Nutrition Action Healthletter
January/February 2002 - U.S. Edition
News from CSPI

Cutting Cholesterol in Kalamazoo
Michael Jacobson, Executive Director, CSPI

Memo from MFJ

Bypass surgery. Angioplasty. Drugs. There’s got to be a better way to prevent and treat heart disease, diabetes, and other diet-related illnesses.

    As a society, we do little to encourage people to stay healthy by eating a good diet and exercising. The typical effort—ineffective lessons in schools, occasional public-service messages on television, and random newspaper articles or TV shows—pales in comparison to the billions of dollars that makers of junk food, alcohol, and tobacco spend every year to push lifestyles that cause disease. And our mechanized, TV-saturated, information-age culture keeps people in the recliner, desk chair, or car while their muscles and metabolism crumble.

    But we needn’t throw in the towel. Education can have a real impact, as at least three programs have demonstrated.

.The Center for Science in the Public Interest (which publishes Nutrition Action Healthletter) has sponsored campaigns to encourage entire communities to drink lower-fat milk. With hard-hitting paid radio and TV spots urging people to “Switch to 1% Or Less,” the market share of low-fat or fat-free milk as much as doubled in towns like Clarksburg and Wheeling, West Virginia. And the changes were still evident a year later.

.Once people develop severe heart disease, surgery has been the norm. But first Nathan Pritikin, and then Dean Ornish, proved that lentils can be as effective as surgery. Residential treatment centers run by Ornish and others have shown that people with advanced coronary disease (and diabetes, obesity, or hypertension) are willing to make radical changes in diet and exercise that can eliminate the need for surgery and many drugs, even if it costs thousands of dollars a month.

.California-based “lifestyle-interventionist” Hans Diehl has helped people avoid diet-related diseases by sponsoring special educational programs in cities like Rockford, Illinois; Kalamazoo, Michigan; and Cornwall, Ontario. Several hundred people at a time attend a four-week, 32-hour intensive program on eating, cooking, shopping, and exercise. On average, men lose eight pounds and women lose six pounds, blood pressure falls by several points, and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol drops by 16 percent in the men and eight percent in the women.

    Ornish, Diehl, and CSPI have shown that if the right message is delivered well, people will respond. I know how important it is to deal with bioterrorism, but we also need to prod the government to make a major investment in diet and exercise campaigns. If you agree, please print and fill out the coupon below, or fill out our online coupon which will be emailed to Secretary Thompson. Thank you.

Mike Jacobson
Michael F. Jacobson
Executive Director
Center for Science in the Public Interest


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