Interview with Renowned

Weight Loss Surgeon,

Dr. Terry Simpson

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Dr. Terry Simpson Notes

In this episode of Eat My Globe, our host, Simon Majumdar, discusses the history of diet and weight loss with renowned weight loss surgeon, Dr. Terry Simpson. They discuss some of the weirdest diets he has encountered in his research and the impact of the weight loss trend on gender and aesthetical trends.

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TRANSCRIPT

EAT MY GLOBE

INTERVIEW WITH RENOWNED WEIGHT LOSS SURGEON, 

DR. TERRY SIMPSON

SIMON MAJUMDAR (“SM”):

Hi everybody and welcome to a brand-new episode of Eat My Globe, a podcast about things you didn't know you didn't know about food. And on today's very special episode, I'm going to be introducing you to someone who not only is an expert on the subject, but also a personal dear friend of mine.

 

So I am very, very pleased to introduce you to the one and only Dr. Terry Simpson.

 

Hello, Terry.

 

TERRY SIMPSON (“TS”):

How are you, Simon?

 

SM:

I am very, very well. And I'm pleased that we are socially distanced actually in the same room, which is wonderful because I've been having to do so many of these interviews over Zoom for the last few months, because of COVID. Socially distanced, I hasten to add, but it's great to be here too. So thank you for joining us.

 

TS:

A pleasure.

 

SM:

So I should mention for all of those people listening that this episode, which is going to be fantastic, I know, is a follow-up to last week’s episode, which was all about the history of diet and weight loss. So if you haven’t heard that yet, I do recommend you maybe go back and listen to that first, because it’ll give you a timeline to some of the things we may touch on today.

 

So go do that and we’ll be sitting here waiting for you.

 

BREAK MUSIC

 

SM:

Okay. So, Terry, before we go on to talk about today’s subject, why don’t you tell the people a little bit about yourself, of what you do, uh, and so you can share some of your expertise with them later on.

 

TS:

Well, I’m a weight loss surgeon by trade. I’m also certified in culinary medicine and I’m of the strong belief that the best way to lose weight after weight loss surgery and to augment it is to teach people how to cook and not be on any fad diets.

 

SM:

And we’re going to talk a lot about fad diets today. So I should give people a little bit of a disclosure here just to let people know how we met. Terry is married to April the producer of our podcast.

 

TS:

So she always comes home after the podcast and ask what you meant by the jokes.

 

SM:

Uh, well, April doesn’t get jokes very well.

 

TS:

She's going to. . .

 

SM:

And yet, she married you.

 

TS:

I know.

 

APRIL SIMPSON:

What.

 

SM:

Anyway. So first of all, that disclosure in the background. And then also lets just tell people a little bit about how we met because we first encountered each other. . . oh, eight or nine years ago, when I was writing my book, “Fed, White, and Blue,” which was a journey about traveling around America to discover what it meant to be in America through food before I became an American citizen.

 

And one of the people who reached out to me was you asking me if I would go with you to Alaska to go salmon fishing.

 

So just tell people about how you reached out and why, why it is you thought that we, we might end up being friends. Who knew?

 

TS:

[Laughter]

 

Who knew? Well, we were both on Twitter at the time. It was kind of an earlier day on Twitter and we would talk about food and diets and things like that. And then when you're writing your book, you had mentioned you hadn't been to two States: Alaska and Delaware. And April said, “well, you’re Mister Alaska. Why don’t you see if he wants to come?”

 

So I proposed, I said, “come with us to Alaska and we’ll go salmon fishing and you can fill it out.”

 

My family’s been in Alaska for the last 10,000 years. I'm a quarter Athabaskan or Alaska native. It's the largest, uh, nation in North America of North American indigenous peoples. And so I work, I'm on the board of the primary care center up there and the board of the Alaska native hospital. So I have continuing deep and loving roots for my hometown and go back there often to, as a board member for the hospital.

 

SM:

And it is a wonderful state and I was very glad now that I've visited every state in the United States, you know, Delaware was fantastic to go visit as well. But Alaska was very special to me. I was very thrilled when you invited me. So thank you.

 

Now though, Terry, you’re here to do a job to do some hard work for once. So before we go up to the challenge, as you may know, Terry, if you've listened to the podcasts before, and I hope you do both with April and myself involved, that we, we set our visitors a challenge. We set them to choose five people or five things from food history that kind of need to be remembered or brought back to the Culinary Pantheon.

 

So before we do that though, just touching on last week’s episode about the history of diets, let’s just think about what diets mean. So perhaps you could tell us a little bit about what to you, the word diet means in its many different forms and also about the difference between kind of the aesthetic of diets and the medical.

 

TS:

I think most people, when they think about diets, they think, they think about losing weight and that correlation is, “if I lose weight, I will be healthier. So, I want to lose weight.”

 

We think more broadly in medicine about diet as what a person eats and how it relates to their health. How it relates to their longevity. So all diets, even the most fad diet ultimately will have some caveat where they'll say, and this is the best thing you can eat for your health.

 

Much of that is unproven.

 

And in history it's gone that way that they said you should only eat this, that or the other thing. And if you do, you'll be cured from, and as you'll see in the diets that I've sort of picked out in the history that all of them say the same thing, it will cure you from all diseases.

 

SM:

So one of the things that I touched on last week was the notion of gender bias. And I promised the listeners last week that I would touch on that with you here in this episode, because it is something that we see. Particularly, now, a gender bias towards weight. So much of the diet industry, for want of a better word, is aimed at women. And I wanted to know what you thought about that gender bias, where it comes from and whether you would have seen that in history before we go on again, to look at your challenges.

 

TS:

We certainly have seen it in history before a gender bias continues to be a problem with both the way people look at themselves and you can get extreme examples of that. The ideal person, whether it be from the Greeks, when they were talking about what the ideal individual would look like and how they would act and their muscles and the definition of them to modern day Victorian era, that is modern day, where they were thinking everybody should look like they had tuberculosis, to the Renaissance times when people were more rounded and curvy to today, where again, we've gone back and predominantly against women saying, you need to look like this thin supermodel, which is a) unhealthy and b) unreasonable.

 

SM:

So I, I think I did just want to touch on that because it's something that I, I, we can't really discuss in huge depth because I think people have written books and books and papers on this, but I did want to hear it from a kind of professional point of view.

 

Let’s go on now though, let's go on to have some fun and let's talk about some of the challenges.

 

So as always, as I said, with guests on the show, just a bit of a fun challenge, and that was to go through history and pick out some of the more unusual diets. So we'll talk about them and hopefully have some fun and also touch on if any of them actually had any medical benefits as well. Because some of these, almost by accident, some of these diets do have some, even if they're not quite sure what happened. So with your professional opinion, Dr. Terry Simpson, where shall we begin?

 

Let's. . . what do you think you want to start with? The first one.

 

TS:

Diphyllobothrium latum.

 

SM:

And in. . . and again in English, please.

 

TS:

Tapeworm.

 

SM:

Tapeworm. Wow. Okay. Let's start with tapeworm.

 

TS:

So what does the tapeworm, Queen Victoria and Khloe Kardashian all have in common?

 

SM:

I have no idea. It's usually me who was asking the jokes. So, go on. Tell me again. . .

 

TS:

Well, it’s not a joke. All of them were prone and wanted to be on the tapeworm diet. All of them described wanting to be on the tape worm diet. And in the Victorian era, the gender bias then was women should look and they had books and articles about this. Women should look very, very thin. They should look like someone who has tuberculosis.

 

SM:

Wow.

 

TS:

Thin and scant. And so they said, well, if you want to eat everything you want, you should try this tapeworm diet.

 

SM:

So what, what was the tape worm diet? It's literally swallowing a tapeworm?

 

TS:

It's literally swallowing an egg of a tapeworm. And probably most of the people who were selling it were not selling eggs of tapeworms. And it's a very dangerous diet. Queen Victoria was, had tried it, obviously nothing happened. She, she didn't lose any weight. But a lot of people tried this diet and, and again, thankfully, most of the time they were selling placebos. They weren't selling tapeworm egg.

 

SM:

So, so how would that be delivered?

 

TS:

So the idea is, I'm going to give you a pill and I tell you that inside this pill is an egg of a tapeworm. And it will hatch into your intestine. And you can eat whatever you want and the tapeworm will eat it. And so you won't get as much because the tapeworm’s going to get more. So, eat whatever you want. It sounds like the perfect diet. And every diet, by the way, loves to have that, eat whatever you can of these things and you'll be fine. That was the tapeworm diet.

 

SM:

So tell us, first of all, tell us about a tapeworm. I mean, a lot of people will know that name and they'll know that there's some diseases associated with tapeworms. But I don't really, quite frankly, know anything about them. So tell me a little bit about a tapeworm first.

 

TS:

So tapeworms are dangerous parasitic worms that live in your guts, in your small bowel specifically. So just outside the stomach. They can grow to be 30 feet long. They can live for several years. They produce thousands of eggs a day. And the problem is not only do they sit in your gut, but they can go into your brain and cause all sorts of problems. They can go into your liver. So they're a common parasite. They're found on whole grains. So some people who eat whole grains have. . .  get tapeworm infections because, as you know, even in our, as clean as we're trying to be, there is a certain amount of rat feces and insects that are allowed on whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. And they carry tapeworms.

 

The most common source of tapeworms today come from fish and the most dangerous ones come from fish. The way to get rid of it so that your fish's not a problem is to have your fish frozen. Cause once it's frozen, the worm dies. Thankfully, most sushi today is actually frozen, thawed out at the sushi place. [Inaudible] So tapeworms. . . and they're very dangerous.

 

Uh, I've just finished writing the works for a podcast where I'm talking about a woman who had a tapeworm and it deprived her of vitamin B12 because tapeworms love vitamin B12. So she was eating all these gummy vitamins. She had this deficiency, had all of these horrible signs and symptoms. But that's the problem. Tapeworms is, are they're uncontrolled, but they're very easy to cure. A single pill will cure you of those tapeworms. And it's not uncommon for people who love sushi to find a round warmer worm in there, floating in their toilet after they've been eating sushi. And they're all afraid that something is bad is happening to them. And most of the time, not, you know, but again, do yourself a couple of favors. Go to reputable sushi places.

SM:

[Laughter]

 

TS:

And even in the West, you know, tuna is frozen solid. It has to be in the United States. So tuna is probably the safest type of sushi that you can get.

 

SM:

So tell me, let's go back to the history of this. So you're saying this was primarily during the Victorian period?

 

TS:

It was, and it resuruges periodically everywhere. You will see ads for it. Now on the internet, people will look and say, well, that sounds like a good idea. There was for a while, a place that offered this in Mexico, uh, Khloe Kardashians, uh, once muse that she would, uh, want to have a tapeworm ‘cause she felt she was a little too curvy for where she wanted to be. And when that happens, search terms go up or people saying, Oh, that sounds like a great idea. It is not a good idea. These are dangerous, dangerous infections and they can kill you.

 

SM:

Was there a particular person who kind of promulgated this as an idea? Or was it more general?

 

TS:

It was much more general. It sort of gotten up there and again, while we think it was, it wasn't a widespread fad, but it was certainly seen, if you look back in the publications of Victorian era, that people were enamored with this idea and had tapeworm parties. What killed a lot of those. . .

 

SM:

Wow.

 

TS:

Yeah. Isn't that. . . . What killed a lot of them though was then they would have to extract the tapeworm. Now we can do it today. We give you a simple medicine, one pill of something called praziquantel and the tapeworm dies. It gets exposed to your own immune system and you kill it.

 

But in those days they didn't have it. So they would invent these things that they would shove down people's throat and try and lure the tapeworm out. And usually these people choked to death. And the other one was there to try and do some milk in a vial and try and lure it out the other way. So it was a very strange, bizarre thing. Suffice to say, the tapeworm diet never caught off for two reasons. Number one, responsible doctor said, these can kill you and please don't do it. And number two, probably the vast majority of places that sold them, sold nothing.

 

[Cross-talk]

 

Right. It was just nonsense. We, in fact, last night had dinner with a man whose ancestors used to sell tapeworm, you know, pills to people. So.

 

SM:

Amazing stuff. Well, I think that's a great start to our conversation. I love this, these fat diets.

 

So let's go on. Let's talk about fat diet number two. What do you want to give us next?

 

TS:

Probably, let's go to the Civil War.

 

SM:

Oh, okay. I love the Civil War.

 

TS:

And so, um, I, I think the Civil War is, is fascinating, but we got a lot of medicine that came out of the Civil War.

 

The problem with the Civil War, more people died of infections than they died from bullets in the Civil War and it was a horrific war. We lost over half a million people. There was a doctor there named James Henry Salisbury and he started putting his men on coffee and boiled broiled steak. A hamburger, essentially. And he discovered that these people, Oh my goodness, they weren't getting sick. They weren't getting dysentery. And he noticed that they seem to be healthier. Well, the reason they were healthier is he had coffee instead of water. So it was boiled.

 

SM:

Right.

 

TS:

He had steak because he thought vegetables were evil, which, you know, appeals to every child in America today.

 

And so the vegetables were often filled with a lot of parasites. They were. . . had, there were a large source of dysentery. They were watered from the bad water. So it was meat, broiled, and coffee. And none of these men did very well. So he said, Oh, this is the perfect diet. So when he noticed that soldiers didn't get sick, he said, this is the best diet in the world. So his conclusion was, if you would eat this four times a day, it will cure you of heart disease, tumors, tuberculosis. And then he would point to the famous bio truth or logical fallacy and said, look at your teeth. You have these things that are like fangs. You are meant to eat meat. He totally missed the molars apparently. And that was the thing. It first came out. It became popularized by a, a, an author named Elma Stewarts who wrote this book called, “What Must I Do to Get Well,” which was published by one of your favorite characters, Kellogg.

 

SM:

Oh yeah. Well, let's not talk about Mr Kellogg, but if you haven't heard us talk about Kellogg in length, you should go listen to my interview with Alton Brown, where we, we have a little bit of a, an argument about whether he should be included in the Culinary Pantheon.

 

TS:

Well, he was a, certainly a vegetarian. So that, that was the Civil War diet and it lost popularity and lost out, uh, mostly because when Kellogg became famous, he did not like meats. And so during that time he just put away. And the only reason that Salisbury came back was because of World War I, because we didn't want to call a hamburger, a hamburger because it was Germany. So we started saying, Oh, they’re Salisbury steaks. And when I was a young kid and my mother would leave town and my father had to feed us, we would get TV dinners and they would be Salisbury steaks. And who knew it came all the way back from the Civil War and Dr. James Henry Salisbury.

 

SM:

I've talked about Salisbury a lot during the history of beef. I, uh, because I, you know, the beef diet, particularly in the Civil War is one of the reasons that people cite that the Union won the Civil War rather than, you know, the Confederacy, which didn't have as ample supplies of beef, and also coffee. Uh, you know, I, I, I've also done an episode on the history of coffee and one of the things, there are a lot of the generals say, give your men coffee in the morning and they will hold the line because it woke them up and it got them kind of caffeinated and up and running, whereas. . .

 

TS:

And it kept them holding things in.

 

SM:

Yeah.

 

TS:

Instead of dysentery.

 

SM:

Well, absolutely. And the thing that was really interesting is, of course, the Confederacy didn't have the ports to allow them to bring coffee in. So they had to make coffee out of chicory and all kinds of other substitute coffees, which might've been refreshing, chicory coffee, I'm told, I don't drink coffee, but might have been quite fun. People who drink it tell me, but it didn't have that same impact on energy.

 

TS:

And they lost chicory very quickly early on in the Civil War, because we were able to take over the port of our favorite city for eating in the United States, New Orleans, very early on in the Civil War. So the chicory and the coffee was completely gone from the Confederacy. So some say that they lost the war because they didn't have coffee and they certainly didn't have beef.

 

SM:

So that, I think that is a great inclusion. And let's talk about the diet itself outside of the impact it had on the Civil War soldiers, boiling and cooking things. Is there any benefit? I know Salisbury was really interested in kind of single food diets. He's one of the first who talked about just eating one thing or one or two things that would impact your diet. So let's talk about that in general, uh, whether, single food diet. So we do say a lot of that. Now you've seen things like the Brown rice diet, or you're just eating a predominance of this one thing.

 

TS:

He was really sort of the first one. And we'll talk about another one soon. That was kind of in that whole low carb diet idea. Avoid starchy vegetables. But in his day in the Civil War, the problem was not diet from weight loss. The problem was they were all losing weight. They were all sick. They all had dysentery. The problem was keeping them in healthy. After the Civil War, we got back to a place in the United States where people started gaining weight and Salisbury get his second bit of fame because people would go on the coffee and pounded beef diet and they were losing weight. So it was sort of the, another reincarnation of the, you know, low carb diets at which right now 10% of America is on.

 

SM:

Really. I really fascinating how something that we, we think about now in so many ways, the low carb diets that have been so huge actually has it's, you know, kind of origins way back in history. And at a particularly important time in American history.

 

TS:

Yeah.

 

But it also came from your neck of the woods. And, you know, you spent some time in the book industry.

 

SM:

I did.

 

TS:

So I thought that probably the next person that we might talk about. . .

 

SM:

Oh.

 

TS:

. . . is an indie publisher.

 

SM:

Oh, so who’s this?

 

TS:

A coffin maker.

 

SM:

A coffin maker. Oh, I think I know who you’re going to talk about now. ‘Cause I think I talked, I think he became a verb didn't he?

 

TS:

He did.

 

SM:

So tell us who that is. I think I'm ahead of you here, but carry on.

 

TS:

His name was William Banting.

 

SM:

Yeah.

 

TS:

And he was a Royal coffin maker. And he was obese. And his entire life, he spent trying to go to various spas back in those days. He lived from 1796, he was born. He died in 1878. And his whole focus on life was he was successful. He could go anywhere he wanted. He was very wealthy. He had done the funerals of a number of Kings. So he had gone to the spas of the day. He had tried exercising. He had tried various diets. And finally he heard from his doctor that heard a lecture about diabetes and sugars. And he said, well, you should just avoid these. So he made up his own diet. And his own diet consisted of meats, greens, fruits, and wine. And he lost weight.

 

SM:

Quite a lot of wine as well. I re. . . I think I read out last week's episode that he drank a lot of Claret. There were certain alcohol he wouldn’t drink like Port and that had lots of sugar.

 

TS:

Right. I think he had Brandy, but not Port.

 

SM:

Brandy. . .

 

TS:

I think you've had a Brandy episode.

 

SM:

I recorded one for this season, which is going to be coming up very soon. Tell people what the diet entails.

 

TS:

Oh, okay. So his diet was, we're going to have four meals a day. You're going to have meat, any meat you want. You're going to have any green vegetables you want. You can have fruits. You can have dry wine. But here's what he said you should avoid. You should avoid sugar or any saccharin matter, which is sweet things like pastries, starches, particularly potatoes – they were evil – beer, milk, butter, and sweet wines. He has, to this day, you can go on amazon dot com and download his original book where he goes in great detail, but that's his diet. And that is considered the forerunner. If you talk to people of modern, low carb diets, if you talk to people today, they will say I'm on the Banting diet.

 

Now here's the issue. Banting had a distant cousin who won the Nobel prize for the discovery of insulin out of Toronto. Banting and Best, Macleod. Well, Best didn't win the Nobel prize. Banting gave him a part of his, they were distant cousins, but oftentimes people on low carb diets say, well, do you believe in Banting? He won the Nobel prize. And I said, yes, I believe in insulin. But I think you're talking about the coffin maker.

 

Oddly, when you see photos of Banting after his diet, you would still consider him a corpulent man. He lost somewhere between 35 and 50 pounds. So he was only about five foot four. And while that was good for him, you know, it's not still the perfect diet.

 

SM:

He's not the biggest loser by any imagination. Let me ask a couple of questions about this that I think will be really interesting for our listeners.

 

First of all, this to me is one of the first diets that became a fad or fetish. You know, people would go up to people in the street and go, are you Banting? Which means are you low carb? It's like going up and up and goes, are you an Atkins person? Are you Banting? So are there circumstances before this where diets just became so popular and so well known, or is this one of the very first where he became a kind of a dieting superstar?

 

TS:

He couldn't find anybody interested in publishing his book. So he self-published his book. It became a best seller. Everybody who self-published his books looks at Banting and saying, Oh my gosh, he ended up giving it away. He ended up giving away a lot of the money. He ended up giving away the book ultimately, and ultimately it had a publisher, but it was one of the most popular books in the UK for years.

 

SM:

And in the United States as well. It was shipped over and republished many, many times. I think I mentioned last week.

 

TS:

Yeah. So it, it became popular. And that was. . . and while his diet also died out, again at the hands of Kellogg, because Kellogg didn't like diets that weren't based on grains and things, um, Banting to this day is considered one of the fathers of the, one of the many fathers of the low carb diets. And while Banting didn't claim to have a lot of health benefits, Banting actually had a better view of what diet did than most people. So today, like on the tapeworm diet or on Salisbury's diet, they will say, Oh, it's good for heart disease, cancer, rheumatism, et cetera, et cetera. Banting was actually pretty honest. And he said, weight loss is good for all those things, not the diet. Eating these things gets you weight loss. If you lose weight, you'll feel better. Whereas today modern people will say, well, the Keto diet should be good for cancer because cancer feeds on sugar. And it's like, well, so does your brain, you know, but. . .

 

SM:

Let's, let's talk about the notion of weight loss as an industry. I think Banting is one of the first to kind of help create this industry that's now huge now. You know, it's such a big industry, the weight loss industry. I think I said. . .

 

TS:

I make my living doing this.

 

SM:

Yeah, no, absolutely. And you're part of it, But I said last week, it's a $72 billion industry. If you include everything like bariatric surgery, if you include medicines, if you include, you know, diet products, if you include TV shows, if you include everything, it's a huge industry. Do you see Banting as kind of the big bang of that? Or were there people beforehand?

 

TS:

Well, he was sort of the big one to popularize it then, because again, we're talking about going into an industrial age where we had people that were going from starving to where people are going to being corpulent and that's what was happening in the 1800s. Prior to that, the only people who were fat, as we would call them, obese, were the very wealthy. So if you look back at pictures of the Renaissance, you will see these pictures of people who are wealthy people because they're the ones who had their pictures taken. And they are very large. That was considered beautiful in that day. But it's considered beautiful because they had the money to eat. Most people were half starving at the time.

 

SM:

One of the things I found really interesting last week, perhaps we just touched on it very briefly before we move on to the next of your diet was the connection of this to the industrial revolution. Pre-industrial revolution, people were out in the fields, they're working physically they're out there that during the industrial revolution, when people move to towns, people reading the same amount of food, although they probably didn't think of it in calorific terms, but it was a big burn off because they just weren't as active even at work.

 

TS:

Yeah. In fact, the term calorie comes from a term of mechanical engineers where they were looking at machines. And so the idea of a calorie being that, which would cause you to raise the temperature of water one degree Celsius. And that was part of the industrial revolution. We then adopted it to food and we determined calories of a food by putting something in called, let's say a carrot, into a calorie bomb, which incinerates it and sees how many calories are there. That's not the best way of, of looking at diets and weight loss, but that's probably the best way we have. But I want to kind of go away from that sort of huge bit of let's eat meat Salisbury. I want to go to the other side of one of your favorite antagonists, what are your favorite characters that you had a great podcast about Dr. Kellogg.

 

SM:

Okay.

 

TS:

Because what happened was is you had all of these people saying, well, look at this, we are eating meat. And so Dr. Kellogg had in Battle Creek, Michigan, as you know, a Sanitarium and all of these people went there either for obesity or dyspepsia. . .

 

SM:

Yeah.

 

TS:

. . . as they called it. And he did not like meat. He had religious problems with meat. And he was a Seventh Day Adventist until they kicked him out. And vegetarianism in the United States was the first anti meat thing, thinking they were going to be closer to God. And cornflakes was that morning meal that people would have to set them straight on the right path. So we had two opposing types of diets when Kellogg came. We had the meat diets of Banting and Salisbury, and then Kellogg came and he was, as you know, an amazing, uh, publicist. He was, had the best PR in the world. And we went from diets of breakfast, where you would have chicken and steak and eggs to diets, where you were going to have cereal, whole grains. And those today somewhat represent the competing types of diets that we have today. People who say you should only eat meat, not whole grains. People who say you should only eat whole grains, not eat meat. They are both clearly extremists. And the most extreme example of that was the guy by the name of Walter Kempner.

 

SM:

So let's, let's skip over Kellogg ‘cause I'm going to get angry about him again. And some of his rather odd behaviors. And let's go on to diet number four. Fad diet number four, Terry is . . .

 

TS:

Fad diet number four is called the rice and fruit diet.

 

SM:

Okay.

 

TS:

The rice and fruit diet was invented by a guy by the name of Walter Kempner, who was a, who came over to the United States as a refugee from Nazi Germany. He knew that. . . he was in nephrologist, a specialist in kidney disease. And people who have kidney disease can't have a lot of protein in their diets because they can't excrete it very well. They don't excrete the urea well. And so they get in trouble if they have high protein diets. So Kempner thought, why don't we try to, and we'd had no therapy for kidney disease or hypertension in those days. None at all. As you know, FDR died from hyper. . . hypertensive stroke. . .

 

SM:

What period . . . sorry to interrupt. What period was this we're looking at?

 

TS:

So, this was in the 1940s.

 

SM:

Okay.

 

TS:

And, uh, Kempner started this rice diet in about 1939. And he had these fantastic results. These people would come in, they would go on a rice and fruit diet for a couple of weeks. They would lose a little bit of weight. And then some of his patients didn't quite understand his dietary thing. He only wanted them on it for two weeks. One woman went off, she was morbidly obese, had what's stage four kidney disease, which means today you would probably go on dialysis. They didn't have dialysis then. And she came back several months later, having been strictly on it, lost several hundred pounds. Her kidneys were in good shape and she became the model of what Kempner then said, we have to go for more of this.

 

SM:

And what did the diet actually entail? What was it? What he said? He, they came in to see him and he sent them away and said, do “x.”

 

TS:

White rice, fruits, fruit juices, vitamins, and irons. 2000 calories a day. That's it. And so they still have the rice and fruit diet. You can still find it. You can still look it up. There are still pictures of it.

 

Kempner got involved in a lot of the controversy because if people didn't follow his diet and he would build houses for them, which they called rice houses, he would whip them with a horsewhip. So. . .

 

SM:

Wha. . . what, what?

 

TS:

Yes. Uh, he had a riding crop. And if you didn't follow his diet precisely, then he would whip them. And, um, anybody who's had patients who aren't following diets precisely that that's not the best way to encourage people.

 

SM:

No, I, I can imagine it really wouldn't be. So, but people did succeed with this diet. They did lose weight. So why, I mean, what is it again, just what you start focusing on something, and you're just eating one or two particular things that you begin to focus more on your food and you begin to lose it then because you're more conscious of what you're eating. Why did it work?

 

TS:

Well, I think it worked for a couple of reasons. Number one, it didn't have the high protein. So these people who had bad kidneys didn't, weren't being poisoned by themselves. As they would lose weight, they would notice that their blood pressure went down. They noticed that when they looked in their eyes, because they had, would have diabetic changes in their eyes, that their eyes got better. They looked at their chest x-rays or electrocardiograms or laboratory results. So this is probably the first unambiguous diet that we have that shows you get great improvement with weight loss that was clinically done. So even though he was kind of a strange guy and, and, and stuff. . .

 

SM:

And whipped people.

 

TS:

Yes. Uh, even though he had all of those and it seems like, you know, uh, they're more than fair share of strange people in the, in the diet industry, it did show without ambiguity that the weight loss would cause a great deal of good health benefits for people.

 

It wasn't the rice. It wasn't the fruit. It was the monotony of it. This is all you could eat, but people lost weight. Now this is completely disbelieved by the adherence people of the Keto, low carb diets, who said, how can you lose weight on rice alone? How can you lose weight on rice and fruit? It's all high carb. And I think that they just have never gotten out of the United States and seeing that one fifth of the world eats rice as their main source of carbohydrates and, or ever been to Italy where, you know, if you go to Italy and you're in Atkins and you see, Oh my gosh, all these people are eating pasta and they're, and they're thin, how can this be? So it's the, again, sort of the yin and yang of diet industry today are those extremes.

 

SM:

I do think people get very zealous about their diets and it could be the only thing that works. And I will talk about it in the end, because I'm going to ask you after we do challenge number five, after we do suggestion, number five, I'm going to ask you, even though this is a history podcast, not a health podcast, to just maybe give some general advice to people, you know, if they were looking for more health.

 

So let's go on to diet number five, the final one of the challenge. So far, I think they're all really, really interesting. I'm still quivering a bit about the tapeworm diet, but we'll go, we'll carry on.

 

TS:

Do you prefer being whipped?

 

SM:

I, well, you know. . .

 

BREAK MUSIC

 

SM:

Hi everybody, this is Simon Majumdar, the creator and host of the Eat My Globe food history podcast. Now, those of you have been listening to the podcast since we began over two years ago – nearly 50 episodes so far – will know that we have never sought out sponsorship for the podcast. It’s very much been a labor of love. However, along the way, a large number of people have approached us suggesting they would like to support the podcast. And so, we have opened up a page on Patreon dot com to allow those of you who listen regularly to do just that. Any support we will get will allow us to purchase research materials, buy ingredients for recipes, and maybe, when we can get out and about to bring you some very special in-the-field reporting. But, and this is really important. This is not just a one-way street. For varying levels of membership of our Patreon club, there will be access to fantastic Eat My Globe swag, including that incredible chopping board so many of you have written to me about, recipes based on historical periods about which we can chat each week, video shout outs, signed pictures, and even along the way, some very special episodes just for members. So, if you’ve enjoyed the episodes of Eat My Globe you’ve listened to so far, and would like us to make many more into the future, do head over to www dot Patreon dot com slash Eat My Globe and consider taking out a membership. Any support will be very much appreciated. Remember, that’s www dot Patreon dot com slash Eat My Globe. So thank you very much, and keep listening.

 

 

So let's go on. Terry, a final one before we have some more general comments. Tell me about number five.

 

TS:

I'm going to talk about somebody that every time I hear him refer to, I think of you.

 

SM:

Oh really?

 

TS:

Horace Fletcher, the great masticator.

 

SM:

I'm glad your pronunciation is good.

 

 

TS:

So Horace Fletcher and mastication means chewing. Horace Fletcher was born in about 1849, died in 1919. He had the belief that you were meant to use your teeth. And he said that nature will castigate those who don't masticate. Now Horace Fletcher was a former football player. He was a very strong person and he would chew food until there was no flavor left, until you had no choice, but to swallow it. So if anybody wants to try this, start chewing food a lot.

 

SM:

He said, what, 32 times

 

TS:

32 times was a minimum. He thought you should chew it 100 times.

 

SM:

Wow.

 

TS:

And if you have ever tried to do that, it's pretty hard to do. And our friend, John Harvey Kellogg would always put in his big banquet tables, big signs that would say, Fletcherize. You should Fletcherize your food. And he also became wealthy by publishing his diet. By saying, if you just chew your food, you will lose weight. And he would promote himself by saying, I'm very strong because I do this. And he would go, even in his forties, he would deadlift over 300 pounds. He would go challenge the young athletes, the college athletes at Yale to feats of strength. And he would always win. Now, that was just because he was genetically strong and he worked out, but he attributed it all to his mastication.

 

SM:

So he would, let me just get this very clear because you know, I've, we've all heard of this when we were, you know, my parents always say, chew your food and all of those things. But he would eat any food? And it was just the process of chewing that would make the difference, or he would eat specific foods and the chewing was an added benefit?

 

TS:

Well, the reason that Kellogg liked him was he did not like meats. He believed very strongly in a whole grain diet and a lot of legumes. And he also had sort of these strange ideas that if you chewed it well, then if you would examine your fecal material, it should have no smell and should be small, and that's good. Because in those days, everybody in the Kellogg industry and stuff, in fact, they even sent to the government, the samples of their poop and saying, see how strong we are. They mailed the federal government poop. I think people still do that, but not. . .

 

SM:

[Laughter]

 

For very different reasons, I'm sure. What I'm really interested in, how these diets become so popular and then how they begin to fade away. So I do remember, you know, reading about how Fletcherism took over. Again, it becomes a verb. To Fletcher was to chew your food at least 32 times. How did it begin to like fade out? When did people suddenly go, well, this is. . . .

 

TS:

Because he died at age 69.

 

SM:

So it didn't actually particularly help his longevity.

 

TS:

No. So like I said, he, he, even though he thought that this, like many diets, would cure one of alcoholism, anemia, appendicitis, colitis, and insanity, um, he ended up. . . and he was very popular at the John Kellogg thing. Like I said, they had the banners Fletcherize. And then he died at age 69. And so then people said, you know, he's dead. So he wasn't around to promote his diet. And everybody said, you know, I'm kinda tired of chewing my food. And all of us, if you were to look around and spend some time at the dinner table, all of us have a certain number of times that we typically chew food. So if I were to watch you, I'd say, and I have, you chew food 12 times before you swallow it. Your wife choose foods 13 times before she swallows it. I chew it three times before I swallow it. We're all different, but we're all remarkably consistent. So it's very hard. It would be very hard for you, and all of us have tried it, to Fletcherize because it's just a lot of work.

 

SM:

Very boring stuff. Now I have a question though about. . . Fletcher, I think is interesting and also related to some of the others that you've talked about. A lot of the diets you've mentioned so far have come from people who are suffering from obesity themselves. Obviously, Fletcher wasn't. He was in pretty good shape until obviously he wasn't at the age of 69. So what do you think that is? Do you think a lot of these diets are just people trying to look at their own situation rather than being altruistic and looking outside to other people, or. . .

 

TS:

I don't think in the diet industry, there's a lot of altruism. I think there's a lot of sales. And I think that we have a very unfortunate problem in the United States with obesity. And in spite of all of these diets being available to us and all of the different dietary systems that are out there and all of the gyms, we have rising epidemic of obesity. There are a lot of people who will blame a lot of things on it. Fast food, portion, size, more fat, more sugar. Diet is all. . . is something that's always with you. When you look at yourself in the mirror, when you are young and you want to date or older and you want to date, and you look at yourself, you want to feel as if you look good. And if you've gained a few pounds or more than a few pounds, it's something you see and bothers you every day.

 

These were just people who are very good at. . . first, they lost weight by whatever system they had. Either eating single food items or lots of mastication. They were very good then at promoting that, and people were lining up to buy it.

 

SM:

So they were good promoters rather than good medical people or. . .

 

TS:

Kempner actually had, in spite of his other peculiarities, Kempner actually had really good science cause he followed these people up, followed them for years, follow them with a laboratory values, electrocardiograms chest x-rays. So he was really good and careful about it. But even today, you will see claims of diets being, this is good for this, that, and the other things. And there is a lot of real science in it. But what you find in the bookstore or online is not a lot of good science. You see a lot of fad and not a lot of science. And by fad, I mean, this is the thing that's going to take off. Today, we have the advantage of the internet of all fadism. And if you ever want to see an argument on social media, find a vegan arguing with a low carb person and they will just be going at it saying, this is the best. No, this is the best. No, you have all these problems. No, you have all those problems. And it's, it's like watching po. . . political debates or religious too.

 

SM:

Yeah. People do get very, very argumentative about it. One of the things I, you know, when I was doing the research for last week's episode, I noticed there have been literally thousands of diets, literally thousands that they have noted over the years. And I wanted to just touch with you because obviously you've chosen five here. And I think they're really fun. I hope people enjoy listening to them. But what were the others just very quickly? If there we go, well, I should have put this in. Or if I, if you'd give me a few more choices, who, who are some of the other crazy ones out there of diets that you've noticed?

 

TS:

Well, there are, there are always these single food diets. There's a salami diet where you only salami. The ice cream diet where you only eat ice cream. The cookie diet, which is exceedingly popular from the, in the seventies where you eat six cookies a day. Single food diets get people tired of what they're eating. They will eat less naturally. And they're less interested in food.

 

People have obscure ideas about what diet should do. And there's a lot of complex biochemistry of why both vegan diets will work and low carb diets or high protein or meat and fad diets will work. But it's not good in the long run. We have really good scientific data saying, if you're looking in the long run, you really want a far more bit of balance in your diet. Then I'm only going to eat meat or I'm only going to eat vegetables.

 

SM:

Well, let me ask you about that. Because as I said earlier, this is a history podcast, not a health podcast. And if people want to go and listen to a great health podcast, we'll get you to share some of the information on what you do later. So people can find out more about what you say. But, but people listening are going to go look, Simon, do you have this, you know, renowned weight loss surgeon and someone who has done a lot of study into weight loss there, at least get him to give us something. If you wanted to eat in a very healthy way, that would have that, the true meaning of diet and something that would help your longevity and help your wellbeing, what would you suggest to people to go and do? If I came in to see you and I sat down, I said, look, I just want to improve my diet, what would it be?

 

TS:

Well, I think you can look to history for that too. Because when we look at history, we can see what was some studies that were done in the fifties, by a guy by the name of Keys. And Keys is responsible. Anybody who's been in the service in the military knows of K rations are from Keys. Keys studied history and where people were and how they lived and their heart disease at the time. And he discovered that the people in the Mediterranean had some of the longest lifespans and lowest heart disease in the world. Out of that came, what is now called the Mediterranean diet, which is nothing like you would think. It's not feta cheese and things, but it is exceedingly balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains legumes, a little bit of meat, even alcohol. So I like promoting things that work. And when we look in history, those people, in what we now call the blues zones, lived a long time eating that balanced diet. And that's what I recommend to my patients

 

SM:

And the thing I think about those regions – and we've actually spent time traveling to those regions together. We've been to Greece and we've been to Spain and we've been, you know, traveled around, is all of those countries also treat food with an element of joy. They have a real passion about their food. They love eating. They're not afraid of it. And one of the things I'd like to touch on finally, before we go, is we seem here particularly the United States, food seems to us become like the enemy.

 

TS:

It's terrible. I think, I think the worst thing in the world is to demonize food and I don't care what it is. I mean, while I don't like Doritos personally, I don't think they taste good. And I don't recommend, I recommend that the people avoid them if they're trying to have a balanced diet. I don't think it's ever good to say, this is the enemy. I think you have to look at things and say, it's a balance and food is to be there and to be celebrated. And I remember going to Sardinia and sitting down and they said, would you like some marinara sauce? And I said, sure. So they brought these beautiful whole wheat noodles. And then there was this beautiful sauce and there were langoustines and fish. And it's like, Oh, marinara, I get it. It's not that red sauce in a can. It's real foods. Or going to San Sebastian in the northern part of Spain and going to the markets. And they're all of these fruits and vegetables. They just look so colorful and lovely and you bring them in and they cook them so beautifully.

 

So I think that when we celebrate food and we say these things are good for us and let's learn to cook them and eat them well, that's where we're getting back to health. When we get into the idea of, Oh, well, instead of having protein in terms of meat or fish, let's give you this bar. I think we're losing taste. I think we're losing the love of food. I think we're losing the great thing about cooking. So I think we need to embrace food again and love it again, as opposed to, Oh, we shouldn't eat that and let's break it all down to this chemical composition that you can eat in a shake, and isn't this perfect. It's like, no.

 

SM:

I think that's a great way to end this part of the podcast before we go and ask you some fun questions that perhaps the best diet of all is just to celebrate food.

 

TS:

Yeah.

 

SM:

I think that's a great way to finish what's been two episodes about diet and weight loss.

 

But again, we're going to give people all of the information of how they could find you. I know you have a really hugely growing TikTok presence right now, which is amazing where you share weight loss tips, and you tell people about different things, which is great. And I know you have a big social media profile, so we'll get people to go to look there and they will come and ask you questions. And please do that because Terry is a really, really fantastic resource.

 

But we always like, before we go, to ask some fun questions of everyone here, we've got some great answers from different people over the years. So finally, let's have these three questions.

 

If you were a meal, Dr. Terry Simpson, what would it be?

TS:

If I was a meal, I would be rack of lamb because it's succulent rich, juicy and tasty.

 

SM:

Wow. Okay. That's a good one. I like that. Okay. Now this is, this is one that I get really interesting answers to. If you could select any single meal or any period in history of which to have that meal, what would it be?

 

TS:

Today? I think today is the best time people will talk about, Oh, you know, I would love to, of course have Escoffier cook for me. That would be fun. I would love to try the wines that Thomas Jefferson did, but today we have the most amazing thing. So I can have a fish caught by my brother in the copper river in Alaska. So it's flown down here to California and I can eat it today that he caught this morning. I can get food from anywhere in the world, to my house, in 24 hours. We have the most amazing food. We have the freshest food. Our wines are probably far better than they ever were. Our methods of preservation are better. So at any time to live for food, today is it. I'm excited to see what we can do in the future because we can keep doing this in the future. That'll be amazing.

 

But I mean, think about it. When I grew up, the only fish that I knew of where the fish that were at, where I grew up in Alaska, a lot of salmon and halibut, red snapper. I never heard of a Patagonian Toothfish. I never heard of eating urchin. You would need urchin. Those are something you avoided when you were in there. I mean, this is an amazing time for us to live and eat and celebrate food from all over the world. So this is where I would choose to live. I'm very happy in this place.

 

SM:

Very excited. That's a great answer. I really like that.

 

And finally, what would you consider to be the most important food invention in history? One thing.

 

TS:

Heat. The ability to denature proteins and vegetables has allowed us to unlock their nutrient potential. The human digestive system is only so good. It can only do so much. Without heat, we don't get the nutrients that we can get out of vegetables. Without heat, we don't get the, we can't break down the meat. And there was a pretty good evidence that was shown that once we developed fire, that our brains got larger. And that is because we were able to roast vegetables. So before, where, and even though there are people who say, Oh, you should go on a raw food diet. You don't get as much nutrients out of vegetables when they're raw as when they're cooked. Humans can't get it. Our digestive system can't get to it. While it's true in a test tube, you can, you can't get to it without heat and being able to break it down. So I think that was the most important thing. The ability to break things down with heat. It makes them delicious. And it makes them nutritious. So I like heat.

 

SM:

That's a great answer. They’re really good answers.

 

Now, Terry, first of all, thank you very much. This has been really, really fun. And you and I have lots of conversations anyway, and I was very keen for us to capture one of those on my podcast, because I think, a) it relates to last week's episode, but b) just chatting to you is always fun anyway.

 

Um, but if more people wanted to connect with you to hear your views on, you know, food, weight loss, all kinds of other stuff that you post about. I know you've been, uh, you know, a great expert out there on COVID talking about it because you've had experiences in that realm as well. If people wanted to find out about you, where would they go and look?

 

TS:

So, uh, Your Doctor's Orders is the website that I've had for years. On there, they can see my own podcasts, see articles that I've written, hundreds and hundreds of blog articles. And then my professional websites, DrSimpson.com, D R Simpson dot com. Um, that's where. And social media is usually the easiest way to get ahold of me. Like you, I'm on Twitter. I'm @DrTerrySimpson or Terr. . . @TerrySimpson. So I'm always happy to answer questions and get back to people.

 

SM:

No, and I know you do. I know you will always go back and answer people.

 

So, everybody listening, if you've enjoyed this episode, which I hope you have, because it was a really fun one to do here with Dr. Terry Simpson, please go check him out on social media. Make sure you go follow all of his social media. I know you're particularly active on Facebook and Twitter, but as I mentioned before, you've just launched a TikTok profile, which is really, really huge. So if you go on to TikTok, Instagram, wherever at Dr. Terry Simpson.

 

TS:

Yeah, you can find me at Dr. Terry Simpson. I'm happy to. . . . The TikTok has taken us so much that I, I am having a hard time keeping up with questions. So find me on Twitter. It's much easy to ask questions there.

 

SM:

Well, thank you very much. This was a really, really fun podcast. I've had a great time and now I think we should go and have some wine.

 

TS:

Do you want a little wine?

 

SM:

[Whining sound]

 

OUTRO MUSIC

 

SM:

Do make sure to check out the website associated with this podcast at www dot Eat My Globe dot com where we will be posting the transcripts from each episode, along with all the references and resources we used putting the episodes together, in case you want to delve deeper into each subject. There is also a contact button, so please do let us know if there are any subjects that you would like us to cover.

 

And, if you like what you hear, please don’t forget to subscribe, recommend us to your family and friends and give us a good rating on your favorite podcast provider. That really makes a difference.

 

Thank you and goodbye from me, Simon Majumdar, we’ll speak to you soon on the next episode of EAT MY GLOBE, a podcast about things you didn’t know you didn’t know about food.

 

CREDITS

The EAT MY GLOBE Podcast is a production of “It’s Not Much But It’s Ours” and “Producer Girl Productions”

 

[Pah pah pah pah pah]

 

and is created with the kind co-operation of the UCLA Department of History. We would especially like to thank Professor Carla Pestana, the Department Chair of the Department of History and Doctor Tawny Paul, Public History Initiative Director, for their notes on this episode. Also, a huge thank you to Sybil Villanueva for her help with the research and the preparations of the transcripts for this episode, which can be found on the website.

Published Date: May 10, 2021

Updated: June 14, 2021

For the annotated transcript with references and resources, please click HERE.