Tue, Dec-22-20, 13:45
Is Lifelong Health Really Achievable in 21 Days?
We Speak To Best Selling Author Dr Aseem Malhotra On The Importance Of Lifestyle Medicine In The Fight Against Disease
THE science is clear. Those who are overweight are at a significantly higher risk of dying from Covid-19 than those who are not.
Studies have proven it, statistics have underlined it and Boris Johnson has even waged a war on it.
But while the UK’s issue with obesity has been an ongoing story throughout the Covid crisis, a clear guide on how we address it is yet to be seen from the powers that be.
There is one man, however, who says he has the answer.
Doctor Aseem Malhotra, a consultant cardiologist and one of the UK’s leading anti-obesity campaigners, claims that we can improve our immune system and protect ourselves against viruses like Covid-19 in just 21 days, by simply changing the way we EAT.
Which is exactly why we invited Dr Malhotra, whose new book “The 21 Day Immunity Plan” is already a best-seller, along to RWL studios. We had a chat about everything from how food can be the ultimate cure, to how the government has failed us at every hurdle.
To give this interview a bit of context, on the day we sit down with Dr Malhotra we are stationed two metres apart. We have not shaken each others hands, we have taken our temperatures on arrival and we have sanitised our hands at least three times in the last 20 minutes.
Our government seems more confused than we are about the best way of keeping it under control but when we put it to Malhotra and ask “what is the answer?” there isn’t a hint of hesitation or nervousness in his voice when he answers, “Prevention is the cure.”
It’s almost strange to get such a confident answer to a question that usually sees our Prime Minister mumble contradictory advice while Health Secretary Matt Hancock stumbles by replying “ermmm….follow the rules.”
But that is exactly what has made people sit up and listen to what this Doctor has got to say.
It is simple, evidence-based advice that not only can be achieved with little money, from the comfort of our own homes, without a trip to the doctors - it also makes perfect sense.
Diet and lifestyle are our ultimate miracle medicines.
Despite being a top professor for evidence-based medicine and one of the UK’s leading anti-obesity campaigners, Dr Malhotra admits his extensive knowledge of the power of a healthy diet did not come easy.
One day, in 2010, while working as a junior doctor, Dr Malhotra was making a stop on his ward to a male patient in his 40s who, the night before, had come into the hospital after suffering a heart attack.
Dr Malhotra had performed an emergency stenting operation to save the man’s life.
He says: “I was visiting his bedside to tell him that, to prevent having another heart attack in the future, he needed to take the pills I had prescribed him and make some serious changes to his lifestyle.
“At the exact moment, I was telling him that he needed to eat a healthy diet and cut out processed foods in order to lose weight and lower his cholesterol, his lunch arrived to his bed.
“A meal of burger and fries.
“He looked at me and said: “Dr, how do you expect me to change my diet when you are serving me the same c**p that brought me here in the first place.”
“At that moment I have to admit I was speechless.
“The rest of the day was like one big moment of lightbulbs going off.
“We were serving our patients junk food, nurses and doctors were being served junk food in the canteen and visitors could only buy junk food snacks from the vending machines around the hospitals.
“It’s like saving someone from a heart attack then immediately offering them a pack of cigarettes.
Ever since that day, Doctor Malthora has made it his mission to speak up about the importance of lifestyle changes to our health.
But what exactly IS the power of a healthy lifestyle? The answer lies in two words; Metabolic Health.
Doctor Malhotra says: “To explain this as simply as possible, poor Metabolic Health is when our levels of excess body fat start to increase our risk of chronic diseases.
That can be anything from heart disease, strokes and type 3 diabetes, through to cancer and dementia.
“Obesity is the tip of the diet-related disease iceberg and it’s serious.
“The problem is that our weight has been overcomplicated over the years.
“Weight is a crude assessment of someone's health because it doesn't take into consideration your height, age, muscle mass or gender, so often when people work out their BMI (Body Mass Index) and receive a “healthy weight” diagnosis, they are being misled to believe that means they are metabolically healthy, which often isn’t the case.
“To be completely metabolically healthy you need:
“An average blood glucose level of less than 5.7per cent, a blood pressure lower than 120/80, blood triglyceride levels under 1.7 and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels greater than 11.
“To the average person this means nothing unless you go to your doctor for tests, but there is one final marker that can be measured at home, right now - you waist circumference.
“For a caucasian woman your waist circumference should be 88am and below, and for South Asian women, 85cm and below.
“Any higher and chances are, you are metabolically unhealthy.
“Recent statistics show that only one in eight people are currently metabolically healthy, which is why, during a global pandemic, we are seeing such huge differences between how the disease affects those who are overweight and those who are not.”
It is at this point that we are speechless. How can obesity be detrimental to our overall health yet it still seems to be a “taboo subject” that no one is doing anything to change?
Dr Malhotra says: “This isn’t new information.
“In 2004 obesity was announced as a global epidemic.
“But governments and health professionals did nothing.
“At medical school, you are given very little training on nutrition and diet, a few hours tops.
“When I realised the power of lifestyle change I really had to go out of my medical comfort zone to research and find out how far our health problems are rooted in what we are eating, and it has been shocking.
“As doctors we hand out medicine to our patients and tell them to take it.
“At no point are we told to tell them that, statistics show that they probably only have a 1 in 100 chance of working unless they change their diet and do a little bit more exercise.
“If you knew this, as a patient, would you take the drugs, knowing they have side effects? Or would you want to know how to change your lifestyle just a small amount, to make you healthier.?
“In my experience, it is the latter.
“Patients want to be empowered. When I explain to them how and why a change in their diet - away from processed foods and sugar - can change their health, they are motivated and want to make the changes.”
If what Malhotra is saying is true, then why are we not seeing more of this in hospitals, on the news and from our government?
One of the chapters in Doctor Malhotra’s new book begins with a quote from Albert Einstein. It reads: “In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity.”
At a time in which we dread tuning into the news for the doom and gloom the government’s messages on the Covid-19 crisis will bring, this quote stands out as the first hint of hope we have seen.
Yet Boris and his band of followers are yet to offer us any.
Why, when they have people like Doctor Malhotra at their disposal, are they not simply doing better?
He says: “The government are just serving up confusion.
“First it was gastric bands, then cycling and now a soup and shakes diet.
“There are two things to consider when we talk about their failures.
“The first is that, and we are giving them the benefit of the doubt here, they simply don’t have access to this knowledge and really don't understand how powerful lifestyle change can be.
“The second is the corporate capture of public health messaging.
“Put more simply, this means that those who are advising the government have links with companies who make money from obesity and therefore are not interested in preventing it.
“The junk food industry profits from misleading people and selling people something their bodies don’t need.
“It has never been more evident than with the announcement of this “soups and shakes” diet that the government has rolled out.
“This is ultra-processed, 800 calories a day, with no “real” food or information on how to live a long-term healthy lifestyle for those prescribed it.
“I’m not saying that, if a patient successfully stuck to it that it wouldn’t work in helping them to lose weight and reduce their type 2 diabetes, but I am saying that the messaging here is completely wrong.
“Unlike prescribing people a diet in which they make their own choices, armed with the knowledge they need, this “soups and shakes” diet is created by a corporate company who will soon be hugely profiting from every single person who is prescribing it- whether they successfully lose weight on it, or not...
“To not give patients information about calories and healthy eating is unethical.
“Until we remove commercial influence over health information this obesity and global health problem will only continue to get worse.”
Dr Malhotra’s four steps to better metabolic and immune health:
So what is the answer? In his new book, Dr Malhotra tells us how we can improve our metabolic health in just 21 days with just four changes to our lives.
1. A low carb Mediterranean Diet
Dr Malhota describes ultra-processed foods and drink as “the number one enemy” in our diets, making up more than 50 per cent of calories consumed on average in the UK.
To eat well he suggests a diet that includes whole fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, omega 3 fats, and fibre.
And low in sugar, low quality carbohydrates (bread, white rice, pasta) and processed meat.
2. Exercise is a “wonder drug”
Our immune system is significantly influenced by physical activity.
Just one bout of moderate to vigorous exercise (a brisk walk) has been shown to enhance the immune system’s ability to function and fight infection more effectively.
Over time, with regular exercise, these effects build up to strengthen immune defences and improve metabolic health. The Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines for adults recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week and/or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week, as well as some form of strength building exercise on at least two days per week.
3. Key nutrients Vitamin’s C and D
You get the majority of your nutrients from the food you eat but Malhotra has identified two vitamins as key for immune health that a poor diet can leave you deficient in.
A study found a ten-fold difference in death rates between those with the lowest levels of vitamin D versus those with normal levels.
It is vital to ensure vitamin D levels are always optimised with supplements or diet.
Vitamin C has a role in many aspects of normal immune functions including killing bacteria and antibody production. It is important to supplement vitamin C or eat foods high in the vitamin including oranges, red and green peppers, strawberries and broccoli.
4. Stress management
Psychological stress contributes significantly to 90 per cent of all chronic diseases.
Focusing on breathing is one of the easiest and best ways to activate the part of the nervous system that is involved in reducing stress.
Start by paying attention to where your breath is located, notice if you are breathing with your belly or the chest, When you exhale gently soften the shoulders. Softly close the eyes and sink into stillness while remaining focused on the in and out of your breath.
Click on the link to listen to the interview: