Editorial: Beating drum for nutrition

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

California billionaire David Murdock received several more minutes of fame Tuesday on the Oprah Winfrey Show. There were Murdock and Oprah together ó riding bicycles at his California estate, making juice in his kitchen, shopping for groceries at Costco.
Murdock’s life story is familiar for area residents who have been following him ever since he bought Cannon Mills in the 1980s. He sold the mill to Fieldcrest a few years later and then repurchased the property in 2003 and created the N.C. Research Campus. You’ve heard it a million times.
There was news in the Oprah segment, however ó besides the fact that neither Oprah nor Murdock carry money. ( A producer had to pay their Costco bill). The news was more of a confirmation, really, that Murdock’s determination to prolong lives and improve health through nutrition is gaining fame beyond North Carolina and California. People with the Research Campus have been saying that for months if not years, and Tuesday’s TV segment proved it. When Oprah wants you on her show, you’ve arrived.
(Or you have a very serious problem, but that’s another story.)
Murdock, an amazing 85-year-old, was not the only person on the Oprah segment on “extreme life extension” advocating healthy diets. But he may have been the oldest and healthiest. And he could speak with some authority. His personal mission, the work he has helped spawn at the N.C. Research Campus, could go a long way toward extending lives. Scientists there are hoping to create more nutrition-rich foods, prolong growing seasons and make other biotech advances.
For years, the word “diet” has been associated with losing weight to look attractive. But good health and longevity are a bigger part of the diet picture. A large federal study recently found that eating red meat, pork and processed meats increases the chances of dying prematurely. The study of more than 500,000 middle-aged and elderly Americans offers powerful new evidence that a diet that regularly includes steaks, burgers and pork chops is hazardous to your health. A burger a day ó or its equivalent ó made study participants more than 30 percent more likely to die during the 10 years they were followed, mostly from heart disease and cancer.
That is not welcome news in the land of pork barbecue, but facts are facts. You are what you eat. You don’t have to be a billionaire to eat like David Murdock and boost your chances of living a long and healthy life. You have to make smart decisions in the grocery store and at mealtime, among other things. The more widely that word is spread and embraced, the better off we will be as a nation.