Thursday, January 24, 2008

Health Check's "Comprehensive" Approach

In the Canadian Press article that detailed some of my concerns with Health Check, Terry Dean chose to attack me and reported that my focus and my clinic's focus is, "very much on diet".

Of course, that's not even remotely true given that my office's staff includes physicians, registered dietitians, personal fitness trainers (with on-site facilities) and a clinical psychologist and that we actually don't have any particular diet that we espouse, nor any food that we forbid.

We do however, teach our patients a great deal about nutrition.

I think it's quite telling that rather than respond to my concerns the Heart and Stroke Foundation chose to question the messenger.

Telling, but not particularly surprising, given that their recommendations are quite indefensible as evidenced by their efforts to defend them last night on CBC's investigative journalism program Marketplace.

According to Terry Dean, Health Check's approach,

"is more of a comprehensive view that it's a public health model. It's not a sodium reduction problem, it's not a diet program, it's not a fat reduction program. Our program is based on the overall diet and general healthy eating recommendations."
and in the Ottawa Citizen article that came out the following day Mr. Dean, while admitting sugar and sodium levels were sub-optimal went on record to state that while perhaps suboptimal in one nutrient,
"In every case, there are two or three nutrients it has to have"
Two or three whole nutrients. You don't say.

So the question I've got for you today - do you think that a "comprehensive" approach to nutrition would only involve looking at 2-3 nutrients?

Looking at the Health Check criteria, here is a list of every thing Health Check considers in evaluating a product (and bear in mind, according to Terry only 2-3 things are considered per product):
  1. Fat
  2. Fibre
  3. Sodium
  4. Sugar
  5. Vitamin A
  6. Vitamin C
  7. Calcium
  8. Iron
  9. Folate
That's it, that's all.

So does Terry Dean really think that there are only 9 things worth considering when evaluating the nutritional value of a food? Nope, not if he agrees with his Health Check program he doesn't, because if he agrees with his Health Check criteria, he believes that there in fact are not 9 things worth evaluating per food item, he believe that there are only 3 or 4 things worth considering. If he believes in the "comprehensive" approach of Health Check he would therefore also believe that foods should be considered in if, then rule form whereby for example if a slice of bread has less than 480mg of sodium, is a source of fibre, and is low in fat and trans fat it's good with the Health Check folks irregardless of whether or not the grain is refined or how much sugar might have been added.

Contrast Health Check's 9 nutrient if then rules with the list of nutrients and nutritional concepts recently woven together by 14 of the world's experts in nutrition into a complex food rating algorithm known as ONQI and also featured on last night's program:
  1. Fiber
  2. Folate
  3. Vitamin A
  4. Vitamin C
  5. Vitamin D
  6. Vitamin E
  7. Vitamin B12
  8. Vitamin B6
  9. Potassium
  10. Calcium
  11. Zinc
  12. Omega 3 fatty acids
  13. Bioflavanoids
  14. Carotenoids
  15. Magnesium
  16. Iron
  17. Saturated fat
  18. Trans fat
  19. Sodium
  20. Sugar
  21. Cholesterol
  22. Fat quality
  23. Protein quality
  24. Energy density
  25. Glycemic load
Oh, and they apply all 25 criteria to every single food they rate.

Yup Terry, ensuring every food has "2 or 3 nutrients" is super comprehensive. Great job.

You know the Hindenburg looked great from afar as well.

[If you missed last night's show, CBC has it up on their website here.]