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Interview With Joan Lunden

Aired August 18, 2004 - 21:00   ET


JOAN LUNDEN, HOST "GOOD MORNING AMERICA": Hi, I'm Joan Lunden from Fair Oaks, California and this is my daughter Jamie. Good morning, America.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Joan Lunden, the one-time queen of morning TV has a husband who's about 10 years younger than her and she's a mom again at age 53 thanks to the surrogate who carried her twins. She'll tell us all about it and a whole lot more, Joan Lunden for the hour next on LARRY KING LIVE.

It's always a pleasure to welcome Joan Lunden to LARRY KING LIVE. Especially now, because she's co-author of a terrific new book that's a staple at our house, "Growing up Healthy: Protecting Your Child From Diseases Now Through Adulthood." There you see it's cover. She's the former co-host of ABC's "Good Morning America." The host of A&E's "Behind Closed Doors." It's a great book. I want to get to the book in a while. But first lets get an update on our baby twins who were carried by a surrogate.

LUNDEN: That's right. They're crawling around at record speed, usually in two different directions. And It's So interesting that a boy and a girl are very different right from the out start.

KING: Even though they're twins.

LUNDEN: And even though they're twins. But I mean, they're just very different in temperament. They're just absolutely delicious at this stage, as you know.

KING: Is there a different kind of feeling?

You have three children, right?

LUNDEN: Right, three older girls. They're 16, 21, and 24.

KING: Who were born to you, right?


KING: OK. Is there a different feeling?

LUNDEN: You know, I really actually was a little bit concerned about that. I wondered if it was immediate bonding or if when I picked them up, there would be any sense that someone else carried them that nine months. There really is. You know, it's really -- this is about parenting. It's not about my pregnancy and whether I could get pregnant. And we also had just a delightful, delightful woman carry for us. We're still very close with the family. And you know, I really want them to grow up always knowing her and her family. This is a whole family involvement.

KING: You don't mind if they have a relationship, if the twins visit them?

LUNDEN: I want them to know, this extraordinary woman who did something so amazing. She gave them life. She -- of course, my husband Jeff calls her the ultimate nanny. And she really took care of them and helped them grow in the first nine months.

KING: Does she have other children?

LUNDEN: She has three girls, teenagers. And My Girls have gotten to know her girls.

KING: I think that's great. Some people think they possess and would be, I don't want her to know.

LUNDEN: No. Not at all. You know something, I'll tell you, I think the gestational carrier, like she was, she's not biologically related in any way. But I think she gets a bond with us, with the parents, with Jeff and me. That's the bond that the children are born, more than Kate and Max. Because the whole time she was pregnant, when we'd go in for doctors appointments and she'd say, "your mommy and daddy are here," she always referred to them, as not her babies, but our babies that she was carrying. It's very a unique experience these women -- and a good reason why these women go it, to do something extraordinary.

KING: Medically when you're just a carrier, does any part of your genetic makeup effect the child?


KING: None at all.

LUNDEN: No, you are simply a carrier. You are letting somebody else, you know, grow these fetuses in her uterus.

KING: They're your kids.

LUNDEN: And they're our kids. And I've never thought for one second as I pick up Kate or Max, the thought -- it just doesn't enter my consciousness, that somebody else carried them. It doesn't matter.

KING: Is there some tips you'd give to people approaching the surrogate route?

LUNDEN: Usually people have gone through years of in vitro, just trying. The dilemma that faces infertile couples right now in America, there's so many of them. That's why -- you know that's why I started talking about it, so that they didn't hear just the terrible stories.

KING: It started here I think.

LUNDEN: Yes, right here. That, they usually hear the things that end in heartache, and emotional tug of wars. And I thought it was important that they know this is a safe and viable option, if they do it the right way. And we went through a center here in Los Angeles. We came out here to do the in vitro, so we'd fall under California law.

KING: Many times it doesn't take, right?

LUNDEN: A lot of times. Just like with -- I tried a number of times. She took on the first try. She was born -- she was just made to do this, I'll tell you.

KING: Why is California law different?

LUNDEN: It's been tried and tested, and really you don't ever have to worry about any kind of...

KING: A suit.

LUNDEN: Right, any kind of suit. So, Even Though she lived in Cincinnati, we lived in Connecticut, but we came out here to do the in vitro.

KING: How do your children like their little brother and sister?

LUNDEN: They're bonkers for them. You know, it's interesting, 16, 21, 24, all kind of ages where, you know, Jeff has pointed out, they'd normally be out the door, doing something else, not really want to be with you so much. They're back in the fold. I mean, it really is -- it's made for this incredibly wonderful family unit. And they're very, very involved with them. And you know, Lindsay at 21, she's like, "this is so much fun, it's like having dolls but they're alive."

KING: What effect on your career, having babies again?

LUNDEN: I had three children while doing a show, as demanding as "Good Morning America," so this is -- you know, it's almost like I'm less daunted about motherhood, and parenting at this point in time. And I think I'm just much more fit and healthy than I was 20-years- ago.

KING: Do you miss being atop the daily news scene?

LUNDEN: I'm still a news junkie. I mean, I always was, I am now. But I'm very happy doing what I'm doing what I'm doing. And shooting things when I want to shoot things. Being at home, I really planned it so that I would be working on this book while the babies were little. I wanted to really enjoy their, you know, first six to nine months. It couldn't be more perfect for me right now. And I'm certainly feeding Kate and Max differently than I did my other three girls.

KING: We're going to get to all that. So, there's no watching of Diane Sawyer, saying "I want that seat again?"

LUNDEN: No. No, not really. I mean -- you know -- I really had such a wonderful experience. And kind of like my share and a few other people's share of doing it. Seventeen years is a long time of getting up at 3:15.

KING: OK. What's it like to have a son? Ah ha, they're different.

LUNDEN: I'm crazy. It is. You know, Jeff will say, "You can put him down." I say, "why would I?" I am a little bit bonkers for this little boy, I must say.

KING: Children can -- I don't like -- I'm going to show this.

LUNDEN: You have to show this. Look at this.

KING: This is Cannon.

LUNDEN: That is your little boy, 5?

KING: He just turned 4. This is Chance and Cannon.

LUNDEN: And chance is?

KING: Five and 4.

LUNDEN: Five and 4.

KING: And this is just movie star Chance.

LUNDEN: A proud daddy.

KING: I'm proud. When you look at the kids, you can't believe you can love someone that much.

LUNDEN: And you know, somebody said the other day, "oh my god, you have five kids?" And I thought, you know, there is a time in this country where most families had five or six or seven or eight. We've gotten into this head where everyone's supposed to have two kids.

KING: One and a half.

LUNDEN: One and half, like who said? And I think only parents can understand that phrase, that no matter how many other kids you have, you love the next one the same as you loved the last one. Differently, but just as much.

KING: When we come back, Joan Lunden talks about her new book "Growing Up Healthy."

Don't go away.


LUNDEN: Ah ha.


This is cereal with pears, yes.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bottle, bottle, bottle. Bump, bump, bump.


KING: We're back with one of my favorite people, has been for a long time, Joan Lunden, the co-author of the new book, "Growing up Healthy: Protecting Your Child From Diseases Now Through Adulthood."

How did it come about?

LUNDEN: Dr. Winick, my co-author, spent his whole life on this subject, looking at the connection between what children eat and their risk for chronic disease. Heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer and osteoporosis. And the conclusion is that there is a very direct link. And the way our children are eating today, we're in a real problem.

KING: How did he come to you?

LUNDEN: He knew that this was a really important message that had to get out there, and he needed someone who would really carry it to a much more vast audience.

KING: Someone in the public eye?

LUNDEN: Someone in the public eye. So, I became involved. And the publisher wanted me to really put it into a mommy voice and make it user friendly.

KING: Did Dr. Winick, know you were having children?

LUNDEN: No. When he came to me, he had no idea. We had not made any -- I hadn't been on your show yet. So, we hadn't said anything publicly. And I couldn't tell him then, because if you tell one person, you know, the next person, the next person finds out. And of course, when I saw the project, besides the fact that I knew I was having twins or a baby -- I don't know if I knew I was having twins at that point. But I knew that this was seriously needed.

You know, a couple of decades ago, we, after suspecting it for a long time, really came out with a definitive link between smoking and cancer. And we went out on an all-out effort to make sure that everybody knew and that we would impress it upon children. We need to do the same thing about obesity. There as growing epidemic of childhood obesity in this country like we've never seen before. Children 9 and 10-years-old are coming down with type 2 diabetes.

Nobody ever used to get diabetes until the 30s.

KING: I thought there was a learning process, we're so into health, that that would transform into the way you raise children.

LUNDEN: You know, kids are living on fast food and packaged food and fried, frozen foods.

KING: Probably, because it's easier?

LUNDEN: It's easy. It's convenient. Both parents are working.

KING: Run over to McDonalds and what the hell.

LUNDEN: Yes. Well, a lot of it is just our society and how people are living their lives. And everybody's running through the drive-in or popping something in the microwave that's been -- that's filled with saturated fat and transfats that are the worst that clog your arteries, salt and sugar. And these children are eating a diet that is setting them up for a life of chronic disease. And probably going to shorten their lives. So we need to come out now and arm parents with the knowledge. We need to go straight to the kids. We need to reform our school lunch programs. We need to get healthy items into the vending machines. Our children are just barraged with this bad food everywhere they go.

KING: Isn't one of the problems, this has been ad infinitum, nutrition is not a big subject in medical school.

LUNDEN: No. It used to be it wasn't even a class. And doctors are becoming much more aware. You know, a cancer surgeon now certainly is aware of the -- the need for people to eat less fat and more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, more fiber. And -- but when a child's body -- and we're talking about a child's body, which is not a small adult. They are different than us. Their organs and their tissues are growing and developing. Their cell reproduction is going on all the time. I mean, they're producing new cells. So they have a particular reason to watch what they eat. Let me give you a couple of examples. A child can prevent ever getting osteoporosis if the parent makes sure he gets enough calcium and vitamin D into that child.

Now, a parent might say, I'm doing that, I'm getting a glass of milk, getting some yogurt and cheese in there. If the child lives the rest of the day on Soda, and it's filled with phosphorus, phosphorus blocks the absorption of calcium. And you have this one window of opportunity between birth and early adulthood to store enough bone to absolutely guarantee you're never going to get osteoporosis. And if a parent has had the problem, you need to know that. You need to gather a good family medical history. If a parent is obese, a child has about a 40 percent chance of also becoming obese. If both parents are obese, that jumps to 80 percent. So they have to really be on the lookout. And we have to know which children are at high risk. KING: What part in this story does genes play? That kid could eat anything, he doesn't gain a pound. This kid smells a pizza and gains two pounds.

LUNDEN: That's why it's important people take that family medical history. I mean, they need to look at their parents, they need to look at their aunts and uncles, and they need to look at the grandparent. You need to ask the right questions.

Did they have high blood pressure?

You know, did they die from any of these diseases? At what age?

Because only with that information can you really -- you need to tell your pediatrician this.

KING: And then you can counteract it?

LUNDEN: Then track your child's growth. And you need to make sure that, if along the way the rate of their weight gain exceeds the rate of the height growth, you've got to start making alterations. You don't put the child on a low carb or no fat diet. But you do start making good nutritional alteration so you slow their rate of growth down.

KING: Check their cholesterol.

LUNDEN: That is an area of a lot of controversy. Because, I mean, you could check the child's blood cholesterol at 4 or 5-years- old. And start getting a good indicator as to whether you had to watch it.

KING: Sounds like a good idea.

LUNDEN: But we don't do blanket testing on children. You know, if your child takes a tumble and has to have an X-ray, that's your opportunity to say to the doctor, "I want to know how my child's bones are developing."

Ask the doctor to check his bone growth. These are the little things we can do along the way. But mainly what we have to do, is we have to stop feeding them so much. That's the big problem with the American diet is portion control. It is out of control.

KING: More in a minute with Joan Lunden, co-author with Dr. Myron Winick of "Growing Up Healthy: Protecting Your Child From Diseases Through Adulthood." We'll be right back.


KING: We're back with Joan Lunden, a very important book, "Growing Up Healthy: Protecting Your Child From Diseases Now Through Adulthood."

Now, your co-author, Dr. Winick, is a pediatric nutritionist. I've never heard of that. LUNDEN: You know, he started as a pediatrician. And he's told me how children would come in and they would inoculate them against diseases, but he knew there had to be something else. And he later specialized in pediatric nutrition. And they have studied what's happening in the child's body. You know, it used to be that a person in their 30s would start to get those little fatty white streaks that later turned to plaque that can cause heart attack or stroke. Then we noticed during the Korean War, that when young men were killed who were 18-years-old, the American soldiers who were 18 had those fatty white streaks in their heart. The Korean kids the same age didn't. Now, children 9 and 10-years-old again with autopsies we find, they already have those fatty white streaks. It's saturated fat, and it is also simply too much food. I think Americans have gotten this distorted view of how much you should eat at one sitting when you sit down. Biggie size, super size, and it's not just fat food. Everywhere you go.

KING: Are we wrong to tell your children, which my culture, the Jewish culture does a lot, eat!

LUNDEN: We have to do away with the clean your plate rule. Children have something we lose, unfortunately, as we grow up, and that is a sensibility to eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full. A little baby, you have to learn their cues. It starts sometimes when you're feeding them a bottle and parents say, "there's another ounce, " and put that bottle back in their mouth. The child will eventually spit it up if they were really full. You need to let a child learn to stop eating when they're full. That's one of the most important things that we can teach them. Instead of trying to force them to eat. And to say, "eat this or you're going to go to bed or not have dessert," it's just the wrong approach. Dr. Winick, really warns against that.

KING: When do you start them on exercise?

LUNDEN: Well, you know, little babies exercise naturally. I mean, they just lay on the thing and they move all around. But the sedentary lifestyle of our youth today, when they come home and they sit down in front of the TV, they sit down in front of their computer, they're IM'ing, they're playing video games. And we weren't designed as humans to do that. So, it's really important that we as parents make sure that we to keep our children active. A, it's an expenditure of calories, so it can help control calories, and B, it helps to grow bones. So, for two reason, you really have make that effort to get your child involved in activity.

KING: Influencing peer groups. You do it right, but your child goes to school and the child next to them says, "come on, it's a cheeseburger with french fries."

LUNDEN: If we've taught them.

KING: It's hard to say no, though.

LUNDEN: If we imparted to them some good information. We've taught children the consequences of smoking. Can't we as a nation start teaching them the consequences of eating too much fat and sugar and salt?

I think we can. I interviewed the head of the CDC. And I was saying, "what's the most dangerous thing for Americans right now?" Expecting it was smallpox, anthrax, terrorists. She said, absolutely, obesity. More Americans will die of obesity than any kind of terrorist attack. She's right. The U.S. surgeon general says that obesity is rapidly replacing smoking as the number one preventable killer in our country. He calls it our threat from within.

KING: But you're fighting television commercials, what dad eats. I mean, there's a daily fight that goes on. Cigarettes, were brought about by a whole bunch of people condemning it. You saw commercials on television -- they took cigarette advertising off. They don't take fatty food advertising off.

LUNDEN: Well, I know, but a lot of other countries do. We allow it, during programming for very, very young children. They spend billions of dollars on research to find out exactly how to really make it look wonderful. Now, the amount of money that our government spends on nutrition education is in the tens of millions. It pales in comparison to the food advertisers. So we have to know that and we have to make sure that we -- we can't let them have an exclusive on our children. The other thing, we really need to limit television viewing for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics, says it should be two hours a day, and that you should not have a television in the room where they sleep. Eighty-five percent of American children do. Twenty five percent of them under 2 have televisions in the room where they sleep. And the average American child watches about 38 hours of television a week, that's a full-time job. That's almost as much as a full-time job. And that means that they are barraged with these commercials.

KING: But it makes it easy for a lazy parent.

LUNDEN: I know, but it could...

KING: It makes it easier. The television is a resource.

LUNDEN: Some of the experts say this may be the first generation of children who die before their parents.

KING: They're saying this is an epidemic?

LUNDEN: Oh, the childhood obesity is an absolute epidemic. And it's been -- it's been a real sharp increase in the last 10 years. So, you have to say, what are we doing so different in the last 10 years?

Because the sedentary lifestyle, the TVs, the computers, they've been really over the last 20, 30 years. So what happened in the last 10 years?

It's really portion control. It's really excess calories. High blood pressure, only two things cause it, excess calories and too much sodium. We Americans eat 10 times as much salt as we should.

KING: Kids have high blood pressure?

LUNDEN: Nine and 10-years-old, children are presenting with high blood pressure. Those who are presenting with high blood pressure and diabetes are obese.

KING: We're talking about diabetes after the break. Our guest is Joan Lunden, the book "Growing Up Healthy: Protecting Your Child From Diseases Now Through Adulthood." Don't go away.


CHARLES GIBSON, HOST "GOOD MORNING AMERICA": I thank you for all the support and loyalty.

LUNDEN: I'm going to miss all of you. Well, I really wanted to say thank you to a number of people. I want to say thank you of course to all my colleagues. Those who work behind the cameras, behind the desk, who helped put this broadcast together. I want to thank my daughters, Jamie, Lindsay, and Sarah for putting up with the demands of this crazy job, my schedule, my sleep deprivation. I will be there to wake you up in the mornings.



KING: We're back with Joan Lunden, who's revealing tonight that she will have twins come mid-June delivered by a surrogate mother.

Why are you going public?

LUNDEN: Because I'm in the public eye. Because I've lived my entire life in the public eye.


LUNDEN: And to think -- to think I can come in under the radar and not have it noticed is a little unrealistic.



KING: We're back with Joan Lunden, the former co-host of ABC's "Good Morning America." She's still host of A@E's "Behind Closed Doors." She's done a lot of wild things: she parachutes, she jumps around, she's nuts. But it was on this program where she first announced she had a surrogate mother. And that delivered Max and Kate. She's co-author of the new book "Growing Up Healthy: Protecting Your Child From Diseases Now Through Adulthood." Diabetes.

LUNDEN: Type 2.

KING: Now you said Type 2. Type 2 is adult onset?

LUNDEN: Type 1 diabetes is something -- it's juvenile diabetes. It either happens, because of a genetic component or something that happens right at birth and it's a lack of insulin.

KING: You have to take insulin.

LUNDEN: But type 2 diabetes is something that really occurs -- obesity is the major cause of it. This used to happen when people were 30 or older. But because of the increased rate of childhood obesity, now we also have an epidemic of type 2 diabetes.

We used to call it adult onset. We don't even call it that anymore, because it's happening to children so young. The really bad thing about this is that the serious complications of diabetes, which can be deadly, are proportionate to how long you have it. So when people got it in their 30s or 40s, it wasn't as bad as when they're now getting it when they're 9 and 10 years old. That's the bad news.

The good news is that if you take that child who is presenting with diabetes, and you put them on a good, healthy diet, and you bring his weight back to normal, the diabetes goes away.

Now, we don't know yet whether it might come back when they reach their 50s or 60s. But at least you've staved it off for 30, 40 years so that you don't get those proportionate deadly results.

KING: Can children take the medication?

LUNDEN: Yes, but the thing is that we have got to start preventing some of these diseases. And that means that we need to eat less saturated fat. We need to make sure that we aren't trying to limit our child's trans fats, which are in all these smack foods and fast foods. We need to get them to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Now, the problem with that is that most American parents aren't eating enough fruits and vegetables. We need more fiber in the diet. And we need whole grains.

The thing is that we, the parents, buy the groceries. We go to the store. You need to start buying whole wheat bread instead of white bread. We need to start make these decisions because a 3 or 4- year-old doesn't understand the consequences of a long-term disease. They can't know. It's up to us.

KING: How about the rationalization that, well, because a pharmaceutical company, we're living longer, stem cell research, that's going to come about, they're going to splice genes, you're going to live to 100. Doesn't that build up in you the kind of security that says, go eat the food.

LUNDEN: But it's a false security. Because if that child is eating saturated fat and salt and sugar they're not going to live a long life. We can -- what would be the most precious gift? If someone said to you, you can make sure that your child doesn't have a life of chronic disease, cancer, heart disease, and you can maybe extend their lives 10, 15 years, wouldn't you want to do that?

KING: In a sec. LUNDEN: If there was a pill, you'd buy the pill. Well, there is something that we can do, but it's how we feed our child. It's not being afraid of our children and setting down some rules. You know, you set a curfew. You don't want them out driving around at 3:00 in the morning because they might get hurt.

KING: But you can't deny them the cake at the birthday party.

LUNDEN: No. Don't ban food. If they go to the birthday party and they're serving pizza and cake, let them eat it. And let that be part of the educational process. Don't tell them they can never go to a fast food restaurant. But let them know this food isn't quite as good for you, has a lot of salt and fat, that has consequences on your arteries and your blood pressure, and therefore we'll only eat it every now and then. So don't make it a forbidden food.

KING: Do you start it with your kids, they're not a year old yet? feed them fat-free milk?

LUNDEN: Let me tell you something.

KING: Give them fat free milk.

LUNDEN: Well, first of all, they're just little babies. You can't -- you have to feed them formula or breast milk until they're a year old. Then you can put them on whole milk. You can't use any kind of reduced milk until they're 2. When you take out the fat, you're left with a dense protein and their little digestive systems can't deal with it.

But there's real concern, because here in America we have this tendency to say as parents we want to be diligent. So we say, not so much fat? Fine, I'm not giving them any fat. And they put them on no fat diets.

Well, a little child needs fats for the development of the brain and the nervous system. But particularly in that first five years, there's something going on in a child's body called mylenization. It's the development of the sheath that goes around the nerves. And myelin is fat, I mean, it's a fatty substance. The babies need fat.

When they get to be 2 years old, you want to keep them on pretty much, like you and I would watch 30 percent of the diet being fat. But don't give them less than 20 percent. Because when these parents are saying if a little is good, a lot's better, I'm cutting the fat out and feeding them all the nonfat foods, they could really be toying with danger.

KING: How about the reversal of this? When you grow up so conscious to be thin, you you now create bulimia, people throwing up to be skinny.

LUNDEN: That's really not created with that. Those are emotional issues, those are self-image issues. I don't think by trying to get a child to eat less fat and to eat more fruits and vegetables and more fiber, is going to create a situation where you have a child growing up to be dealing with anorexia. Those are a lot of emotional issues that happen usually preadolescent.

KING: What about cancer?

LUNDEN: Cancer has been linked to a specific kind of diet, a diet that is high in fat and low in fiber. We've been hearing this now as adults. But with little children...

KING: Never heard it connected with children. I never heard them say, feed your children right to prevent cancer.

LUNDEN: Well, when children have organs and tissues growing and they have cell production going on, it's more important than ever. Because they are much more influenced by environmental and nutritional things effecting them than we are, because our cells are all formed. And it's been proven that a diet that's low in fat and high in fiber, high in fruits and vegetables, will prevent cancer.

You know as much as what we feed them, it's the habits. The eating habits that we're instilling in them. It's cultivating a desire, a like, a love for fruits and vegetables. That's really up to us to cultivate that in them.

KING: Our guest is Joan Lunden. We'll be right back.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wait a minute, Joany Lunden, journalists like you give pro wrestling a bad name.

LUNDEN: That's not true.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I love what I do. You know what?

This is serious business. This is WCW Thunder Live. You could get hurt. You need to get out, out!

LUNDEN: You know what? I can take care of you.


LUNDEN: I can!


KING: We're back with Joan Lunden. Her new book "Growing Up Healthy" is going to be a major best seller. "Protecting Your Child From Diseases Now Through Adulthood."

What about the carb fad, the low carb fad, and this effect that it might effect on children, give them meat, eggs, cheese, that's OK. Don't give them bread.

LUNDEN: Well, if anybody looks at the food guide pyramid, you'll see that at the bottom of the pyramid where you have your biggest group are the whole grains. So whole grains are the good carbohydrates.

All carbohydrates are not alike. You don't want to give them the bad carbs, but you can't take carbs out of a child's diet. But a lot of parents are doing that.

They're now just studying what could be the possible bad effects on that child long-term. And they really recommend you don't put a child on any fad diet, because the children need all the different food groups.

And you know, a child doesn't understand osteoporosis, which is so completely preventable, but you only have one opportunity to get all that calcium into the child. And for girls, it stops at about early to mid-20s. For boys it goes on to about the 30s.

But that's when the balance shifts. Up until that time, your body is storing, growing and storing more bone than it's losing. That's your chance to store enough bone to last an entire lifetime. But if you don't do it, once you tip that balance, then you start taking withdrawals from the account. And if you haven't put enough in there's not going to be enough there. That's really the simple way of looking at it.

KING: How about school lunch programs?

LUNDEN: In 1946, that's when the federal regulations were mandated for caloric content of school lunches.

KING: 1946.

LUNDEN: 1946. Back then, we were dealing with incidences of malnutrition. Today, fat laden lunches in the school cafeterias make no sense, when the problem today is obesity, not malnutrition.

KING: What's a typical lunch in public school?

LUNDEN: They say a child, once they come out of school, that they've gotten so much of their fat content for the whole day, that they go home, they don't even have a third of it left to go. How are they going to snack in the afternoon and eat dinner?

KING: What is a typical lunch?

LUNDEN: It varies in the different -- around the country. And I must say, some school districts are starting -- New York City, quite frankly, New York City is starting to really change it. They are looking at the research.

The other problem is that the kids have vending machines in the schools. There are vending machines that have processed cookies and chips. I mean Americans eat plenty of potatoes. The problem is we consume all of our potatoes in french fries and potato chips. Potato chips are filled with saturated fats and salt.

So if we took some of those processed cookies and chips and the sodas out of the vending machines, and we put apple juice and orange juice and Gatorade and water and healthy snacks in, they'll eat them. It's prove at any you put them in front of the child, they're not going to starve themselves. They will avail themselves of what's there.

KING: What do you do with that staple of the American child, the french fry?

LUNDEN; Well, the french fry is not going to go away. However, a lot of the fast food chains are now finally starting to acquiesce and not use the worst kinds of fats to cook them. The worst kinds of oils. Which are fats. The way our body takes them in.

KING; What did you make of that study of the guy who ate At McDonald's 30 days and gained 40 pounds?

LUNDEN: He gained weight, his cholesterol went up, he became lethargic, he became headachy, his whole system just shut down. And that's because he ate nothing but foods that were heavily -- his digestive system couldn't handle all of that fat and salt and sugar. And it just like shut down.

Well, we have to realize that children who -- they did a study. And they said that -- I think it was 30 percent of all American children on any given day, 30 percent of American kids are eating fast food. And they did a study and they looked at the caloric intake of the kids on the days they ate fast food and days they didn't. On the days that they ate fast food, they took in about 126 more calories. If you look at that over a year, that child will gain 13 pounds a year, just on the fast food alone.

It used to be that kids would go away to college and they'd put on that freshman 15, because they stopped playing school sports, they were just kind laying around, they could eat whatever they want. Well, that's happening now when they're 9 and 10 years old. I mean, this is a real danger to our youth of this country.

KING: And, of course, parental image is so important. What you see your father eating is going to affect what you eat.

LUNDEN: You know, our children don't always listen to us, but they never fail to imitate us. And if they see you with the salt shaker and getting into the pint of ice cream, they're going to do the same thing.

I'll tell you, I wish we could just bring back the family dinner table more. They have done studies, and when you eat at the family dinner table, you tend to eat a healthier meal than when you eat on the run, eat standing up, eat driving through a drive-through. And that's part of the problem these days.

Of course, that's just the tip of the problem, because when the families aren't sitting down together eating together, they aren't talking about what's going on in each other's lives.

KING: Is there a culture that really does this, got it down anywhere in the world? LUNDEN: That's just it, if you look at other countries, other countries don't suffer from the same kinds of health problems we do. Unfortunately, we're exporting our foods and our habits to other countries.

KING: We're killing them everywhere.

LUNDEN: In Japan, do you know cars made for Japan don't have cup holders? Because it doesn't occur to them to eat on the way to see a friend. They don't eat in their car like we eat in our car. And -- but even in Japan, they've shown how we export our foods to them. They're starting now to see literally a change in body structure there.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Joan Lunden. Always great to have her, what an important book. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was the first woman on television to share 3 pregnancies and put her pregnant stomach over the desk, not under it. And some of the male executives around here, then, didn't like that.

She was the first woman on television to publicly face the problems with which many women grapple. The problems of raising a family while holding down a full-time job.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I'm going to have to go super size.

Look at that. Look at that coke. It barely fits in there. Oh, look at that. Look how big that thing is. Look how big that french fry is. That thing is like four feet tall.


KING: We're back. I mentioned that McDonald's thing. That was filmmaker Morgan Spurlock who spent February and March of last year documenting days of eating nothing but food from McDonald's, he gained nearly 20 pounds, cholesterol went up to 225. And the documentary is now in -- "Super Size Me," it's called, about toxic food culture.

LUNDEN: He basically used himself as a guinea pig.

KING: And the documentary is now in theaters.

You call this toxic?

LUNDEN: Oh, it's definitely toxic

KING: That's poison?

LUNDEN: Well, it's toxic if it's going to kill you. And the kids eating today as much fat and salt and sugar as they are, it's going to shorten their lives. Not to mention they're going to have to deal with the debilitating disease striking them at a much younger age. So this is something that we've got to do something now in order to avoid the medical crisis that is going to hit in 20 years.

And I'll tell you, it's going to be a medical bill that this nation is going to have a heck of a time trying to deal with, besides the personal trauma.

KING: Before we wrap up, talk about the book, a couple of other things. Your future. Was there any talk about coming back to daily television?

LUNDEN: There's some talk.

KING: Jane Pauley's doing it. So.

When you say some talk? Come on, you reveal a lot of things on this show, reveal.

LUNDEN: And you know what, when I decide what it is I'm going to do, I'll come back here and I'll tell you.

KING: Will you do something? Will you come back to television? You can tell us that.

LUNDEN: Yes, I'm probably going to.

KING: That's because you have to.

LUNDEN: I have an incredible life. And you know what live daily television does to that. So, it's been...

KING: But I know about missing it too.

LUNDEN: Yes. If you feel you're good at something, and you can make a difference, or make a mark, then there's a desire to do it.

KING: How does your husband feel about it?

LUNDEN: My husband is completely supportive of me, of what I do. He feels I'm good at what I do. He admires me and respects me. That's a wonderful thing. So no matter what I decide, he's behind me 100 percent.

KING: Why do you like doing these things of going behind closed doors and doing adventuresome things?

LUNDEN: It's my ticket to adventure. And you know, I don't...

KING: You've flown in in F-14s?

LUNDEN: I landed in an aircraft carrier in an F-18. Flew at the edge of space in a U-2, you know, have been able to take part in military exercises, in nuclear submarines and tanks.

KING: Why? LUNDEN: Because of the challenge. A, because it keeps me challenging myself. And I like that. It's just a component of my personality.

B, I think it's great television to let people experience a little slice of life that they otherwise would never know. And by being participatory, I've allowed them to kind of come along with me and experience it through me. So I've loved doing that show.

KING: What do you make of what's happened to television since you've left it on a regular basis, the news channels the 500 channel access?

LUNDEN: The immediacy.

KING: Now possible censorships? The Howard Stern, the Janet Jackson thing. What do you make of that?

LUNDEN: Also, it's just the -- like nothing is sacred. Everything is open now to everyone. And that brings along the complications as well. As far as running the country, waging a war. Just compare the a way war is waged now with 20 years ago. We know practically every step of the way. If we don't, we find out about it.

KING: We go with them.

LUNDEN: We go with them. We didn't have -- Walter Cronkite went out into the fields of the war when it was in Europe, but today, we see it as it's happening. So I'm sure it makes it harder to wage war.

KING: Do you fear this censorship thing? Do you fear a possible incurment that the government's going to get involved in what is said?

LUNDEN: I don't know, somehow I feel that the power of the public is somehow stronger.

KING: If they like a particular thing, they're going to watch it?

LUNDEN: Yes. I mean, I think television today is such a powerful medium that I don't see that that is going to really tip the balance. I think that the public's desire to know will keep it there.

KING: The book says, into, now through adulthood. Though adulthood, this book is more than just...

LUNDEN: You know, frankly, if you and I follow this diet, we'll be a heck of a lot healthier.

KING: I've never been slimmer in my life.

LUNDEN: I know, you're fit and I'm more fit than I was 20 years ago. Because we've made that investment in ourselves. We've taken the health message seriously.

KING: We become obsessive sometimes when you think about it. LUNDEN: Yes, but what we're asking now is just to become diligent and to start to understand the consequences and to make sure that you pass that along to your child. I think we need to have an educational program in schools. We don't teach enough about nutrition. I mean, biology, chemistry, fine, but teach them how to eat so that they won't get chronic disease and die early.

KING: Any difference between boys and girls?

LUNDEN: Oh, yes well, I think that young girls -- I mean, well, young girls, of course, have the issue of when they hit preadolocence really, they start worry about boys, about whether they're too chubby. And if we can educate those young girls to be more health conscious, we'll probably do away with a lot of that. I mean, that would be such a precious gift to give them, because they struggle with it. Really struggle with it.

KING: Boys don't think about it as much?

LUNDEN: You know something, it's not that anorexia doesn't happen in boys, it's just that it's much less common in boys. But with young girls, it's becoming more and more common. Why? Because there are more and more young girls that are overweight. Why? Because of the American diet. And what's happened to it.

KING: You have diets in the book?

LUNDEN: Well, it's really just the eating plan. It really takes you through every stage of life: pregnancy, newborn, toddler, starting solids toddlers, school age, right up into adolescence. I think I'm making an impact on my older girls.

KING: You made an impact on society.

LUNDEN: Larry, thank you.

KING: Always great seeing you. And you'll be back with the announcement of your return to television.

LUNDEN: Absolutely.

KING: Joan Lunden, the co-author of the new book "Growing Up Healthy: Protecting Your Child From Diseases Now Through Adulthood." Available everywhere. I'll be back in a couple of minutes. Don't go away.


KING: Thanks for joining us for a wonderful hour with Joan Lunden, one of my favorite people. Hope you enjoyed it. Stay tuned now for "NEWSNIGHT" with Aaron Brown next on CNN. See you tomorrow night. Good night.


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