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Sanjay Gupta MD

Mike Huckabee Discusses His Weight Loss; Combating Childhood Obesity; More Common For Children Of Color Under 20 To Be Diagnosed With Diabetes; The Perfect Workout For Your Mood

Aired March 04, 2006 - 08:30   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now in the news, in Pakistan today, President Bush and Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf cemented the resolve in the war on terror. The U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are unpopular in Pakistan. Mr. Bush also made it clear the U.S. will not extend to Pakistan the same nuclear energy pact he signed with India.
A mortar round landed in a crowded market just southeast of Baghdad today. At least seven people are dead and 15 wounded. Meanwhile, the U.S. Central Command told Iraqi leaders the future of their country is in their hands.

A lawsuit forces the Pentagon to identify detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay prison. A judge rejected claims by the Bush administration that revealing names and nationalities of prisoners would violate their privacy or endanger their families. The Associated Press had sued under the Freedom of Information Act.

Well, it could be nearly three months before we learn if an Arab company will manage six U.S. ports. Following a 30-day Treasury Department review, DP World has agreed to a more intense 45-day investigation. A dispute over the deal centers on whether the Dubai- based firm would pose a national security threat.

Those are the headlines. "HOUSE CALL" starts right now.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning and welcome to HOUSE CALL. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. This morning, we're talking about getting this nation of ours fit. This week marks the start of our "Fit Nation" tour, when I'm going to be traveling to cities across the country, gathering students, community and health leaders together to come up with the best ways to educate and motivate people to get healthy.

I'll start in Atlanta at Spelman College, then head to my alma mater the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In Philadelphia, I'm speaking at Temple, and then on to Iowa State in Ames, Iowa. Then April 6th, I go to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Then I fly out west to the University of California at Berkeley. We end the tour April 20th in Austin at the University of Texas, where I'll be joined by Lance Armstrong.

Now you may be wondering why you should care. Well, here's the reason: Kids today may live shorter lives than their parents. Just imagine that for a second. In a developed country, a world lead in fact, children may be dying from too much food and too little activity.

And grown-ups aren't doing much better. Sixty-five percent of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese.

Here to help us get behind the numbers in this epidemic is Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. He has teamed up with the American Heart Association and with former President Bill Clinton's foundation as well to fight childhood obesity.

Also joining us is obesity expert, Melinda Sothern. She's the author of the book, "Trim Kids" and director of the pediatric obesity clinical research section at Ellis U.'s health sciences center.

Thank you both for being here.



GUPTA: Governor, let me just say, first of all, you have just done some remarkable things. You once said that leaders should not ask others to do what they won't do themselves. And for you, that meant losing weight, lots of weight, over 100 pounds. The National Meeting of the National Governor Association just ended. You made sure it included a summit on getting America healthy.

What sort of was the transition point for you? I think it's just such a great example. What made you lose the weight and become so healthy?

HUCKABEE: Dr. Gupta, the first thing happened when my doctor sat me down and said that if I didn't enter change my lifestyle, I would be entering the last decade of my life. And then he pointed to me how that decade would sort of unfold. And I'll be honest with you. It scared the living daylights out of me.


HUCKABEE: And what he described was not very pleasant. And I had diabetes in my family. I knew better. My lifestyle as a good old southern boy was eating lots of fried things, lots of sugary things, way too many of those things, and totally underexercising.

I told somebody that my life is like really America, very much like an NFL football game -- 22 people on the field who need some rest, 70,000 people in the stands who need some exercise. I was the guy in the stands.

GUPTA: Listen, you know, a lot of people watching. And obviously, it's a dramatic amount of weight that you lost. How did you do it?

HUCKABEE: The old fashioned way. First of all, I had to learn that it was a change of lifestyle. And my goal wasn't to lose weight. And that's why this time I was successful, as opposed to previous times in my life. And I would lose weight, but then gain it back and add some to it.

What was different was that my goal was to be healthy, not just to be skinny. I think sometimes we try to associate that health and being thin are the same thing. There are some skinny people who aren't healthy. But the bigger issue was would I do the things that would make me healthy?

When I did those things, the weight took care of itself. And I became a normal person in terms of my body weight.

GUPTA: Well, you really -- you look great, governor. I applaud you for it.

Melinda, let me bring you in here as well, because a lot of people -- you know, a lot of questions coming about losing the weight.


GUPTA: I mean, I guess that's first and foremost still on people's mind. Is it harder for children, for young people to lose weight versus adults?

SOTHERN: You know, I think it is harder, because it's harder to understand how healthy nutrition or increased physical activity will actually affect a child who's growing. And it's not about the weight at all.

And what we do is we try to have the children achieve a healthier weight. It's not even about weight loss. And the word weight loss is never used, just as the word obesity is never used.

I mean, I applaud Governor Huckabee. He's done it the way it should be. The weight loss is a byproduct of changing your eating habits and your physical activity habits gradually over time. You know, so that it's 10 percent per week. So that after about three months, you're doing things totally different.

GUPTA: Right, right.

SOTHERN: And it works really easily.

GUPTA: I want to drill down on some of the specifics in terms of actually getting this done around the country, because a lot of people are talking about it...


GUPTA: ...but there's some action starting to happen as well. I want to get to a sound bite now from former President Clinton. He was a guest on our show a few months ago, talking about what needs to change if we're going to stop this obesity trend.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First thing I'd ask them to do is to look at schools, set some standards for the school meals, set some standards that the schools contracted out to a firm. You know, are they getting fresh fruits and vegetables? Are they getting a variety of vegetables?

Almost half of all vegetable consumption by people under 20 is potatoes. And they can certainly do something about the vending machines. They either ought to get them out of the grade schools or get the bad stuff out of the vending machines. They can have more physical education programs.


GUPTA: And you know, since that interview, and both of you know this, Governor Huckabee as well, many states and school systems have started dealing with vending machines.

But governor, what about school lunches? What about the specifics of that? What about the fact that physical education classes have been cut? What are you saying to parents who are concerned about that?

HUCKABEE: I think one of the things we have to be very careful is make sure people realize that this is not caused by a single thing such as vending machines or lack of P.E. And I hope people don't have the false notion that if we just ban vending machines, kids are going to be healthy in five years, because they're not.

The caloric intake for most adolescents of all vending machines, not just school, but all vending machines according to a North Carolina study is about two percent of their caloric intake at most.

What we really have is a generation of kids who are sitting on their back sides, instead of running around like most of us grew up. And it's the activity level that probably is most dramatically different than even the calorie intake.

But then add to that a calorie intake that's higher in fat, higher in portion size, greater in the levels of sugar and sodium and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. And it's the recipe for disaster.

GUPTA: Go ahead. Dr. Sothern.

SOTHERN: Well, Governor Huckabee, you're correct. But you know, it's the marketing impact of having those vending machines in there. And the kids are seeing these snacks that are 2.5 times the size that they should be. And then the child's, you know, perception changes as to what's a normal portion size.

And if these vending machines did have raisins and nuts and healthy foods, it would be one thing, but they don't. So I think you could start there, certainly.

I would actually like to see a lot more done with regard to making health as important as academics. So that, you know, standardized test scores are not the end all to be all, and that the teachers actually have to meet some kind of health score, some type of fitness score for the children, as well.

GUPTA: Well, let me tell you Dr. Sothern, no one better than Governor Huckabee to talk about that.

SOTHERN: Exactly.

GUPTA: We're going to get to that in just a couple of minutes. We are answering your questions on getting fit and healthy. All of that coming up on HOUSE CALL.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My grandfather died of diabetes. My dad has diabetes. My family's overweight.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The family dynamics and devastating consequences of excess weight.

And later, emotions and exercise. How to find the right moves for your mood.



GUPTA: We came to Spelman because we believe some of the best changes in our society happen right here on college campuses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our first solution is to legislate a junk food tax for fast food restaurants and for product placement in schools, community centers, and public areas.

Our second solution for college students is to introduce intramural sports between the residents halls.


GUPTA: And that was just a small part of what happened at our kickoff event at Spelman College this past week. One of the reasons we picked Spelman as our first stop are the statistics that face African-American women.

Government figures show 50 percent of adult African-American women are obese. And African-Americans are twice as likely to have diabetes as compared to whites.

What's alarming -- it's becoming more common to see children of color under 20 being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.


GUPTA (voice-over): Spelman College freshman Miriam Archibong doesn't take good health for granted. MIRIAM ARCHIBONG, SPELMAN FRESHMAN: My grandfather died of diabetes. My dad has diabetes. He has Type one diabetes, where he has to inject insulin into his body every day. My family's overweight.

GUPTA: So Archibong started a vegetarian club at her high school and prompted the school board to create meals for vegetarian students.

ARCHIBONG: And it was very important for me to take care of myself before I got to a worst place.

GUPTA: Former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher says when it comes to heart disease, statistics for African-American women in the U.S. are alarming.

DAVID SATCHER, DR., FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Black women, for example, are 35 to 40 percent more likely to die of heart disease than white women in this country.

GUPTA: Why are black women more affected by obesity and the chronic diseases associated with it? Satcher says the reasons are complicated.

SATCHER: People are predisposed to things like obesity and diabetes, based on their genetic inheritance. But whether or not they actually become obese or diabetic depends a lot on behavior and environment.

GUPTA: And he warns that this new epidemic could undermine recent gains made in healthcare.

SATCHER: Decline in cardiovascular disease in the last 40 years of over 60 percent. Decline in even new cases of cancer. All of that is spreading by the epidemic of overweight and obesity.

GUPTA: Satcher adds the disparities in healthcare between white and black Americans are real. And they cut across class lines.

SATCHER: In every socioeconomic group that we've looked at, there are major disparities. If you look at black physicians compared to white physicians, there are major disparities in life expectancy.

GUPTA: Archibong says now that she knows the benefits of good health, there's no going back.

ARCHIBONG: I was sick a lot. Got migraines often. And once I became a vegetarian, that was no longer an issue for me.

GUPTA: She believes setting an example and taking care of herself is the best thing she can do for those she cares about.

ARCHIBONG: In order for me to encourage others to change their lifestyle, I have to begin with myself.

(END VIDEOTAPE) GUPTA: And it is great to see a young woman like Miriam seeing her dangerous family history and trying to take some action to change her own future.

Talking to us about changing the nation's future is Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. He started the healthy Arkansas initiative in a state ranked among the very fattest in the country. He's also written a book called "Quit Digging your Grave with a Knife and Fork."

Also with us, Melinda Sothern, Dr. Melinda Sothern. She's a childhood obesity researcher and author. Welcome to you both.

SOTHERN: Thank you.

GUPTA: We sort of finished up the last segment. Governor, a couple of years ago, you started sending home the body mass index of every child, a kind of a report card on their weight. How did that turn out? Was there some good response to that?

HUCKABEE: Well, there was very good response in that a lot of parents starting taking their kids to the pediatrician and said, you know, I didn't realize that this is going to really put my child at a significant health risk.

People expected this incredible political backlash. But there was relatively little, because parents want the best for their kids. They often just don't know what they ought to be doing differently.

We did get vending machines out of our grade schools. We now limit the portion size and the offerings even at a high school level. And I think that beyond that, what we found by giving the body mass index, we gave a frame of reference.

And one of the things we found because we're the only state that's doing it, is that all of the projections about really how heavy kids were, we were grossly underestimating it.


GUPTA: Dr. Sothern, good idea?

SOTHERN: Yes, well, you know, the way they've done it in Arkansas is beautiful. And again, I have to applaud Governor Huckabee.

And you know, this monitoring that they're doing of the entire population of school children in the state, just the data that they're collecting that they're going to be able to then show people this is why we have to make these changes. It's phenomenal.

And they did it in a very tactful way. And I work with a lot of researchers and doctors over at Little Rock. So I know how this process went.

The other thing is it did raise the level of awareness.

GUPTA: Right.

SOTHERN: The parents now understand what body mass index percentile is.

GUPTA: There is a danger in possibly demonizing children, isn't there?

SOTHERN: Yes, well, there is. And again, you know, they spent a lot of time on how they presented this to the parents.

My only suggestion to other states is that, you know, this is a probably a good idea. But in addition to that, do the other things, too.

They also have a very good P.E. program in their schools.

GUPTA: Right.

SOTHERN: And they have addressed the vending machines and they haven't -- they have addressed school lunches. You can't just send the report card home to the parents and expect the parents to take care of it. Kids spend 50 percent of the time in school and 50 percent of the time at home.

GUPTA: Let's get to some e-mails. Let's stay on topic here. Get to some e-mails. Nate in Connecticut wants to know this. "At what point in a child's development does baby fat go from cute to concerning?"

And Melinda, sort of same topic here. A little bit chubby babies, toddlers are often considered cute and healthy.


GUPTA: But when does it become a problem?


GUPTA: And what age and at what weight?

SOTHERN: Yes, look at the child's actions. If they're normally physically active and they don't seem to be hungry all the time, they have a normal relationship with food.

If they're just a little chubby under age two, I wouldn't worry about it. If you can look at them in their appearance, they're grossly overweight. You know, a 100 pound two-year-old obviously needs some intervention.

But sometimes, you know, the kids will actually grow out a little bit before they grow up. In any case, I would discuss it with the pediatrician or family physician and develop a plan of tracking. And after about a one-year period, if they still appear to be overweight, then do some intervention.

GUPTA: Good advice. We are talking with Governor Mike Huckabee, an obesity expert. Dr. Melinda Sothern. Stay tuned for more HOUSE CALL.


CLINTON: We cannot solve this problem without the help of the fast food establishments.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From fast food to the entire food industry, should they be giving Americans healthier options? That's coming up.

First, this week's medical headlines in "The Pulse."


CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Men who love chocolate may be in for a treat. Dutch researchers studied almost 500 men over 65, and found those who ate and drank cocoa had lower blood pressure and a 50 percent risk lower risk of dying from heart disease. The 15 year study found men who consumed chocolate regularly were also less likely to die of any cause, but experts say more research is needed.

An unhappy marriage may be bad for your heart. A new study done by the University of Utah finds hardening of the arteries is more likely in women who have hostile disagreements with their husbands.

Men who have domineering wives were also more likely to have similar arterial sclerosis.

Christy Feig, CNN.



GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL. We're talking about getting this nation fit. I'm going to be touring around the country, teaming up with community leaders to come up with grassroots efforts to stop the obesity epidemic.

My guests are people who have been working on this for years already. Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who started his own national statewide effort to fight obesity and obesity expert Linda Sothern joins us, as well. She's author of the book, "Trim Kids."

Let's get back to our e-mails right away for a question for the governor from Lee in Wisconsin. "For years I have been annoyed by the fact that the only potato chip on children's menus is french fries." And that's one of the popular vegetables of all time, as it turns out now, governor. "How can we get the restaurant industry to change?"

And governor, gain, you had the summit talking about some of these issues. Are there too many competing interests for this actually to get done? HUCKABEE: Well, there are a lot of competing interests. And we have to recognize that right now, the market place is driving the -- really choices of the food companies. And the food companies marketing is driving a lot of choices of the consumer.

So it's a matter of not telling people what they can or can't do, because that will never work.


HUCKABEE: People don't respond well to that. But it is making sure people realize that a french fry is not necessarily a good healthy choice for a vegetable. There really are others.

Now the good news is fast food restaurants don't have to be unhealthy. Many of them offer healthy fare, but each individual has got to take responsibility for what he or she eats and then add to that, has got to get active.

You can even eat right, but still not get healthy if you don't exercise. And it's one of the pieces of this that I can't emphasize enough, because just simply eating right but not being physical active is still going to result in disaster.

GUPTA: OK. And that takes us right to another e-mail that we have from a frustrated parent in Ohio. Jacob writes this. "How do I get my 9 year old son to be more active? I try to get him in activities, but he'd rather just lie around," this parent writes.

Melinda, I mean, I have a young child at home, as well. How do you do this? I mean, because it seems like a fine line to actually get this done.

SOTHERN: Well, I mean, four decades of not having environment conducive to physical activity have caused this problem. I mean, kids think it's normal to sit around and watch TV and play video games. So you have to change the social norm.

The parents can do quite a lot. They can set up activities inside the home that are entertaining and fun. There's even interactive video gaming now that they can actually exercise while they do the video gaming.

Parents need to go outside, teach their children how to throw a ball, how to shoot a hoop, spend at least a half day on weekends outside doing some family physical activity. Talk to the schools. Make sure that they have daily physical education, that there is unstructured play time, free time for the kids to actually get together, and play tag and do the things that are normal for kids to do that.

Their systems are more conducive to running real hard, stopping, resting, playing. Let's just get play.

GUPTA: And governor, how did the rest of your family sort of take to your new sort of schedule? I know you're busy already and then you added all the workout, the fitness. Have they become more healthy as well?

HUCKABEE: Well, they have. They finally, you know, realized that it's an issue that faces our family. I would say that I think good health habits are more often taught.


HUCKABEE: And you can stand in front of kids and tell them a lot of things, but when moms and dads do exactly what Melinda was saying, that's what's going to happen. When parents are active, kids tend to be more active. When parents aren't active and don't eat right, kids aren't going to either.

And we got to remember that kids aren't dry cleaning. You don't take them to school, drop them off in the morning, pick them up in the afternoon, and they're supposed to be well fed, well exercised, and well educated. Parents have got to get their heads in this game or we're going to lose it.


GUPTA: Well said. And thank you so much. Governor Huckabee and Dr. Melinda Sothern. Thanks for being with us this morning. An important topic.

SOTHERN: Pleasure.

GUPTA: We feel for sure. You've both done incredible work helping this nation to get healthier and protecting our kids as well from the epidemic of obesity. And it is an epidemic. So thank you both very, very much.

More HOUSE CALL, coming up after the break.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Too stressed to work out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People can really get more in touch with their emotions, they'll have a better workout.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coming up, your guide to the perfect workout for your mood.



GUPTA: We're back with HOUSE CALL. You know those days, today might be one of them, you just don't feel like working out. You're feeling tired, you're feeling a little lethargic. But now the bod squad has found what may be the perfect workout for your mood.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People can really get more in touch with their emotions, they'll have a better workout.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Dr. Aaron Fisher is a sports psychologist. So what workout does he recommend if you're feeling angry?

FISHER: You want to go and kick box or go and take your anger out on other people, for some people, that might work well. But for others, they might need to do something more meditative.

COSTELLO: Dr. Fisher says try running or lifting weights, or aerobics, boxing, or take a walk to reflect or yoga to relax. When you're depressed or have the blues, do something that empowers yourself such as taking a walk in nature so you can reflect. If you're bored...

FISHER: Bored and you want to do something to spice things up. So you might get out there and take a new class.

COSTELLO: If you're feeling stressed out, Fisher suggests working out on a treadmill or doing Pilates, Tai Chi, or yoga. When you're feeling happy, extend yourself. Try a new aerobics class. Lift more weights. This will help you feel even more uplifted.

So no matter what mood you're in, there is no good excuse for not working out.

Carol Costello, CNN.



GUPTA: For more information on the "Fit Nation" tour, go to and click over to That's the American Heart Association's Alliance for a healthier generation, which includes a food savvy game show as well.

Well, unfortunately, we're out of time for today, but keep an eye out for me as I fly around the country on our "Fit Nation" tour. Also, make sure to tune in next weekend at 8:30 Eastern for another edition of HOUSE CALL. E-mail us with your health questions at And remember, this is the place for the answers to all of your medical questions.

Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.