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The End of Illness?; Finding Your Roots; Kickoff Weekend with the 2012 "Lucky 7"

Aired February 4, 2012 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Good morning. And thanks so much for being with us this morning. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

This morning, a doctor giving a lot of attention for saying he knows the key to preventing illness. So, we all want to know this. And also, add years to your life, he says. Exciting stuff but also controversial. We'll explain.

We're going to sit down and talk to Professor Henry Louis Gates about a test that can help you find your roots. Actually fascinating stuff. In fact, they found my roots back six generations. And also shed a light on your risk of certain medical conditions as well.

But, first, hey, it's Super Bowl weekend. The New York Giants taking on the New England Patriots. Got your favorite, I'm sure.

Those of us who care about head injuries can look for a few extra things during the game. I want you to pay attention.

For one, we all know super ads are the most high profile, most expensive spots to run. The NFL is actually going to use one of those spots to run an ad that talks about what the league is doing to promote safety.

In fact, this past week on "60 Minutes," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said players need to share responsibility and also to be honest about their injuries.


ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: Some of it's a warrior mentality. Some of it's wanting to be out there to contribute. But that's part of our education is to make sure the players understand the seriousness of the issue and that they have to report these injuries.


GUPTA: So the question a lot of people ask, just how hard are those big hits?

I recently spoke to a concussion expert Kevin Guskiewicz who showed me you can actually measure this. You can measure the force.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GUPTA: So, I'm going to have a moderate hit and see what happens.

KEVIN GUSKIEWICZ, CONCUSSION EXPERT: So it's recorded up here at 23.6 Gs of acceleration.

GUPTA (voice-over): Guskiewicz recently won a MacArthur genius grant for his work on concussions in football.

GUSKIEWICZ: He's going to withstand impact 157 Gs.

GUPTA (on camera): Wow. That's similar to a car accident.



GUPTA: A hundred and fifty-seven Gs is just amazing.

Now, at the Super Bowl, if you're watching, the NFL will have independent athletic trainers in the media box above the field to help spot big, dangerous hits. We called an NFL team trainer to ask what specifically will that person be looking for.

So, take a look at this. He told us, number one, special teams. The punts, the kickoffs -- pay attention there. Big collisions happen when players like number 15, Richard Goodman of the San Diego Chargers, he's the one in the white, when they build up a head of steam running down the field.

Number two, don't just follow the ball. The main camera may not catch it, but if you look closely you'll find players are colliding all over the field.

And, three, after the play, players who don't get up quickly. They may have a strange walk. They may warrant a closer look out on the field.

Now, my next guest is one of those doctors who thinks big who wants to completely change the way we think about medicine. He made his name on the frontline on the war on cancer but he came to think that, you know what? We're taking the wrong approach and not just to cancer.

In his new book, "The End of Illness," Dr. David Agus explains how taking an individual approach to health can prevent disease and also add years to your life.

We talk about prevention a lot and I think intuitively people understand that, look, you know, you prevent diseases before they happen. That's a good thing. What is new in this book? What is different about what we should be doing or as a society we should be doing?

DR. DAVID AGUS, AUTHOR, "THE END OF ILLNESS": I mean, it's aggressive. It talks about modeling health as a complex system, which sounds a little crazy but it's different than what we're doing now which is trying to replete each part that's missing. So if X is low, give Y. That's how we think now.

I want to change the whole system. So, the root of the system seems to be inflammation. Inflammation is the root of heart disease, cancer, brain diseases. You know, your special last weekend on brain injury, the key is inflammation there.

We want to prevent it. And we have methods now, whether it be by behavior changes, changing our diet, what we do during the day, or even medicine that can block inflammation and have a profound impact on disease.

GUPTA: Can you give me a couple of examples? Because I think that inflammation is the buzz word. But if someone is watching saying, OK, look, I'm actually pretty -- I'm healthy. I'm not experiencing an illness. I don't want inflammation, what can I do?

What do you tell them?

AGUS: So, you know, we think of inflammation, you think of a cut and that turns red, that's inflammation. But inside your body is inflammation that's happening that we can't feel or see. We have some blood tests for it. One called c-reactor protein and probably others that are going to come through science.

But drugs like statin, like Lipitor that you can get a 90 day supply for $10 from Wal-Mart without health insurance, what that does is it blocks inflammation. So, if you take Lipitor, the statin, every day, you decrease your incidence of cancer by almost 40 percent. Delay heart disease.

Aspirin, another remarkable pill that could decrease death of cancer and heart diseases.

And as now in our country, when health care costs are going crazy, we have to focus on inflammation.

GUPTA: A lot of people will say, and I'm sure you've been asked this, you -- is this pill-pushing? Is this ordering too many medications, too many tests? I mean, doesn't that increase costs as opposed to bringing them down?

AGUS: There's no question. I mean, you know, people aggressively push. You know, am I part of the pharmaceutical industry? Am I pushing drugs?

There's no question. I'm pushing progress. I'm pushing prevention. Again, I look at death every day.

But the other side of it is if you start to look at things, evolution cares for who has good kids. It doesn't select out for who lives until they're 90.

So, in order to optimize to them, we have to focus. Focus on our daily schedule.

So, it turns out if you have your lunch today at noon and tomorrow at 2:00, for two hours your stress hormones go up, and I don't want that. I want you to be regular in your schedule. Have your lunch at the same time every day. Have all your meals at the same time.

The person who grabs an apple whenever they want is bad. The person who grabs an apple every day at 2:00, greatest thing in the world.

GUPTA: That's fascinating to think about it and it's a real sort of control that one has over their body.

Let me ask -- can I ask you personally what sort of things do you take? You mentioned statin drugs, you mentioned baby aspirin. What are those -- are there things that you can share that you, yourself, take?

AGUS: Yes. I mean, I'm a big believe they're we want to be as natural as we can in our foods and what we eat. So I eat healthy. I go to the supermarket and akin to what you were talking about in a different piece, I go in and say, what came in fresh today? And that's what I get.

Or if there's nothing there I want, I get flash frozen. Something that's been sitting on the shelf for a day or two has little nutritional value.

And the key is I don't take vitamins or supplements. If you start to look at the data on vitamins and supplements, there has been no been benefit and over 50 studies with more than 1,000 people for heart disease and cancer.

In fact, if a man takes vitamin E every day for three years, his risk of prostate cancer is 17 percent elevated, and that risk will last three years after stopping the vitamin E. The most common non-skin cancer in men, 17 percent elevated. That's an enormous impact on society.

GUPTA: You know, there's a lot more in the book as well, things we don't have time to talk about today. But the idea of individualized medicine and al people aren't the same, if they have cancer, their cancer is not the same. That's another area that you talk about quite a bit

You'll have to come back and talk to us about that some time. All right?

AGUS: Sanjay, I would love to. I mean, you have been an inspiration to me.

GUPTA: Oh, thanks.

AGUS: And part of the reason I wrote the book is watching you and what you do to the people in this country. So, thank you.

GUPTA: Oh, nice for you to say. Dr. Agus, congratulations again. Good luck. We'll see you back soon.


GUPTA: And coming up, the man who traced my family roots. It's amazing stuff, very emotional. They traced it all the way back to my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. Stick around to see this.


GUPTA: You know, I recently had the experience of seeing my family tree traced back eight generations, and my deepest ancestry traced back at least 50,000 years. I did it with the help of Professor Henry Louis Gates. I'm going to lay it out in an episode of his documentary series called "Finding Your Roots," which is on PBS

Now, Professor Gates, as you may know, is director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African-American Research which is at Harvard. He is also the author of many books, including the new one, "Life Upon These Shores."


GUPTA: Everyone knows you now around the country for a lot of the work that you've done. But most recently the work in genealogy, tracing people's roots has become something that your name is synonymous with. Have you traced your own roots?

HENRY LOUIS GATES, JR., HOST, "FINDING YOUR ROOTS": My father looked like a white man and my grandfather was so white, Sanjay, we called him Casper behind his back.

So, we always wanted to know why -- we know why that Gates, we're a family of mulattos, but where this white man came from. One of my motivations for doing the PBS series was to use genealogy and genetics to find out more about myself. And we found out two very interesting things.

First off, we found out that my mixture, which is a percentage of ancestry from Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia and Native America over the last 500 years. And mine, to my astonishment revealed in the middle of the shoot for the first series was that I am 50 percent white and 50 percent black.

The director of the Du Bois Institute for African-American Research at Harvard is half a white man. This is an identity crisis for me.

GUPTA: Did you think about the medical significance at all of the DNA testing?

GATES: Not initially. Imagine when I called to ask you if you'd be in my series if you knew I would have access to your medical information, you might have second thoughts. So, we told people in advance we won't look at the medical results.

And when we started, there were no medical results. I mean, we started -- we do tests now that didn't exist when "African-American Lives," the name of the first series, aired. But we've been working several years with a DNA company called 23andMe. They test all of our guests. They tested you.

And they announced last July that they wanted to give away 10,000 tests to self identified African-Americans to establish a database that would allow to begin explore the link between genes and risk for disease. These databases exist, of course, with many Americans and people of European descent, but not so much African descent.

GUPTA: Right, right.

GATES: And what 23andMe does, unlike any other company that I know -- and I have to say I have no financial interest in 23andMe -- but they'll do your ancestry testing but also reveal your propensity genetically for certain diseases, what your risk is. So what is your risk for diabetes? What is your risk for high blood pressure? For high cholesterol? For clotting disorders? Stroke? Osteoporosis?

All those things have some kind of correlation. But if you only have less than 1,000 people in your database, it's not enough.

GUPTA: People think about certain diseases like Alzheimer's, for example, you find out you're at risk for it, but you can't do anything about it right now. Is there -- is there always value in knowing even if there isn't a plan to do something about it or, in the case of too many Americans, they don't have the ability to pay for health care or have access to health care insurance to do anything about it?

GATES: I think that the important side is to supply data to those who are curing the diseases. On the one hand, you might be delivering the terrible news that you have disease for which there is no known cure; but on the other side, in the medical schools, in the research laboratories, people are looking at the same data trying to make correlations between a genetic structure, let's say, and the causes of the disease, and that's where we're putting our money.

GUPTA: You did it. You had this done.

GATES: My father and I had our full genome sequence. And that time, commercially, that test, I think, retail was $100,000. Now, it's about $20,000. We didn't have to pay because it was part of my PBS series.

And it revealed whether we had certain genes for Alzheimer's, for example. And, fortunately -- well, my father was 95 years old when he took it and he didn't have Alzheimer's. So, I figured I was 50 percent of being OK.

And, fortunately, I didn't have any of those genes, but I was worried about it. I mean, I was concerned. And I had to decide whether I wanted to know. And I told them I didn't want to know. But when I sat down, they said, thank God you don't have any diseases. I said thank you, thank you.


GUPTA: Now, 23andMe, that's the company that offered this promotion, told us they're hoping to renew the special offer for African- Americans again in March. Of course, you can check them out anytime on line. You can also see my full family history. Again, it's just absolutely amazing.

You can see Professor Gates later this spring on PBS. It's called "Finding Your Roots."

Up next, just in time for Super Bowl XLVI, Giants linebacker Herzlich on his incredible comeback from a rare form of bone cancer.


MARK HERZLICH, NEW YORK GIANTS LINEBACKER: Keep focusing and keep your brain mentally focused on getting better and getting healthy because it's 90 percent mental.


GUPTA: He will absolutely inspire you. In 2009, Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma. This weekend, he'll be on the field at the Super Bowl.


GUPTA: "Two years ago, I was told I might never walk again. Just walked off the plane in Indy to play the Super Bowl. Take that, bleep, cancer."

That was a tweet last Monday from New York Giants rookie linebacker Mark Herzlich.

For Mark, taking on the New England Patriots this weekend is nothing compared to the battle that he, himself, fought back in 2009.


HERZLICH: How's it going?

GUPTA (voice-over): Mark Herzlich has come a long way in a very short time.

HERZLICH: We need to win. And that's what we're excited about. We're excited to be here as a team, and, you know, playing in the Super Bowl is unbelievable.

GUPTA: The rookie linebacker for the New York Giants is focused on beating the New England Patriots. But his story has been a focus of the media leading up to the NFL championship. That's because some say his being here is somewhat of a miracle.

Herzlich was expected to go far. As a junior at Boston College, he was named his conference's 2008 Defensive Player of the Year. He was projected to be a first-round draft pick.

But all of that came to a crashing halt in May of 2009 when he was told he had a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing's sarcoma. HERZLICH: When the cancer came, you know, I wasn't just -- you know, my Super Bowl dreams are dead. Well, it was all my football dreams are dead.

GUPTA: Herzlich was determined to fight the cancer but after two months of chemotherapy, doctors wanted to remove part of his thigh bone. Then he found a doctor who was willing to try a rare treatment for this type of cancer, radiation therapy.

HERZLICH: My dream was to play football again. I knew that radiation and keeping my leg was going to be the only chance I would have of playing again.

GUPTA: The treatment worked and a little more than four months after diagnosis, Herzlich was declared cancer-free.

HERZLICH: Football drove me every second of every day.

GUPTA: Herzlich returned to Boston College the next year. And even though he wasn't drafted, he was still picked up by the New York Giants. And now, he'll be playing in the biggest game of all.

HERZLICH: I think the biggest thing, you know, coming back from cancer, coming back to play football, you know, all of that kind of sits in the rearview mirror now as we're getting ready for the Super Bowl.

There are such things as dreams coming true, and miracles, and I believe that this is one of them.


GUPTA: Congratulations, Mark.

And while you watched Mark at the Super Bowl party, also keep your eyes peeled for something else, the dreaded double dipper. You know what I'm talking about here. They've actually done studies on this and I'm going to show you what they found. That's next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just double dipped that chip? You double dipped the chip.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Double dipped? What are you talking about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You dip the chip, you took a bite and you dipped again.


GUPTA: Yes, no doubt. A lot of us will be at Super Bowl parties this weekend and they're going to be eating chips and dip. So, I wanted to revisit a study that measured exactly what happened when someone does double dip.

And the results I think might surprise you a little bit. After double dipping just a few times, researchers found 50 to 100 times more bacteria in the dip. That was just from one mouth.

Now, imagine your party. Lots of people double dipping and not just one of them, just one of them possibly being sick. You can see how this could be a real problem.

So eat up, for sure. Have fun with the Super Bowl parties and watch out for the George Costanzas, as well. Otherwise, you might be running out for stuff that looks like this, Pepto-Bismol.

In fact, studies have shown sales of antacids actually spike every year after the big game, the Super Bowl. So, that likely has more to do with what we eat rather than how we eat it. That's some good ideas, nonetheless.

Enough on the chips and dip for now, though. Whether it's pizza, fries, whatever you're eating, it's time to triwithme. Up next, I'm going to introduce you to the "Lucky 7" joining in the training for their very first triathlon.


CARLOS SOLIS, FIT NATION PARTICIPANT: I want to overcome the effects of being a diabetic.

NANCY KLINGER, FIT NATION PARTICIPANT: I need some help dealing with some emotional health issues.

RICK MORRIS, FIT NATION PARTICIPANT: I don't want to die young from controllable circumstances. I want to live.



GUPTA: And we are back with SGMD.

It is a big weekend for the CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. I hope you heard of this by now.

The "Lucky 7", as we're calling them, when we got them together for the first time, giving them some important training, and also giving them a look at what's ahead. Each one of them is going to get a road bike, a wet suit, a personal trainer, gym membership and also a trip to Hawaii to help them get ready to compete in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon, which is in September. In fact, we just got back from a hike up there in Stone Mountain, just outside Atlanta. It's already been a busy day.

Welcome, guys.


GUPTA: How are you guys feeling? All right?


GUPTA: Carlos Solis, you're a school teacher in southern California.


GUPTA: You're also type II diabetic.


GUPTA: You ran your first mile, you say, in 30 years the other day. How was that for you?

SOLIS: It was amazing. My trainer Dave Ruby (ph) asked, he said, how long do you how much time do you think you'll do it in? I said, oh, about 20 minutes. And he goes, well, we're do a little better than that.


SOLIS: So, it was really nice because he helped me through it and I ended up doing 13:24.

GUPTA: Thirteen-twenty-four. All right.

SOLIS: Yes, yes. It was really great.

GUPTA: Your blood sugars, are they under control?

SOLIS: They are pretty much. I check two or three times a day, sometimes more. Even now, I'm working out a little bit more. I'm checking my sugar before exercise.

GUPTA: Exercise can help with that, help regulate your blood sugar even more so. You keep an eye on that as we go along.

Welcome from Aston, Minnesota -- Nancy Klinger.


GUPTA: Your video was amazing. You talked about a marriage that lasted 26 years and a separate occurred. And it was something that, I think, in part inspired you to move on and to do this.

What was your thinking when you sent in that video?

KLINGER: My thinking was that I needed to be strong and I needed to get on with my life in a positive way. And it's been nothing but positive since the day I sent it in.

GUPTA: How do you feel about the training so far?

KLINGER: The training so far has been great. And the people have been amazing. And the camaraderie has been --

GUPTA: It is a pretty welcoming community, isn't it?

KLINGER: It is. It is.

GUPTA: Rick from Asheville, North Carolina -- one of my favorite cities, by the way. I love Asheville. It's a great town.

The -- you know, your blog, you're a fireman, you're also a smoker. Your video that you sent in was quite amazing, talking about how you really wanted to quit. We could just see the desire in your eyes.

What was the biggest challenge before all this for you?

RICK MORRIS, FIT NATION PARTICIPANT: I think just quitting smoking has -- you know, I realize how detrimental it is to my health, you know? And I want to live to be 100 years old. I want to be around for my great-grandchildren.

I want to be healthy. I want to live healthy and have that quality of life, you know? I want to be able to contribute with my volunteer fire department, as well.

So I know smoking is bad and I think this program is going to help me stop. My quit date is on the 8th of February. But I thought, what the heck? I'll go ahead and quit today. This was going to be my last cigarette. So --

GUPTA: There you go. All right. I love it. Saw it here first.

MORRIS: I'm committed, I can do it. You can do it, too.

GUPTA: Do you have any doubts you're going to cross that finish line?

MORRIS: I have no doubts at all.

GUPTA: Hand the mic over to Nancy.

Any doubts, Nancy?

KLINGER: Oh, no doubt.

GUPTA: All right. Carlos, you?

SOLIS: None. Zero.

GUPTA: All right. We're going to keep on top of them. You follow us along at home as well.

Next week, in fact, we'll introduce you to the other four participants. They're absolutely amazing. A truck driver who pulled into a Wal-Mart four hours before our deadline. He bought a web cam and sent us his video. I will show you that to you.

Also, a young woman taking on this challenge with just one leg. Her story is an amazing one. She's already, frankly, really inspired me.

And does it for SGMD. Thanks so much for joining us. Hope to see you back here next weekend.

Time now to get you a check off your top stories in the "CNN NEWSROOM."