Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Did You See the One About Low-Carb Diets Being No Better than Others?

There is a study that has been making the rounds the past few days. It touts itself as a meta-analysis designed to answer the question of whether or not low-carb diets are better for weight loss, and also whether low-carb diets are safe.

I'll cut to the chase. The study concludes low-carb diets are no better for weight loss and yes they're safe.....but, the authors bizarrely used a carb cutoff of 45% to define "low".

A diet with 45% of calories coming from carbs is not a low-carb diet and certainly isn't usefully comparable to one containing 20% carbs (and yet the authors did).

So sadly this paper doesn't help with the questions it set out to answer, but for what it's worth, my non-objectively quantifiable take on low-carb diets is that if they help you to control your intake, and you enjoy living that way, I wouldn't waste a moment worrying about safety. Of course if you don't enjoy low-carb life, please don't think there's no other way to go.

Reading this piece I could help but wonder, where, oh where, is peer review?

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Pregnant? Dead Simple Healthful Eating Life Hack for When Baby's Born.

And it's dead simple. Buy a freezer (used chest freezers on local buy and sell websites are often under $100), freezer storage containers, and freezer bags.

Well, there's a tiny bit more.

3 months before the baby's due date start cooking and freezing your family's favourite meals. Aim for 3 full months of home frozen dinners and lean on them heavily during those exhausting first weeks and months. And if you also cook on those rare days where you've got some time, you can stretch your pre-emptive home cooking even longer.

Way better than take out and dry cereal.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday Stories: Language and War, Dr. Oz, Health Literacy, and Physical Inactivity.

"And so it happens. Without one’s being aware of it, it happens. A gradual habituation to the language of loathing." - Written in 2009 during the last war in Gaza. It may as well have been written today.

The wonderful Julia Belluz introduces the world to the medical student who's trying to take down Dr. Oz.

"Would you take fitness tips from a mouse?", the Globe & Mail's Adriana Barton covers health literacy for health news readers.

The Incidental Economist's Dr. Aaron Carroll saw those news reports last week that covered obesity as if it were purely caused by physical inactivity and he calls bullshit.

[And if you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, Had a nice chat with CTV Ottawa Morning yesterday about "refueling" or "recovering" post exercise]

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Friday, July 18, 2014

The Blues are the Same in any Language

Don't believe me?

Watch today's Funny Friday video.

Have a great weekend!

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Guest Post: Newsflash! Fruits are NOT Vegetables.

Today's guest post comes from our office's own RD Rob Lazzinnaro and why he thinks it important to differentiate between fruit and vegetable.
The title of this post may seem like an obvious observation, yet a surprisingly important one. I’m not talking plant taxonomy, no, I want to explain why fruits and vegetables are essential to differentiate nutritionally.

How many times have we heard the saying “eat your fruits and vegetables!” They have become synonymous with one another, and often translated to mean they are one and the same. The idea is so entrenched that fruits, like vegetables, should be eaten in abundance that it is a common recommendation like “half your plate campaign” and Weight Watchers new fruit doesn't count (zero points) system. It started with Canada's Food Guide (CFG), and to be fair most every government food guide. Fruits and vegetable recommendations are provided as a single categorical entity without any serious distinction between the two.

It needs to stop, and here's why - most food guides recommend a minimum number of servings for the category of fruits and vegetables. CFG recommends 8-10 Fruits and veg for a male 19-50. They do not specify how to get this minimum recommendation in on the basic form, and on their detailed instructions simply recommend a minimum of one dark green vegetable every day.
Here are two scenarios:

Scenario 1
I eat 1 cup of cooked greens, 2 apples, 2 oranges, 1 banana, 1 pear.
= 8 servings of fruits and veg.
= ~700 calories (Potentially an underestimation considering I used large fruit while many of the Frankenfruit found in today's supermarkets actually way in far larger than large).

Scenario 2
I eat 1.5 cups of cooked greens, 2 cups of bell peppers, half a cup of carrots
= 8 servings of Fruits & veg
= ~100 Calories.

That is a potential difference of ~600 calories between two examples that would both allow me to meet the CFG recommendations. You might ask who in the heck is scarfing down all that fruit, and you might be correct in thinking not many are, however, it's easy to substitute four of those servings with two cups of say apple and/or orange juice (as many do) leaving a person thinking they were making healthful choices. Most Canadians do not follow food guides, but many have had its recommendations established in their thinking in some shape or form from institutions that use it as a guiding principle - primary/elementary/high school, hospitals, day care, etc.

Fruit or whole fruit anyway is certainly not “bad” or the crux of any major nutritional issue, but using it interchangeably with vegetables is nutritionally misleading and a serious error. An error that has been manipulated by advertisers for years; how?: 1. Fruit is much more palatable than vegetables 2. It comes with high recommendations by health professionals. Virtual gold for marketers! Gather round and get your 5-10 fruit or vegetable servings easily from “healthy” fruit muffins, juice, fruit gummies, fruit leather, fruit filling, fruit ice cream, fruit bars, dried sweetened fruit, fruit filled granola bars; hooray!

Here’s to an abundance of vegetables.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

No, Artificial Sweeteners Won't Make you Gain Weight

Of course that doesn't mean you should abuse them either.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First the meta-analysis. Out of the gates, it looks like it was funded by the food industry and no doubt, industry funded studies have been shown to be industry positive. That doesn't mean the results are bunk, but definitely something to consider when evaluating.

The study did what others studies on artificial sweeteners should have done - it looked at them in the context of populations actively involved in weight management and in this case the authors looked at both randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies that utilized low calorie sweeteners (LCS). What they didn't include were broad sweeping studies that aimed to tie LCS consumption to weight and I've argued about why this is important before but briefly, if you simply look at all comers when it comes to artificial sweeteners you run the risk of including folks who justify their Mega-Combo by ordering a diet beverage and/or high consumption may represent a greater reliance on restaurant and processed foods as a whole.

So what did the researchers find? Overall of the 15 randomized trials and 9 prospective cohorts identified, the use of LCS did not lead to weight gain, and in the case of the randomized trials, the use of low-calorie sweeteners in place of high calorie ones did in fact lead to weight reduction.

At the end of the day less sweet from all sources should be the goal as regardless of source, sweet affects our palates and conditions us to foods that likely we ought to be minimizing, but if you're trying to manage weight, and you can use LCS to replace their fully-leaded counterparts, I'd say the evidence would suggest LCS products are the lesser evil.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Crucial Question Regarding Canada's Nutrition Facts Panel Changes

Will fruit juices, evaporates, purées and concentrates be considered sources of added sugar? Health Canada doesn't consider them to be now, and there was no suggestion yesterday that there were any plans for change.

No doubt juices, evaporates, purées, and concentrates should all be considered sources of added sugars as ultimately that's what they are. Pulverize, extrude, concentrate, and/or evaporate fruit, and sugar is predominantly what you're left with. And if juices, evaporates, purées, and concentrates aren't formally considered added sugars by Health Canada, get ready for a huge increase in nonsensical food-like items with claims of "no sugar added" and "made with real fruit" to hit the shelves.

The corollary of that too of course is that existing such nonsensical food-like items will still be allowed to make their nonsensical, predatory claims.

[I do have other minor suggestions and issues with the proposals, but overall I have to say, assuming the above issue is handled properly, it's a big improvement over what we've got now. The other major concern I have is that there's not a value for a package's total calories - useful given many of us treat entire packages as serving sizes.]

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Should Religion be Used to Sell Junk Food?

Coca-Cola sure thinks so.

Of course we're all familiar with Coca-Cola's conscription of Christmas.

I guess selling on the back of religion must be a great way to do business because Coca-Cola's just launched a new Ramadan themed campaign.

Here's Coca-Cola's description of their Ramadan centric campaign in Indonesia,
"In honor of Ramadan, Coca-Cola Indonesia is holding a series of unique activations to inspire a reconnection. The program is named, “Sampaikan dengan Coca-Cola” which means, "Say it with Coca-Cola".

During the month of Ramadan, 1 and 1.5-liter Coca-Cola plastic bottles will feature a special design that includes the names of loved ones like Ayah (father), Ibu (mother), and Sahabat (best friend). The special packaging is intended to encourage family, colleagues, friends and companions to reconnect.

"The holy month of Ramadan is about reconnecting and forgiving each other. Yet over time, it often becomes a routine and loses the real meaning. This year, through a bottle of Coca-Cola, we want to bring positive inspiration to people to ensure that we have a good and close relationship with them by continuously reconnecting,": says Esther Tanudjaja, Senior Integrated Marketing Content & Connection Manager Coca-Cola Indonesia.
And here are some videos from the campaign:

And if you're a practicing Hindu rather than Christian or Muslim, no worries, your holidays' emotions are also conscripted by Coca-Cola as seen in this Diwali ad

To be fair, this practice isn't unique to Coca-Cola. Virtually all fast and junk food makers use religion to sell food. And now I'm not a religious man, so I truthfully don't know the answer to this but for those who are religious, is Coca-Cola's (and others') usage of your religion's holiday joy and spirit to brand undeniably unhealthy products not a touch repugnant?

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Saturday Stories: War, Genetics, and a Must Read

Slate's William Saletan covers the war in Israel.

My friend Tim Caulfield explains why we shouldn't be looking to genetics to solve societal weight woes.

And an absolute must read by an Anonymous author on breakfast. Trust me, it's not what you're expecting, and be forewarned, it hits very, very, hard.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

How Can I Not Jump on the Hedgehog Birthday Cake Bandwagon?

It's just too cute not to share for Funny Friday.

Have a great weekend!

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