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Tick Up-Tick; How Children Learn; Athlete's Controversial Diet

Aired August 24, 2013 - 16:30   ET



Today, why most schools don't teach the way that our brains are, in fact, wired to learn -- and how some schools are now trying a different approach.

Also, a diet that's almost all fruit. It doesn't sound like this would be healthy, but I checked it out. And I was surprised by what I found.

But, first, over the past two decades, a tick, not much bigger than the period at the end of a sentence, has been spreading an outsize fear throughout the Northeast United States. It spreads Lyme disease. It also spreads controversy.

And this week, the CDC reported a number of cases ten times higher than it had before, about 300,000 a year. Now, for most people antibiotics are going to be a cure. But for the rest, this is about one in five, the symptoms can linger for months, or even years.


TARA DE NICOLAS, LYME DISEASE PATIENT: So, I started out in the morning first taking my probiotic and then an hour later, I take three different antibiotics. I take a statin, which will help follow the yeast for the antibiotics.

GUPTA (voice-over): This is how 33-year-old Tara de Nicolas starts her day.

DE NICOLAS: It is hopefully addressing what makes me feel miserable a day. So I'm willing to take everything I have to, to get better.

GUPTA: De Nicholas has Lyme disease and she says it's all the result of a bite from this very small deer tick when she was 10 years old. It's worth pointing, she never got the telltale bull's-eye rash, so she never sought treatment, but she did feel the symptoms.

DE NICOLAS: It was during the nighttime that I got such severe leg pain that I would go wake up my mother and my father and they would have to come in and massage my muscles and help me through the night because it was so severe.

GUPTA: And the pain has only gotten worse. DE NICOLAS: And it was when I was in grad school and working full time and just trying to juggle it all that my whole body just crashed and I couldn't get out of bed.

GUPTA: So, just last year, her general practitioner gave her two weeks worth of doxycycline, that's the traditional Lyme disease protocol, and things did improve slightly, but it didn't last.

DE NICOLAS: I saw countless doctors throughout my life and I was always told either it's in my head, I need to go to bed earlier, or I have fibromyalgia.

Good girl. Good boy. Can you sit?

GUPTA: This year she saw a specialist and she was given the diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease. She was also given an eight-month treatment of antibiotics and anti-malaria medication. But I will tell you for many in the mainstream medical community, simply using the diagnosis chronic Lyme disease is controversial.

BETH DALEY, ENVIROMENTAL REPORTER, THE BOSTON GLOBE: The Lyme community believes that this can be a persistent infection and you need long courses of antibiotics to treat for it. However, the medical establishment says there's absolutely no proof of that and taking long-term antibiotics is very dangerous for you.


GUPTA: And joining me now from Baltimore is Dr. Paul Auwaerter. He's the director of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center.

Thanks for joining us, Doctor.

DR. PAUL AUWAERTER, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Happy to be here. Thank you for having me.

GUPTA: You know, we just met Tara de Nicolas in this piece. And she's one of these patients who did not find relief with the traditional two-week regimen of antibiotics. And as you know, Doctor, she's not alone. About one in five patients don't seem to get better with standard treatment.

First of all, what do you think is happening with those patients?

AUWAERTER: Well, I think there's two possibilities. One is that for a number of my patients, I tell them, they do have to expect if you're in that 20 percent, that you may need three to six months of recuperation to feel improvement. It looks like there might be a delayed immune response keeping them ill.

The second possibility that is true for many patients that come to my office for evaluation for Lyme disease is they actually have an alternative problem, and Lyme is not the correct diagnosis.

GUPTA: I want toto talk about that in a second, but in terms of recuperation, what do you tell them? I mean, three to six months of just taking it easy, not going to work? What does that mean?

AUWAERTER: Well, it obviously has to be individualized for the patient, and some people are really greatly troubled. The vast majority of people I would say do improve over time, and it's really managing expectations. What I can tell you for absolute certainty is that long courses of antibiotics, prolonged courses, do not seem to help people get better faster after the initial two or three weeks of therapy in the vast majority of cases.

So, what I do is take leads from other studies that have looked at patients suffering from fatigue or other difficulties and that includes low-impact exercising and conditioning. It includes looking at your sleep habits. Sometimes cognitive therapies to help deal with stressors and so on are often very helpful as well. Sometimes we use non-antibiotic medications as well.

GUPTA: Again, just to accentuate this, the trade-off if people say, look, I'm still worried that I have the bacteria in my body, that's why I want another course of antibiotics. If they come to the doctor and say that, what do you say to them?

AUWAERTER: So, what I'll say is that when we've done studies looking at this issue, we do not and cannot find persistent infection in the body. And I would also say just from our own scientific viewpoint, these are not bacteria that are terribly difficult to kill with antibiotics.

And so we really don't find it. And when we've done studies where we've compared long-term antibiotics to a placebo, that is, you know, a sugar pill, we don't see any difference in the groups that's really meaningful or really suggests that antibiotics would help patients over the long term, durably -- meaning that they will get better and cured.


AUWAERTER: That's not happening. If it did, I'd be advocating for it and treating patients that way, because I want to be convinced by evidence, not by theory.

GUPTA: Thanks for joining us. I really appreciate it. I learned a lot.

AUWAERTER: Thank you.

GUPTA: And as the doctor said, those ticks are mostly found in the Northeast and around the Great Lakes, in wooded or grassy areas. So when you're outside, it's commonsense advice, but make sure to use insect repellant, wear long sleeved clothing or pants, and when hiking, stay on the trails and try to avoid tall vegetation.

There's also a CDC tip, take a shower within two hours of coming back in outdoors, get those ticks off that are.

Also, just ahead now, how schools might adapt the new science about the way children learn. Stay there.


GUPTA: You know, parents all over, they wring their hands about the state of schools. And there's this big debate over high-stakes testing. Does it hurt creativity or does it actually offer accountability?

So imagine a school then, with no tests, no technology, and not even traditional textbooks, it's the Waldorf way.


GUPTA (voice-over): In a Waldorf School, learning just looks different. Instead of writing a book report on a literature lesson, they take that same story and create a play or a song.

LISA PROFUMO, WESTSIDE WALDORF SCHOOL: You can go to a store and buy a new bit of technology and the man there can tell you everything how to do it. You get it home and you're clueless. When you've done it, it really comes into your soul and into your limbs in a way that you never forget.

GUPTA: It's true that most people learn by doing. And that's the innovative approach of a Waldorf education. It's been around now for more than 90 years.

PROFUMO: We know, for example, how related math and music are in the brain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thirty-six, minus 6 plus 1.


PROFUMO: Rhythm and using the limbs is not just a tool but it stimulates their ability to think and especially in working with numbers.


CROWD: Suki.

GUPTA: The school keeps it simple -- chalkboards, paper and pencil. No computers until eighth grade, and that's when the students actually take one apart and rebuild it.

PROFUMO: All of us learn in different ways. Some of us are auditory learners. Some of us are visual learners. Some of us are kinetic learners. So the traditional way does not actually address all of those styles.

GUPTA: The only textbooks you'll find at a Waldorf school --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So the heart and the main arteries --

GUPTA: -- are the ones that the students create, based on their interpretation and retaining of the subject.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: See the face of the bear. What do they ask?

GUPTA: And while subjects like knitting and hand working may seem frivolous to some, Waldorf will counter with this -- it teaches problem solving, math, and coordination skills.

PROFUMO: It takes around six weeks for a child who's never had standardized testing to understand how the bubble works. I think it takes a lifetime to know how to think.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll bisect the second heart.

GUPTA: According to the Association of Waldorf Schools, 94 percent of their students do go on to college, including schools like Stanford, Harvard and Yale.


GUPTA: There are more than 150 Waldorf schools in the United States and enrollment, I'll tell you, has skyrocketed from coast to coast, so the question a lot of people have how does it really compare to mainstream education?

Layne Kalbeleisch is a cognitive neuroscientist. She has more than 20 years of experience looking specifically at how children learn.

Welcome to the program. Thanks for joining us.


GUPTA: I'm very interested in this topic because I have three small children myself and I think, you know, when you have kids this age, it's a large part of what you think about.

And one of the things -- first of all, I just wanted to ask you, you know, if you look at some of that video, a big part of the Waldorf way is to keep students engaged through constant movement. You probably noticed that.

Does that help the brain in terms of retaining information?

KALBELEISCH: It does. Movement does a couple of different things for learning. It helps orient the person and anchor them in their experience, as to what they're learning. But it also helps with memory consolidation.

GUPTA: Do you think that there's a negative impact of too much testing in young kids? I mean, based on what you were saying earlier, do the kids' brains process tests?

KALBELEISCH: Right. I think testing -- testing -- it's important that people understand that it has a specific context and has specific goals, and that sometimes those goals apply to everyday learning in the real world, and sometimes they don't always transfer or apply that well.

And the impact of a lot of testing or having kids early on learn that testing -- you don't want them to think that testing is synonymous with learning, because for some kids being under time, a timed condition, makes them nervous, and kids who are reflective thinkers and have to kind of survey information in their minds don't always do as well under testing environments. And so, it's important to be mindful of those principles of human learning --

GUPTA: Right.

KALBELEISCH: -- and thought within a testing environment.

GUPTA: I think you've just described my oldest daughter.

It's funny. And I -- she'll probably hate me for even bringing this up. But that's exactly -- I feel she understands topics, but under testing conditions, it does tend to be a little bit different for her. Maybe it's the pressure, I'm not sure.


GUPTA: Also the other thing, she's 8 years old and they use a lot of technology in the classroom, iPads and screens and things like that. What do you think, helpful or harmful?

KALBELEISCH: I think the technology is wonderful. You know, if you think about learning happens best when you're engaging a lot of your senses. And we shouldn't underestimate the impact that reaching and touching have in learning and what tablets and touch screens give us the ability to do, it gives the child the ability to touch new information and knowledge and to grab new information and knowledge. So, it's engaging a spatial sense.

And a freedom of information that, you know, those of us who are our age, we didn't have those freedoms when we were learning, but I think it's a really wonderful layer on top of more formal 3R type processes at school.

GUPTA: You've just put a lot of parents' mind at rest, because I think they worry about, you know, the number of, you know, another screen. For educational purposes, it can have some benefit.

I mean, as a reporter and a dad, I'm curious about this stuff.


GUPTA: Thanks for joining us. I learned a lot.


GUPTA: And still ahead on SGMD, a look at a very unlikely diet. This elite endurance athlete eats nothing but fruit. I've got a lot of questions. He'll answer them. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GUPTA: When is a diet just a diet and when does it actually transition into lifestyle?

Well, this week, hundreds of fruitarians are gathered for the 2013 Woodstock Fruit Festival. And before he left for Upstate New York, I got a chance to sit down with one man that I read about in "Details" magazine recently. He's sort of a hero in this movement. He's an athlete who subsists on fruit and fruit alone.


GUPTA: Of course, I wanted to meet him face to face, a fruitarian, Michael Arnstein and he joins me now.


GUPTA: How did you arrive at this?

ARNSTEIN: I'm a runner, a marathon runner, and I wanted to see how fast I could run a marathon. I knew I had to lose body fat. That was the main thing.

I read a couple of books about raw food diets and I said, you know what, I'd give it a try. And it grew over time to become an incredible change in my life.

GUPTA: So, this -- I mean, because people immediately say this is fringe. You're doing this for health reasons, which you may be, but really it was about your running time specifically, that's what you were trying to accomplish.

ARNSTEIN: Yes, I wanted to try to break 2 hours and 30 minutes in a marathon, which is considered a very quick time. I was able to do that eating a fruit-based diet -- mostly fruit, all raw.

And I just said, you know, how far and fast can I go, and I started running 50-mile races and 100-mile races and 150-mile races. And I couldn't get sick and my body didn't break down and I kept performing at a higher and higher level and astonished at the results of what I've experienced.

GUPTA: Most doctors and scientists will look at this and say, look, the immediate thing I'm sure you've heard it a thousand times, you're not getting enough of -- fill in the blank --

ARNSTEIN: Protein.

GUPTA: Certain protein, certain fatty acids, certain amino acids, all of that. And that may be true, but your response is -- look at me.

ARNSTEIN: I say study me. You know, how is this happening? I'm doing it for performance-based reasons and, of course, there's a great environmental and moral benefits to it, but I'm doing it for performance and I haven't stopped because my performance keeps improving. GUPTA: So, did you try other things. I mean, in this quest for performance, did you try all the things that are typically recommended to try to improve your performances?

ARNSTEIN: Yes, I tried all the things in the vitamin shops and the supplements and I tried protein diet and I tried everything. And this, eating nothing but raw fruits and vegetables, primarily fruits, has absolutely transformed me as a person. I've become almost superhuman.

GUPTA: Well, the specifics of your -- what's going on inside your body, cholesterol levels, your overall health profiles, did you look at those thing ahead of time and then afterward?

ARNSTEIN: I had blood tests over the last five years since becoming a fruitarian and the only thing that's been low at times has been my B- 12 and there's lots of different reasons for that. That's a bigger discussion, and so I do supplement with B-12. But aside from that everything else has been pretty much perfect.

GUPTA: How has it affected other parts of your life? Let's talk about, like, how do you acquire so much of these raw fruits which is mainly what comprises your diet.

ARNSTEIN: Well, I've got four refrigerators in my house.

GUPTA: Four refrigerators.

ARNSTEIN: And I shop in a warehouse environment. And I eat a lot as most animals do in nature. I eat up to 6,000 calories a day and I've got 3 percent to 5 percent body fat.

I don't get sick. I don't get injured. I was the fifth American in the New York City marathon a few years ago. And I ran the seventh fastest 100-mile time ever as an American.

And I just -- I've got mental clarity. I don't get dry skin. I don't have mucus in my nose, I don't wake up with crust in my eyes, I don't have earwax.

I'm just -- I'm a lot. I'm absolutely healthy. I'm vibrant.

GUPTA: Just the B-12, that's the only thing you take --

ARNSTEIN: That's it.

GUPTA: What did you have for breakfast this morning?

ARNSTEIN: Oranges. About 15 oranges.

GUPTA: Fifteen oranges?


GUPTA: We didn't use to eat 15 oranges when we were evolving as human beings. ARNSTEIN: If you came across an orange tree and you were hungry, you would eat 15 oranges.

GUPTA: Appreciate you coming on.


GUPTA: Thanks so much.


GUPTA: You know, a lot of us may play music in our heads, but it takes a special talent to share those tunes with an audience. So today's "Human Factor" is about a man who didn't let his hearing loss affect his music. His fans call him "That Deaf DJ."


GUPTA (voice-over): DJ Robbie Wilde lives in a world of rhythm and bass -- he just can't hear it. Severe ear infections as a child left Wilde completely deaf in his right ear and 80 percent deaf in his left.

ROBBIE WILDE, "THAT DEAF DJ": My mom was crying, you know, when the doctor said it. Me being the one, you know, the one with the hearing loss, you know, I went up to my mom and I'm, like, mom, it's OK, I'm going to be all right, I promise you. Like, you'll see, I'll be fine.

GUPTA: Although hearing is the most important sense in a DJ's life, Wilde was still determined to make it.

He went to DJ school to learn the art of turntablism and he relies on a computer to see the music. Red is a kick from the bass. Blue, that's a snare. Greens are vocals.

WILDE: You know, I don't want you to see me as a deaf DJ or a deaf kid trying to DJ, I want you to see me as a great DJ that happens to be deaf, you know, because I don't want sympathy. I don't want -- let's give him a gig because, you know, he's hearing impaired.

GUPTA: Wilde's skills got noticed by HP and also earned him a spot in a commercial thrusting him on the world stage.

WILDE: It doesn't matter that I can't hear the music.

GUPTA: Besides, Wilde says, some things are just better left unheard.

WILDE: You know, there's a lot of sounds out in the world you don't want to hear. I like it muffled, you know? It's, you know, I like who I am. I'm proud of who I am.


GUPTA: I'll tell you, every DJ uses hand signals when they perform. So do you, Robbie, I say that. It's American Sign Language for applause. Thanks for joining us. A check of your top headlines just minutes away. But next, with kids heading back to school, I'm going to give you my take on childhood vaccinations.


GUPTA: "Chasing Life" today, it's back-to-school time and that means vaccination time. Now, the CDC says children entering school need to be up to date with the MMR vaccine, that's to protect against measles, mumps and rubella. Also, DTaP, that's diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, also known as whooping cough. They should also be vaccinated against polio and chicken pox.

Now, when children turn 11, they'll need DTaP booster shots. Eleven is also the age that they should get the meningitis vaccine. And 11 is also the HPV vaccine, which protects against a virus that causes certain cancers, is also available.

Talk to your doctor about all of this. You can find out more details on the CDC's Web site,

That's going to wrap things up for SGMD, but stay connected with me at And let's keep the conversation going on Twitter @DrSanjayGupta. It's been a good conversation there lately.

Time now, though, to get you back into the "CNN NEWSROOM" with Don Lemon.