Challenging Seven Nutrition Myths

The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes has more than tripled in the last generation.

Dittos for obesity.

Alzheimer’s disease was unknown a century ago, and now almost every family has had a loved one affected.

Cardiovascular disease is still the #1 killer of men and women, although cancer is fighting for supremacy.

All of these are related to metabolic syndrome, and almost nine of ten Americans either already have it or have at least one marker of metabolic ill health.

It’s certainly NOT a genetic problem. Our gene pool could not have changed that much in a generation.

This raises two possibilities:

  1. Americans are systematically and overwhelmingly ignoring the health and dietary advice of their doctors, the government health agencies and the health care establishment. They just don’t care or totally lack self-control. Or
  2. The conventional advice they’ve been getting, and which they’ve mostly tried to follow, is wrong or at least less than optimal. It doesn’t work.

In the video below one of my Health Sherpas, Dr. Zoe Harcombe, whose Ph.D. examined the evidence for dietary fat guidelines and found it lacking, outlines seven tenets of conventional dietary wisdom:

  1. A pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories.
  2. Creating a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories will produce a pound of fat loss.
  3. Animal fat is saturated and plant fat is unsaturated.
  4. Saturated fat causes heart disease.
  5. Cholesterol causes cardiovascular disease.
  6. Whole grains are healthy.
  7. Getting five servings of fruit and vegetable per day is essential to health.

Her conclusion:

Watch it for yourself, and then go to her website where you can see that she has the evidence to back her assertions. She’s got the receipts.

This is simultaneously maddening (because we’ve been given such bad conventional “wisdom” for more than four decades) and also extremely encouraging news, because it points to the possibility of a more enjoyable and healthier way to live.

As Lisa and I have been on our health journey over the last several years, we’ve reclaimed and restored our health and vitality by taking a path that would be much more familiar to our ancestors than what is currently recommended by the dietary establishment.

We’ve been coaching friends in these same changes for about the last 10 months, and they’ve seen great results too.

I retired from Mayo Clinic last month mainly because I wanted to start a third career, launching a new venture.

We’re joining with a friend (and my high school classmate) who has 30 years of experience as a family physician and a long-term interest in metabolic syndrome.

We’ll be providing information and education people can apply to improve their health through diet and lifestyle modifications, along with an online community and coaching support to help our members make these changes.

We plan to announce details in the coming weeks. If you’re interested in being one of our early members send me an email and I’ll be in touch to give you a preview.

Introducing the SHSMD Social Media Network

With my retirement from Mayo Clinic last month we decided that the time had come to sunset the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. I had envisioned and launched #MCSMN in 2011 as a connection hub and learning space about social media in health care for not only Mayo Clinic staff but also colleagues nationally and even worldwide.

All of the services were available to Mayo Clinic staff at no charge, while external members had both free and paid options. We also hosted annual conferences on health care social media, and even international conferences in Australia (Brisbane and Melbourne) and Dubai, United Arab Emirates and two virtual conferences with the Society for Health Care Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD).

We had a good run with #MCSMN and it aligned with Mayo Clinic’s history and values, but with my retirement it was time to reassess whether it should be a priority for my successor. Social networking and social media is important for health care organizations, but hosting an external social media network for health professionals isn’t exactly Mayo Clinic’s core business.

As a membership organization of the American Hospital Association, this IS very well aligned with the SHSMD mission.

Many members of #MCSMN expressed interest in having a space to stay connected, and so I’m glad to announce that SHSMD has established the SHSMD Social Media Network to meet this need.

I’m committing to participating regularly, and I hope you will join and help to create a vibrant and mutually supportive community.

How to Join

If you’re already a member of the broader SHSMD community it’s easy to join: just go here and once you’re logged in, click the Join Group button at the top.

Everyone who participated in the #MayoSHSHMD Virtual Conference this year already has a SHSMD membership!

For those who didn’t, SHSMD Executive Director Diane Weber has gotten the AHA IT team to create a mechanism so non-SHSMD members (even our international colleagues) can participate in this group within the SHSMD community too, but it takes a few additional steps.

If you’re not currently a member of SHSMD:

  1.  First set up a FREE account with the American Hospital Association (SHSMD is part of AHA) by clicking on Register/Login Button, then “Create an Account” at aha.org.

2.      Log in at shsmd.org using your new credentials.

3.      Click this link to sign up for the community.  It will seem like a checkout cart with $0 purchase.

Once you have completed those steps, go to the SHSMD – Social Media Network group and click the Join Group button.

I hope my health care colleagues with an interest in social media will take advantage of this opportunity to stay connected and continue growing together.

THIS is why I’m pursuing a third career

After 21 years working at Mayo Clinic, including starting Mayo’s social media programs and leading the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network with Dr. Farris Timimi for the last 11 years, I retired last Tuesday to pursue a third career.

My of counsel role with Jarrard, Inc. will give me a great opportunity to build on what I did at Mayo, and I’m very much looking forward to that work.

In my announcement I also mentioned that Lisa and I (with a physician friend) are launching a venture related to our health journey, and inviting those interested in being one of our early participants to help us formulate the program to send me an email so we can discuss.

I’ve received several inquiries and will be having follow-up conversations in the coming weeks, but one of the emails and our subsequent discussion captures the essence of why Lisa and I are compelled to pursue this work.

I’m sharing this anonymized exchange with permission.

M.L.: Hi Lee. I’ve been following your and Lisa’s health journey and your advice – like Lisa the menopause hormones thing hit me hard and going keto with intermittent fasting finally helps me – down 45 pounds with more to go, sticking with it at 56 … I have no interest in sharing photos or name yet… but in 6 months who knows? Would love to be in the loop on whatever you have planned.

L.A.: So great to hear from you! Your story is exactly why Lisa and I decided to share ours, because we think it’s really important for people to hear about low carb and IF. Yet we did it with a little trepidation because we didn’t want to go out there and talk about what we had been doing, only to relapse. As it turns out we’re both 10+ lbs. under where we were when we started telling the story 18 months ago, so we can confidently say this works long term.

So yes, we understand about not wanting to “go public.” We have another couple I profiled anonymously who are down 35 and 20 lbs. respectively, and they’re in the same boat, although he and his brother-in-law (down 34 lbs.) just did a Zoom interview with me (recorded) that we’ll be releasing soon. I’d love to talk with you about what we have planned. Maybe we could catch up by Zoom in the next week or so.

M.L. Knowing and trusting you as a person and as an information source were what made me try out your suggestions- and looking into it myself (with your suggested resources to start) convinced me to give it a serious shot – especially since all 4 of my brothers and my late parents struggled with both weight related type 2 diabetes and heart disease- and Dr. Fung’s information was very compelling!

I wish I’d known decades ago how much more important diet (including what and when you eat) is versus just working out more and eating less – so much wrong, guilt inducing, widespread info out there!

I’m very grateful you and Lisa decided to share (to be honest, her even more so than you, as the struggle to do everything right and losing so few pounds when your hormones have gone kablooie really resonated with me and gave me that little, well maybe it actually COULD work push. Would love to chat.

We ended up having that conversation Saturday morning, and learned that M.L had started following the #BodyBabySteps in March, so she’s lost 45 lbs. in just five months!

Her story validated both why we started sharing our health journey story on my blog and also why we’re wanting to devote as much of our time to this effort as we can as I move into Career #3.

I can’t think of many types of work that would be more fulfilling than helping people like M.L. get health results they didn’t think possible.

Most importantly, it was M.L. getting the results.

She checked out my Health Sherpas.

She explored what I was saying to see if it made scientific sense.

Then she made the changes in what and when she ate that led to these great results.

We’re excited that we get to cheer her on and provide more support from now on.

If you’d like to make similar changes and turn back the clock on your health, the #BodyBabySteps are a great place to start.

And if you’d like some additional help and support to encourage you along the way, that’s what our venture is about. We’d be delighted to discuss helping you more directly, too.

Recommended Reading: Sam Apple’s Ravenous

I just finished listening to the Audible version of Ravenous: Otto Warburg, the Nazis, and the Search for the Cancer-Diet Connection, by Sam Apple.

It’s a fascinating story of a brilliant Jewish scientist, Nobel Prize winner Otto Warburg, whose discovery of how cancer cells rely on fermentation because of damaged respiration faded into scientific oblivion until the recent resurgence of interest in metabolic theories of cancer.

It is unfortunate for humanity that Warburg’s key work was done in Germany before and during World War II. Perhaps if he had fled the Nazis as many of his contemporaries did, his theories may have had more impact decades earlier.

I highly recommend this book, and to get a taste of it here’s a CBS This Morning segment in which the author is interviewed:

Spoiler alert: Sugar, and particularly fructose, are the major villains because of the role they play in insulin resistance by increasing insulin levels in the blood, and keeping those levels continually elevated.

Many cancers have a strong association with obesity, but as Apple notes it is not likely that obesity causes cancer, but rather that both obesity and cancer have a common underlying cause.

The Metabolic Syndrome is not only implicated in increasing cancer rates, but also cardiovascular disease, which is the leading killer of both men and women.

That’s why the work Lisa and I are looking to do in helping people overcome poor metabolic health is so exciting to us: it isn’t just or even mainly about weight loss, as welcome as that would be for many people.

It’s about affecting health at a fundamental level.

To learn more about our metabolic health progress (we’ve each lost more than 50 lbs. and have become metabolically healthy), check out My Health Journey.

My #BodyBabySteps offers a condensed version of my basic recommendations. With a physician friend we’re developing a more comprehensive program that will include online education and community support, individual and group coaching and medical care as needed.

If you’re interested in being one of our early participants to help us formulate the venture, send me an email.

Through the Years at Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic staff have an identification photo taken on the first day of employment and an updated one every five years thereafter.

As I was preparing to retire I asked Julie, my assistant, to retrieve my staff photos from the archive. Here was my evolution from 2000-2008:

I added the facial hair in 2003 when Lisa and I took our six kids (and a nephew) on a two-week vacation to Washington, D.C. With no need to shave, I let I grow.

Lisa liked my goatee and mustache and still won’t let me get rid of them. They had a distinct reddish/orange tint back then.

For some reason I have an extra 2008 portrait. Perhaps Mayo was putting in a new system at the time.

Here are the 2010, 2015 and 2020 editions:

That last photo at right was taken in March 2020, just before we all began working from home.

As I finished my work at Mayo this week, here’s my updated photo in my new home office. I guess I’m a graybeard both in career experience and in physical reality.

I’m thankful to have at least some of my hair remaining.

And looking forward to interesting work in my third career.