Nearly 35 percent of Americans are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another 33 percent are overweight.
On the other side of the world, residents of Laos and Thailand have very low rates of obesity, 2.6 percent and 8.8 percent.
Dr. Balaz Imre “Ernie” Bodai thinks he knows why.
“There’s no obesity over there because they’re all eating basically a plant-based diet without all the preservatives, the additives and all the food processing,” said Bodai, director of the Breast Health Center at Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento, Calif.
Never miss a local story.
Bodai will speak on “Lifestyle Medicine: the Cancer Prescription,” during a free Oct. 12 talk at Washington Group Plaza, 720 Park Blvd., in Boise. The 7 p.m. talk is sponsored by The Cancer Connection Idaho, established in 2011 to provide free refuge and support for cancer survivors, patients and their families and friends.
Bodai was born in Budapest, Hungary. As a child, his family lived in a bomb shelter for nearly a year during the Hungarian Revolution before escaping in 1957. He earned his medical degree from the University of California, Davis, in 1977, where he serves as a clinical professor of surgery.
Bodai spent 15 years as chief of surgery at Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento. He has also authored five books and more than 250 medical articles.
“I’m going to address, through lifestyle changes — which is increasing activity and decreasing the consumption of processed foods, soft drinks, etc. — we can get the inflammation in our bodies under control and, at the same time, reduce this horrible endemic of obesity that we’re facing, particularly in our children,” said Bodai, who is addressing medical professionals on the same topic earlier in the day.
Making better food choices and getting more exercise can greatly improve a person’s chances of avoiding heart disease and cancer, Bodai said.
Childhood obesity, he said, leads to diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.
“It’s been said now, for the first time, the next generation is not going to live as long as the current generation, because they’re going to die of all these chronic diseases that we are basically inflicting on ourselves,” Bodai said.
Bodai said he’s going to offer suggestions that he said will improve a person’s chances of staving off coronary heart disease or cancer.
“You don’t have to make drastic changes, such as becoming a marathon runner. Little things such as walking, for instance — 30 minutes a day, five days a week — has shown definitively in scientific literature it can decrease your chance of getting breast cancer by 30 percent,” Bodai said. “It can prevent a recurrence of breast cancer by 25 percent, just by walking.”
Daily use of a 81-milligram “baby” aspirin can cut the chance of getting colon cancer by upwards of 50 percent, he said. One-third the strength of a regular aspirin, a baby aspirin has very minimal side effects, he said.
“That’s sort of the gist of what I’m going to talk about,” Bodai said. “I’m also going to touch on the history of our nutritional demise. The way we got here is that we have become a society of convenience fueled by technology. We don’t earn our food. We don’t run after our meals. We don’t capture our meals. We drive to McDonald’s.”
Physical activity suffers when we sit all day at a computer and our children sit around playing video games, Bodai said.
“All of this stuff is really related not just to coronary heart disease and cancer, but the diabetes, the hypertension, the hypercholesterolemia. All of these things are actually very interconnected,” he said. “If somebody thinks they can lose weight with a pill, well, good luck. You might as well give up now. There is no silver bullet for this.”