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Pollen and Allergies; Interview with Jamie Oliver; What Foods to Eat That Could Prevent Alzheimer's

Aired April 17, 2010 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Good morning. Welcome. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Welcome to the place we're going to learn how to live longer and stronger. I'm your doctor and also your coach.

First up, pollen and allergies. Does it seem particularly bad this year? Well, it might and there's a reason why. I'll tell you all about it.

And, Jamie Oliver. You may have heard of this guy by now. He's a chef. What can he teach us -- all of us -- about cooking and more importantly, about the whole obesity epidemic.

And finally: a medical mystery. Any idea what that is? That's a scan of the brain. I'll give you a hint. This is from a soldier in Afghanistan.

I'll have all of it. Let's get started.


GUPTA: I have to tell you, I'm an allergy sufferer, and pollen is everywhere, it seems, this year, in staggeringly high numbers. Much of the country is suffering right now and it's not just the millions who have allergies.

Now, if you're thinking this year seems a lot worse than usual, you're right.

And meteorologist Chad Myers has the details. He's in the CNN severe weather center.

Chad, you know, you can see it in the air for sure. What's going on out there?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: A couple of things happened this season. All of a sudden, we went from 40 degrees to, like, 80 degrees, and all the trees literally popped all at one time. And that was a problem because then all the pollen went into the air all basically at one time.

And something meteorologically happened as well. There has been a blocking high across the eastern part of the country -- allowing the air literally to spin clockwise around and around and around so the pollen that eventually could get taken by a cold front and pushed out into the ocean hasn't done that. Pollen is just spinning around and around and around. And the numbers just keep going up and up and up.

GUPTA: I mean, there are numbers you can -- you can attribute to this sort of thing. What is considered high? I mean, I think I've heard in the past that 120 is considered high, right?

MYERS: Right. They take a box, one cubic meter or basically a cubic yard, close enough. And they count how many pollen grains are in there. And 120 is, like, to the extreme.

And some of the numbers that we had in Georgia and parts of Alabama, especially where the pine trees are, were over 5,000. So it's, like, 40 times higher than extreme.

But, technically, it's not the pollen that you can see that's the problem. Those are very large grain pollens that come from the pine trees.

GUPTA: Right.

MYERS: They don't get stuck, like, in your nose and your membranes the same way that, like, a ragweed one which is small and very dagger-like all the way around there. And those are the ones that really seem to bother you.

GUPTA: So, so when you see that circle you were drawing on there -- how long will that continue, do you think? How widespread will it be?

MYERS: I have this not moving for another seven days. That's going to make an awful lot of rain through the plains. And that's a lot of relief because when rain comes in and hits the pollen, it washes it to the ground and washes it out to the ditch and then down to the river.

But when you don't get rain and you don't get a cold front to come through and push it offshore, it just stays here. So, I would say, at least for the next seven days. Eventually, the pollen falls out and it gets to the ground ...

GUPTA: Right.

MYERS: ... or gets in your body, in your nose. But other than that, there's just -- there's no big relief for us across the eastern United States, at least. The west is doing OK, some fresher air is coming in there. But the east is blocked.

GUPTA: I'll get you a box of Kleenex, maybe even your car washed, Chad. How about that?

MYERS: I'll tell you what, everywhere across the eastern part of the country is still extreme. We're still -- we're moderate across parts of the Midwest and getting lower across the northwest. But I can tell you, probably, that's 13 at least states that would be over 120 and sometimes, like we saw or heard, 5,000. GUPTA: Incredible. Chad, thanks so much, as always.

And as Chad just said, this is pretty widespread. More than 35 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies. They're left sneezing, sniffling, tired, coughing, as you may be at home right now during this allergy season.

But the thing about it is, that can sound a lot like a cold as well. The question we get all the time: how do you know the difference?

So, let's try and tackle that. Colds generally last a week while allergies can last an entire season or even longer. Also, cold is often accompanied by a fever or sore throat. Not so much true with allergies. That can leave feeling congested, itchy eyes and sneezing.

Now, if you're looking for relief, like a lot of people are, you can check -- you can go to your local drugstore. Medications like antihistamines, Benadryl, Claritin, you can buy those over the counter. That can help with your sneezing and your itchy and the throat.

Decongestants, a different class of medications -- that will help with the stuffy nose. And then there's anti-inflammatory drugs, sort of one notch higher. Think of those mainly as nasal sprays and that's simply going to help you breathe easier.

Now we're going to talk about some kids with very some grown-up problems. Could they be learning too much, too fast, all of it, on the baseball field? We've got advice from one of the best lefties to ever play the game.

And my conversation this week -- you probably know him from the "Food Revolution." His name is Jamie Oliver. We're going to talk about food and the obesity crisis and what we can about it.

Stay with us.


GUPTA: And we are back with SGMD.

As you know every week at this time, I get to answer your questions. Think of it as your appointment, no waiting, no insurance necessary.

Let's get right to it.

A question from our blog -- Dennis in New Mexico asking, "How does Alzheimer's eventually take a person's life? I had two grandparents with this disease and both died of other things. Can you explain?"

This is a -- it's an important point, Dennis. Alzheimer's does not kill a person directly. You're not going to find Alzheimer's, for example, as a cause of death on a death certificate. What happens, though, as the disease progresses, controlling a lot of your body's functions simply becomes more difficult. Things like eating, going to the bathroom, walking, even swallowing becomes a problem.

If you're not eating and you're not moving around, infections can set in. Blood clots as well. Your immune system starts to get weaker, putting your body at higher risk for infection. Pneumonia, for example.

So, think of it basically as complications from the disease that ultimately takes a person's life. You know, but it is worth pointing out there are things you can do right now to prevent the disease. There's a new study out there, for example, suggesting some foods may keep your brain healthy and lower your risk by 40 percent.

And, Dennis, and everyone else, I'm going to tell you what those foods are a little bit later.


GUPTA: You know, it's that time of year we start thinking about baseball, and pitching injuries in youth baseball are becoming really widespread. Kids are constantly getting hurt. Sometimes, these kids require surgery.

So, we decided to get some expert advice from one of the best left-handed pitchers ever to play professional baseball.


GUPTA (voice-over): That's pitching great Tom Glavine watching his son's little league practice.

Now, you might be surprised at what he has to say.

TOM GLAVINE, 1995 WORLD SERIES MVP: You know, I wouldn't let a kid at 11 years old throw a breaking ball. I didn't throw a breaking ball until I got to high school.

GUPTA: So, why does he say that? Well, because the breaking ball, also called the curveball, puts too much stress on preteen elbows.

GLAVINE: There you go. That's a little better.

DR. JOE CHANDLER, ATLANTA BRAVES: Over time, we're seeing an epidemic of overuse injuries in youth baseball, an epidemic of shoulder and elbow injuries.

GUPTA: That often means surgery and pitching careers over before they've even started.

GLAVINE: I think at this young age, teach them how to throw a fastball for strikes, then teach them to change-up and just teach them how to pitch and don't worry so much about the curveball. There's plenty of time for that.

OK. Not every pitch is a strike.

GUPTA: The problem is, young players are also getting injured because of throwing too many pitches each outing or playing too many innings per game. It's hard when professional baseball is such a draw.

UNIDENTIFIED KID: I want to be a professional baseball player.

UNIDENTIFIED KID: It's my dream.

GUPTA: But many young players and coaches don't always get this message: play less to play longer.

CHANDLER: Those who are getting significant injuries at 19 or 20 years old, you can usually trace it back to overuse at 12 and 13 years old.

GLAVINE: A lot of these kids are playing one sport and they're playing it year round.

GUPTA: Growing up, Glavine took a break from baseball each season to play hockey. He gave his arm a rest and thinks that may have contributed to his long baseball career. And he's hoping these little leaguers catch on.

UNIDENTIFIED KID: Don't throw curveballs.


UNIDENTIFIED KID: Don't throw it out.

UNIDENTIFIED KID: That's not good.


GUPTA: Cute kids there. Hopefully, they got some good advice.

Next, I took a trip to the grocery store. That's right, I did. My wife would be so proud. And I took along food crusader Jamie Oliver. What he tells me is that we should all be feeding ourselves and our families in a way that's inexpensive and healthy. We'll explain.

Plus -- take a look at that. It's our medical mystery. Can you guess what it is? An astonishing discovery I'll tell you. You're going to need to see this to believe it.

Stay with us.


GUPTA: And we are back with SGMD.

You know, as a doctor, a reporter, a parent, I've spent a lot of time thinking about childhood obesity. More than one-third of our children are overweight or obese. It's hard to even say that, and sometimes the whole problem seems insurmountable. We're always on the lookout for new solutions.

And today, I'm with someone who thinks he has one. And I think he may, too. His name is Jamie Oliver. You may know him by lots of different names, "The Naked Chef" is one of them.

But Jamie's latest crusade is fighting obesity. And he's doing it with a new show that's called "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution." He's trying to get the fattest city in the country -- at least the most unhealthy city -- Huntington, West Virginia, to clean up their act. We're going to talk about that.

But we started with something I was really interested in, taking a trip to the grocery store.


GUPTA: But just take me -- take me through, I want to get in your mind a little bit here. So, you're walking in. I want to shop right for my family tonight.

Tell me what I should do. What should I be thinking about, at least?

JAMIE OLIVER, "JAMIE OLIVER'S FOOD REVOLUTION": The quickest and easiest lesson to learn is what my granddad taught me when I was about 5 years old, everything in moderate and a little bit of what you like. You know, I think once you've taken excessive snacking and fizzy drinks out of the equation and really you're in a place where, you know, you can have two fairly good meals in a day and a half decent breakfast. I mean, the biggest lesson you could generally learn is most problems, I think, can be solved by cooking from scratch.

GUPTA: So look for -- look for real ingredients, raw ingredients.

OLIVER: Absolutely. But, you know, even things like, you know, in England, we have the full monty, the full English breakfast, bacon, sausages, tomatoes and beans, eggs. And there's a way of doing that's actually less than a blueberry muffin from one of our very famous coffee shops.

GUPTA: Do you have anything on the Jamie Oliver that you can't eat? Are there any absolute no-nos?

OLIVER: I mean, look, my general strategy is to either reduce or get off of the preprocessed foods, you know, things like deliveries and take-aways, obviously, for extreme convenience. But, I mean, the other thing I try and do is -- you know, if you can cook, there's recipes, stir fry dishes, pastas that you can do in 10, 15 minutes. Do you know what I mean?

So, it really, again, it comes down to me to education. I think it has to be someone's duty in the family to get on it, really. And just try a few things.

And, you know, in Huntington where we did the "Food Revolution," we opened a community kitchen with free cooking lessons for anyone. And if you see who walked in the door, 80-year-old men, these wives cooked for them all their lives, she's passed away. Before then, his mom used to look after him. He's gone from making lovely food all of his life and he's only gotten healthy since they died. And he's got (INAUDIBLE) everyone else because he doesn't know what to do, you know? So, I think you're getting access to it through education.

GUPTA: This is a big deal for you, "The Food Revolution." And I want to talk much more about this. Also, how did Jamie Oliver get his start in this business? You're a young guy. And you've been doing a lot. We'll talk about that as well.

Stay with us. We'll be right back after the break.




GUPTA: We're back with SGMD.

Jamie Oliver is our guest. You got our coats off. Feel a little bit more comfortable now.

How did you get into this business of cooking? I mean, you're obviously a multinational entity yourself now.

OLIVER: Never thought about it like that.

No, I started cooking when I was 8 years old. I grew up in pub restaurant. My father was one of the very first, really, to introduce proper cooking into the pub environment. I was about 8 years old, (INAUDIBLE) washing up, and, you know, peeling the veggie and all that stuff. I had a good time in school but I was just rubbish.

And I went to Westminster College for catering, which one of our earliest catering colleges, you know, trained in France, came back to London, worked in one of the most -- two most famous restaurants in London, got seen in that background of a documentary. Phones rang.

Fast-forward 14 years and I look about 65 years old now.


GUPTA: You live a fast-pace life for sure. Can anyone cook?

OLIVER: Anyone can cook. Historically, it was more like sexist. But the girls went off to the cooking and the boys went off to metalwork and woodwork.

I mean, for me, I just feel right now in this environment. But this is one of America's dark moments in health, especially with children. You know, they say this is the first generation of kids expected to live a shorter life span than their other own parents. And yet, you know, in schools, we really need them to have nourishing food, cook on site, low cost, it's all possible. And also be taught to cook 10 recipes to save their life.

GUPTA: People talked about childhood obesity a lot. You know, President Clinton's looked into this. Obviously, a lot of organizations have tried to address this.

I got to tell you, even here at CNN, we really have taken the sign as well. It seems tough -- it seems tough because people don't want to listen. They all know a lot of the stuff that you're saying. How -- first of all, why do you think you're going to get through and how do you do it?

OLIVER: I think being a foreigner in this country having a totally clear unbiased opinion of anything. You know, you kind of walk in to situations to sort of evaluate it, and what I am getting from people is they do want to help. They just want quick, easy tools and they want to be shown very clearly how to do it.

GUPTA: Well, that's a perfect segue. So, you called yourself an outsider, coming to the United States, looking in. Again, if people want to do the right thing and want to do right by their own bodies, their children's bodies, who is wearing the black hat in all this? Is it the food industry? Fast food?

I mean, I know, everyone says, look, everyone's to blame, but ...

OLIVER: I've changed my view. Five years ago, I'd have given you a long whole list of people that I'd love to slap about right and disappeared off the face of the earth. And that would be very immature sort of way to deal with the black hat guys, these brands, these logos, a lot. You know, and I say, my grown-up attitude has gone from being much more activist to -- well, you can be an activist and burn things down all your life, they ain't going anywhere.

So, really, I believe that everyone is part of the solution.

GUPTA: Tell me -- where can you see the program?

OLIVER: The show is on Friday nights, 9:00. It's an hour long. There are six of them. And all I would say is, look, you know, life's to have fun and want stuff, yes, but I believe this show is not a spectator sport. You know, if you are moved by this story, then get on JamiesFood It will take 30 seconds to sign a petition that supports what I'm trying to do and take it to Capitol Hill to support the first lady to get those strange people that are going to try to stop her to do her job, you know, put this in place.

And really, in your own lives as parents, talk to other parents, talk to your principal. Don't just believe a bit of paper that has a menu on it because a paper can look good. Go and watch it. We shouldn't have to worry about it, but we must not presume that everything is OK because it ain't.

GUPTA: And it's amazing how much of an impact it will make on this generation, future generations, health care as well, to cut down on a lot of those costs we've been talking so much about.

OLIVER: Thank you.

GUPTA: Thanks, man.


GUPTA: And if you're looking to keep your brain sharp, there are a lot of changes you can make right now that will probably protect you later in life. I get asked about this all the time.

And there's a new study out there that finds that people who eat a diet full of specific brain foods had a nearly 40 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's compared to people who didn't. Think about that, 40 percent lower just because of your diet.

Best way to think about it, think of a Mediterranean diet. We know that what's good for your heart is often good for your brain as well. Doctors found that patients who eat diet rich in nuts, fish, tomatoes, poultry, fruits, dark, green, leafy vegetables, for example, they're going to have less signs of early dementia or Alzheimer's. It's pretty good this time of year as well.

It turns out the compounds in these foods, like vitamin b-12 and folate, might have an impact because they nourish the brain and its development. Also, they're non-fatty, and that cuts down inflammation and cardiovascular problems which have also been linked to the development of Alzheimer's. A bit of good advice there.

Also, take a look at this image. Can you guess what it is?

You know, I'm a neurosurgeon and I give you a clue -- I've never seen anything quite like it. We'll have the answer right after the break.


GUPTA: We are back with SGMD.

You know, it has been just over three months since the earthquake in Haiti. And now, just as the rainy season is about to begin, some people are being relocated to a new resettlement camp. This is something we've been talking about quite a bit. This first group of people you're looking at here, they come from a tent city located at a golf club. The steep hills there have people worried about mudslides once the rainy season begins.

Now, the new camp is about an hour north of Port-au-Prince and still in the early stages. And I have to tell you, the tents are a far cry from the tarps people have been living in for so long now. Eventually, the camp is expected to have health services, shower, and even a learning area. Officials expect the relocation process take about 10 days.

Also, this week, First Lady Michelle Obama made an unannounced stop in Haiti. Along with her, Joe Biden. They took a helicopter tour of Port-au-Prince, met with the Haitian president and his wife as well. We'll be back to Haiti as soon as we can. I promise you that.

Have you guessed it yet? This image we've been showing you all show is an image of a brain. In war, you can see something like this all too often, that image that we've been showing you -- shrapnel embedded in the brain. The patient was taken to the Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan.

Surgeons thought this was your typical shrapnel. But after doing a scan, they saw something very unusual. Again, you know, simply having shrapnel on the brain, that's not uncommon -- even having a cartridge of some sort, not uncommon.

But what the radiologist saw here when they first got this CAT scan was the edges -- very smooth, and an air gap in there, signifying that maybe there was a detonation chamber still intact here. So, they're very obviously concerned about that.

They've got another scan here, which is the one we've been showing you and take a look here. This is, in fact, an unexploded cartridge of exactly what we've been talking about all show. This is sitting right around this particular soldier's brain.

At this point, the docs, everyone involved, they have a lot of decisions to make, a lot of things to do. What they decided was that they were immediately going to evacuate the room, get everyone there that wasn't needed. They're going to pick the surgeon and anesthesiologist, make sure they had Kevlar on. They're going to call the bomb squad. They're also going to turn off all the electronic equipment in the room because even an electronic energy blast could potentially detonate.

And finally, they wanted to remove this and they had to do it with their bare hands. They couldn't even touch this with an instrument of some sort for fear of exploding this.

And finally, this picture you're looking at is that unexploded ordnance, again, sitting in someone's body right near their brain. Take a look, next to a ruler.

You know, this is a remarkable story. And again, the surgeons, the doctors involved, having to do this at risk to their own lives.

And I can tell you, one thing that's sort of amazing and something we probably don't think about enough is that they train to do things just like this. They have training courses where they learn how to remove unexploded ordinances from people's body.

In this case, if you look at this particular image here, you can tell that the skull as you follow it around here, it actually comes in like this. So, in fact, most of this is sitting outside what is known as the oppressed skull fracture.

Surgeons made an incision around this, removed it, again, with bare hands, and eventually, dropped it into a bomb squad bag. Really, it's just amazing stuff. If you missed any part of today's show, be sure to check out my podcast on

Remember, this is the place for the answers to all of your medical questions. Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

More news on CNN starts right now.