Skip to main content
U.S. Edition


Return to Transcripts main page


Who Is to Blame for Thin Models?; Winter's Effects on Depression; Sweets Could Keep Heart Beating Stronger

Aired February 10, 2007 - 08:30   ET


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Welcome to HOUSECALL. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. You've probably seen the pictures -- the fashion elite gathering in New York City for fashion week. This year, for some, talk about the clothes is taking a backseat. Instead, the health of rail thin models is at the forefront. Alina Cho joins us now with the controversy and the finger pointing.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sanjay, this year, the big question is not what's hot and what's not. It's how thin is too thin? Many of the models you see on the runway these days are like human clothes hangers. In some cases, they're literally dying to be thin. And now the industry is doing something about it.


CHO (voice-over): They've always been thin, but some of the models on the catwalk these days are not just skinny, they're down right skeletal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see bones. I don't like the idea of a knee being the largest part of the body. I don't want to see and count people's rib bones.

CHO: When Brazilian model Anna Carolina Reston died last year of complications related to anorexia, she weighed just 88 pounds. It was front page news. And the fashion industry responded, introducing health requirements for models in parts of Europe.

New York responded, too. No models under 16 on the runway. Models with eating disorders are ordered to get help. And designers are encouraged to feed the models backstage.

The problem is these are guidelines. And designers are free to do as they please. At least one designer has resorted to weighing models.

BETSEY JOHNSON, FASHION DESIGNER: What we're looking for here...

CHO: Betsey Johnson says, that's not her style.

JOHNSON: There is a healthier approach. And I think that's good. But treating the girls like jockeys or sports figures, making them weigh in, oh, I think that's horrible. CHO: Many in the industry believe the real issue isn't weight, but age. With models as young as 13 on the runway, editors say, of course they're thin. They're not fully grown.

Actress Raquel Welch, who at 66 is Mac Cosmetics new beauty icon, says she doesn't fault the models. She blames designers for not making clothes big enough for the average woman.

RACQUEL WELCH, ACTRESS: Nothing fits. You can't get the zippers up. And you say, well, are they just - they just don't want me?

CHO: And the model themselves, they say we should focus less on super skinny and more on obesity.

ANOUCK LEPERE, MODEL: The world in general has the opposite problem, I think.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Models are never going to be average. They're models. And so that alone, they're going to be thinner and taller and younger than the average American woman, but I still think that they should be representatives of health.


CHO: There's been a lot of talk about exactly who's responsible for the models. Well, most of the people in the industry I spoke to say the agencies, and at a more basic level, parents are responsible.

But the general consensus is, unfortunately, not much will likely change. Models will always be thin. It's part of the job requirement. Some of them are too thin. But because the story is getting so much attention, those in the fashion industry hope there will be more awareness about this issue, and maybe designers will sit up and take notice, Sanjay, the next time they're hiring models for their shows.

GUPTA: Alina, thank you so much. It's good that people are actually taking a look at this for the first time.

And for those on the other end of the weight battle, the government for the first time is approving a fat blocking diet pill to be sold over the counter. The low dose called Alli is sold under the prescription name Xenical. Alli's considered safe enough to be used by people 18 and older, along with a low calorie, low fat diet, and of course exercise as well.

Now many parts of the country continue to dig out from all that snow. And with all the time spent outside, you could be putting yourself at risk.

Take a look at this. If it's 10 degrees outside with a 30 mile an hour wind, it takes only 10 minutes for frostbite to set in. So be careful out there.

And another warning as well, winter isn't just hard on the body. As Christy Feig reports, for some, these shorter, darker days can bring on the blues, even depression.


CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As he has for the last 21 years, Neal Owen starts his day with 20 minutes of light therapy. That's because he suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. A less severe form is called winter blues.

NEAL OWENS, SAD PATIENT: It's like you're weighted down. It's almost as if your brain batteries are running out of juice. You're lethargic. You just don't want to do much. You find that it's a chore to get out of bed in the morning.

FEIG: Owens is not alone. Millions of Americans feel the same way this time of year. It's a type of depression that strikes most people during the fall and winter months only. Up to 80 percent of those affected are women. And it's caused, experts say, by a chemical imbalance in the brain due to a lack of sunlight.

NORMAN ROSENTHAL, DR., AUTHOR, "WINTER BLUES": The light is providing us with certain chemical changes in the brain. And when we take that away in susceptible people, the changes are not occurring. And you then get the whole cascade of symptoms.

FEIG: Those symptoms can be mild, fatigue, low energy, oversleeping, craving for carbohydrates and sweets, or very debilitating.

ROSENTHAL: In severe cases, people with Seasonal Affective Disorder can be disabled, unable to work, unable to keep their commitments to other people, depressed, even suicidal.

FEIG: But there are a number of effective treatments available. Light therapy, early morning exposure to very bright light, is effective. And doctors say exercising, modifying your diet, psychotherapy, and in some cases, antidepressants can help you work through those dark and difficult days.

I'm Christy Feig, reporting from Washington.


GUPTA: All right, Christy, thanks.

And now some news about another test in the arsenal when fighting breast cancer. The FDA has approved a gene test that could predict the chances of breast cancer returning in the five to ten years following initial diagnosis.

The MammaPrint test is the first such test approved by the FDA. Experts warn the test is not 100 percent accurate. Its results concerning women less likely to relapse are more accurate than its predictions of who's at higher risk.

You'll get the latest medical news each week on HOUSECALL, of course. But if you need a midweek fix, check out or i-Tunes. Wednesday evening, my newest podcast is downloadable.

This week, I want to talk about something interesting -- microwaves and your health. You'll be surprised at what I found.

Now stay where you are. When HOUSECALL returns, you've seen what your brain on drugs looks like, right? What about your brain in love? And a gift for the heart this Valentine's Day. I'm going to give you the pro's and con's of dark chocolate.

And later in the show, a high school football coach suddenly disappears, wandering, with no idea who he is or where he's going. The bizarre medical reason coming up.


GUPTA: It's one of the most intense feelings a human being can experience -- falling madly in love. As people celebrate Valentine's Day, we celebrate by looking at some of the science behind these powerful emotion. But wait, is it an emotion? Or is it really a chemical reaction? We're unlocking the mystery of your brain in love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I love you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some people live for love, they kill for love, they die for love, they sing about love. There are myths and legends about love.

GUPTA (voice-over): It is said that falling in love is magical. It's been universally described by people from all over the world in similar terms. Euphoria, exhilaration, elation, an intense craving for the person they love.

But what exactly is love? Is it an emotion or something far more clinical? Dr. Helen Fisher, Dr. Art Aron, and Dr. Lucy Brown joined forces to study the science of love.

Dr. Brown, a neuroscientist at Albert Einstein University, has been studying the brain for more than 40 years, but this study was different than anything she had ever done.

She looked at 17 people, who by their own description had recently fallen deeply in love. Each person was asked to look at a photograph of their sweetheart while lying in a sophisticated scanner, a functional MRI. The goal, find out what's happening in the brain when someone is intensely in love.

LUCY BROWN, NEUROSCIENTIST: When I started this study, I thought I was studying a very strong positive emotion. Now I have changed my mind the way I think about early stage romantic love, that it is a motivation. The person is a goal.

GUPTA: In fact, the part of the brain that lit up strongest was the reward, pleasure part of the brain. Not nearly as poetic as romantics would have thought. Turns out love is just another reward, much like chocolate or a drug for an addict.

ART ARON, PSYCHOLOGIST: What we think these data suggest is that everyone is focused intensely on getting this reward, being connected with having this person part of themselves.

GUPTA: And there are even more startling similarities between being madly in love and some forms of mental illness. Seratonin is 40 percent lower in people who had been madly in love for the previous six months. Another group of people with significantly low seratonin levels, those with OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

LOUIS DAILEY, NEWLY ENGAGED: I want to get married pretty much as soon as I get back. I really don't see a reason to wait around and, you know, start our lives together. Let's do it all. Let's get the house and 3.2 children or whatever you get.

ARON: When you're intensely in love, and especially if it's being reciprocated, there is an incredible sense of exhilaration. You feel this person is the most wonderful person in the world. And if they were part of you, if you were together, your life would be perfect.

GUPTA: But how long can those kinds of feelings last?

HELEN FISHER, ANTHROPOLOGIST: One of the most outstanding characteristics of romantic love is that it's not permanent. It doesn't last forever, at least that very early stage doesn't last forever, that pounding heart, the obsessive thinking, the craving, the intense motivation. In very good relationships, it will go down to a lower level.

GUPTA: Simply put, the burst of neurotransmitters, that dopamine drenched craze that leads to those feelings of mad love starts to wear out. So have I been ruining your Valentine's Day by examining the magic of love under a microscope?

FISHER: You know, you can know every ingredient in a piece of chocolate cake. And you still sit down and eat that chocolate cake. And it's wonderful in the same way you can know all of the ingredients of romantic love and still feel that passion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You may kiss your bride.


GUPTA: All right. You feeling it?

You know, another thing on this Valentine's Day, people will be celebrating by, you guessed it, shelling out some cash. Listen to this recent survey. Shows about is $117 spent by the average man. I got some spending to do still. And about half that for women.

The most popular gifts by men -- flowers and candy. Now if you're going to be giving and receiving some of those heart-shaped boxes, keep in mind your Valentine's heart.

As Judy Fortin reports, the right sweets could actually help that heart keep beating stronger.


JUDY FORTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A way to your Valentine's heart may be to give a gift that is good for their heart. Some experts suggest dark chocolate fits the bill. Those with higher cocoa content have antioxidant compounds called flavanoids.

MARISA MOORE, AMERICAN DIETETIC ASSOCIATION: Flavanoids are so good for us because they have been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease. They help to decrease clot formation in the body.

FORTIN: Other studies suggest a small serving of dark chocolate might lower blood pressure and reduce insulin resistance. But experts warns chocolate is no miracle drug and should never take the place of medicine.

MOORE: But we have to remember that it's not a health food. You have to make sure that we enjoy it in moderation. It does contribute calories and fat.

FORTIN: Large amounts of chocolate, especially those with added nuts and fillings, can increase the risk for obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. Moore points out that flavanoids are also found in apples, grapes, red wine, and green tea. But if you can't resist the taste, a little bit of dark chocolate might be just what your doctor orders.


GUPTA: I'll certainly take that order. That sounds pretty good.

Now let's check on news making headlines this week with "The Pulse."


JUDY FORTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Large and graphic. That's what scientists say the warnings need to be on cigarettes to be the most effective in changing smokers' behavior. Compared to small U.S. labels, surveys found those in Canada and Britain were more likely to lead smokers to consider quitting.

No need to stay overnight any more. A new report in "The Annals of Internal Medicine" shows an overnight stay in a lab may not be needed to diagnose sleep apnea. Patients receiving similar treatments at home reportedly had the same results.

Experts are warning people to know the signs of a stroke. Sudden weakness or numbness are classic signs, but half the people experiencing them don't seek treatment. The American Stroke Association says the higher the income, the more likely the patient is to seek care.

Judy Fortin, CNN, Atlanta.


GUPTA: All right, thanks, Judy.

Just ahead, the mysteries of the mind.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last thing I remember from that morning is feeling very ill. I don't know where I was or what I was doing.


GUPTA: The high school coach and he went missing, losing days of his life, no memory of his family. We're going to go inside a rare form of memory loss.

And later, why some parents aren't allowed to bring in birthday treats for their kids. Are our schools going too far? Find out, just ahead.


GUPTA: Welcome back. In Texas, a bizarre story now of a high school coach, who for 25 days was lost. He was wandering. He had no idea of who or where he was. Doctors call his amnesia psychogenic fugue.

Still trying to figure out what caused it. Was it hard hit or was it psychological pressure?


GUPTA (voice-over): At 59, after 35 years with a power company, Joe Bieger found his true calling.

JOE BIEGER, SUFFERED PSYCHOGENIC FUGUE: I played football all through my high school and college years. And this was the first opportunity that I've ever had to coach football.

GUPTA: The new job was pressure. Bieger wanted to win and mentor his boys. And he practiced hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's ready to go, hitting you hard with the pads, making you want to go hard at him.

GUPTA: Then one da, he took out his dogs and vanished. For 25 agonizing days, nothing.

BIEGER: The last thing I remember from that morning is feeling very ill. I don't know where I was or what I was doing.

GUPTA: He has vague recollections of sleeping on a swing, being found dirty and bearded, and his memory returning.

BIEGER: It didn't come to me like a flash of light, but it wasn't a struggle either. Over a matter of a few hours or four or five hours, I'm not sure, I felt perfectly normal.

GUPTA: Doctors say Bieger experienced psychogenic fugue, something so rare no statistics exist.

DANIEL SCHACTER, HARVARD PSYCHOLOGIST: Psychogenic fugue is a rare form of memory loss in which someone typically experiences some sort of traumatic event, and as a result of that, begins to wander.

GUPTA: What erased Bieger's memory is a mystery. He'd suffered temporary amnesia twice, just weeks before his disappearance. MRI scans showed no physical damage, suggesting emotional trauma from coaching.

BIEGER: It's the conclusion of the doctors that the stress of that new activity is what caused me to go into this fugue state.

GUPTA: As Bieger learns to manage stress, his wife insists he carries a cell phone with a GPS tracking device. Humbled, Bieger sees a lesson in his strange journey.

BIEGER: I had to look lost. And yet I'm not sure that I was ever approached. And we all have to be much more aware of people who might need some help.


GUPTA: Bieger has gone through a series of tests, including hypnosis, to try to see what he really remembers. His memory is 100 percent. He has absolutely no gaps in remembering his family or his life, no impairments in his brain or memory function at all, except those 25 days when he was missing. It really is a mystery. It remains a mystery.

To learn more about another mystery of the mind, something called face blindness where you don't recognize anyone, not someone you just met, not even yourself, go to It's fascinating stuff.

And don't head to those computers just yet, though. Coming up, two words you thought you'd never hear together, cupcakes and controversy.

While some schools ban sweets, one state is fighting to keep them. All this over some cake, some sticky frosting, and some rainbow sprinkles. We'll explain when HOUSECALL returns.


GUPTA: We are back with HOUSECALL. Every week, we bring you the latest news about fighting obesity, what's working, what's not. We'll leave the opinions to you on this next story.

In an effort to fight childhood obesity, some schools are, get this, cutting sweets, banning parents from bringing any treats to school to for their kids. As you can imagine, that is bringing mixed reviews.


GUPTA: Timmy Hable (ph) was celebrating his 7th birthday with his classmates. But this year, the traditional cupcake is nowhere to be found.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're yogurts with crunchies.

GUPTA: Timmy's mom is cooperating with the school's new food guidelines.

LELANDA ANDRIA, TIMMY'S TEACHER: No more cupcakes. No more cookies.

GUPTA: Timmy's teacher applauds the change, saying her students behave better without the sweets.

ANDRIA: I noticed they weren't quite as hyper. The candy really does do that.

GUPTA: Avalon Elementary School in Pittsburgh is one of many schools across the country interpreting new laws, requiring that schools meet certain nutritional standards. It's all part of an effort to halt the surging obesity rate in children, now hovering at 20 percent. As for a negative reaction?

RICHARD STUEMPGES, PRINCIPAL: I did not hear anything negative at all. And it kind of surprised me a little bit. They kind of appreciated it. And they saw the need for it.

JIM DUNHAM, TEXAS HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: One cupcake a year is not going to decide whether or not some child is obese or not.

GUPTA: Others disagree. Texas House Minority Leader Jim Dunham introduced Lauren's Law, named for his daughter after learning her school banned any food brought in by parents. The law, which passed unanimously, guarantees parents' right to send any type of food they want to school for special occasions.

DUNHAM: Anything that a parent wants to do to be more involved in their child's education and do something special for their child at school on their birthday, we shouldn't get in the way of that.

GUPTA: Instead, Dunham favors better lunches and more activity for students. Obesity expert Dr. Nancy Krebs warns that banning certain foods can have a negative effect.

NANCY KREBS, DR., CHILD OBESITY EXPERT: I think banning always carries some risk, because to take away those special foods makes them even more desired.

GUPTA: Even at Timmy's school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like the cupcakes better.


GUPTA: She says I like the cupcakes better. That's what she said at the end.

So what do you think about the ban? Want to hear from you. Blog your thoughts at You can read some of the responses. They've been remarkable. Just click on the upper right blog icon and let me know.

Plus, find out if your city made the list of annual fittest and fattest cities. All that's on my blog. More HOUSECALL after the break.


GUPTA: And for health information 24/7, just click on You're going to find the latest news, a medical library, and access to my weekly podcast. If you miss any part of today's show, go to You're going to find a link there to free transcripts.

Unfortunately, we're out of time this morning. Make sure to watch HOUSECALL every weekend for the latest news about your health and answers to all of your medical questions.

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


CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNNAvantGo Ad Info About Us Preferences
© 2007 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines