The Truth About Radon Testing and Fad Diets

The Truth About Radon Testing and Fad Diets

Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen answer two reader questions.

Q: What is radon? We’re looking to buy a house and hear I should know about it. — Jeremy K., Minneapolis, MN

A: You heard right, Jeremy. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is emitted from rocks and dirt. It’s produced from the decay of uranium found in nearly all soils. Undetectable by taste, sight or smell, radon exposure is most dangerous when it concentrates indoors. When inhaled, it can damage your lungs.

It’s estimated that for about 20 percent of all lung cancer patients (those who have never smoked) overexposure to radon is the cause. In the US, it’s estimated that around 20,000 cases of lung cancer deaths annually are caused by radon.

One out of every 15 houses in suburban America is thought to have unacceptably high radon levels. It can be in your home whether it’s old or new, well sealed or drafty, with or without a basement. The good news is that it can be removed by installing a vent, but you first need to test for it.

Everyone should have levels in their home tested once and then after remediation, if it is needed—and certainly before moving into a new residence. Minnesotans are at a slightly higher risk of radon exposure than people in other states in the US, so Jeremy you should contact the Minnesota Department of Health and have your home tested. Anyone can also go to the EPA website to find a test kit or hire a professional to come to their home and do the test.

The test consists of putting a sensor, usually in your basement, for three to 90 days and then either sending it into a lab or having your professional tester come back and read the results. The test can run around $250, and a venting system can run from $800 to $1500, but that’s a small price to pay (or have the seller pay) for your family’s long-term health.

Q: I’m thinking about going on a Paleo Diet. I know it’s high in protein, but is there a downside to it? — Carmen G., Indianapolis, IN

A: There are many downsides to that diet; the most glaring is that you end up eating a lot of saturated fat and inflammatory peptides like carnitine, lecithin and choline found in red meats (grass fed or otherwise), egg yolks and cheese. These change the bacteria in your gut, making them produce inflammatory stuff in your intestines. You then absorb that into your blood stream, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and dementia, not to mention wrinkles and impotence. Plus, you’re eliminating fiber- and polynutrient-filled whole grains, essential for the health of your gut biome. So unless your plan is to only live to about 35 years, may we suggest another route?

Homo sapiens started living longer when they switched to a plant-based diet that provides healthful poly- and monounsaturated fats. Plant fats are mostly long-chain fatty acids found in foods like avocados and walnuts that are also rich in polyphenols. If you want to eat animal proteins, we suggest salmon and sea trout: They get their omega-3 fatty acid content from the algae they eat!

The Paleo diet does tell you to avoid trans fats, highly-processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and excess sugar and we agree. But if you’ve been reading our columns, books or watching the Doctor Oz Show, you’d know we’re fans of the Mediterranean Diet, which is plant-based with lots of olive oil and lean meat and fish used as small side dishes. A recent study found people who had impaired glucose metabolism and ate fatty fish (with long-chain omega-3 fatty acids), saw improvement in their glucose metabolism and a boost in healthy HDL cholesterol levels.

So stick with fish, skinless poultry and a plant-based diet, Carmen, and you’ll emerge from your cave a healthier, happier sapien.

Medically reviewed in November 2019.

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