Science Book a Day Interviews David L Katz


Special thanks to David L Katz for answering 5 questions about his recently featured book – Disease-Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well

David L Katz is the founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. He received his BA from Dartmouth College, his MD from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and his MPH from the Yale University School of Public Health. Dr. Katz is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Childhood Obesity, President-Elect of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, founder and President of the non-profit Turn the Tide Foundation, and medical director for theIntegrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital in Derby, CT. He is the principal inventor of the NuVal nutritional guidance system, currently in roughly 1700 US supermarkets in more than 30 states, coast to coast. Dr. Katz has published nearly 200 scientific articles and textbook chapters; innumerable blogs and columns; nearly 1,000 newspaper articles; and authored or co-authored 15 books to date, including multiple editions of textbooks in both Nutrition and Preventive Medicine. – Adapted from David’s Homepage

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#1 – What was the impetus for Disease Proof?

Everything about modern living that makes it ‘modern’ conspires against health.  There are only two ways to overcome this: change the world, or change ourselves (or both).  It occurred to me that i was able to be healthy in spite of it all- because, as an expert, I have a skill set most people lack.  I though: while working to change the world, why not share that entire skill set so that everyone can learn to do what I know how to do?  Disease Proof is my attempt to pay it forward; to share the very skill set I, as a preventive medicine expert, rely on every day.

#2 – Can you tell us what ‘skill power’ is and how it relates to health?

Will power is wanting to; skill power is knowing how.  So, for instance, it includes skills for fitting physical activity into every day, no matter how hectic.  It includes skills for identifying and choosing more nutritious foods in every category- without spending more money (most of the time, at least).  It includes skills for eating well when on the road; skills for filling up on fewer calories so you can control your weight without going hungry; skills for taming a sweet tooth without giving up dessert; and so on.

Basically, it’s just like learning to read, or ride a bike, or drive a car, or fly a plane- all of these depend on particular skills.  so does being healthy.  Skillpower is the ownership and application of that skill set.

#3 – You claim that 80% of chronic diseases can be avoided by four simple things – not smoking, eating well, being active and having a healthy weight. is it that simple?

Yes it is.  But simple doesn’t mean easy!  Eating optimally is simple to say, but not easy to do in the modern world where junk food is engineered by teams of Phds to be all but addictive (see writings of Michael Moss).  Being active is simple, but not easy in a modern life with long, hectic, exhausting, but sedentary days.  So yes, the evidence is clear: don’t smoke, eat optimally, be active, and maintain an ideal weight- and you slash your lifetime risk of all major chronic disease by 80% compared to the levels that prevail in modern societies.  Simple- but not easy!

#4 – Who have you written this book for? What has been the response to the book?

Everybody.  And, very good- but not great in terms of sales. In other words, most people who have read the book love it, but not enough have read it to land it on best seller lists thus far.  I think the reason is obvious: I tell the truth.  Most best-seller in the health, wellness, and weight loss space offer magical pixie dust: Just do ‘this’ and you will lose weight effortless and not have to think about calories or exercise. I tell people there is a skill set, and I can teach it- but they have to learn it, and apply it.  It’s honest; it’s true; and it’s real.  But in a market accustomed to magical thinking and false promises, it’s hard for truth to compete.

#5 – Do you have any upcoming projects/book you can tell us about?

The 3rd edition of my nutrition textbook for health care professionals, nutrition in clinical practice, comes out in September.  I am particularly excited that my first novel, the first book in an epic trilogy, came out recently.  I think it’s a great book (forgive the immodesty)- both because it is a fun, diverting story; and because it is real literature, exploring many important philosophical and literary themes.  But I suggest reading it just for fun.  It’s called Revision – although it is a work of fiction, it explores many themes of science, so this audience should appreciate it

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