The last MLA plenary session on Wednesday was presented by Terry Shintani, M.D., Associate Chair of the Department of Complementary and Alternative Medicine at University of Hawaii. He is the author of eight books and referred to them, as well as his peer-reviewed journal articles, throughout his presentation.

Dr. Shintani has an interesting educational background with degrees in business (undergraduate), law, and public health. In medical school, he became frustrated because he found he was not learning how to cure people, just “how to minimize the damage.” As a result, he went to Boston to study nutrition and ended up establishing the non-profit Hawaii Health Foundation to coordinate his mission “to promote world health.”

According to a JAMA study report he cited, medications (adverse reactions, overdosing, etc.) are the fourth leading cause of death in terms of numbers (106,000) of Americans each year. He commented on the “malignant mindset” we have now that pharmaceuticals make us healthy. He maintained that by definition, we are unhealthy if we need to take pharmaceuticals to manage disease mechanisms.

We’ve all seen the statistics and graphics showing the impact of obesity, so Dr Shintani grabbed the attention of the audience by promising we can eat twice as much food and still lose weight. His answer is described in his books and basically is to eat more fruits and vegetables (75% of diet) and little to no meat or dairy. His Hawaii diet does not count or restrict calories but instead restricts the foods to be eaten. During the question and answer period, he advocated the need for exercise to raise metabolic rates and stress management as well, both topics that could be long presentations in themselves.

This was an interesting presentation, and I am sure more than a few of us will be verifying the references he mentioned as he debunked nutrition myths, checking out Dr. Shintani’s Web site for additional information on the Hawaii diet, and thinking twice before we order our next fast food meal.