Diet en Food for thought <div class="field field--name-field-letter-box-story-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/story/images/18Summer_Demanski_Food-for-Thought.jpg" width="2000" height="1000" alt="Food for thought" title="Food for thought" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/profile/admin" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">admin</span></span> <span>Thu, 08/09/2018 - 18:19</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>“What the University really honed was a way to think,” Kass says. “It’s only with those tools that I could have gone from the kitchen to writing food policy.” (Photography by Aliza Eliazarov)</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/laura-demanski-am94"> <a href="/author/laura-demanski-am94"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Laura Demanski, AM’94</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/university-chicago-magazine" hreflang="en">The University of Chicago Magazine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item">Summer/18</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Former White House chef Sam Kass, LAB’98, AB’04, is serving up new recipes and improvements to food policy. Plus: Kass’s recipe for brussels sprouts Caesar salad.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>The Secret Service hates it when you run in the White House.” So begins <strong>Sam Kass</strong>’s <em>Eat a Little Better </em>(Clarkson Potter, 2018)—not your typical cookbook opening.</p> <p>But Kass, LAB’98, AB’04, would know, having served at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue from 2009 to 2014. Following years of restaurant work, he became the Obama family’s personal chef while Barack Obama was campaigning for president. After the 2009 inauguration, Kass continued cooking for the first family while also taking on the jobs of senior policy advisor for nutrition and executive director of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move public health campaign.</p> <p>The experience transformed Kass’s career, broadening his focus from the food on a plate to the food on our planet. On a global scale, he is a partner in Acre, a venture capital fund launched by Campbell Soup to invest in health-focused food start-ups, while his strategy firm Trove provides consulting to companies looking to lessen their negative impact on the environment and human health.</p> <p><em>Eat a Little Better</em>, published this spring, aims to do the same thing for what’s on your plate at home, creating a lower-pressure path to healthier eating, with recipes using everything from veggies to red meat and flexible cooking techniques. It also has tips on how to organize your kitchen, pantry, and refrigerator in ways that encourage better choices—for instance, getting your produce out of the crisper and putting it on an eye-level shelf where it will be the first thing you see when you open the door.</p> <p>The <em>Magazine</em> talked to Kass about his UChicago education, carving out a life in food, the book, and his own food loves. This interview has been edited and condensed.</p> <hr /><h2>What was it like growing up in the University neighborhood?</h2> <p>Hyde Park is one of the most diverse communities that I’ve ever known—diverse in all kinds of ways. It has the intellect, it’s the anchor of the University, it has different races and economic classes. And so it provides a pretty dynamic environment for kids to grow up in. I’ve maintained lifelong friends from the time I was a little kid, which I’ve come to find is actually quite rare. I remember playing baseball for Hyde Park- Kenwood, going to the Point. It’s just a great place to grow up.</p> <h2>You transferred to the College from a community college where you’d enrolled for baseball. What was it like coming back?</h2> <p>I went to the Laboratory Schools and my aunt and uncle [Amy Kass, AB’62, and <strong>Leon Kass</strong>, LAB’54, SB’58, MD’62] were on the UChicago faculty. So I had a pretty decent sense of what the University was like. But it was a bit of a shock when the coach told me that we don’t practice on Thursdays because that’s science lab day. I hadn’t really been used to that. And the caliber of the students took some getting used to. But I think it’s the single best decision I ever made, besides marrying my wife.</p> <p>What told me that [the College] had really done its job was that I felt like I was prepared to go to college when I graduated—I was sort of wishing that I could do it again, now that I’d been given the skills of thinking and writing in the way that I had.</p> <h2>Your culinary career traces back to a quarter studying abroad in Vienna. How did that happen?</h2> <p>I had one quarter left and enough credits because of my transfer. I applied to all three of the abroad programs, and I got waitlisted for all of them. I ended up marching into the office of the dean of the study abroad program and got into a heated discussion with him.</p> <p>I knew how badly I wanted to get out and see the world. I knew that I was going to make the most of the experience, maybe more than students who had better grades than me, and probably stronger applications.</p> <p>So, long story short, a few weeks later I got accepted into the Vienna program. And on my third day there I got connected to the sous chef of a Vienna restaurant, who ended up giving me all my training and teaching me everything I know.</p> <p>I had worked one summer in a restaurant in Chicago while I was in college, so I said to the head of the program, I’m interested in food, maybe I could get into a pastry shop once a week just to learn about it. She came back and said something like, “My husband’s uncle’s friend from college’s son rides bicycles with the sous chef of the best restaurant in Vienna. If you’re interested, he’d be willing to meet with you.”</p> <p>If it weren’t for that completely random and lucky moment, none of this stuff would have happened.</p> <h2>What was the best part about being the White House chef?</h2> <p>I don’t even know how to pick. It was great. I was cooking for the most important family in the world. I was also doing policy work, like the Let’s Move campaign. It was the greatest time I had in my life, and the best job in the world. Working with the First Lady, growing the garden—everything was spectacular.</p> <h2>If you could build US food policy from the ground up, what would you do first?</h2> <p>I would invest $10 billion in research. We are dramatically underinvested in this area. And I would work to align our policy toward human health and environmental health. Right now we have agricultural policy on one hand and health policy on the other. They’re not aligned, and we’re not growing food based on what’s best for people—and we’re definitely not taking into consideration the impact on the environment and the role of climate change when it comes to crafting our policy. Globally, food agriculture is the number two driver of greenhouse gas emissions and within the next few decades will be number one. So we’re going to have to take some much more aggressive steps.</p> <h2>Your book puts forth the idea of eating a <em>little</em> better, making small changes that add up. How does that work?</h2> <p>A lot of the voices on better eating espouse utopic ideals of how we’re supposed to eat and frame it as, there’s a right way and a wrong way. It just doesn’t fit with people’s daily lives. People try to reach these ideals, then they fail, then they get discouraged, then they stop trying. If we want people to actually make changes, it has to be done in a way that fits their reality. So the book tries to focus on and celebrate progress more than ideals.</p> <h2>What experts say is good for us and bad for us seems to change a lot. How should people navigate conflicting studies on eating and health?</h2> <p>My advice would be, don’t listen to it. Just try to focus on eating mostly plants, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, some nice lean protein. And on not eating too much. We can’t just react to the latest study because you’re going to go back and forth like a ping-pong ball. Keep it simple. Part of the trick is not to get too obsessed with food either. Take a deep breath and relax a little bit. It’s going to be OK. Let’s just make some progress and build from there. That’s the approach.</p> <h2>Can you share a few key tips from the book for starting to make that progress?</h2> <p>Make sure your house is set up with the things you’re trying to eat and not a bunch of the things you’re not. What you have in the house and where you position it has a big influence on what you end up consuming. And try to cook one more time a week than you already do.</p> <h2>What’s your typical breakfast?</h2> <p>I’ll quickly make myself an omelet. I know that sounds like a whole thing, but it really takes me like 30 seconds. Actually it’s a quick challenge because making a perfect omelet is not an easy thing. Sometimes I’ll have a little salmon with it and a cup of coffee with half-and-half.</p> <h2>You’re a realist about how people eat, so what’s your own favorite guilty food pleasure?</h2> <p>I can’t say no to a buffalo wing, and I’m pretty much down for ice cream no matter what.</p> <hr /><div class="story-inline-img"> <figure role="group"><img alt="Brussels sprouts Caesar salad" data-entity-type="file" data-entity-uuid="cb55e10a-945d-4ae8-8702-201b11c55411" src="/sites/default/files/inline-images/18Summer_Demanski_Food-for-Thought_SpotA.jpg" /><figcaption>(Photograph copyright © 2017 by Aubrie Pick)</figcaption></figure></div> <h2><strong>Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad</strong></h2> <h4>From <em>Eat a Little Better</em></h4> <p><em>Serves 6 to 8 / Active time: 20 minutes / Start to finish: 20 minutes</em></p> <p>I wish I could say I came up with the idea of swapping out the romaine in the classic Caesar, because there’s a reason you now see kale and brussels sprouts coated in creamy, bright, anchovy-spiked dressing at restaurants from Brooklyn to Boise. These vegetables deliver flavor instead of just crunch, not to mention more nutrition. I particularly like to use brussels sprouts, thinly sliced so they grab on tight to that I-want-to-eat-this-forever dressing. Baby spinach leaves, very thinly sliced kale, or a crunchy combination of thinly sliced celery and radishes are also great to use here instead of the sprouts.</p> <h3>Ingredients</h3> <p>4 thick slices crusty bread<br /> ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil<br /> 1 or 2 oil-packed anchovy fillets, finely chopped<br /> 1 garlic clove, finely chopped<br /> Kosher salt<br /> 1 large egg yolk<br /> 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice<br /> 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard<br /> Freshly ground black pepper<br /> 2 pounds brussels sprouts, bottoms trimmed, halved lengthwise, very thinly sliced<br /> Big handful finely grated Parmesan cheese<br /> 12 vinegared white anchovy fillets, often labeled “boquerones” (optional)</p> <ol><li>Drizzle both sides of the bread slices with about ¼ cup of the oil, then toast in a toaster oven or 400°F oven, flipping once, until golden on both sides, 5 to 8 minutes. Cut them into 1-inch pieces.</li> <li>Use a fork to mash the anchovy, garlic, and a pinch of salt to a paste. Scrape the paste into a large bowl. Add the egg yolk, lemon juice, mustard, and stir well. Then while whisking, add the remaining ¼ cup oil in a thin, steady stream and keep whisking until creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.</li> <li>Add the brussels sprouts to the bowl, toss with the dressing to coat well, and season with more salt to taste. Scatter the bread and cheese on top and, if you’ve got them, add the white anchovies.</li> </ol><hr /><p><em>Reprinted from</em> Eat a Little Better<em>. Copyright © 2018 by Sam Kass. Photograph copyright © 2017 by Aubrie Pick. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of </em><em>Renguin</em><em> Random House, </em><em>LLC</em><em>.</em></p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/law-policy-society" hreflang="en">Law, Policy &amp; Society</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/food" hreflang="en">Food</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/diet" hreflang="en">Diet</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refformats field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/formats/glimpses" hreflang="en">Glimpses</a></div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="" data-a2a-title="Food for thought"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href=";title=Food%20for%20thought"></a></span> Thu, 09 Aug 2018 23:19:48 +0000 admin 6971 at Eating habits <div class="field field--name-field-letter-box-story-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/1507_Gibson_Eating-habits.png" width="700" height="325" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/profile/jmiller" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">jmiller</span></span> <span>Thu, 07/16/2015 - 13:29</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Long before today’s obesity worries, refined sugar was a culinary taboo. (©</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/lydialyle-gibson"> <a href="/author/lydialyle-gibson"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Lydialyle Gibson</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/university-chicago-magazine" hreflang="en">The University of Chicago Magazine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item">July–Aug/15</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>A religion professor parses the moral language of modern diets.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>This is how Americans talk about food: as sinful or guilt-free, decadent or wholesome, artificial or pure. Natural and unnatural. Good and bad. The modern American terminology around nutrition, says <a href="" target="_blank">Alan Levinovitz</a>, AM’07, PhD’12, is often more philosophical and religious than scientific. And our dietary credos—<a href="" target="_blank">Atkins</a>, paleo, gluten-free, low salt, no fat, macrobiotic, raw—can function like faiths, preaching dogma, promising redemption, requiring devotion.</p> <p>Which explains how Levinovitz, a <a href="" target="_blank">Divinity School</a> alumnus who teaches philosophy and religion at <a href="" target="_blank">James Madison University</a> in <a href="" target="_blank">Virginia</a>, came to write a book on food. In <em><a href="" target="_blank">The Gluten Lie</a></em> (<a href="" target="_blank">Regan Arts</a>, 2015), he explores why so much fear and moralizing surrounds nutrition, why we tend to demonize certain foods and deify others. Combing through decades and centuries, he unearths the social, cultural, and scientific—or pseudoscientific—histories of contemporary eating taboos.</p> <p>In the United States, these taboos are partly the inheritance of our Puritan founding. For instance: sugar. “We eat too much sugar, period,” he says. “But is sugar uniquely evil? We’ve said so, shockingly, for the last 200, 300 years.” Long before obesity or diabetes entered the popular lexicon, refined sugar was already under suspicion. In the 1700s, it was guilty because pleasure was sinful. Later, temperance advocates argued that sugar would lead to alcoholism and sexual promiscuity. “They were afraid women and children would engage in what they called the ‘solitary vice’ if they ate too much sugar,” Levinovitz says.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Levinovitz notes, honey and fruit have enjoyed a “halo” of healthfulness and natural simplicity—unprocessed, unrefined. In his 1852 <em><a href="" target="_blank">Comparative Physiognomy</a></em>, physician James Redfield labeled animals that eat honey as courageous and careful—the honeybee, the hummingbird, and the bear—while the fly and the ant, which eat sugar, were unvirtuous in Redfield’s telling. That dichotomy remains ingrained to this day, Levinovitz writes, even though honey is higher in fructose than high-fructose corn syrup. And despite the fact that, as one endocrinologist and diabetes expert told Levinovitz, the only definitively established metabolic difference between fruit and candy is that “it’s a lot easier to eat tons of candy than it is to eat tons of apples.”</p> <p>A Stanford undergrad, Levinovitz went to college intending to become a bioethicist. “I realized what I was really interested in was ethics,” he says. “And then I realized that I was <em>really</em> interested in the way stories play a role in ethics.” In his philosophy classes, arguments rested on logic and evidence; in his religion classes, “you could use a story to make an argument.”</p> <p>Levinovitz followed up with a PhD in the Divinity School’s religion and literature program, focusing on Chinese texts and studying the role that stories and narratives play in the formation of “beliefs that are sacred to human beings.” He found himself asking questions like: What’s the difference between telling a story and making an argument? Or giving a command? “Those are different genres we use to make a public or a person believe something,” he says. “I’m fascinated by the ways those genres are mutually interdependent on a cultural level, and how we ought to think about them when we’re communicating truths, scientific or otherwise.”</p> <p>He stumbled on a concrete connection between his religion research and food while studying in China in the early 2000s. Back then many Americans were assiduously avoiding monosodium glutamate, believing it caused migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, joint pain, chronic disease, and a swarm of other maladies. Chinese restaurants in the United States posted signs promising “No MSG.” But in China, Levinovitz discovered, MSG—or <em>weijing</em> (“flavor essence”)—was everywhere, and the locals weren’t worried. Over there, he writes, MSG was “a sodium salt first extracted from seaweed by Japanese scientists in 1908, and a staple seasoning in the cuisine of long-lived East Asians.”</p> <p>In the book, Levinovitz traces the history of America’s MSG scare: its origins in a 1968 letter in the <em><a href="" target="_blank">New England Journal of Medicine</a></em> titled “Chinese-Restaurant Syndrome,” the ensuing decades of snowballing fear, the repeated debunkings, and finally the present-day consensus among food allergy experts that no such syndrome really exists. Yet the belief in MSG sensitivity lives on. Why? The answer is complicated, Levinovitz says, but partly it has to do with a “common and convincing myth” that helped popularize it in the first place: “The products of technology and modernity are inherently dangerous.”</p> <p>A version of that myth is what underlies food regimens like the paleolithic diet, which promise a return to a past human paradise—if not the Garden of Eden, then a prehistoric evolutionary Elysium. Another iteration of the myth, Levinovitz writes, is “the argument from antiquity,” which romanticizes wisdom from the ancient past—often the ancient Far East—and mines it for modern-day truths. Yet another version: the myth of the noble savage. The 1977 salt guidelines issued by the <a href="" target="_blank">US Senate Select Committee</a> were largely inspired, Levinovitz writes, by one scientist’s belief that ancient peoples uncorrupted by civilization kept their hearts healthy with a low-salt diet.</p> <p>But people need stories and myths. Narratives shape our existence and can’t help but inform our decisions. “We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Joan Didion wrote, and Levinovitz has spent his academic career plumbing the reality of that statement. “We’re very convinced that if we just show people the truth, if we just show people facts, they’ll believe it,” he says. “That’s not true, right? Those facts end up getting conveyed in narrative form.” And people tend to fit the evidence they’re seeing to stories they already believe.</p> <p>That’s true when it comes to food. Science gets wrapped around preexisting beliefs and seen through the lens of long-standing religious and moral ideas. In contemporary fears about genetically modified foods (GMOs), Levinovitz sees a biblical story of good and evil, in which agribusiness behemoth <a href="" target="_blank">Monsanto</a> is the devil and those who fight it are righteous crusaders. “Why are people wary of GMOs?” Levinovitz asks. “Why are people scared of vaccines? Why are people excited about artificial intelligence? All these questions I think can be nuanced by looking at the stories we tell.”</p> <p>Biblical, puritanical thinking also explains the absolutist approach of many contemporary diets. The idea is, if something is unhealthy enough—impure enough—to be curtailed, then wouldn’t it be even better to avoid it altogether? “The government will say, ‘We never told people not to eat fat,’” Levinovitz says. “But any humanist, anyone who understands rhetoric, will say, ‘Well, there’s this danger: if you tell people to limit something, they’ll think it’s bad and unclean, and they’ll cut it out.’”</p> <p>As a solution, Levinovitz advocates an approach to reporting science that takes lessons from the humanities into account. “Scientists need to be able to point out when we’re using a narrative to get away from science,” he says. They need to be able to recontextualize and communicate information using equally compelling, and more accurate, narratives. “Science needs to recognize the importance of stories in communicating a truth to people. There’s no such thing as a naked fact, really.”</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/law-policy-society" hreflang="en">Law, Policy &amp; Society</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/food" hreflang="en">Food</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/food-culture" hreflang="en">Food culture</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/nutrition" hreflang="en">Nutrition</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/diet" hreflang="en">Diet</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/gmos" hreflang="en">GMOs</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/philosophy" hreflang="en">Philosophy</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/sugar" hreflang="en">Sugar</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/salt" hreflang="en">Salt</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/communication" hreflang="en">Communication</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/rhetoric" hreflang="en">Rhetoric</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/us-government" hreflang="en">US government</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/decision-making" hreflang="en">Decision making</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refuchicago field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/divinity-school" hreflang="en">Divinity School</a></div> </div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="" data-a2a-title="Eating habits"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href=";title=Eating%20habits"></a></span> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 18:29:30 +0000 jmiller 4861 at Heal thyself <div class="field field--name-field-letter-box-story-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/1502_Kelly_Heal-thyself.png" width="700" height="325" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/profile/rsmith" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">rsmith</span></span> <span>Tue, 12/23/2014 - 13:01</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>(Illustration by Brian Love)</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/jason-kelly"> <a href="/author/jason-kelly"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Jason Kelly</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/university-chicago-magazine" hreflang="en">The University of Chicago Magazine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item">Jan–Feb/15</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>The president of the American College of Cardiology advocates a plant-based diet as part of shifting heart disease treatment from “event” to “prevent” focused.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Cardiologist <a href=";setsize=10&amp;pict_id=2680475" target="_blank">Kim Williams</a>, AB’75, MD’79, admits he’s an extreme case. When research indicts certain dietary choices as health risks, he cuts out any offending foods without a pang.</p> <p>Last year, for example, a large trial linked sugar consumption to cardiovascular mortality. “My tea was an excuse to have sugar,” Williams says, but he eliminated it immediately, gladly accepting more bitterness in exchange for peace of mind. It doesn’t taste as good, but “on a comfort level, I very much more enjoy it.” Green tea improves memory, he notes, and now he sips it without the risk associated with increasing his blood sugar.</p> <p>Williams also goes easy on ketchup that contains high fructose corn syrup, which he once enjoyed as a source of prostate-protecting lycopene. “I’ll use a dollop of ketchup here and there,” he says, “but not much.”</p> <p>Those are minor modifications compared to the shift Williams made more than a decade ago after a blood test revealed a high level of LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol. Not long before that, he had seen dramatic improvement in a patient with cardiovascular disease who had adopted a plant-based diet. Impressed, and a little surprised, by the progress the woman made—she also adhered to an exercise and meditation regimen—he decided to try the diet for himself.</p> <p>Williams, a professor and clinician at <a href="" target="_blank">Rush University Medical Center</a> in Chicago, had no trace of heart disease, just the one risk factor. He already avoided fried foods and favored skinless chicken over red meat. Many people in his position would have perceived little room to improve how they ate, or wouldn’t have felt the motivation to try.</p> <p>Outlier that he is, when he received the news of his cholesterol level, Williams gave up eating all animal products “that day.” In less than two months, his bad cholesterol level plummeted from a risky 170 to 90, comfortably within the range considered optimal.</p> <p>Since then Williams has eaten no animal products—no meat, no fish, no eggs, no dairy. Unlike those who find enjoyment or comfort even in foods they know are unhealthy, Williams takes solace in the belief that, with each bite, he’s doing no harm. “I don’t mind dying,” he says, “I just don’t want it to be my fault.”</p> <p>When advising patients on diet, Williams does not expect them to share his mind-set. He’s sensitive to the truth embedded in the exaggeration that some people would rather die than give up foods they love. Instead of hectoring, he probes for a particular hook that could alter risky behavior.</p> <p>Maybe it’s the promise of fewer pills to manage high blood pressure or diabetes. Maybe it’s a reduced risk of cancer. “We really can move the needle by just finding out where they are along that risk-averse versus enjoyment spectrum,” he says. “I think that’s one of the most important things we are lacking. Not every prescription or every diet is going to work for every person.”</p> <p>Genetics also contributes to the effect of dietary changes on risk factors such as cholesterol level. Nevertheless, Williams remains a vocal advocate of plant-based eating to prevent and even reverse cardiovascular disease.</p> <p>His diet is often called vegan, although he avoids the term because of its moral implications. For many, the choice is an ethical issue. Williams’s motivation is purely medical.</p> <p>But that does not make his position uncontroversial.</p> <p><strong>Few physicians go as far as Williams does</strong> in promoting a diet free of animal products, but he’s no fringe figure. In 2015 he’s serving as president of the <a href="" target="_blank">American College of Cardiology</a>.</p> <p>From that perch, he thinks big and his voice carries. Williams acknowledges that in his single year as president he will not be able to lead the organization to a milestone he covets: dislodging heart disease from its perch as the No. 1 killer of Americans.</p> <p>Demoting heart disease from the position it has held since the 1918 flu pandemic is within reach, he insists, perhaps within three years. “It’s going to happen.”</p> <p>Medicine has made dramatic inroads in reducing cardiac-related deaths. Statins have been revolutionary cholesterol-lowering drugs. Bypass surgery, balloon angioplasty, and nuclear heart scans have made life-saving progress during Williams’s career.</p> <p>He jokes that nuclear scans have been especially important. “Jokes” because he’s a founding member and past president of the <a href="" target="_blank">American Society of Nuclear Cardiology</a>, and he leavens his professional pride with a wry awareness of his personal bias.</p> <p>There’s another reason Williams avoids heaping too much praise on such medical advances. While they have all contributed to real improvement—a 50 percent decline in cardiovascular mortality over the past three decades—the progress is partial. “We have become really good,” Williams says, “at treating complications.” That is, saving the lives of heart attack and stroke victims and identifying cardiovascular disease earlier.</p> <p>Preventing the underlying problems that cause these life-threatening health crises has proven a much more stubborn challenge. Cardiovascular disease remains the preeminent health menace, maintaining its top ranking despite everything medical science has marshaled against it. Like nuclear scans. “Diagnostic testing has improved our ability to identify patients with disease and approach them earlier,” Williams says. “But in order to flunk a nuclear test you already have to have disease, though, so we’re not getting ahead of the game by doing this.”</p> <p>A conference presenter once illustrated the point with a memorable slide. In a cartoon, two doctors mopped up a flooded floor around an overflowing bathtub, Williams recalls, but the water was still running. “That’s essentially what we’re doing.”</p> <p>Diet and lifestyle issues, along with insufficient care in underserved communities, keep the spigot open. To turn the water off, Williams wants to shift cardiology from “event-driven” to “prevent-driven” treatment.</p> <p>When it comes to how people eat, though, an ounce of prevention can feel like a heavy burden.</p> <p><strong>Williams detailed his individual improvement after adopting a plant-based diet</strong> in a <a href="" target="_blank">guest blog post</a> this past July for <em>MedPage Today</em>, a news and continuing education website for physicians and other health care workers. He described the patient’s progress that inspired his personal experiment with plant-based eating, the research that undergirds his advocacy over the past decade, and his wish for widespread improvements in diet and exercise habits to revolutionize heart health.</p> <p>Reactions were extreme. “Vilification and canonization,” Williams says. <a href="" target="_blank">Matthew Sorrentino</a>, MD’84, a UChicago professor of medicine and a preventive cardiologist, has a more measured perspective. “The important thing is to recognize that there are multiple dietary approaches,” he says. “Kim’s been talking about a vegan or a vegetarian diet. For the right person, there’s nothing wrong with that type of diet.”</p> <p>The <a href="" target="_blank">American Heart Association</a>’s recommended diet, Sorrentino notes, includes high levels of fruits and vegetables, and whole foods over processed. But it does not eliminate animal protein and suggests that fat make up 25 to 35 percent of nutrients. “It’s not a low-fat diet,” he says, “but it’s a low saturated-fat diet.” And the Mediterranean diet has also been shown to be effective in reducing heart disease. Most doctors, including Williams, call for more research to establish the benefits of plant-based eating.</p> <p>In response to the tide of comments on Williams’s blog, <em>MedPage Today</em> sought the perspective of <a href="" target="_blank">Dean Ornish</a>, clinical professor of medicine at the <a href="" target="_blank">University of California</a>, San Francisco, and founder of the <a href="" target="_blank">Preventive Medicine Research Institute</a>. Ornish is perhaps the best-known doctor touting the preventive and healing power of a plant-based diet.</p> <p>Praising Williams’s “courage and leadership” in raising the issue, Ornish emphasized the impact of what he calls lifestyle medicine. “We tend to think of advances in medicine as a new drug, laser, or surgical device, something high-tech and expensive,” Ornish wrote. “Yet, the simple choices we make in what we eat and how we live have a powerful influence on our health and well-being.”</p> <p>Ornish’s program fuses exercise, stress management, and social support with a plant-based diet. Sorrentino also notes that diet, although essential to heart health, is just one facet of disease prevention. A person’s weight, smoking or drinking habits, and exercise levels also play an important role. “As a matter of fact,” Sorrentino says, “most studies will suggest that a cardiovascular exercise program will give you greater risk reduction than any change in diet.”</p> <p>The dietary changes Williams advocates can be daunting and confusing for patients. He mentions no brand names in public, but “in the privacy of the clinic room, I’ll show them the things that I’m buying and where they can get it,” Williams says. “If you tell people to change their diet and they don’t know how, it’s not going to help very much.”</p> <p>In underserved communities, in particular, many people don’t know how to help themselves. They lack access to preventive care—and the counsel that comes with it—and affordable, healthy foods. For Williams, who grew up in such a community on Chicago’s South Side, rectifying those circumstances would be another crucial nudge toward making cardiovascular disease No. 2.</p> <p>To do that, though, requires bringing medical care directly to the people who need it most. “For example, going into churches and instituting heart programs,” Williams says, “where we measure lipids, blood pressure, and hemoglobin A1C to check for diabetes. We need to be able to do more of that and find people early.”</p> <p>Too many first encounters with patients are in the clinic after untreated—often even undiagnosed—diabetes or high blood pressure leads to a cardiac event. “If the first manifestation of high blood pressure is presenting with a stroke,” he says, “then we’ve failed.”</p> <p>Even with access to medical care and healthy food, Williams finds that, for many people, dietary choices are deeply rooted, almost religious. Others feel, like he did before his cholesterol wake-up call, that they make reasonably healthy choices and have little incentive to change. Some shrug and say they eat like their parents did, Williams says, “without connecting the dots that their parents actually died of heart disease more than 50 percent of the time.”</p> <p>He sees increased awareness that a typical American diet can lead to a surgical suite and an intensifying interest in avoiding that fate. But few people have his aversion to food-borne health risks or commitment to immediate diet modification. Tradition and temptation remain huge obstacles.</p> <p>“Our culture defines good food or healthy food in a certain way that has led very much to the epidemic of heart disease. We have to redefine marketing in a more healthy way,” Williams says. “We have to find other mechanisms in life to provide comfort rather than calories. Until we make those changes, we’re going to have one epidemic after another—obesity, diabetes, …”</p> <p>Instead of feverishly mopping up the overflow, though, Williams approaches his American College of Cardiology presidency and his interactions with patients as opportunities to tap into people’s latent interest in prevention before it’s too late.</p> <p>“Our job is to try and capture more of the population,” he says, “so that it makes it easier to get people to take care of themselves.”</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/science-medicine" hreflang="en">Science &amp; Medicine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/health-care" hreflang="en">Health Care</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/diet" hreflang="en">Diet</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/heart-disease" hreflang="en">Heart Disease</a></div> </div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="" data-a2a-title="Heal thyself"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href=";title=Heal%20thyself"></a></span> Tue, 23 Dec 2014 19:01:20 +0000 rsmith 4297 at Retrofitted <div class="field field--name-field-letter-box-story-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/1401_Zulkey_Retrofitted_0.png" width="700" height="325" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/profile/jmiller" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">jmiller</span></span> <span>Thu, 01/30/2014 - 14:35</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item">(Photo courtesy Retrofit Inc.)</div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/claire-zulkey"> <a href="/author/claire-zulkey"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Claire Zulkey</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/web-exclusives" hreflang="en">Web exclusives</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item"><p>01.31.2014</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item">Kimberly Williams, MBA’92, isn’t just the COO: she’s also a client.</div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item">Chicagoans are still wrapped in their ubiquitous puffy black parkas, but it’s only a matter of weeks before magazines encouraging women to cultivate their “bikini bodies” hit the shelves. Americans throw a lot of money at weight loss schemes ranging from the draconian (the <a href="" target="_blank">Master Cleanse</a>) to the ridiculous (the <a href="" target="_blank">Cookie Diet</a>). Chicago company <a href="" target="_blank">Retrofit</a> aims to help clients lose weight in a more rational way, through a series of private consultations with nutritionists, personal trainers, and therapists, while keeping them accountable via devices like wireless activity trackers and smart scales. I spoke with Kimberly Williams, MBA’92, the company’s chief operating officer, about the company culture and how being a client (she has lost almost 60 pounds since joining the program) made her want to join the team.   <strong>Does the company see a surge of new clients come January?</strong> We do see an uptick in sign-ups, starting around December 28. It’s a time of year when people focus on their weight and reenergize around their goals. It’s a busy time in weight loss, even for our existing clients. During the holidays, children are home from college or off school, our clients are traveling, or they have relatives visiting. They get out of their own structure and so they refocus in January. Maybe they didn’t lose any weight, and so they’re like “Okay, I want to get back at it.” <strong>Is there a reason why Retrofit doesn’t use any celebrity endorsements the way Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers do?</strong> We really pride ourselves on confidentiality. The people who see your results are your team. It’s a very personal and private program. But if our famous clients wanted to speak out on it more broadly, we’d welcome that opportunity. <strong>Retrofit has recently branched out into corporate wellness. Have you been on the other end of that in your professional life?</strong> I worked at McDonald’s prior to this, which has a very active wellness program. They have a dietitian counseling their employees, and they take yoga or walk breaks for exercise. Despite the brand that McDonald’s sometimes has as it relates to nutrition, they’re very focused on their employees, and they have a reasonably healthful workforce. <h5>[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"1128","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"360","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"460"}}]] Retrofit’s online dashboard. (Image courtesy Retrofit Inc.)</h5> <strong>Has your health changed since you joined Retrofit?</strong> It definitely has changed. I became a client before I joined the company, and it has been a magical program for me, and I wanted to bring it to as many people as I could. It reminds me of an old Remington commercial: “I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company.” I loved the company so much I took a position to work here. My health has continued to improve. People here don’t bring in birthday cake for people’s birthdays; they bring in fresh fruit from the market at Ogilvie [Transportation Center]. We take walking meetings. We all wear our Fitbit [trackers], and if we’ve been sitting around we say, “Hey, we only have 5,000 steps; we better get going!” <strong>What do clients seem to have the biggest trouble with when it comes to weight loss?</strong> There’s a ton of variability. For some clients, a big issue is consumption of alcohol, both for the caloric intake as well as how it decreases their focus. Maybe you just had a drink and then reach for some chips. We want our clients to enjoy life and have treats, so if they want to indulge and have alcohol, before they pour that first glass of wine, maybe have some fresh vegetables cut up and ready to eat. Another issue is time management, which is especially true for women who are caretakers to their children or their parents. Sometimes we go on progressions where it’s like, “Let’s get five minutes of ‘me time’ a day. How can you do that? Do you have a spouse who can watch the children?” You need that time to strategize when you’re going to go grocery shopping for the healthy foods. <strong>Are you wearing a Fitbit right now? How many steps have you taken today?</strong> It’s charging at the moment. I wear it pretty religiously; it’s like it’s become embedded in me. I panic if I don’t have it. Today has not been really high: I’ve done 3,200 steps, because I do strength training on Tuesdays. What I try to do is go for a walk at lunchtime and then a walk in the evening.</div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/economics-business" hreflang="en">Economics &amp; Business</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/health-care" hreflang="en">Health Care</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/diet" hreflang="en">Diet</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/fitness" hreflang="en">Fitness</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/nutrition" hreflang="en">Nutrition</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/weight-loss" hreflang="en">Weight Loss</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refformats field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/formats/interview" hreflang="en">Interview</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-relatedstories field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item">“<a href="" target="_blank">Happy Is Healthy</a>” (<em>University of Chicago Magazine</em>, Sept–Oct/10) “<a href="" target="_blank">Fat Free</a>” (<em>University of Chicago Magazine</em>, Apr/05)</div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="" data-a2a-title="Retrofitted"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href=";title=Retrofitted"></a></span> Thu, 30 Jan 2014 20:35:00 +0000 jmiller 2797 at