Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Did You Know that Coca-Cola Basically Owns Emory University?

I'm rarely speechless.

I was close yesterday though.

It was yesterday that I learned of a long-standing Emory University tradition. Apparently, unabashedly, and transparently, in part no doubt consequent to the $105 million endowment provided to Emory by a former Coca-Cola CEO, and in part no doubt due to the reported fact that 16% of Emory's $6.3 billion endowment fund is made up of Coca-Cola stock (down from 63% in 1998 and 47% in 2002), all first year Emory University students are brought together as they start school to toast their futures with a Coca-Cola beverage.

And just as Coca-Cola notes in their own coverage of this marketing scheme tradition (highlighting mine),
""To our rebirth!”—three words, two memories, and a new Coke connection that will forever live in their hearts and minds."
It'll be interesting to see what Emory chooses to do about their Coca-Cola ties over time. I'm guessing history will eventually see them as rather unwise.

And to round things off, here are some videos from Coca-Cola Emory University:

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Guest Post: The Pharmacist Who Refuses to Sell Soft Drinks

Last week the media was abuzz with reports of a pharmacist from Nova Scotia who had elected, despite the financial disincentive, to stop selling soda and other sugar sweetened beverages in his pharmacy. His name is Graham MacKenzie and his pharmacy, Stone's Pharmasave in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, is a testament to doing the right thing. Huge kudos to Mr. MacKenzie. Wish there were more like him. Here's what he did and why in his own words:

Roughly six months ago I started serious consideration after repeated studies that came out documenting the bad effects of sugared drinks. The consideration was whether or not to continue selling the sugared beverages in my pharmacy, Stone’s Pharmasave in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. The reasons to drop this category were simple. The consumption of just one of these beverages daily was proven to cause adverse metabolic traits including metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of symptoms including high cholesterol, diabetes, abdominal obesity and high blood pressure. In our nutraceutical consultations we often stress the importance of nutrition in overall wellbeing and improvement of health related issues. Having a customer leave the store by walking past the pop and juice coolers on their way out after that talk made zero sense.

Customers would ask me if there was a safe level of consumption. The best way I could explain it is if you hold out your hands and I pour marbles into them - it is relatively easy to catch all of them without dropping any at first. The marbles represent insults to your body: either sugar, pesticide, herbicide, fertilizer, heavy metal, radiation, processed food, poor nutrient consumption, air pollution and so on. At first you are young and you have no issues, later on as you get older, more and more marbles fill your hands and eventually you drop one, or two. This is the tipping point where your body now expresses disease or injury. Sugar is a big part of this contribution.

So, I sent out a press release on September 11, 2014, which can be found here: Nova Scotia pharmacy stops selling soft drinks and other sugary beverages

We pulled the pin before we opened that morning by removing all juices, soda, sport drinks and vitamin water from the store. I figured all would be quiet for the most part, a few blank stares a couple of frowns and that would be it. We have been overwhelmed by the positive response on all of our social media channels. People are now alerted to the effects of sugar and how much sugar themselves and their families have been consuming. They have become more aware that it is better to eat the food rather than drink the juice. For example, eating an apple gives you fiber, which slows the glucose absorption, plus you don’t get as much juice. They now know that by consuming one or two of these beverages daily, they have the same chance of increased diabetes risk as a smoker does. By raising awareness, people now ask what high fructose corn syrup is and why it is particularly important to avoid this dangerous visceral fat absorbing sugar.

My overall goal was to raise awareness of the adverse health effects of drinking soft drinks and sugary beverages. At some point, disease prevention needs to become part of our world-class medicine we have available to us. Treating patients symptom by symptom is too much of a downstream activity to really act in our favour. I want to promote healthy living for my customers and I think this was a step in the right direction. Perhaps it was nothing more than a symbolic moral gesture to spark an educational thought not only among my customers, but those globally. In a television interview in the pharmacy the following day, with camera rolling and the interviewer present, one of our biggest pop buyers walked in for his regular case of soda. When he found out there was none sold there anymore he turned to the empty cooler, then looked at the water filled cooler next to it and picked up two bottles of water. “These are better for me anyway I guess!”, as he purchased them and went on his way out the door.

Overall, it has been a great week. For my customers and me.

Graham MacKenzie graduated from St.F.X.U. In Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1989 (BSc chem) and Dalhousie U College of Pharmacy in Halifax, NS in 1993. He went to Stone's Drug Store in Baddeck, NS at that time. In 2001 he purchased the store and renovated it inside and out to include a compounding lab and new dispensary. He has developed a one on one Nutraceutical Consultations, developed a 40 minute Healthy Grocery Shopping Tour and continues to actively educate on alternative and conventional therapies to his patients and globally. He actively blogs on his website, www.stonespharmasave.com, and you can follow him on Twitter.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Saturday Stories: 23andMe, Red Delicious Apples, and Turtle CPR

Julia Belluz on Vox.com with a great story on the unintended consequences of home genetic testing.

Sarah Yager at The Atlantic on the awful reign of the red delicious apple.

And on Slate, here's David Steen on what it's like and why he gave mouth-to-mouth to a turtle.

[And if you don't follow me on Facebook or Twitter, here's my US News and World Report column that explains why sandwiches, eggs and roasted chickens aren't elitist or unrealistic]

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Friday, September 12, 2014

True Facts About Marsupials

Today's Funny Friday is from Ze Frank. I need not say any more.

Have a great weekend!

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Health Canada So Sure of Self, It Sets Policy Before Scientific Review?

In case you're wondering what we're up against here in Canada when it comes to public health and Health Canada, this story sums it up pretty well (and is applicable to many government health agencies the world over).

Carly Weeks, one of Canada's foremost health reporters, published a story a ways back on how the Canadian Medical Association, the Childhood Obesity Foundation, the Canadian Institute for Health Research and the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, have all added their voices in demanding that Health Canada change it's lame, industry appeasing, sugar policy. For whatever reason, I only just read this Valentine's Day piece yesterday.

In it, Weeks quoted Norm Campbell, the CIHR Canadian Chair in Hypertension Prevention and Control as stating,
"We’re talking about the leading risk for death and disability and [the federal government is] doing nothing.”
Next up she quoted former Canadian Medical Association President Louis Hugo Francescutti,
"At the end of the day, I think we know what we need to do. We don’t need any more studies, but we need to develop a fairly robust national strategy."
And she also snagged this quote from Tom Warshawski, pediatrician and chair of the Childhood Obesity Foundation,
"I think Health Canada is not really doing their job. They look for industry to self-regulate.
And while those quotes are damning in and of themselves, they weren't what really caught my eye. It was this.

Weeks lead the piece off noting that the increased concern from public health groups stemmed in part from a recent study published in JAMA that concluded folks whose diets included 25% or more calories from added sugars were found to be 3x more likely to develop heart disease.

Well Weeks got Health Canada on the phone and here's what she reported they said (highlighting mine),
"On Friday, a spokesman for Health Minister Rona Ambrose said the department will review the JAMA study, but ruled out setting limits on sugar added to food or adopting consumption guidelines."
And with that one line that Health Canada spokesperson, unless it was a slip of the tongue, made clear that Health Canada makes decisions in advance of, and potentially despite, the science.

Such a shame for the health of Canadians.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Food Banks Canada Demonstrates the Folly of Working with the Food Industry

Yesterday's story showed how the Heart and Stroke Foundation's divorce from the food industry finally allowed them to speak their mind.

Today's story's not like that.

Today's story is about Food Banks Canada and their partnership with "Breakfast Cereal Canada" (a food industry organization) who for a measly $25,000 bought Food Bank Canada's imprimatur and endorsement for their new, "What's in the Bowl" hurray for breakfast cereal promotion.

Want to guess what What's in the Bowl has to say about the fact that in many cases breakfast cereals are just bowls of pulverized white flour sprinkled with sugar?
"When you consider sugar consumption, it’s important to look at the total amount of sugar in your diet from all sources. In the case of cereal, it’s worth noting that studies have found that less than five percent of the total daily sugar in Canadian diets typically comes from cereal – and that includes the pre-sweetened varieties. At the same time cereal often provides fibre and important vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, B vitamins – and the research shows that without adequate intake of these nutrients at breakfast, most people don’t make up for the shortfall later in the day."
Really, you have to love that 5% number. It's a per capita number and consequently it's useless in terms of describing the total daily sugar cereal provides to actual consumers of cereal given not everyone eats cereal for breakfast and perhaps as many as 1/3 of the population don't eat breakfast at all. The only reason to use a per capita number here is to make the number seem much lower than it actually is for cereal eaters.

The campaign has even purchased the services of consulting RD Lydia Knorr who added her two cents on sugar in breakfast cereals in the press release,
"As a dietitian, it makes me happy to hear that consumers are taking factors such as sugar and additives in their foods seriously and want to know more. But what many people don't realize is that cereals can provide more iron, folic acid, zinc, B vitamins and fibre than other conventional breakfast choice."
Gotta love those magic nutrients that make everything else in the bowl a-ok. Krave, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Honeycombs for everyone! And hey, can someone please fortify alcohol with vitamins for us adults?


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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Canada's Heart and Stroke Foundation Issues World Leading Sugar Statement!

Huge kudos to Canada's Heart and Stroke Foundation.

For years I've pointed out that public-private partnerships with the food industry necessitate watered down public health messages so as not to offend the industry partner's products or positions. With this in mind, my hope had been that in unchaining themselves from their food and restaurant industry partnered Health Check program, Canada's Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSF) would suddenly be free to take on a leadership role in the area of food and public health - and if today's news is any measure, the HSF is doing just that and is positioning itself to be Canada's voice of dietary reason, and a world leader in health charity driven public health advocacy.

Today's news has to do with their release of their new position statement, "Sugar, Heart Disease and Stroke", which is as hard hitting as any I've read, and runs in line with the World Health Organization's recommendation to limit added sugars to between 5-10% of daily calories. I vastly prefer the HSF's use here of the term "free sugar" rather than "added sugar", as free also covers sugars freed from their fruity origins and would include juices and products made with juice/fruit concentrates and purees.

The position statement goes on to provide a slew of recommendations, most of which simply could not have been made while the HSF wore the yoke of their public-private Health Check partnership. Here are just a smattering:

For Consumers:
  • Limiting restaurant meals out
  • Limiting processed foods
  • A call to return to cooking from fresh, whole, ingredients
For the Federal Government:
  • Adopting the HSF's proposed sugar thresholds
  • Restricting marketing of all foods and beverages to children
  • Taxing sugar sweetened beverages and using funds generated therein to subsidize fruits and vegetables
  • Avoiding public health partnerships with producers and suppliers of foods high in free sugars
For Provincial Governments:
  • Taxing sugar sweetened beverages and using funds generated therein to subsidize fruits and vegetables.
  • Adopting a Bloomberg style large cup ban (if you want to drink a litre of Coke, you'll still be able to, you'll just need to buy two cups)!
For Municipal Governments, Regional Health Authorities, Workplaces and Schoolboards
  • Adopting a Bloomberg style large cup ban in food service outlets
  • Banning sugar-loaded beverages in recreation centres, hospitals and schools
  • Ensuring potable drinking water made more readily available in parks and public facilities
  • Creating zoning laws to prevent the establishment of fast food outlets and convenience stores within walking distance of schools
  • Banning the practice of junk food fundraising.
The only thing missing from these recommendations (though it's certainly implied), is a direct call to action for the overhaul of Canada's 2007 Food Guide and with it the Guide's inclusion of free sugar limits, and the removal of the Guide's inane recommendation that half a cup of sugar water with vitamins (juice) is a fruit serving equivalent.

Whether or not you agree with the HSF's recommendations, one thing's incredibly clear, the HSF is no longer the food industry's partner - and that news is tremendous for Canadians as it's amazing how forceful and broad-sweeping public health organizations' recommendations can be when there's no worry about upsetting industry partners.

[I also must add, while reading this position piece and in it the HSF's clear, unadulterated by industry voice, I couldn't help but wonder what sort of forces Dietitians of Canada and the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics could be were they to divorce themselves from their throngs of food industry partners, for as it stands now, they're both rather toothless and certainly not describable as drivers of change or true champions of health.]

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Monday, September 08, 2014

Supermarkets Should Not Legally Be Allowed to Do This

It's bad enough we have fronts of packages telling us that all manners of food-like substances are in fact healthful, and truly, there should be a law preventing front of package health claims, but check out these top of aisle health claims that an RD reader of mine found displayed at her local Ontario Metro Supermarket.

Healthy cookies?

Healthy juice?

Those of course are oxymorons.

The soups - sure soups can be healthful, but given most store bought soups contain well over 1,000mg of sodium per bowl, a healthy label is a bit of a stretch.

The onus shouldn't be on the consumer to scrutinize labels to determine if claims are true, the onus should be on the food industry, and in this case the supermarket industry, not to lie to or to deceive consumers.

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Friday, September 05, 2014

Joan River's Triumphant Return to The Tonight Show

I adored Joan Rivers. For today's Funny Friday here's a 7 minute clip that embodies her special genius. She will be greatly missed.

Have a great weekend!

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