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Dr. Edward Taub on how to keep your diet resolutions

graphic January 5, 2001
1 p.m. EST

(CNN) -- It's the time of year when many people start working on their New Year's resolution to lose weight and get fit. But finding the best way to do that can be tricky. A recent study found that conflicting advice about what foods to eat can leave people so confused, they revert to unhealthy habits.

Edward A. Taub, M.D. is a pioneer of Integrative Medicine, a wellness-oriented approach based on advanced methods of disease prevention, physician-patient partnership, and rapid stress relief. Taub, who has been practicing for 30 years, received his medical degree from the Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, New York, interned at the University of California at Irvine, and completed his residency training at the University of Southern California.

CNN Chat Moderator: Welcome to Health chat, Dr. Edward Taub. Thanks for joining us today.

Dr. Taub: Hello, everyone, it's sunshiny in Southern California, and I hope it's the same where you are, as well as in your lives. First of all, it's important to realize that about 60% of all Americans are overweight and the rate of obesity in children has doubled in the last 30 years.

CNN Chat Moderator: Why do people often put weight loss as their goal for the New Year?

Dr. Taub: Of course, it's a popular resolution at New Year's time to lose weight. The other reason it's so popular is that people have generally failed to lose weight when they made the resolution the year before. I hope that the information I can impart today will make it unnecessary for people to have to make the resolution once more next year.

Question from John-Do: Why am I gaining weight easier as I get older?

Dr. Taub: That has to do with the second law of thermodynamics, which is called entropy. Entropy basically means that everything eventually falls apart. Human beings fall apart as we continue along our normal life cycle. Just like all living things, we have a life cycle that dictates our health, and causes us to gain weight more easily as we grow older. The other phenomena that occur with entropy as we get older, is we get gassy after drinking milk or eating dairy, we get constipated much more easily, we get heartburn and indigestion from foods that didn't cause that before. Alcohol begins to cause tiredness and irritability. Refined sugars, such as in pastry and candy, cause us to get fuzzy and sleepy. We get cellulite forming on our thighs. Our prostate enlarges in men, causing us to wake up at night and urinate, and we get widespread gum disease. So it's not a matter of gaining weight as we get older, but our entire body changes. This type of knowledge, however, can empower us to take the proper steps to better determine our health destiny as we get older. And all of this type of information is very much the basis of my book, "Balance Your Body, Balance Your Life."

CNN Chat Moderator: There are so many conflicting diets and weight loss plans on the market. How do people know which to choose?

Dr. Taub: It's certainly amazing that there are so many thousands of diets on the market, considering the fact that the human body itself has not changed much in the past hundred thousand years. The fact that there are so many diets on the market indicates that diets don't work. My advice to everyone who is on a diet, especially a high-protein diet, such as Dr. Atkins' diet is to stop dieting now, because diets don't work, and they can hurt you. Trying to diet your excess (weight) off is like trying to bail out a rowboat without first plugging up the leak. In other words, if you're trying to lose weight, you have to first fix your inner works.

Question from Haley-CNN: Dr. Taub, what sort of exercise would you recommend to someone who sits at a desk all day and weather prohibits going out doors?

Dr. Taub: That's a very good question, because it's meaningful to many people. First of all, if someone is stuck indoors, probably that individual could be moving briskly up and down any stairs that are in the workplace, and if that's not possible, then a person can put on their walking shoes or sneakers, and put on some earmuffs and a heavy scarf, if necessary, and get outside and walk, if the weather isn't too absolutely horrid. In terms of exercise for all of us, it's important to realize how crucial it is for permanent weight loss. And I'm not talking about exercise that's characterized by loping along like a stroll -- I'm talking about exercise that is truly a brisk walk, or some form of movement that causes us to get huffy, puffy, and sweaty. Exercise is not only crucial for weight loss, but it's also an effective preventive measure for coronary disease. It helps to lower cholesterol, it has been found to lower the risk of colon cancer by almost half and surprisingly, in a study in Europe, it was found that women who exercised only fours hour a week demonstrated a 37 percent decrease in their incidence of breast cancer. So, we all need to exercise, and I personally recommend at least 20 minutes every other day. The forms of exercise that I recommend are brisk walking, jogging, running, swimming -- all of the aerobic types of exercise. In addition, I recommend strength training, at least 20 minutes three times a week, especially anyone who is over the age of 50, and battling entropy, because it's only strength training that will help slow down and even reverse the loss of muscle and bone density that comes as we age. The last two sections of "Balance Your Body, Balance Your Life" have an illustrated protocol for strength training, and also for yoga stretches, which I recommend very much.

Question from Jason: Dr. Taub, oxygen is our most important "food" but is in short pure supply. There seem to be some very good oxygen-enriched, pure spring waters on the market. Do you have any opinion on them?

Dr. Taub: It's amazing to me what people will believe in and buy. There really is no scientific evidence that I'm aware of that such a product would be helpful. Basically, anything that's too good to be true is generally too good to be true, and that includes oxygen-enriched water.

CNN Chat Moderator: What is the food energy ladder and why do you think it is better than the food pyramid many of us grew up with?

Dr. Taub: The food pyramid is rife with appalling myths about what foods are good for us, and what foods are not good for us. The food pyramid is basically responsible for the fact that almost 60% of Americans are overweight. The food pyramid is generally an information instrument supported by the huge processed-food, beef and dairy industry. The food energy ladder is an example of how a picture can be worth a thousand words. It's meant to replace the food pyramid. Basically, the food energy ladder has 12 steps. The foods on the top of the food energy ladder are high in life energy, and they help our metabolism to burn excess fat and lose weight. The foods on the top of the food energy ladder also give us more energy to perform all of the functions that we need to take care of during the day. The foods at the bottom of the food energy ladder are low in life energy -- basically, they cause our body to accumulate excess fat, and they drain us of our reserve of energy during the day. For instance, on the top of the food energy ladder, we find fruits and vegetables and water, on the first step. The second step on the food energy ladder is beans and legumes. The third step of the food energy ladder is olive oil, nuts, and avocados. The fourth step is whole grains, high-fiber cereals and brown rice. The fifth step is potatoes, dark grain breads and pasta. The sixth step is fish. And the food energy ladder goes downward, with poultry, eggs, red meat, dairy products, candy and sweets -- all of the latter foods are low in life energy and cause our body to accumulate fat. The foods on top of the food energy ladder are the foods that have been kissed by the sun. They've been exposed to soil, wind and rain. They take nature's energy and allow our bodies to share in that precious resource. The motto of the food energy ladder is, "Everything in moderation, including moderation." A copy of the food energy ladder can be found on my Web site, or in several places in the "Balance Your Body, Balance Your Life" book. The Web site is and the food energy ladder can be found under the 'recipe' section. The most wonderful thing about the food energy ladder for people wanting to lose weight permanently, is that there are really no forbidden foods, and it's not about deprivation. It's all about the same common sense that most of our grandparents would've already known, particularly how important it is to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and drink lots of water. And also, of course, to control our portions. Portion control becomes even more crucial for people over 50, when entropy rears its head.

Question from etsworld: Why does your concept of interactive medicine differ so much from Dr. Andrew Weil's concept?

Dr. Taub: That's a very thoughtful question. Western medicine is based almost exclusively on repairing the human body, rather than stimulating the will to be well. Basically it's forgotten that health is a matter of balancing our physical, mental and spiritual energies. So, when I first introduced integrative medicine in 1980 at the National Academy of Sciences, my lecture was entitled "Integrative Medicine - A Biological, Psychological, and Spiritual Approach." My problem with the way that others are presently practicing integrative medicine is that it's being diluted by marketing hype and all sorts of "holistic" treatments for diseases from arthritis to cancer. That's not what integrative medicine is all about. Integrative medicine is, first of all, as scientific as it is spiritual. Anything less is not integrative medicine.

Question from John-Do: Do I need extra vitamins if I eat well?

Dr. Taub: Yes. First of all, it's important to realize that our body doesn't make vitamins and minerals, except for a tiny amount of vitamin B12, and some vitamin D that we get from sunshine. And, even if we eat very, very well, it's highly unlikely that we're going to get all of the essential vitamins and minerals that science has now proven that we need. We use the word "essential" because these vitamins and minerals are absolutely essential to our life. The reason a lot of medical doctors still don't recommend vitamins and minerals is because we've been trained in medical school to recommend supplemental vitamins and minerals only for infants, children, pregnant women, chronic alcoholics and very ill people. And we've also been trained to treat deficiency diseases with vitamins, such as beriberi, which is thiamine deficiency, or scurvy, which is vitamin C deficiency, but now we know that the use of vitamins and minerals is way beyond deficiency. We just know that we can use vitamins and minerals to reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, cataracts, stroke, and even cancer.

So, basically, perhaps the best way for me to guide this questioner into what to take is to share what I personally take with the person asking the question. First of all, I've created a nutritional supplement system, that I call Nature's Code, available only on QVC. Some of the important constituents of Nature's Code, which I take myself, are Vitamin C, 750 mg a day; Vitamin D, 600 IU a day, and that varies with age. I take Vitamin E, 400 IU, as a man; I take calcium, 500 mg a day, along with magnesium, 250 mg a day, because it's important that they be in balance. Actually, I've formulated Nature's Code for men and women under and over 50 because there are different amounts of calcium and magnesium, depending on whether one is a man or a woman, and over or under 50 years old. Additionally, I take selenium, 200 micrograms a day, and Vitamin B12, 400 micrograms a day. I'd like to refer people to my Web site and they can check out the formulas themselves. Again, that Web site is

Question from pepper: What is the best diet to lose weight?

Dr. Taub: First of all, the best diet is no diet. The best diet is common sense, and paying attention to the common sense that most of our grandparents already knew about, before the age of processed, refined junk food. There's so much confusing information out there, that it's causing people to get discouraged, so I'd recommend the following: First of all, portion control is crucial, we've got to restrain the amounts of portions that we eat.

Secondly, we need to drink at least eight glasses of water every day. One way to assist portion control is to drink a glass of water before each meal. Fiber is extremely important, particularly for weight loss and regularity, Interestingly enough, two of the best sources of fiber in recent studies turn out to be popcorn and oatmeal (not eaten together). Psyllium products over the counter are also very helpful to provide extra fiber and promote regularity. Basically, the best way to eat is to stay high on the food energy ladder, on the top 5, 6, 7, rungs, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and water, olive oil, nuts, avocados, whole grains, brown rice, potatoes, fish, etc. -- the foods that give you life energy that allows your own metabolism to burn excess fat. In addition to all of this, it's crucial to exercise at least 20 minutes four or five days a week, to the extent that we're huffy, puffy, and sweaty. I also recommend taking a comprehensive vitamin and mineral supplement every day. It's interesting that the more sophisticated we get, the more apparent (it is) that nutrition is really simple.

Just this week, an article was published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, in which the author (Ruth Patterson) suggested at the end of the article that if we just focus on minimally processed fresh foods, go heavy on fruits and veggies, and light on fats and salt, you can't really go wrong. So, again, it's all common sense, portion control, staying high on the food energy ladder. I also want to mention how important it is to feel good about oneself... because it all comes down to the only reason people will change, and take better care of themselves, is by developing more self-esteem and reverence for life.

CNN Chat Moderator: Thank you for joining us today, Dr. Taub!

Dr. Taub: Thank you!

Dr. Edward Taub joined the chat via telephone from Dana Point, California. CNN provided a typist. The above is an edited transcript of the interview, which took place on Friday, January 5, 2001.

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