Published: February 22, 2009
In recognition of February being Heart Month, I decided to use this column to share some helpful information about boosting cardiac health. During the past few years, however, much of the information available to clinicians and consumers regarding effects of food, alcohol and exercise has been somewhat confusing. For example, one week caffeine is bad for you; the next week the news is that it has benefits. In order to provide Post readers with some practical information, I consulted Professor Peter Van Nostrand at the New Amsterdam Institute of Cardiac Contrarian Counseling.
I began by asking the professor whether he agreed with the popular notion that cardiac exercise could prolong life.
Van Nostrand: “Nonsense! Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that's it... don't waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that's like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.”
Kestner: “Should I continue to advise patients to cut back on meat and eat more vegetables and fruits?”
Van Nostrand: “You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And a pork chop can give you 100 percent of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.”
Kestner: “What about alcohol… is it a good idea to refrain from that?”
Van Nostrand: “No, not at all. Wine is made from fruit. Brandy is distilled wine. That means they take the water out of the fruity bit so you get even more of the goodness that way. Beer is also made out of grain. Bottoms up!”
Kestner: “What is the best way to calculate a person’s body fat ratio?”
Van Nostrand: “Well, if you have a body and you have fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.”
Kestner: “What are some of the benefits of regular aerobic exercise programs?”
Van Nostrand: “Can't think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No Pain...Good!”
Kestner (exasperated): “Some experts recommend patients limit their intake of fried foods…”
Van Nostrand: “YOU'RE NOT LISTENING!!! Foods are fried these days in vegetable oil. In fact, they're permeated in it. How could getting more vegetables be bad for you?”
Kestner: “What about sweets like chocolate, shouldn’t we restrict…”
Van Nostrand: “Are you crazy? HELLO? Cocoa beans! Another vegetable!!! It's the best feel-good food around!”
I decide to try a new angle: “I often recommend walking or swimming as a beneficial exercise to trim the figure. Would you agree?”
Van Nostrand: “If swimming is good for your figure, explain whales to me.”
As I wrapped up the interview, the professor handed me a brochure. “This should help you make sense of all the conflicting research that you have come across.”
The brochure read:
1. The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
3. The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
5. The Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
Eat and drink what you like.
Speaking English and watching American television is apparently what kills you.
I want to thank Professor Van Nostrand for his time. I also want to apologize to the serious researchers and clinicians that provide helpful advice that may vary from that of the professor. Although the fictional professor does seem to make sense, the vast majority of real experts differ in their views. You should consult your own healthcare provider.
Next week: Some interesting new facts about trans-fats including how and why you should avoid them.
Dr. Mark Kestner