10/22/2013 05:44 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Can Sense Prevail in a Sound Bite World?

My friends, sound bites and silver bullets have never helped anyone lose weight and find health. False promises are false, and magical thinking isn't real. This is the path of flash-in-the-pan successes, and long, lingering failures. This is the path of enduring disappointment. It's all hype and nonsense, signifying nothing. And for now, it prevails. Nonsense about health and weight prevails on best-seller lists; it prevails on the morning shows; it prevails in the blogosphere. It prevails not because it helps you, the buyers, but because the sellers can sell it. It prevails because false hope is a very profitable business.

It doesn't have to be this way. We have an incontrovertible body of scientific evidence telling us what is really needed to lose weight, find health, and substantially disease-proof ourselves and those we love. We have science blended with sense telling us how. The only question for which we don't yet have an answer is this: Can sense prevail? Only you can answer it.

This is my most recent of hundreds of blogs on The Huffington Post; you have all the prior columns of mine right here by which to judge my efforts to leverage good science, and apply good sense. If those don't suffice, there are 140 more at my LinkedIn Influencer site, dozens at US News & World Report, and nearly 1,000 articles written for the New Haven Register and other newspapers over the years. There are also innumerable interviews, freely available programs, close to 200 peer-reviewed publications, online videos, and more than a dozen prior books -- including two editions of my nutrition textbook for health care professionals (the third is now in production). My convictions about the transformative power of lifestyle as medicine are an open book.

And now, they are an actual book as well -- because I believe all of that information in one place can make a difference. I have put everything I know about adding years to life and life to years, about losing weight and finding health, into Disease Proof. I have filled the book with the carefully considered research of the best in the business; with my own research spanning nearly 20 years; with my own clinical experiences now spanning close to 30 years; and with the intimacies of living a life of relished vitality with my wife and my children, of sharing the joy of durable vitality with my parents. With the help of my co-author, I have infused Disease Proof with the best of science, and my devotion to the often-neglected power of simple good sense.

But an unread book is of no help to anyone. Only together can we make robust science and reliable sense prevail over magical thinking and false promises -- and the disappointments that ensue. Only together can we put an end to the day of the health huckster -- and propagate both truth, and vitality. Only together can we help sense prevail over nonsense.

I just plain need your help to be of help, and this is my plea for it.

Those of you who look out and see what I see know there truly are years of life and life in years at stake here. Those of you who look out and see what I see know we truly do want to reform health, not merely the system that treats disease. Those of you who look out and see what I see know that getting to health isn't complicated, but it isn't easy either -- and a lot of people need honest help. They need the truth, some close approximation to the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

If I may paraphrase Edmund Burke, for nonsense to prevail in the world, it is enough for sensible people to do nothing. So please help spread the word about a genuinely empowering dose of actionable honesty, robust science, and plain good sense -- especially to those whose lives, and years, matter most to you. Strong science and genuine sense can make us healthy and vital and substantially disease-proof. Healthy people, quite simply, have better lives. What better gift could we share with those we love? It's within reach, just behind a thin barricade of popular nonsense.

Only together can we make sense prevail. I hope we do exactly that. At this point, it's up to you. The case for doing so is an open book.


Contrary to what common assumptions and the media sometimes lead us to believe, our genes do not determine our weight or future health. What they do is to tell us about our risks of developing certain diseases. It's about possibility; nothing is set in stone. Our DNA simply cannot forecast that we will get a particular disease, unless it's one that's caused specifically by a genetic mutation (such as Huntington's disease, cystic fibrosis, or sickle cell anemia). We are actually the ones driving the bus on our journeys toward wellness or illness, so don't blame your genes for the future of your health.

Most diseases are not random occurrences but the consequences of the things people do every day. They are the intermediate step between lifestyle habits and infirmity or death. This means that the leading causes of death and disease are largely within our control because they result from what we do or don't do with our feet, our forks, and our fingers -- namely, whether we are physically active, consume a healthy diet, or smoke -- on a daily basis. With few exceptions, that is the new rule that's been established by groundbreaking research -- and it is the central premise of this book. As you've just read, there is now abundant evidence that getting just four things right -- not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, being active, and eating well -- could reduce the risk of all chronic diseases by 80 percent. That's right: 80 percent! (There are four things on the list, but by eating well and being physically active, you will set yourself up for a healthy weight -- so you really need to focus only on three things, with the final one being not smoking.) It's a realization that could, and in my opinion should, remake the way we play the game of life, by inspiring us to make better lifestyle choices. If you do it right, you can write a new story for your future right down to the genetic level. To a preventive medicine specialist like me, this is of profound importance, because apathy and fatalism are among the biggest enemies of health and healing...

... If you develop wholesome habits, you can give the DNA you were born with a second chance -- a do-over, so to speak -- to move in a healthier direction. You can reshuffle the genetic deck in your favor with healthful behaviors -- enough to reduce the likelihood of a bad health outcome by 80 percent. Those are shockingly good odds! No medicine, supplement, or medical intervention can even come close to delivering results like that. Not even close.

In the short term, using your fork to feed yourself more wholesome foods and your feet to put your body into motion (and keep it there) can lead to more immediate benefits, including better mood and mental clarity, improved sleep, more energy, less pain and stress, and a greater overall sense of well-being ... How can you argue with this many feel-good perks?

From DISEASE-PROOF by David L. Katz, MD, MPH with Stacey Colino. Reprinted by arrangement with Hudson Street Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © David L. Katz, MD, MPH, and Stacey Colino, 2013.


Disease-Proof is available at bookstores nationwide and at:

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