It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.
I am very worried about my father's health. He eats a hamburger, french fries and Coke almost every day and he rarely eats any vegetables. He has incredibly high cholesterol and blood pressure, type II diabetes, liver and kidney problems and an alleged potassium deficiency that occasionally causes his legs to not be able to support his weight. He is 52 years old. He is 5' 8" and about 200 lbs.
He claims that all of his health issues are hereditary and not influenced by his diet. I do not believe that. He claims that taking a daily multi-vitamin is an acceptable substitute for eating fruits and vegetables. He is well-researched on nutritional topics, but seems to be very delusional.
What EVIDENCE can I use to convince him that his diet is unhealthy? Do you agree that consuming the amount of red meat, fried foods and cola that he does, without eating hardly any vegetables, is likely a major contributing factor to his health problems?
Well, I'd like to think that you've come to the right place.
Your father could not be more wrong about health issues being only hereditary. There is clearly a factor of how our family history can and does affect our health but this can certainly be overcome by eating healthy and maintaining a reasonable weight. The best place for you to get started is with information on a Mediterranean style diet. Here's the link:
The main article is a review of how diet can make a difference in not just how long we live but our quality of life. Note that there's a set of links about the Mediterranean Diet Basics that leads to articles based on rich, well designed research that proves this.
This link is to the index page for the Health and Nutrition Bites that are published as an email newsletter each Wednesday:
You'll find the real deal here. Solid research that proves just how harmful eating that burger, fries and coke are for us. There are articles that prove that it's never too late to make a change and improve the outcome. You will also find articles that call into question the use of vitamin supplements. Not only does the research show that getting your vitamins from natural sources is the only way they are effective, but there's more and more research to show that taking vitamins is probably harmful.
If those dozens of articles are not evidence enough evidence for you, here's a link to my Dr. Tim Says... columns. You'll find both research but also practical suggestions for making a difference:
Good luck with your father. If he will respond to evidence there's more than enough on the Dr. Gourmet website to prove how profound a difference diet can have on his health.
Thanks for writing,
Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP