going to wrap things up for SGMD. But do stay connected with me at Let's keep the conversation going on Twitter as well @DrSanjayGupta.

Time, now, though to get you back to the CNN NEWSROOM with Kyra Phillips.