Dr. Daniel Amen’s Letter to the Los Angeles Lakers About ‘Candy Man’

Jun 7, 2009 8:29am

Los Angeles Lakers star forward Lamar Odom has been getting a lot of attention lately. But it's not only for his skills on the court, but also for his sweet tooth. Each day his personal assistant buys him candy, cookies and other sweets to satisfy his craving. Some experts say Odom is so hooked on sugar he could have an extreme sugar addiction that's impacting his game play and his health. Physician and Lakers season ticket holder Dr. Daniel Amen, who does not treat Odom, became so concerned after seeing a report on Odom's sugar intake on ESPN, that he wrote the following letter to the team. Letter from Dr. Amen to Los Angeles Lakers: Sent May 31, 2009 Why the Lakers Need a Brain Coach When I saw the ESPN piece on Lamar Odom, The Candy Man, I knew the Lakers needed a brain coach to get closer to their potential. The Lakers have a head coach, an assistant coach, an offensive coach, a defensive coach, a shooting coach, a big-man coach, an athletic trainer and a host of others. But why don't the Lakers have a "brain coach?" After all, it's the players' brains that control every move and every decision they make on – and off – the court. When players have healthy brains, it's easier for them to make the smartest game-time decisions and it makes them more coordinated. When they have troubled brains, they have trouble with their game. Players' brains are behind every decision they make on and off the court. To make the right decisions and the right moves, players' brains have to work right. That is why the piece on Lamar Odom's massive sugar addiction is so disturbing. Don't get me wrong, I am a big Lamar Odom fan, he is unbelievably talented, but often acts like a space cadet during games. Once, when he was taking the ball out on the sidelines and walked onto the court before he threw the ball in, causing a turnover. During the Lakers last home game against the Denver Nuggets, Kobe Bryant threw him a pass, but the ball hit him on the shoulder because he had spaced out and was not paying attention. On talk shows, Odom is constantly criticized because no one knows if he will play well or not. He can play great, and be worth his 14 million dollar salary or he can act like he is "missing in action." Odom freely confesses that he just can't help himself when it comes to the sweet stuff and always keeps a stash on hand of Gummi Bears, Honey Buns, Lifesavers, Hershey's white chocolate, Snickers bars, cookies and more. He eats the sugary snacks morning, noon and night, and even says he sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night, chows down on some treats, then falls back asleep. This is bad news for the Lakers. I've been telling my patients for years that sugar acts like a drug in the brain. It causes blood sugar levels to spike and then crash, leaving you feeling tired, irritable, foggy and stupid. Eating too much sugar impairs cognitive function, which may explain why Odom doesn't always make the smartest decisions on the court. Excessive sugar consumption also promotes inflammation, which can make your joints ache, and that's definitely a bad thing for a professional athlete. It is also linked to headaches, mood swings and weight gain. Weight gain isn't a problem now for Odom, but it is for the average person who isn't playing full-court basketball for hours each day. As a fan and a physician it concerns me that our professional sports organizations and players are not more concerned about brain health, which includes nutrition. My advice to Odom and to all sugar addicts is to get your sugar consumption under control. You'll feel so much better and your brain will function better, too. And, hopefully the Lakers can get their 15th championship and Odom can get his first. The brain plays a key role in athletic excellence and athletic slumps. The quality of our diets and the quality of our thought patterns enhance brain activity or deteriorate it, which means coordination and decision making are enhanced or made worse by our moment by moment brain function. That's not all. After nearly thirty years as a psychiatrist, neuroscientist and brain-imaging specialist, I have seen almost 50,000 brain scans, including scans of professional athletes in a number of sports, including basketball. In fact, I am currently conducting the largest brain-imaging study ever on retired NFL players. Based on my experience, I have realized that by changing your brain, you can improve athletic performance, improve decision-making and judgment, improve attention span, and more. I know that in order for players to perform at their highest potential, they need to have the best brain possible. In my practice, I have created a brain-healthy program that has helped thousands of people optimize brain function and achieve their dreams. I would love to share this program with the Lakers organization. I firmly believe that it is something that not only the players would benefit from, but also the coaches, trainers and general management. In case you aren't familiar with my work, I am the author of 22 books, including the two NY Times bestsellers Change Your Brain, Change Your Life and Magnificent Mind At Any Age; the writer and producer of two hugely successful PBS specials; and an expert who has been featured on the Today Show, the Early Show, CNN, Fox News, The Larry King Show, Extra, and in the pages of The New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, Men's Health, Los Angeles Times and many more. Plus, I am a huge Lakers fan and only want the best for the organization. Sincerely, Daniel G. Amen, MD Amen Clinics, Inc.

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