Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saturday Stories: Animal Welfare, Black Fathers, and 'P' Values

Michael Moss in the New York Times with an incredibly disturbing piece on research and animal welfare.

John H. Richardson in Esquire with an equally disturbing piece with Michael Brown's father.

Regina Nuzzo in Nature takes on the p value and statistical validity.

[And if you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, here's a segment that I did with The Social on food myths that need to die.]

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Friday, January 23, 2015

A Deliciously Tongue in Cheek Mitchell and Webb Dinner Party

Please don't take it too seriously, but do enjoy today's Funny Friday video. It's great!

Have a lovely weekend!

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Holy Crap! Holy Crap Healthwashed Cereal Packs the Sugar of Froot Loops

From the when you dry/concentrate/evaporate fruit you're left with sugar file comes Holy Crap breakfast cereal.

Sure, it's got plenty of healthful stuff in it, but spoon for spoon, it contains the sugar of Froot Loops.

And I mean "spoon" given that the makers report that a serving is a mere 2 tablespoons. For reference that photo up above shows one tablespoon. Suggesting two of those is a serving, to me at least, seems more than a touch hopeful as I struggle to imagine anyone only having 2 tablespoons of their breakfast cereal, especially one that's billed as incredibly healthful. If you took a half a cup of the stuff, for some still a rather small amount of cereal, that half cup, not including milk, would contain 440 calories and 4 teaspoons of sugar. Add milk and now the calories are bordering on those of a Big Mac - probably not what most are aiming for in a breakfast, let alone a teeny, weeny, bowl of breakfast.

Oh, and if you opted instead for a half a cup of Dark Chocolate Holy Crap, before the milk you'd be at 480 calories and 8 teaspoons of sugar (double the sugar spoon for spoon of Froot Loops).

Though to be fair, perhaps Holy Crap's mind boggling price (I'd believe it if 9 out of 10 first time buyers upon seeing the price said, "Holy Crap!") of $11.99/cup ($0.75/tablespoon) does in fact keep the pours small.

Either way, read your labels folks.

(If you want to save some money and make some of this stuff for yourself, I found this homemade recipe)

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Guest Post: More on that Dreamy Ottawa School Food Program

This guest post is from Sally Collins, a local teacher and real food enthusiast who was inspired to try to make a difference in her students' education by ensuring their education included a healthy focus on healthy food. Here's a follow up highlighting some of what she's done with the $50,000 grant she received from Ontario's Ministry of Education in support of healthy eating initiatives.
In my guest post on June 2nd, 2014, I told you about the $50,000 healthy eating grant that our high school, Norman Johnston Alternate, had received. In that post I outlined our plans for spending it. Since then, we’ve had a chance to follow through on many of those ideas, including building raised garden beds and growing produce that students use in our nutrition classes. Additionally, we built a new kitchen, had a dietitian and guest chefs visit, and took students to work in a gourmet restaurant. It’s been a busy time to say the least!

One initiative in particular I’d like to share more with you today is the healthy eating camp we ran at the end of October. Two colleagues and I took eighteen of our students to Camp IAWAH, near Westport, Ontario, for a three- day cooking and eating extravaganza. It was a blast!

At the camp, the students cooked all our meals under the guidance of the camp chef. Between meals, my colleagues and I taught the students about kitchen safety, food labels, the food industry, nutrition claims, and basic nutrition. We knew the students would have low tolerance for a classroom setting so we taught them primarily through games and other highly participatory activities.

On the last day, students began their major projects. They worked in groups to plan activity days that would be held at the school throughout the school year. The purpose of these days would be to encourage their peers back at home to get excited about healthy eating. One group planned a veggie race that would involve classes competing to design aerodynamic vegetables on wheels while enjoying some vegetable snacks. Another group planned salad-bar days for the whole school. Yet another group designed an Iron Chef competition. Students would compete to see who could make the best dish given certain parameters, such as “include quinoa”.

Along with the official healthy eating activities, we also had time for indoor rock climbing, a terrifying night hike, and a camp fire with complete with cheesy songs, like “Down by the Bay”. We didn’t get a lot of sleep, but it was worth it!

A healthy eating camp like this one could be feasible for almost any school, even without the benefit of a grant, because it follows the model of many outdoor education classes that are currently being offered. We tied all of our activities to a food and nutrition course from the Ontario curriculum, so students were able to earn a food and nutrition credit from their work at the camp as long as they followed through with a few remaining assignments. If your high school would like to provide more food and nutrition classes to students but doesn’t have flexibility in its timetable, you might consider this as an option. If any teachers or administrators would like information on costs or access to our schedule, instructional materials, or teaching activities, my colleagues and I are happy to share. The only hitch is that if you improve on our plans, you have to return the favour and share with us! You can contact me at:

I’ll close with reflections from some of the students who were at the camp,
I learned how to read the nutrition facts behind the food we eat. I loved everything about the camp and really hope I get the opportunity to do it again with all the same people,” Natasha Paquette.

I learned cooking is not really as hard as it seems,” Cara Ladouceur.

There are a lot of things that I could take back and use at home, like why you season chicken. There are also a lot of salads that I learned to make,”
Taylor Lalonde.

The kitchen staff were amazing and made cooking fun,” Samuele-Lyn LaRocque.

I loved working with actual cooks,” Justice Shanks.

I have learned helpful tips and trips on how to replace unhealthy food that I like with healthier options, while still retaining flavour. I have learned how to read labels and recognize what is healthy and what is not. Now that I know how to be more health conscious I can share that knowledge with people around me,” Cameron Jette.
Sally Collins has been teaching with the Ottawa Carleton District School Board since 1998, but just started teaching food and nutrition two years ago. This was when she developed a passion for cooking and eating real food as she worked towards her own 85lb weight loss. She is now somewhat of an evangelist, telling the unenlightened how much better life can be with healthy food. She especially loves cooking for her family, Scott, Sage (7), and Riley (5).

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Guest Post: The Culinary Institute of America Meets PepsiCo.

Last week my friend and one of Canada's foremost chefs, Frédéric Morin, shared a photo that he'd seen on Twitter highlighting a Culinary Institute of America cooking challenge where the special ingredients were PepsiCo products. I immediately asked if he'd like to weigh in with his thoughts and here is his guest post. And by the way, Fred's irreverence is nearly as delicious as his restaurants.
Just another exciting mystery basket competition at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). I always hated culinary challenges, food gets tepid, judges get all reality TV on you and the boxes are filled with sadness. In this case sadness was tempered by Lays chips, Pepsi and the “healthy” Sun Chips.

Young cooks go to the CIA because it is the ivy league of cooking schools, or at the least perceived to be. Its “still” (I say still because with years I came to value work experience over academic experience, in my field that is) a venerable mark on one's résumé, but with yearly tuition upward of $35,000 it is obviously not given to everyone with a knife roll and a pair of clogs to attend.

So what's there? Superb facilities, grounds that looks straight out of a 70’s love movie, and delicious and very intelligent restaurants ran by students, amongst them the Paul Bocuse* restaurant. The CIA also publishes very complete and comprehensive books on such topics as pastry, charcuterie, and multiple aspects of cooking, books that I use frequently as reference.

My apprenticeship in the trade of cooking, as for many others, was fuelled and sustained in part by Doritos and Pepsi, I admit. There always was this “wholesomeness” fatigue, seemingly, where peeling sun chokes for an hour, or brushing chanterelles with a toothbrush, made me not hungry for such food, but when had a bag of chips I did so feeling like I do when I open the second (third??!) bottle, or when I finally convince myself that rest is more important than exercise, a pugilistic opposition of angel and demon, on my shoulder like Fred Flintstone used to experience. It's alight, it felt great to feel wrong.

Of course classic French repertoire contains not so “clean” dishes as curly fries, but they are called Pommes de terres Chatouillard, and crinkle cut chips are Pommes de terres Gaufrettes, and there are countless other gems of the sort. But take the Chatouillard, it's potatoes, never refrigerated, peeled and shaped as a tube (the trims used for potato leek soup, perhaps), then a skewer is stuck in the middle and a knife is rotated while resting on the skewer resulting in a spring shape like potato. The potatoes are then fried in two successive baths of rendered lard kept at very specific temperature, and at the end you get a puffed curly fry that is really light and delicious with roast duck. It's quite complex and as a matter fact it's sometimes part of the exam to become a Meilleurs Ouvriers de France. But being hard to make renders it elusive and expensive, and as such, hard to eat a bag full! The process also brings the craftsman to understand the importance of cooking temperatures in order to avoid oil absorption, the many varieties of potatoes, and the correct way to store and use them, etc. All that to say that in most cases what's really important is not always the end result, but how it's made, and what is learned through the process.

Some wine is harvested manually, on specific plots of land and made very carefully in order to provide something that reflects the “who,when and where”, and then there is Ménage à Trois. Pepsi, Doritos, Ménage à Trois does not have a seat at the venerable table of Hand Made. Simply, the apprenticeship process is all about learning how to MAKE, while a bag of Doritos is already MADE, and most of the effort is put into not telling you what's in it.

Sure you can have a caloric based defence argument, and say that a big dinner at Joe Beef is 2000 calories, but again, I don't eat there everyday, in fact I almost never and nor do I wish it upon you too frequently. You enjoy, celebrate, offer to someone and yourself this fun, delicious episode in your week, month or year, and the calories you'll consume there are made of stuff people grow, the name of the farmer is printed on the Quebec rib-eye label, and at first sign of GMO** my staunch partner David quickly purged the taps of major beers.

I do not know the offals of this corporate deal between PepsiCo and the CIA. Maybe this hard earned money will help students deal with the always increasing cost of Tostitos, who knows! I once felt good knowing that CIA was stoically resisting this shit storm of Dinner Drive ins and Dives, but no more.

* Paul Bocuse is a French chef in Lyon, he has three Michelin stars for longer than I have years, and a nice French rooster tattoo on his shoulder. His cooking is amazingly delicious and last that I know, his rouget en croûte de potatoes was not 86’ed in favour of a rouget en croûte de Doritos.

** when in doubt abstain.

Fred (all in his words) co-owns Joe Beef, Liverpool House and Vin Papillion restaurants in Montreal, and is the co-author of The Art of Living According to Joe Beef. He fathered three offspring that currently prevent him from living a second youth behind the stoves. He also wishes he had gone to College. He divides his time between being fat, becoming slim, being slim and becoming fat. He lives close enough to Montreal, to call it Montreal. And you can follow him on Twitter

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Monday, January 19, 2015

What I Learned By Actually Reading that New School Chocolate Milk Study

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I was amazed by the uproar the publication of a Dairy Farmers of Canada funded chocolate milk study inspired last week. The study, "Impact of the removal of chocolate milk from school milk programs for children in Saskatoon, Canada", at least according to the breathless press release and the resulting press coverage apparently concluded, "it's chocolate milk, or no milk at all for many children", and while it's no surprise given the funding that the spin was chocolate milk positive (including the study's mind-numbing use of the word, "enhanced" to describe sugar-sweetened milk), after reading the actual study, I'm beyond gobsmacked.

The study methodology was pretty straight forward. For 4 weeks they offered elementary school children both chocolate milk and white milk and measured how much of each they drank and how much went to waste. Next, they stopped providing the chocolate milk for 4 more weeks and kept measuring. Lastly, they brought back the chocolate milk option for a final 4 weeks of measurements.

Now hold onto your hats. As readers of the press are likely to already know the study found,
"the children waste more milk when it’s plain."
How much more waste you ask? Just 4/5ths of a tablespoon more a day. Yup, if you actually read the study you find out that when chocolate milk disappeared the kids drank a scant 12mL less per day than they did when chocolate milk was available. If these numbers continued, kids who drank milk would drink about a cup less milk a month for a grand total of just 9.6 fewer cups over the course of their entire chocolate milk free 200 day school year.

Or would they? What about the kids who stopped drinking milk altogether because they could no longer get chocolate? Well when the researchers tried to quantify total daily consumption of milk for all students they found,
"that students’ total milk intake at home, or milk consumption at school, did not change across the study phases."
The researchers also found,
"that on average students were meeting the 3–4 servings per day recommended by Canada’s Food Guide for 9- to 13-year-olds"
and that school milk only accounted for 13%–15% of total dairy consumed.

What else did the researchers find? Well if you want a non-Dairy Farmers of Canada "enhanced" spin on things, the researchers also found that in just the first month following the removal of school chocolate milk the number of students drinking white milk increased by 466%! A number which might well have increased further over time as palates and norms in the schools changed. And what happens to former chocolate milk drinkers when they swap Beatrice 1% chocolate milk for Beatrice 2% white? Well over the course of each week they'll drink 22 fewer teaspoons of added sugar and over the course of a 200 day school year, 14,000 fewer calories and 19 fewer cups of added sugar.

So to sum up. The study found that taking chocolate milk out of schools did not affect the students' total daily milk or dairy consumption, that on average all students were meeting their daily recommended amounts of dairy (recommendations which by the way are almost certainly higher than the evidence would suggest they need be), that kids who swapped from chocolate milk to white milk drank pretty much the same amount of white as they did chocolate (unless you think 4/5ths of a tablespoon of milk is a lot), and that by removing chocolate milk from the school, in the first month alone nearly half of the initial chocolate milk drinkers switched to white and in so doing, saved themselves piles of calories and the nearly 2 full cups of monthly added chocolate milk sugar.

If anything this study lends very strong support for those thinking schools shouldn't be offering sugar sweetened milk to students.

Clearly the reporters didn't bother to actually read the study. Shouldn't they have?

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Saturday Stories: FFQs, Rape Culture, and Water Fountains

A telling piece by Eliza Barclay in NPR about David Allison's new study that posits in nutrition, when it comes to food frequency questionnaires, something is worse than nothing (disclosure, I was part of the working group involved in the study).

A scathing piece from Anne Kingston in Macleans on Margaret Wente and rape culture.

A strangely fascinating piece from Joe Satran in the Huffington Post on the history of water fountains.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

I Don't Care if This Video Doesn't Get Many Likes Because Canada!

For readers who don't know winter in Newfoundland, Canada is not for the faint of heart. It's full of biting cold, crazy snows, power failures, and Star Wars fans with clearly a little bit of extra free time on their hands to all of which this Funny Friday video attests.

Have a great weekend!

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

ADHD Drug Vyvance for Binge Eating Disorder?

Yesterday a study was published in JAMA Psychiatry. In it researchers looks at the impact of 14 weeks of 3 different doses of lisdexamfetamine (Vyvance) on binge eating disorder and weight in 260 patients via a randomized, double-blind, parallel-group, forced dose titration, placebo-controlled trial. Eligibility for the study included meeting the DSM-IV criteria for binge eating disorder, having a BMI between 25 and 45, and being between the ages of 18 and 55. There were a boatload of exclusion criteria with perhaps the most important being having any other eating or psychiatric disorder, having had a history of substance abuse, or having been recently treated with a psychostimulant, or having had a recent psychological or weight management treatment history.

The study's primary endpoint was the number of self-scored binge eating days, and among the secondary endpoints was weight.

The results were striking, especially in those taking the highest dose who nearly stopped binging.

Weight loss was also not insignificant, again, especially with the higher dose, with those folks losing an average of nearly 10lbs over the 11 weeks (versus an average loss of 1/5th of a pound for those taking a placebo).

Unfortunately there were also side effects with dramatically more people in the highest dosing arm reporting dry mouth, and insomnia. All told 5% of the highest dosing arm dropped out due to adverse effects.

While far from conclusive, this study is promising. Binge eating disorder is a tremendously difficult condition to endure. Psychologically it can be devastating due to overwhelming feelings of guilt which in turn can lead to decreased self-esteem and decreased perceived self-efficacy. Right now treatment for binge eating disorder involves cognitive behavioural therapy, and indeed, there's fair success, but were there a safe medication that could be used as an adjunct to counselling, speaking personally, I'd be thrilled.

There's still lots of work to be done to prove long term efficacy, safety, and tolerability. Fingers crossed.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Why I'm Resigning my Membership in The Obesity Society

For those of you who don't know, The Obesity Society (TOS) is, according to them,
"North America's premier scientific organization devoted to understanding obesity"
And I wholeheartedly agree, they really are, which is why I'm anything but happy to be resigning my membership.

I've been a member for the past decade, and I do my utmost to attend their annual meeting (now known as Obesity Week).

Paying to be a member of a professional organization, to me at least, means that you believe the organization's mission and methods to be congruent with your own, and sadly, that's no longer the case with me and TOS.

My concerns began in early 2013. That was when TOS published their, "Guidelines for Accepting Funds from External Sources" position paper. In it TOS,
"expressly eliminates all forms of evaluation or judgment of the funding source"
and instead,
"TOS chooses to focus its ethical mission on transparency in disclosing the sources of funding, clear stipulations outlining our commitment to the ethical use of funds, and a commitment to non-influence of the funding sources over the scientific aspects of funded projects and TOS as a whole."
Lastly they stipulated,
"TOS should seek funding from as wide a variety of donors as possible."
Many, myself included, felt that without explicitly saying so, these guidelines were designed as a means to open the door for TOS to seek and take money from the food industry.

Shortly thereafter TOS struck their, "Food Industry Outreach Task Force", which seems to have morphed into their "Food Industry Engagement Council", the most recent meeting of which included representatives from Kellogg's, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Dr. Pepper and Ocean Spray. There appears to be no doubt that TOS meant what they said back in early 2013.

To be clear, I'm all for dialogue, debate, and discussion with the food industry, but I just can't support taking their money, formally working with them on joint projects, or giving them votes at tables. To be sure, in these difficult fiscal times, for public health organizations, the benefit of food industry partnerships is funding. But partnerships of course need to benefit both parties, and for the food industry, partnering with health organizations has much to offer. Public health partnerships provide the food industry with high gloss brand polish, they may lead to direct or indirect co-branded sales, they may confer undeserved positive emotional brand associations, they may silence or soften industry or product criticism, they may provide industry with ammunition to fight industry unfriendly legislative efforts, and they necessitate that the partnered public health group water down public health messaging that may conflict with their partnered private industries' bottom lines.

Put plainly, a public company cannot invest in a group, program, or intervention that in turn would ultimately serve to decrease sales more than not being involved in that same group, program, or intervention. Doing so would not only be an affront to their shareholders, it'd be grounds for their lawsuits.

Let’s hope I’m wrong in thinking history won’t look kindly on these partnerships, that public-health efforts won't be hindered by them, and that instead I’ll look back one day and think I made much ado about nothing, but until then, while I'll still likely see you at Obesity Week, this is why I'll no longer be sporting a "TOS Member" ribbon on my badge.

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