I've heard that the US election has been the ugliest in history with attack ads really stretching the envelope of truth.
For today's Funny Friday I bring you an ad paid for by a number of American organizations including the devilish Aerial Moose Hunters for Truth and the dastardly People Against Amnesty for Mexican and Canadian Undead.
I sure hope Obama wins because if he doesn't, where the heck am I going to get my next American brains-fix?
Have a great weekend and Happy Halloween!
[Hat tip to my sister and fellow undead Canadian Michal]
Friday, October 31, 2008
I've heard that the US election has been the ugliest in history with attack ads really stretching the envelope of truth.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Readers of my blog may remember some time ago when I blogged about the Coca-Cola advertisement found in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that ridiculously claimed that their ads featuring Santa Claus, animated polar bears, New Kids on the Block and more didn't target children,
"Can't remember the last Coca-Cola ad targeted at children? There's a reason. Parents tell us they prefer to be the ones teaching their children about beverage choices. That's why for over 50 years we've adhered to a company policy that prohibits advertising soft drinks to children."The thing is, I didn't just blog about it, I also wrote a letter to the editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal which in turn was published this week along with responses from Coca-Cola and the Journal's editors.
The editors rightly report that the advertisement,
"compl(ies) with the pertinent sections of the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations"and therefore is kosher for publication.
Reading between the lines however would suggest that the Journal agreed that the advertisement went too far, not in the context of their editorial response but rather in their print publication of my original letter along with their contact for and publication of Coca-Cola's response.
They reiterate their claim and then add a minor parenthetic qualification in that,
"(Any programming or media platform for which 50% or more of the audience is under 12 years of age is considered programming primarily directed to children.)"and then brag that they're founding members of a toothless, voluntary, non-regulated, Big Food sponsored campaign that voluntarily submits advertisements to Advertising Standards Canada, an organization described on their website as,
"The Canadian advertising industry's self-regulatory body"Here's my bottom line:
Claiming that Santa Claus and animated polar bears in Coke commercials don't target children is about as believable as claiming that bikini-clad women in beer commercials don't target men.The story was picked up by Sarah Schmidt of Canwest and will likely hit the newspapers tomorrow and boy did Coca-Cola corporate spokesperson Amy Laski come up with one whopper of a quobesity stating that Coke is,
"wholesome and suitable for kids"I wonder if Amy serves her kids "wholesome", refreshing Coke?
Yesterday I blogged about the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check program's call for proposals to help them review the impact Health Check has had during its ten year lifespan.
In the document, the Heart and Stroke Foundation refers to their "overarching question" that these studies will be meant to answer,
"In what areas does the HC program need to change to be relevant in the current and emerging environment?"Allow me to save them millions of dollars in grants and redevelopment fees with a simple, succinct answer along with a proposed solution.
In order to be relevant in the current environment Health Check needs to provide an evidence-based means for consumers to evaluate all dietary products in participating marketplaces.Health Check's current system, evaluating only those products whose parent companies buy their endorsement means that there may be more nutritious alternatives sitting right beside the Health Check items, with Health Check therefore doing little more than misinforming Canadians about what the healthiest choices are. As well, given that Health Check's meagre nutritional criteria only analyze 3 nutritional components per given item means that it ignores literally dozens of other well-established nutritional determinants of health and consequently has many "unintended consequences".
At the recent Centre for Science in the Public Interest conference I had the opportunity to sit and chat with Dr. David Katz, the founder of the Overall Nutritional Quality Index system (now renamed NuVal). The system, which I've blogged about before, uses a complex algorithm developed by 12 of the world's leading nutritional scientists (and updated every 2 years), weighting 25 different nutritional determinants of health to spit out a number from 1-100 to indicate the nutritional score of each particular food.
The system's dead-simple to use - higher the number, the healthier the option.
David told me that in order to calculate an ONQI value all they need is a nutrition facts panel and an ingredients list (or a recipe). He also reported that they'd happily work with anyone on the system.
So what could Health Check do to save themselves millions of dollars in evaluation and reformulation along with years of tinkering?
They could scrap their current product-by-product endorsement system, set up some ties and cobranding with NuVal, and become the Canadian licensee of NuVal's robust, evidence-based scoring system. They could then use their influence and marketplace savvy to sell the program to supermarket chains, (which would be required to score every item up for sale) restaurants, (again, every item gets a score) and industrial food service providers (ditto).
What's in it for NuVal of course is the promotion of their brand by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, which aside from their involvement with Health Check, is a trusted, health-related non-profit organization. What's in it for Health Check of course is the establishment of credibility - credibility they've strained even further this past year by sticking their heads in the sand and digging their heels in against the quite clearly necessary from the ground up overhaul they require to truly be considered nutritionally relevant.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Recently I read a nutrition column by Heart and Stroke Dietitian Alyssa Rolnick about how to help your child consume less salt.
Amazingly, despite the Heart and Stroke Foundation's endorsement of lower levels of salt in children (the National Sodium Policy Statement the Heart and Stroke Foundation signed off on recommends children under the age of 8 consume no more than 1,200mg daily) Alyssa stuck to Health Check's party line of adopting the far less stringent Health Canada recommendations of the nearly double 2,300mg.
But I'm not blogging today about the inanity of the Heart and Stroke Foundation's lack of adherence to sodium level recommendations that they themselves state are too high (I've done that before here) - no, today I'm blogging about these 3 lines from Alyssa's piece,
"Cook fresh foods One of the best ways to control salt intake is to prepare more home cooked meals."and finally,
"A lot of the excess sodium that we consume is hidden in processed, convenience and fast foods."
"When shopping, look for food items that have the Health Check™ symbol."So first off let me say I agree with Alyssa in that we need to cook our own meals more frequently and that highly processed foods are not only often laden with salt, they're often devoid of the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and healthy oils.
So can you guess which statement I disagree with?
Yup, you guessed it - her call to use Health Check to guide your choices in kid food shopping.
Why do I disagree?
Because Health Check'ed options are generally highly processed foods with far too much salt.
Don't believe me?
Well how about just asking Health Check folks?
You see just a few weeks ago they released a call for proposals to assess the impact of Health Check on the marketplace after 10 years of operation. One of the areas they want input on is one which they've labeled, "unintended consequences".
Any guesses as to the unintended consequence that they offered up as an example of what they're talking about? Here it is:
"Are Health Check products encouraging the purchase of processed foods over fresh foods?"The answer of course is along the lines of, "Duh", for as Bill Jeffery from the Centre for Science in the Public Interest pointed out in the Canadian Medical Association Journal,
"of the 257 fruit and vegetable products enrolled in the program, 194 are juices, fruit leather and french fries — hardly nutritional superstars — and only 14 are fresh fruits and vegetables."I'll also be happy to continue to explain why the answer is, "Duh" pictorially:
[Hat tip to loyal blog reader Dana for passing along the call for proposals]
Monday, October 27, 2008
Mindless Eating's and USDA's Brian Wansink, one of my favourite researchers, has released some preliminary results from a study he's been working on.
He's been looking at kids who belong to the so-called Clean Your Plate Club and has found that preschool aged members ate 35% more fruit loops than non-club members when given an unlimited portion.
35% more is a lot!
Think maybe the Clean Your Plate Club might play a role in childhood obesity?
The study will be published down the road in the journal Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
Same as mine. If your kids aren't cleaning their plates perhaps you ought to be offering them smaller portions, or better yet - ensure your child tastes all the foods you offer and then allow them to determine how much they want.
Disband the Clean Your Plate Club!!!
Friday, October 24, 2008
Remember Kevin? I blogged about him a few days ago - he's the infomercial king who's been banned from making infomercials and fined over $5 million for being misleading.
Want to see one of his infomercials?
I've seen a few on late night television over the years and this version from MadTV is today's Funny Friday!
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Treadmill desks hit the big time (the New York Times).
Promoted by Dr. James Levine and his NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) team as an easy means to combat obesity and adopted by world famous bloggers like bookofjoe's Joe (check out the picture down below to see Joe on his desk) now you can buy one from office furniture maker Steelcase for the not-so-low price of $4,000.
The way it works is pretty straight forward. Instead of sitting, you walk. Apparently walking at up to 1.5 miles an hour generally doesn't cause you to break a sweat and still allows you to type, mouse and talk normally.
If you're interested, instead of forking out the big bucks pick up a used treadmill with arms on your local Kijiji or Craig's List and jerry-rig your own version on the cheap.
Here's Joe on his:
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
This time it was with regards to its contribution to the risk of heart disease.
The study, run out of Canada's McMaster University by Dr. Salim Yusuf, was not a small study. It analyzed the dietary patterns of 16,000 individuals in 52 different countries and concluded that what we've been saying for years is still true - diets higher in fruits and vegetables and lower in fried foods and animal meat are healthier for you, and in this study specifically healthier for your heart.
Dr. Yusuf, in one of his many interviews with the press had this to say,
"What we've shown is if you eat a healthy diet you can actually reduce the risk of heart attack by about 30 to 40 per cent. That is bigger than most drugs we have for protecting against heart disease. It's even bigger than an angioplasty or bypass"The study was funded in part by the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Foundation spokesperson Dr. Beth Abramson Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Toronto and Director, Cardiac Prevention Center and Women’s Cardiovascular Health at St. Michael’s Hospital commented,
"It's a large international study that I would say reconfirms what is suggested in the literature in smaller studies that we are what we eat"I'd agree. It does "reconfirm" what we already know to be true. Here we've "reconfirmed" that meat's in fact bad for your health whereupon folks who ate the most meat (by quartile) had an increased risk of heart attack.
Take this new data and add it to that which concluded that diets higher in red meat are associated with dramatically increased risks of multiple cancers, (colon was the strongest where every 48 grams of red meat consumption beyond a weekly limit of 500grams increased colon cancer risk by 15 per cent) and diabetes (for every increase in the number of daily servings of red meat there was a 26% increase in the risk of developing diabetes), and you've got to wonder how any credible medical or public health organization can actually recommend its consumption.
As I always say, while I think red meat's absolutely delicious I don't kid myself (and more importantly anybody else) into thinking it's good for me. Along those lines, can someone please explain why the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check program, a program they report,
"makes healthy choices easier by helping you quickly identify products that can contribute to a healthy diet"still includes red meat?
So for the scorekeepers out there - here's more evidence, this time from a Heart and Stroke Foundation funded study, "reconfirming" what we already knew about red meat consumption, evidence that states that meat consumption raises the risk of heart disease, and yet here we also have a Heart and Stroke Foundation who happily stamps its Health Check logo all over it and Health Canada who publish a "Food Guide" that doesn't caution against its consumption.
Any guesses when either will change their tunes?
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I've certainly blogged before that it's not a matter of if but rather a matter of when the posting of calories on menu boards becomes a country-wide federal law.
Well as of a few weeks ago, the United States are a few steps closer with the introduction of the LEAN (Labeling Education and Nutrition) act by Delaware Senator Tom Carper and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. This bipartisan bill would require that,
"restaurants and grocery stores that serve prepared foods and have 20 or more locations to disclose calories for each menu item so that consumers can see such information before they order their meal. Under the bill, calories will be posted directly on the menu, menu board or in one of the approved alternative ways, such as a menu insert or a sign directly next to the menu board."Good luck Senators!
UPDATE:Sorry I didn't notice it sooner. The reason the Food Industry is supporting this bill is that it would not in fact require calories to be posted directly on menus or menuboards and if passed it would pre-empt more stringent local, county and state labeling laws. Consequently I can't recommend or endorse it.
Poor luck Senators!
Monday, October 20, 2008
Ever hear of Kevin Trudeau?
He's the author of many fantastical books that purport the medical establishment is hiding cures from the general public.
He purports the same to be true about weight management and wrote a book entitled, "The Weight Loss Cure They Don't Want You to Know About".
Apparently what we don't want you to know is that the cure includes weekly injections of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) which certainly to date has never been demonstrated to be either safe or effective for weight loss in any well designed randomized trial.
Oh, and there's also a complicated diet plan to follow.
His infomercials certainly make it seem effortless but the Federal Trade Commission, shockingly, felt differently.
So much differently in fact that they fined Kevin over $5 million and have banned him from making infomercials for 3 years.
20/20 had a kick at Kevin a while back and thanks to Youtube, here's their piece on his remarkable "cures":
Friday, October 17, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Well if you're in London, England anytime soon you could give it a try.
Just head over to the Green Door Bar and Grill where you can take the "Shackleton Centenary Meal Challenge" which allows you to consume a 6,000 calorie meal that current Matrix Shackleton Centenary Expedition team members may be consuming in their quest to follow in Shackleton's famous boot-steps.
So what will your $150 buy you?
AppetiserThe bellyache of "pride"?
Pork Scratching with a sticky Sweet Chilli Dip 1030 cal
Bottle of Stella 242 cal
A Stew originally prepared by Ernest Shackleton over a methylated spirit burner and consisting of Goose (as a substitute for Penguin) Corned Beef, Oats, Potato and Seasoning 1030 cal
Bottle of Stella 242 cal
20oz Aberdeen Angus Rib Eye on the bone 1040 cal
Cauliflower Gratin 300 cal
Mushrooms and Creamed Spinach 300 cal
French Fries 200 cal
250 ml Glass of Red Wine 160 cal
Coke 150 cal
Chocolate Fondant with 2 scoops Vanilla Ice Cream 1000 cal
Coconut Vanilla Ice Cream Shake 500 cal
[Hat tip to loyal blog reader Stefan!]
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
The internet's an interesting place providing soapboxes for me and anyone else with an axe to grind.
One of the axes that gets ground regularly is that asparatame is an especially bad and dangerous molecule that is responsible for a myriad of health concerns.
One of the claims made by those who like to vilify sweeteners (including aspartame) is that consuming them causes appetite to increase and so I was pleased to see a talk at the most recent Obesity Society Scientific Assembly on that very matter.
The talk was on an as yet unpublished study that looked at the effects of aspartame, stevia and sucrose (plain old sugar) on food intake, satiety and post meal blood glucose and insulin levels. Basically folks were given standardized breakfasts and before their lunch and dinner meals they were given a blind "preload" of tea and crackers sweetened with aspartame, stevia or sucrose. Participants then reported on their hunger and satiety levels before and after each meal as well as 30 minutes and every hour after lunch throughout the afternoon. They also gave multiple afternoon based blood samples.
Both stevia and aspartame use reduced food intake over the entire day compared with sugar, and hunger and satiety levels did not differ.
Zero-calorie sweeteners did not affect hunger and when used to replace calories from sugar led to a reduction in total daily caloric intake.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Right now it's only airing across the pond (in the UK) but thanks to the magic of the internet, with a bit of effort, you can watch it in North America.
It's Jamie Oliver's new social experiment, The Ministry of Food.
So what's his big new idea?
Go to a city of 250,000 people in Northern England, a city with one of the highest obesity rates in the nation. Once there harness the power of social networking to try to teach the city to cook.
Teach 8 cooks 10 recipes in return for a promise that they each teach two people and each of them two people and so on and in less than 6 months, all of Rotherham ought to be able to cook.
The show provides a fascinating snapshot into the lives of some working class folks out in Rotherham and the pressures surrounding making home cooked meals (do you spend your welfare check on the bus tickets it takes to travel with your two under 6 year old kids to purchase fresh produce or do you save yourself the time and energy and go to a "take-away"?) and it's also a fascinating social experiment.
So far I'm completely captivated by the first two episodes and can't wait to see more.
For a sneak peak, here's a youtube clip of the show's first 10 minutes (sorry, can't embed it).
Find it, watch it, you won't regret it and until then, head over to his website and you 'll find that already his social experiment has sprouted wings as there are 612 bloggers currently blogging about their newest cooking escapades and literally thousands of posts in the forums.
Great job Jamie! Wish you were Canadian!
Monday, October 13, 2008
My 4 year old came home from a birthday party the other day with a loot-bag that save for one small trinket, contained solely candy.
4 year olds are thrilled with anything. You could put coloured popsicle sticks and cotton balls in a loot bag and they'd be happy - why do you need to send home sugar?
For guests of our daughters we generally raid our local dollar store and buy things like little fairy skirts, wooden puzzles or cars that can be put together and painted with parents, felt doorknockers where we included lettering for kids' names, small dolls, stickers, beading kits for personalized bracelets, pirate hats, squishy balls and play-doh.
Thankfully, my loot bag manifesto is a short one:
I hereby proclaim that an enlightened loot bag contains no candy!
Friday, October 10, 2008
Better late than never!
Today for Funny Friday are all the Rocky movies in 5 seconds flat. It's not the best Funny Friday video I've ever posted, but hey, it's 5 seconds of your life and worth a quick chuckle!
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, October 09, 2008
What you see above is a picture of me and my friend and colleague Dr. Arya Sharma (The guy on the left. The guy with the stethoscope? That’s the Grill’s owner “Dr.” Jon) at the Heart Attack Grill (blogged about previously here), but really what you're seeing is a picture of Arya and me practicing what we preach.
You might think that my statement above doesn't make sense, after all, the Canadian Medical Association Journal labeled me a "nutritional watchdog" and I run a behavioural weight management program and Arya, well Arya's the head of Capital Health's Weight Wise - the country's largest tertiary care bariatric centre and the scientific director of the Canadian Obesity Network, how could us eating - "flatliner" fries and "single bypass" burgers reflect our practices?
Simple - we preach that food and calories, while worth monitoring for nutrition and weight, are also used in life for comfort and celebration, and if you can't use food for comfort and celebration from time to time, you're probably on a diet and long-term, it's probably going to fail.
In terms of my lifestyle, excluding vacations and conferences I probably eat out a maximum of twice a month and just like most folks, I enjoy the taste of some foods that are let's say less than optimally nutritious, and sometimes I'll indulge. However what I don't do is give myself a carte blanche during those meals out - instead I choose the healthiest option that I think I'll enjoy so for instance at the Heart Attack Grill I had the single bypass (rather than the double, triple or quadruple), shared a fries with Arya and had water to drink.
As I regularly say weight management and healthy eating - they're about living the healthiest lives you can enjoy, not the healthiest lives you can tolerate. The former's a liveable lifestyle, the latter's just another short-term diet.
So if you're in Phoenix and you're so inclined, the Heart Attack Grill might well be worth a visit, but as the posting on their door states in big, bold, red writing,
"Caution! This Establishment is BAD for your Health!"
[Hat tip to Joe from Active Living magazine who inadvertently reminded me that the Heart Attack Grill was in Phoenix]
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
(Or why it's not about exercise)
The study is entitled, "A Program Promoting Exercise and Active Lifestyle". In it, 196 overweight (average BMI nearly 30) carefully selected for motivation and affinity to start exercising individuals were asked to exercise at moderate to vigorous intensity for 60 minutes a day, 6 days a week, for a year! To ensure objectivity, subjects were provided with logbooks and heart rate monitors and adherence was excellent. Men in the study averaged 370 weekly minutes of exercise, and women 295.
Subjects were not instructed to make dietary changes.
So if weight loss were about exercise, certainly you would expect that after a year of an hour a day, 6 days of week of exercise, that weight would be lost in a dramatic manner.
Over the course of the year, men lost an average of 3.5lbs and women 2.6lbs.
Readers of my blog will know that I'm all for exercise - reason being is that it's one of the single most important determinants of health and that doing it psychologically bolsters patients who've lost weight and helps them keep their focus on their weight loss behaviours (including dietary changes).
Clearly what it won't do is by itself lead to dramatic weight loss.
Therefore I would argue that studies and public health interventions for obesity that focus exclusively on exercise or increasing day to day activity can no longer be considered ethical as we know that the outcomes will be dismal. My other concern of course is that since we know these interventions are doomed to failure, by throwing public health care dollars at interventions whose success will be measured on the basis of weight, we're going to drain the pot of public health dollars for obesity treatment and potentially make it less likely to receive funding in the future from once burned, twice shy stretched federal, provincial and municipal governments.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Mea culpa - thanks to the Canadian contingent at this year's Obesity Society conference, I've probably had too many drinks (Thanks to Arya, Dawn, Tara and Danielle) and someone told me once that I shouldn't drink and blog. Of course if you have a daily blog, sometimes you might not have as much choice as you'd want.
Life of course includes occasional indulgences and given that I've got two beautiful little girls and a busy office, my once a month or so nights out are certainly welcome.
The conference was wonderful as always and certainly got me thinking.
I heard a talk the other day regarding childhood obesity and it recounted how dramatically the risk of childhood obesity rises when a child has a television set in their room.
It's such a dramatic increase in risk (I believe in the neighbourhood of a 61% increase in relative risk) that I was never able to understand the mechanism behind it as the studies will generally control for dietary intake and some lifestyle factors suggesting an almost magical response to advertising.
I'm not sure anyone knows the answer but this conference made me wonder, could it simply be that kids with TVs in their bedrooms sleep far less because they're busy watching TV all night long?
Stay tuned this week for some debriefing from the conference, including my review of the Heart Attack Grill.
Monday, October 06, 2008
Came across these beauties on the blog Supersized Foods.
For just $8 you can start a slow death by fries....but oh, the cheesy, potato-y goodness.
For more fried foods available at the LA County Fair (where this shot was taken), head over to the blog that dropped this fry bomb - LAist where they have the photo evidence of deep fried pretty much everything you could imagine from frog legs, to twinkies to of course bricks of cheese fries.
Anyone care to take a guess at the calories?
3,500 or so.
Do you think they serve a kids' size?
Friday, October 03, 2008
This Sunday is the annual CIBC Run for the Cure.
Over the past 4 years our office has raised over $100,000 to support breast cancer research and programs and this year's no exception - with offline donations we're well over $25,000.
To help the cause Rob Matthews, our fitness director, challenged our team that if anyone raised over $2,500 he'd allow them to shave him a mohawk and dye it pink.
Today for Funny Friday is video evidence that he's a man of his word.
If you like this blog and you haven't done so already, please consider sponsoring Rob in his Run for the Cure effort - anyone willing to get a pink mohawk to support breast cancer research deserves support in my book. Tax receipts are issued and the online run website (run out of CIBC - a major Canadian bank) is encrypted, safe and takes credit cards.
If you'd like to donate to his fundraising efforts, simply click here!
Have a great weekend and good on ya Rob.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Perhaps in his old age the Colonel's getting soft, or maybe he's just seeing the writing on the wall?
Yesterday YUM Brands, KFC's parent company, announced that their restaurants (which also include Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver's and A&W) will be voluntarily placing calorie counts on menus at ALL American locations!
This announcement came a day after the State of California passed legislation requiring all chain restaurants (more than 20 locations statewide) to do the same.
Great job Colonel, and frankly smart as given that eventually it's going to be a federal law so why not score some good press by doing it now voluntarily?
Hey Colonel, why not Canadian locations?
[Hat tip to BMI's Lorne]
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
What's one of the worst clubs your kid can join?
The clean your plate club - a club likely born out of war rationing back during WWII.
Here's a thought - if your kids aren't cleaning their plates perhaps you're serving them too much?
Or maybe it's that they've grown accustomed to trying to save their appetites for the tastier stuff offered to them after the meal.....but does dessert really need to be served nightly?
Are there risks to not forcing your child to clean your plate?
None that I can think of - emotionally well-adjusted children won't let themselves starve.
Lose the club - you can spell "waste" two ways.