CREDIT: Jon Nalick
CAPTION: From left: talk show host and moderator Larry King; author and television chef Devin Alexander; Prediman K. (PK) Shah, director of Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute's division of cardiology; Karol Watson, co-director of the UCLA Center for Cholesterol and Lipid Management; Michael Goran, founding director of the USC Childhood Obesity Research Center; and nutrition specialist Melina Jampolis.
HSC Weekly 2009-11-13
Expert panel examines obesity crisis in U.S.
By Leslie Ridgeway
Lifestyle, environment and evolutionary cues to pack on calories even when food is plentiful were among the factors blamed for sharp increases in obesity and obesity-related problems in Americans when the Southern California Leadership Panel discussion "The Obesity Crisis in America" took place Friday, Nov. 6, at the Health Sciences Campus. CNN talk show host Larry King moderated the annual discussion in front of a full house at the Aresty Conference Center. The panel of healthcare experts included Michael Goran, founding director of the USC Childhood Obesity Research Center.
Panelists agreed that Americans would make better food choices if the options were more readily available and faulted poor urban planning and the fact that healthy food is more expensive than fast food. But unconscious inner urgings to eat more in preparation for possible famine may also play a role.
King, commenting on a question about why it's hard to stay on a diet, noted that even he, a heart attack survivor, couldn't say no to two pieces of carrot cake at his wife's birthday party. Goran noted that King isn't alone.
"I've been studying [obesity] for 20 years, and if you put French fries in front of me, I'll eat them," said Goran. "We are wired to eat. Reversing the cues and training people [to eat well] is hard."
"People are getting the message [about healthy food choices]," said Karol Watson, co-director of the UCLA Program in Preventative Cardiology. "It's easier to know what's right than to actually do it."
Better education about nutrition in medical school might also help physicians pass healthy food messages to their patients.
"We are trained to look at evidence-based medicine and outcomes," said Melina Jampolis, a board certified internist and CNNHealth.com diet and fitness expert. "It's more complicated than that."
Asked by King if there were anything they would ban in order to deter obesity, the panelists listed sweetened beverages and cereals and the marketing of them to children. Panelists also expressed concern that obesity trends are undoing positive strides made in the fight against heart disease and stroke.
"If we continue on the current trajectory, all of the gains against heart disease will be erased in the next generation," said P.K. Shah, director of cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Larry King's cardiologist. "This could be the first generation that does not outlive their parents."
The panel was sponsored by the Keck School of Medicine, Cope Health Solutions, The Larry King Cardiac Foundation and LAC+USC Medical Center, and presented by Abbott Laboratories.
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