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Study: Kids' Meals Lack Nutrition; Professor Tries "Convenience Store Diet"; Soccer a Gateway to Education for Refugee Kids

Aired November 13, 2010 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Good morning and welcome. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

You know, as a father, the first story we're going to tell you today really struck a chord with me. A brand-new study out there, the biggest of its kind, found that only a dozen of about 3,000 fast food kids' meals out there met nutritional guidelines.

Now, for a lot of people, it's not a big surprise. But what might surprise is a professor who spent two months on a junk food diet and he actually lost weight. He lost about 27 pounds and about 8 percent of his body fat.

We are going to look at his story and also look at some healthy alternatives.

And a woman with a mission -- she saw refugee boys from war-torn countries playing soccer with this ragged ball and handful of rocks. And she decided, you know what, I'm going to make a difference. It's a very special story.

Finally, open enrollment for Medicare. It's starting Monday. What do you need to know? We've been researching it and we'll tell you. That's in our "Ask the Doctor" segment.

Let's get started.


GUPTA: You know, as a father, there were two stories that really caught my eye this week.

First up, San Francisco's decision to ban toys with meals that have more than 600 calories and 35 percent of total calories coming from fat. And on a similar note as well, new research from Yale University finds that out of 3,000 kids' meals served at fast food restaurants, only about a dozen meet nutritional guidelines.

Now, for most people, that's not really going to come as a surprise. But the reason I think it's a concern is that the study also found that 84 percent of parents say they take their child to eat fast food at least once a week.

I want to, quickly, just show you a couple of the worst offenders. We found these: the KFC popcorn chicken for example. Obviously, the chicken over here, biscuit and string cheese, a drink, a soda of some sort -- 840 calories, and then think about that for a second.

Another terrible offender, Dairy Queen original cheese burger. You got fries, you got the soda, also a chocolate bar -- 973 calories. I mean, think about that for a second.

Keep in mind, I mean, the number of calories recommended per day for 4 to 8-year-olds, for example, starts around 1,200 for girls, about 1,400 for boys, depending on their growth and their activity level. With these meals, they could be reaching more than half their calories in one sitting.

Now, parents should note that many fast food restaurants have healthy options. I also want to tell you this. In fact, an increasing spokesperson said, "The increasing number of healthful options in kids' meals and nutritious offering in children's meals is the number one food trend in quick service restaurants."

Now, the Yale authors (ph) of the study say that's true, but the options are not prominently advertised. And a lot of people don't go to these types of fast food restaurants to try and get healthy food.

But among the healthiest kids' meals highlighted, take a look over there, the Subway veggie delight kids' meal, you have apple slices, you have the sandwich obviously, and juice -- 285 calories. So, obviously, a lot less.

And then the Burger King kids' meal -- this one with macaroni and cheese, you got apple slices, and you have fat-free milk as well -- 285 calories. This one would qualify for a little toy.

But, you know, this is obviously a topic that a lot of people are interested in.

So, joining us to talk more about this is associate professor, Mark Haub. He's an associate professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University.

You just did a fascinating experiment that I think a lot of people paid attention to this, Professor, where you ate junk food essentially for 10 weeks. First of all, thanks for joining us. Thanks for being on the show.

MARK HAUB, NUTRITION PROFESSOR, KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY: Truly my pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.

GUPTA: You lost weight. You lowered your cholesterol levels. It was 10 weeks long. First of all, how much weight did you lose? What were your cholesterol levels?

HAUB: Lost 27 pounds. And my cholesterol, bad, the LDL, triglycerides, total cholesterol dropped 20 percent, and the HDL increased 20 percent.

GUPTA: The HDL being the good cholesterol.

HAUB: Correct. GUPTA: What prompted you to do this in the first place?

HAUB: You know, it was a class experiment and kind of get set, the issue -- there's obviously an obesity issue in the U.S. You are touching on it with the issues that you're raising with the kids. And so, for the class, I teach energy balance class. And obesity is the prominent topic throughout the semester.

So, I wanted to push the envelope a little bit and induce weight loss. I had some weight to lose, in theory. And so, I used myself as a tool and proceeded to use junk food as a means to do that and then to get -- to kind of see if there's a separation between behavior, how we get to weight loss versus is -- are the outcomes truly more important than the path that we take to get there.

GUPTA: If you had to summarize the message here -- because I guess is you're encouraging everyone to just go out and start eating a lot of junk food. What is the message?

HAUB: Well, I think there may be a disconnect between behavior and outcomes. I don't -- I don't condone what I'm doing as being healthy, the foods that I'm eating are healthy.

But, you know, if I told people I was eating a lacto-vegetarian diet, they'd think that's probably pretty good. And a lot of these foods might classify as vegetarian. Yet, when you look at what's in the sugar content, potentially the trans fat, saturated fat contents in these foods, it's unhealthy.

And so, I think there are some issues I think we need to discuss both professionally and socially as far as what's more important -- the behavior, the foods we eat, or the health outcomes that we try to achieve.

GUPTA: You know, when you talk about -- I think you are alluding to this, but a nutritious way to lose weight. And, you know, you talked about the weight. You talked about the cholesterol levels, which are two good -- you know, obviously measures to this. But even counting calories, you know, reducing your calories, would you consider it a nutritious way to lose weight? I mean, is it at the end just about a couple measures? Or how would you classify that?

HAUB: Oh, yes. I think that's a big issue. You know, counting calories, we have a society, I think, where we want to eat until we are comfortably full. And so, by counting calories, sometimes the food you eat, you kind of have to count calories for example, the ones that I chose to lose weight because you may -- there may be some, quote/unquote, "hidden calories" in some of those things.

You mentioned some of the foods at the restaurants. You may -- it may feel like you're only eating 500 calories when you're actually eating 1,000.

GUPTA: Right. Right.

What are -- you heard about the story out of -- with the toys and the Happy Meals. What did you make of that? And, you know, the fast food industry, obviously, as a whole is often targeted as one of the causes of the obesity problem. What did you make of this recent most thing?

HAUB: Yes. Yes, I think you hit it on the nail. I think, you know, to be honest, to disclose, I received a lot of my research funding from the food industry, and I'm a member of IFT, which is Institute of Food Technologists.

So, I appreciate where the food industry is. They are caught in a hard -- between a rock and a hard place, if you will.

GUPTA: Right.

HAUB: And they're trying to -- they are trying to make efforts to improve the healthiness of the foods. But they also have competition. It's a free market. It's capitalism. So, they're also trying to make money and they are trying to do both. And it's -- from a parent's perspective, they may not be -- they may not be making those changes fast enough.

GUPTA: Well, it was a fascinating experiment you did, Professor Haub. I appreciate you sharing it with us. And like I said, I think it's going to be pretty instructive as well. And we'll see what happens with this other experiment with the fast food industry. Maybe we'll be talking to you again about that some time soon. Thanks for joining us.

HAUB: My pleasure. Thank you.

GUPTA: Thank you, sir.

Fascinating stuff and obviously a big topic that we're going to continue here on SGMD.

But next, refugee kids from war-torn countries like Afghanistan, Bosnia, Congo, they are finding a sense of community in a special soccer league. And it's right here in the United States. I want to take you there.

Stay with us.


GUPTA: This next story is going to take you to a special place -- a place where when you are here, you are family.

A Georgia woman is getting some pretty high marks for combining soccer and education, to give refugee kids from war-torn countries a new lease on life. She's a matriarch of the Fugees Family and it's this week's "Human Factor."


GUPTA (voice-over): At first glance, they just look like a bunch of kids playing soccer. But, take another look, a closer one. This is the Fugees Family. (on camera): Anybody who wants to be a part of this family can be?

LUMA MUFLEH, FOUNDER, FUGEES FAMILY: Any refugee that wants to be a part of this family can be.

GUPTA (voice-over): And that is what binds them together. They are all refugees, 86 children and teens from more than 28 countries.

MUFLEH: Any country that's had a war in the past 20, 30 years, we have kids from those countries.

GUPTA: What started as a casual soccer team six years ago is now a school full of students, most of whom have never been in a classroom before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) I come to Russia. From Russia, I come to America.

GUPTA: Robin Dikori sharply dressed in the school's uniform, blue sweater and tie is an 8th grader at the Fugees Academy -- something that would have been almost impossible in his native Sudan.

(on camera): Right, after you moved to the United States and someone said, Robin, what are you going to do with your life, what would you have said?

ROBIN DIKORI, FUGEES FAMILY: I don't know what to say during that time. And now, I look at myself, I want to be someone very good and make my people proud.

GUPTA (voice-over): Life in America has not always been good to Robin.

(on camera): When you are an outsider from Sudan living in the United States, what is that like? What happens to you?

DIKORI: It's very hard, like everyone is picking on you, like they're treating you really differently, you don't belong here.

GUPTA: What did you do?

DIKORI: I used to fight a lot. But nowadays, I don't really get into fights. I try to resolve them and not make people fight.

GUPTA (voice-over): And while there are refugees living all around the United States, the Fugees Family is the only group combining soccer with the hope for a better future.

(on camera): Are there other organization that is you know of like this around the country? So, this is it?

MUFLEH: No. This is it. And we get e-mails every week from people around the country and around the world, when will you bring the Fugees to us?

GUPTA: How many more years before you finish? DIKORI: I have four more years because I'm in eighth grade now.

GUPTA: Four more years and then?

DIKORI: Another four years.


DIKORI: College.


GUPTA: Right now, the Fugees Academy only teaches kids through the eighth grade. But there are some potentially some good news. They are about to begin construction on the Fugees Family high school. So, we'll see how that goes. Good luck to y'all.

Next, my day with Dr. Q, the fellow neurosurgeon whose past to medicine is different than from just about anyone else you've ever met. We'll have that for you.

Stay with us.


GUPTA: And we are back with SGMD.

You know, awhile ago, we brought you the story of Dr. Q, Alfredo Quinones. He's a fellow neurosurgeon who has an unforgettable story. In fact, at age 19, he jumped this chain-linked fence between Mexico and California to work as a farm laborer. He made his way through college, eventually became a world class brain surgeon at John Hopkins.

We heard from a lot of you about him, wanting to hear more. Here it is.


GUPTA: The details of this, I think, are fascinating. So, you literally have hopped the fence. You don't have a plan.


GUPTA: I mean, what do you do? Do you go to a farm? Do you ask -- start asking around? How -- what do you do?

QUINONES-HINOJOSA: That's exactly right.

So, when people come to the United States and they come from humble backgrounds, like myself, the very first place where you can get a potential job are those jobs which you have to get your hands, you know, dirty and which your hands bleed of pulling weeds on the fields. And that was a place where a lot of immigrants have traditionally come to the United States. For me, it was the San Joaquin Valley in California.

GUPTA: How much did you get paid?

QUINONES-HINOJOSA: My first check was $162. And I always tell people that I realize, at that pace, working from sunset to sundown in the summer, seven days a week, it was going to be a lot of hard work.

And I remember, I tell you, Dr. Gupta, my hands, the very same hands that now do brain surgery, right around that time, they had scars everywhere from pulling weeds. They were bloody.

GUPTA: You went to Harvard Medical School and it makes me wonder -- did you ever question yourself? I mean, you say other people questioned you. Did you ever think to yourself, you know what, I don't belong here?

QUINONES-HINOJOSA: Yes, many times. I questioned myself. I questioned myself when I was in medical school. I questioned myself before I was in medical school at U.C. Berkeley. I question myself today, Dr. Gupta, that I am fit to do what I do every day.

But I think that's also what has kept me on the top of my game. I question every single move I do every day. You know, but then when I was in medical school, I remember thinking, wow, look at my classmates. As you know, you have some of them who train at the best prep schools in the country, who came from the most distinguished families in the United States, from tradition of education. And there was me, who barely had an education, but I was eager to learn.

And I had -- I always knew that I had something that all of them didn't have. And that was that fire in my belly that keeps me going.

GUPTA: But what is the fire now? Now, you have accomplished so much. What keeps the fire going?

QUINONES-HINOJOSA: I mainly deal with patients with brain cancer. In every single day, Dr. Gupta, I have to give bad news. I have to give bad news not only to my patients but to their families and I see it in their eyes. I see the desperation.

Sometimes all it takes is to touch a patient. It takes only to acknowledge that you have been given a gift by operating on them that can make a difference in the way they view themselves or in the way that their families view the disease. And I acknowledge that as a potential contribution that I make for my patients every day.

But my fire is simple: I want us to find better ways to treat brain cancer.

GUPTA: I remember the first time that I scrubbed, you come in, and they hand you the towel and you dry your hands. And then they gown you and then you're putting your hands in the gloves. And they are holding the gloves for you.

You -- for me, it was an amazing moment. But I didn't come from where you came. To be that person, having picked those weeds in the fields and then now to have someone holding your gloves for you, it must have been an amazing moment for you.

QUINONES-HINOJOSA: It was so amazing that I was so nervous and so excited at the same time that I contaminated myself and they sent me back out to change again.


QUINONES-HINOJOSA: Climb over again. But it was -- I mean, it was an exhilarating moment. You are tense. Your adrenaline is going through.

And I was coming in exactly that moment when the attending asked me, you want to scrub in and help me? As a medical student, sure, I'm at Harvard and I am excited, but no words can describe that feeling. The way you describe it as your hands coming in, and it's awkward, they're not going in, yet you're shaking with adrenaline, and your focus and all that energy.

It's just -- I really have no words to describe it. But I was so excited that when I turn around my gown, my gown actually hit the wall and got contaminated so they send me back out and scrub again. It was quite a moment.


GUPTA: Well, next, I'm going to ask Dr. Q., does he have regrets about breaking a law to chase his dreams?

Stay with SGMD.


GUPTA: Welcome back. You know, I've been talking with a Dr. Alfredo Quinones. He's -- he came to the United States at age 19 as an illegal farm worker. Eventually made his way to Harvard Medical School and now, Johns Hopkins, where he's a top-notch brain surgeon.


GUPTA: You've known people, friends and family members who have succumb to this disease.


GUPTA: Your grandfather?

QUINONES-HINOJOSA: Unfortunately, my grandfather succumbed to metastatic cancer to his brain. A classmate of mine in medical school succumbed. One of my best friends, his own sister dying and succumbing against this disease.

I decided I want to be part of it. I want to make a small contribution. Whether it's me or my students, someone's going to have to do it. And someone will find a cure.

GUPTA: The amnesty that President Reagan allowed immigrants to come to this country helped you come to this country. You've also seen now, 22 years later, how much has changed and what's happening along the borders right now. Is this something you think about? You weigh in on?

QUINONES-HINOJOSA: I think about it all the time, Dr. Gupta. I don't weigh in a lot obviously because I'm not an authority on this issue of immigration. I can only talk about my own experience as an immigrant, what it was like when people say, well, immigrants, they come in here, they're lazy, they don't work hard or they -- you know, they want to take advantage of the government.

I don't think that's true. If you look through generations of many, many immigrants from many different countries, I think most immigrants want to come to the United States because they want to fulfill the American Dream.

GUPTA: Technically, Q. broke the law.



GUPTA: That's -- you know, I think that's what this is all about. They're breaking -- I've heard everything proposed from "let's offer amnesty to all undocumented workers" to "let's create mechanisms to find them all and make sure they return to their homes, their home countries." I mean, do you have an opinion on that?

QUINONES-HINOJOSA: I can only speak for myself. If I'd been in that situation 20 years ago, just like many immigrants are today, and it happened to a certain degree when I was allowed -- when I came to the United States, they cut and they send me back to my country -- what would I do? I had to come back again. I had to climb the fence again.

I think that as long as there's poverty, people are going to keep trying their best.


GUPTA: All right, Dr. Q., thanks so much.

Something all doctors are interested in, Medicare open enrollment starting Monday. There are some changes for people on Medicare. Everything you need to know, we'll answer. That's next in "Ask the Doctor."


GUPTA: And we are back with SGMD.

You know, every week at this time, we're going to be answering your questions. Think of this as your appointment, no waiting, no insurance necessary.

We've got that lot of questions about Medicare. Not surprising given the time of year.

Let's take one question here. This is from Mary in Walnut Creek. General question: "What should my husband and I know about open enrollment for Medicare?"

Well, first of all, Medicare open enrollment does start Monday, November 15th. A couple of things to keep in mind: first off, starting in 2011, average monthly premium charges for standard coverage Medicare will go up about 3 percent for those drug plans. For some, the drug prices are going to go up.

But for people who enter what's known as the donut hole, that sort of the gap in coverage -- for them, they may actually start to have a benefit here to some extent, 50 percent off discounted brand name drugs, 7 percent discount on generic drugs. Again, that's for people who enter what's known as the coverage gap.

Also, there's also something else, which is the Medicare advantage disenrollment period. For people who -- this is going to be from January 1st to about February 14th -- if you opted for a Medicare Advantage Plan, but change your mind subsequently, during this time, you can switch from an advantage plan to an original Medicare plan.

There are a lot of details here, Mary, on Medicare specifically, too much probably to go through on the show. So, we've put it on our Web site. You can go to You can check out the chart. You can find the top five things there you need to know specifically for resources to help you make your selections.

And if you missed any part of today's show, be sure to check out my podcast, Thanks for watching.

I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. More news on CNN starts right now.