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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Guru Says Bit of Love, Fish Diet Enrich Life

NEW YORK -- His picture seems ubiquitous -- a trim, balding man of 55 with dancing eyes. A mirthful smile embedded in a flowing salt-and-pepper beard gives him the look of a New Age Santa Claus.

He's Dr. Andrew Weil, alternative medicine guru and author of the best-selling "8 Weeks to Optimum Health." In it, Weil's basic advice for a longer, healthier life can be summed up in this way: Put a little love in your heart and some fish in your diet.

Hey, live it up ... maybe even drink a Coca-Cola!

Weil, a Harvard University-trained physician, offers a plan for gradually introducing and maintaining a daily exercise routine, taking vitamin supplements and using natural remedies for common ailments.

His book also contains breathing exercises to reduce daily stress, forgiveness exercises to soften anger and tips for boosting low spirits, including buying fresh-cut flowers.

"One of the reasons I think my writings are appealing is because I'm not asking people to give up everything. I'm just saying, try to eat more fish. Or try to eat more soybean products. I'm not saying give up coffee. I'm saying try to substitute some green tea."

Weil believes the body can heal itself through a positive outlook and the aid of "low-tech" remedies.

Several physicians have dismissed Weil's research as being merely anecdotal, as outlined in his previous best sellers, "Spontaneous Healing" and "Natural Health, Natural Medicine."

"Anecdotal evidence should never be dismissed because that's where you get the ideas to do research. Secondly, a lot of the things I recommend are based on scientific research, if you look up the annotations in the back of my book," Weil said.

Weil referred to "the misguided M.D." quoted in a recent Time magazine cover story about him, who declared that "all garlic does is give you bad breath."

"That's really uninformed," Weil said. "There's now an academic textbook out on the medicinal effects of garlic. There's a stack of medical papers several inches thick documenting its effects. He clearly has not read that literature."

Weil's Program-in-Integrative-Medicine clinic is scheduled to open Aug. 1 at the University of Arizona in Tucson. The clinic is funded by private donations from philanthropists and entrepreneurs including Mel Zuckerman, founder of Canyon Ranch dressings, a line of healthy salad dressings. Weil hopes to train physicians to concentrate on disease prevention by combining traditional clinical practices with alternative and herbal remedies.

"Not all of what I'm teaching is longevity per se," said Weil, dressed in black trousers and a shirt of soothingly muted beige tones. "The goal is to live a productive and useful life and to not succumb to disease prematurely. I don't think you're supposed to die of heart attacks in your 40s, for example.

"It certainly seems reasonable for people to live into their 80s or even 90s in a relatively trouble-free existence," he said

Weil said all the publicity he's attracted has increased demands on his time and contributed to his recent divorce. He describes it as "a major stress-inducer. Major trauma."

"The skills and practices that I have," he said, "have helped me through this period. Especially meditation and good habits of eating and exercise."

And perhaps the occasional Coke.

You can check out "Ask Dr. Weil" on the Web at