Return to Transcripts main page


Food Worth Dying For?; Heart Attack-Proof Your Life; Heart of the Matter

Aired February 16, 2013 - 16:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Hello, and thanks for joining us.

Today, a test for young athletes. Parents and kids need to listen to this. This could save some lives.

Also, my friend Jillian Michaels, she's going to stop by. You know her from "The Biggest Loser." And we're going to talk about good, solid advice for losing weight.

First up, though, I want to ask, just how much is too much? The death of a spokesman for a restaurant in Las Vegas making some headlines and critics say the owner of the restaurant should accept some of the blame. You decide.



JON BASSO, OWNER, THE HEART ATTACK GRILL: Our food is absolutely bad for you.

GUPTA (voice-over): Heart Attack Grill owner, John Basso, dresses up as a doctor and says the food in his restaurant is, quote, "worth dying for". John Alleman was the volunteer spokesman at the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas. He ate there every day. And, well, he just died of a massive heart attack, right outside the restaurant.

The last spokesman, Blair River, died too. He weighed 570 pounds.

In 2012, two customers suffered heart attacks right in the restaurant. No less than 60 days apart.

BASSO: Of course, we've had heart attacks here. I wouldn't have it any other way.

GUPTA: At Heart Attack Grill, the unhealthier, the better. Check out the menu. Flatliner fries, butter fat shake, bypass burgers.

BASSO: It just warms my heart to see children come into the Heart Attack Grill.

GUPTA: This 8-year-old attempts to eat a burger dubbed the quadruple bypass. It has nearly 10,000 calories.

BASSO: It's absolutely slathered in lard.

GUPTA: They celebrate extreme obesity. If you weigh over 350 pounds, your food is free. You think Basso might feel bad about some of this. But he doesn't. Not one bit.

BASSO: People wonder how I sleep at night. Like a baby.


GUPTA: And Jon Basso, who is the owner of the Heart Attack Grill, joins me now from Las Vegas.

Thanks, sir, for joining us. Your friend, John Alleman, I sense you were close to. I mean, he died. He had a heart attack. He was a spokesman for the restaurant.

What -- how did you -- I mean, did you feel at all responsible for that?

BASSO: I feel absolutely responsible. Anyone who were putting burgers in his mouth on a daily basis should feel responsible.

Now, granted, we would warn him continuously. We would say, hey, John, those burgers are going to kill you. He would laugh it off. But John, if he did have the ability to be hearing us right now, would simply say one thing. I won't trade the experience for anything. Because the experience his last year-and-a-half of his life was a fun one.

Any weight that he would have gained -- by the way, he didn't. He remained about 180 pounds the entire time. But the diet that he underwent certainly wasn't good for him.

GUPTA: You also give away these burgers for free, if my understanding is correct, to people who already weigh over a certain amount. So, you're incentivizing them even more to perhaps worsen their already existing problem. Isn't that true?

BASSO: If a customer or I call them "patients", walk through the door, and this patient is 400 pounds, do I either ban him from the door and say, no, sir, this isn't in your best interest, you should leave? Or do I give him the burger with a smile on my face and pat him on the back and send him to his table? Or --

GUPTA: But you do neither one of those things. You give it for free.

BASSO: Exactly. I do -- I've chosen a third route. And that is, yes, I'll give him his burger, so I'm not slapped with a discrimination suit. But what I'm going to do is, I'm going to give him his burger along with a lesson. I serve burgers, I serve fries. And I serve food for thought.

GUPTA: Sir, I don't know. There's a lot of ways to get this message across. I can't imagine that your way is going to work. I'm not saying I know the right way. But this just seems dangerous.

BASSO: As Mark Twain said, all things in moderation, including moderation. I don't preach moderation. That's a tired mantra.

I tell people they have to turn it loose every once in a while. The only way you're going to take care of your health issues is to decide, hey, today is Thursday, and it's my cheat day, and I'm going to have a burger this big, if I want to.

GUPTA: All right. Jon Basso, thanks for joining us. An interesting point of view.

BASSO: Sure, thank you.

GUPTA: I'm not sure I completely agree.

But I want to talk also to Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, one of the country's top heart specialists.

We are what we eat, Suzanne. We've talked about this before. You know, you -- I don't know if you could hear all of what Jon Basso was saying. Can you talk about high-fat, high-calorie foods overall, the kind they serve at the heart attack grill, suggest people eat often, how they really impact the heart?

DR. SUZANNE STEINBAUM, CARDIOLOGIST, LENOX HILL HOSPITAL: You know, it's amazing. This is not my first time commenting on The Heart Attack Grill. What you have to realize is, Mr. Basso has really made a business out of people's weaknesses.

And the reality is, this high-fat food is -- it's killing people. We hear about heart attacks from this establishment on a regular basis. We know that if you eat high fats, the chances of your LDL, your bad cholesterol going up, leading to heart disease is a significant reality. And this is sort of a microcosm of the United States of America, and what happens when we eat high-fat foods.

GUPTA: You know, the other thing that was mentioned, and I think Jon brought up a point that John Alleman, the man who died of a heart attack ultimately, he wasn't heavy. He weighed about -- I think he's about 180 pounds.

But that's not always the point, right? You don't have to be overweight or to look like you're someone who is about to have a heart attack to have a heart attack.

STEINBAUM: That's right. And I am the director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill. I'm a Go Red for Women spokesperson.

And part of the message, it's not what you look like on the outside. We're so used to saying that women who look young and healthy and fit doesn't mean they have heart disease. And the reality is, it's not so much about your weight. It's really about what your numbers are, what your cholesterol is, your blood pressure, your sugar levels. Certainly, if you have an increase abdominal girth, if you have a big belly, the chances of you having high cholesterol and high blood pressure and diabetes goes up. But if you don't have that, and you're of normal weight, it doesn't mean that you're not at risk for heart disease.

GUPTA: We know that food can cause these problems, as we just -- we were talking about with regard to the Heart Attack Grill. What about reversing them, as well? Using food as medicine? I mean, is there a point where you say the vessels, blood vessels in the heart have been damaged so much they can't be reversible?

STEINBAUM: It's never too late. And it's so amazing, because even when I see people who have already had bypass or blockages in the arteries and have stents, these are people who can go out and exercise, change their diet. And really, change the outcome of their disease process. It's never, ever too late to do something.

GUPTA: Hey, look. Before I let you go, I want -- I want to tell you, congratulations on your new book. It's a huge undertaking, a great book, "Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum's Heart Book." It's available now. Congratulations.

STEINBAUM: Thank you. Thank you.

GUPTA: Thanks so much for joining us, as always.

STEINBAUM: Thanks so much for having me.

GUPTA: And coming up, we're going to tell you about a simple test that can show if you or even your kids are at risk of sudden cardiac death.

Stay with us.


GUPTA: You know, it's hard to imagine the pain of losing a child. A young baby, even. But that's exactly what happened to Darren and Phyllis Sudman in Philadelphia. The cause was sudden cardiac arrest from a heart condition that usually goes overlooked until it's too late. But there is a way to catch it in time.


GUPTA (voice-over): Darren and Phyllis Sudman had a happy family life until their 3-month-old son Simon was found dead in his crib. In the midst of their shock, the Sudmans' pediatrician told them get tested.

DARREN SUDMAN, SIMON'S FATHER: Get your hearts check because babies don't die. It's just not supposed to happen.

GUPTA: They were in for another shock. Phyllis was diagnosed with a rare heart problem called Long QT Syndrome. It could have caused her heart to stop. She had none of the usual symptoms like unexplained fainting, but she unknowingly passed it on to Simon.

PHYLLIS SUDMAN, SIMON'S MOTHER: Once I was diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome, it can easily be treated.

GUPTA: After their tragedy, the Sudman's started Simon's Fund to pay for free heart screenings for any child near Philadelphia. The fund estimates that sudden cardiac arrest is responsible for up to 15 percent of sudden infant deaths. It's also the number-one killer of student athletes.

D. SUDMAN: Every time we do a screening, we're potentially preventing that devastation from happening again and again and again.

GUPTA: Last year, with the help of the Sudmans, Pennsylvania became the first state to require education on sudden cardiac arrest for coaches, trainers, student athletes and their parents.

D. SUDMAN: To know that every coach in this state now has to behave a little differently, now has to know a little bit more about the health of their student athletes.

GUPTA: Since then, five other states have introduced similar bills.

JAMES THORNTON, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ATHLETIC TRAINERS' ASSOCIATION: It gives us tools to screen and assist the athletic trainer and athletic medical staffs to be able to detect those types of problems.

GUPTA: But, right now, testing is only required for kids with symptoms. And the big reason is cost. An average screening runs anywhere from $200 to $1,000, depending on where you live. But the Sudmans think it's worth every penny.


GUPTA: The screening starts with an electrocardiogram or EKG. That's only a first step. If it finds an abnormality, doctors are likely going to recommend a more thorough exam.

Now, there are programs like Simon's Fund across the country that's going to subsidize costs for young athletes. So, check with your pediatrician about this.

Up next, we have a real treat. We're going to talk to the toughest trainer on TV. My pal, Jillian Michaels.

Hey, Jillian. How are you?

JILLIAN MICHAELS, TRAINER: Hey. Hi, Dr. Sanjay. What's going on?

GUPTA: You know what I'm doing just for you?


GUPTA: While we go to commercial break here, I'm going to do some push ups. It's going to start --

MICHAELS: I want hand stand push-ups. You're too fit.

GUPTA: All right, you know what, Jillian? I'm just going to do these until the commercial break. We'll be right back.

MICHAELS: Clapping pushups!

GUPTA: There's a leg up. How about that?


GUPTA: We're back with SGMD.

Jillian Michaels, she's a friend of the show for a long time. You know her. She's personal trainer, star of "The Biggest Loser". She's also out with a new book called "Slim for Life." It's about losing weight and doing it the right way.

Jillian, welcome back to the show. I just finished my pushups, by the way, I think like a couple hundred of them. I'm not sure, I lost count.

MICHAELS: Very well done. Very well done.

GUPTA: You're very inspiring.

Welcome back. I really -- you know, I love talking to you. And, you know, one of the things people obviously know you from is "The Biggest Loser", which is full of these incredible stories. People see these stories, you see these incredible transformations.

But you've also talked about not getting caught up in some of the misconceptions about what these people are doing, as well.

What are some of those misconceptions?

MICHAELS: Gosh, I see people turning to all these different fad diets, whether cutting out carbs entirely or they think they can never eat sugar again or they believe that fasting is cleansing the body. Or they're eating six small meals throughout the day which keeps your insulin going all day long which is one of the worst things you can do when trying to lose weight.

And one of the things I wanted to do was clear up those diet fads and those misconceptions that not only keep you from losing the weight and keeping it off but can actually damage your metabolism in the long run.

GUPTA: You know we have this program. We try and practice what we preach here at CNN, and we have six viewers that train for and compete in this triathlon, and I do it with them. They love you. They have questions for you, as well.

Let's take a look at one of them.



STACY MANTOOTH, FIT NATION PARTICIPANT: What's the proper way to fuel for exercise? We obviously don't want to eat a big meal just before exercise. But I want to be able to properly fuel myself so that I have enough energy to complete the exercise.


GUPTA: What do you think about that?

MICHAELS: It's a great question. Here's the simple answer. People are always thinking about, all right, I've got to eat this special concoction of fuel so I can work out, and then I need to eat something special afterwards so replenish my body.

The golden rule: eat four times a day, every four hours. Breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner. And then no matter where you're working out, you're kind of falling into that perfect range.

One thing, don't eat within 45 minutes to an hour of training, because then all the blood is going to your stomach to pull the nutrients out of the food which can cause cramps and you can't properly oxygenate your muscles.

And don't worry so much about I just finished my workout, what am I going to get in my body?

GUPTA: Right.

MICHAELS: If you just finished your workout and lunch is an hour away, you can wait until lunch.

Unless you're a body builder, you don't need to think about how do I get the aminos back in? Eat four times a day, that's the golden rule.

GUPTA: I love it. It's simple. I think that makes it so much more accessible for people.

We have another question from one of our teammates, Rae Timme


RAE TIMME, FIT NATION PARTICIPANT: What I would like to know from you is your recommendation of the right balance of cardio, flexibility and strength training for a person who is trying to maintain. Is that recommendation any different for, let's say, a retired baby boomer?


GUPTA: She just retired from being a prison warden, I will tell you. Amazing woman, Jillian.

MICHAELS: Wow. That -- OK. Then here's my answer. It doesn't actually change, no matter who you are, what age, what gender.

I like for people to work out in such a way they're getting their strength training and their cardiovascular conditioning at the same time. And it's called circuit training. So you move from one strength exercise to the next without rest, so you are keeping your heart rate up.

And another great thing to do is to add in what we call a hit interval, or a high intensity interval training. So, say, you're doing pushups then squats then maybe 30 seconds of jump rope and repeat your circuit. This way you're burning fat, keeping that heart rate up and strengthening at the same time.

With regard to being a baby boomer, I would simply say this to everyone out there, obviously, Dr. Gupta can tell you, talk to your doctor before you begin any exercise regimen and make sure what you're doing is safe for you.

GUPTA: Yes. It's good advice. We just say that sometimes as a throw-away sentence. But it's important.

And doctors have to be a part of this, as well. Practicing what they preach.

By the way, we're doing this triathlon in September. I'm not going to put you on the spot, Jillian. But you know you have an open invitation to join us.


GUPTA: You're in. All right.

MICHAELS: I'm doing it. This is the Malibu Tri, right?

GUPTA: The Malibu Tri.

MICHAELS: Are we doing a relay or we're doing the whole thing ourselves?

GUPTA: We're doing the whole thing. We're going to do the whole thing.

MICHAELS: Dr. Gup -- OK.

GUPTA: I don't want to put you on the spot, but, you know -- we'll give you some time to decide.

But, Jillian, it goes without saying, you're an inspiration to so many people and we think about our fitness, we think of you. And love having you on the show. Thank you.

MICHAELS: Thank you, Dr. Gupta. I want to be a part of the tri. I'm going to toughen up. I'm going to prepare.

GUPTA: Toughen up. I love it. I'm going to make Jillian Michaels toughen up. I love it. MICHAELS: Toughen up.

GUPTA: Thank you. The toughest trainer on television. Thank you so much.

MICHAELS: Thank you.

GUPTA: You know, one big obstacle to keeping the weight off is eating out. And not just the Heart Attack Grill we're talking about. There are rules that I follow, and I'm going to share them with you.

Stay with us.


GUPTA: We are back with SGMD.

You know, whether I'm on the road or with friends, eating healthy in restaurants can pose a real challenge. And I know I'm not the only one, because Americans eat out four to five times a week. And that can really add up in calories.

So I want to tell you what I do.

First of all, stay away from items that say crispy, creamy, breaded or smothered. You know that. Instead, look for items that have these words. Grilled, broiled or steamed.

Another thing I like to do, when you're ordering, order first, before everybody else, so you're not tempted by their choices. My wife and I will often split an entree, because they're so big, a lot of restaurant portions can easily feed two. And if you're by yourself --


MARISA MOORE, ACADEMY OF NUTRITION & DIETETICS: As soon as you order your meal, also ask the server to bring a to go box. So when your meal arrives, you put half away, take it home with you.


GUPTA: Stick to these tips, you're not going to be kicking yourself the next day.

Clay Walker is a country music star who is living out his childhood dream. But good music isn't the only thing fans are getting from Walker nowadays. He's building a band with his fans to fight the disease that almost killed him.


GUPTA (voice-over): Clay Walker began his life overcoming modest roots and make it on the big stage. Years later, he was a bona fide country music star.

Almost as soon as he made it big, that dream started to fall apart.

CLAY WALKER, COUNTRY MUSIC STAR: My hands, trying to play the guitar, I couldn't even hold a guitar pick in my hand and I was devastated. I knew that something was wrong neurologically.

GUPTA: That neurological problem was multiple sclerosis. According to the first doctor he visited, his life was effectively over.

WALKER: He said I would be in a wheelchair in four years, and then I would be dead in eight.

GUPTA: Walker spent years huddled with family, gripped by fear, and then he made an emotional turn. He wanted to share information about his disease with his fans.

He first hunted for an expert about his disease called Relapsing Remitting MS.

And then Walker made a holistic change to his life: a new diet, exercise, spirituality.

WALKER: Hi, I'm country music artist Clay Walker and I live every day with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis.

GUPTA: He regularly educates others with MS about finding a regimen that works for them. And so far, he says, he's avoided relapse for 16 years.

WALKER: I was told that I was going to die. Once you conquer the fear of the disease, it's kind of liberating.


GUPTA: I really, really like him. And sometimes just conquering the fear is half the battle. Good luck, Clay.

Up next, something short and sweet.


GUPTA: Well, it's after Valentine's Day, and there's probably chocolate left over just about everywhere. Here's some good news. You don't have to avoid it. In fact, dark chocolate can be heart- healthy. They have flavonoids and can protect the body from aging caused by free radicals that can lead to heart disease. These flavonoids can also help lower blood pressure. They improve blood flow to the brain and to heart, but just one ounce a few times a week. That's plenty. A little bit of chocolate here can go a long way.

That's going to wrap things up for SGMD. I want to hear what you think. Go to and follow me on Twitter @DrSanjayGupta.

Next up, though, a check of your top stories making news right now.