Today's Funny Friday is a commercial for The Iron Gym.
If you want to see the official commerical head over to the product's website.
Have a great weekend!
Friday, November 28, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Denmark being trans-fat free and all.
Somehow that entire country has found the means to make their cookies and danishes (are they called danishes in Denmark too?) trans-fat free.
Yet despite an entire country figuring out how to make trans-fat free foods taste good, Dare Cookies, the manufacturers of Canadian Girl Guide cookies still haven't been able to figure it out.
This week Girl Guides of Canada issued a press release touting the fact that after years of being aware that their cookies contained truly unacceptable amounts of trans-fat (ok, it didn't really say that part, I did) that they've figured out how to reduce the amount.
Of course if you eat two cookies you'll still be consuming 0.1grams of trans fat.
Doesn't sound like much does it?
According to the very nice lady I spoke with at the Girl Guide Cookies hotline (such a thing does indeed exist), there are twenty cookies per box and therefore 1 gram of trans fat per box.
According to the press kit that was sent to me, 5 million boxes of Girl Guide cookies are sold annually in Canada.
Therefore Girl Guide cookies annually contribute 5,000 kilograms (11,000 pounds) of trans-fat to the Canadian diet.
So while it's certainly a good thing that Girl Guides have reduced the trans-fat levels in their cookies I'm still not buying them. If Voortman's entire cookie line can be trans-fat free, if the entire country of Denmark can be trans-fat free, surely so too can be Girl Guide Cookies.
Until they're trans-fat free, I'm Girl Guide cookie free.
[Hat tip to blog reader and fellow public critic of Girl Guide cookies Peter]
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
So when Dr. Brian Cook did in fact give his talk in Ottawa at the Centre for Science in the Public Interest's recent conference the media took notice.
The day immediately after his talk, Sarah Schmidt from CanWest Global published a piece about his findings that despite so-called self-regulatory efforts, most of what was advertised to children was junk food.
Self-imposed regulations are about as binding as a rubber band.
Don't believe me?
See all those cereals at the top of this post? Dr. Cook pointed out that all of them meet the voluntary guidelines Big Food sets for "healthier" options and hence fair game to them to advertise to children (and just two days ago he emailed me to mention that because of some reformulation Count Chocula will now also meet the Food Industry's "healthier" criteria).
So why does this post mention the Food Guide and Health Check?
Well when faced with the accusations laid by Dr. Cook and his Australian colleagues what did the spokesperson for Advertising Standards Canada, the national advertising industry self-regulatory body, use to defend Big Food?
You guessed it!
Here's the quote from Sarah's story,
"Janet Feasby is vice-president of standards at Advertising Standards Canada, a national advertising industry self-regulatory body overseeing the initiative. She said the current approach is sound because products that make the cut for a healthier dietary choice must meet established scientific and government standards.If I was a Big Food executive I'd be sending huge Christmas presents to the folks behind the Food Guide and Health Check - those guys sure know how to help sell crappy food!
They include foods that meet the standards for participating in the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check program and foods that meet criteria for nutrient content claims in Canada's Food Guide"
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
In 1847, the English Parliament passed the "Infant Relief Act" which was meant to,
"protect children from, "from their own lack of experience and from the wiles of pushing tradesmen and moneylenders"Too bad it's not enacted in Canada where as I blogged about yesterday television channels like Treehouse and YTV target moms and their children in encouraging advertisers to consider them for their incredible reach and "kidfluence".
So what exactly are YTV and Treehouse advertising?
Well if Dr. Brian Cook's preliminary results are any indication - a lot of unhealthy food.
You see Brian recently was involved in a study looking at the top children's television channels in 12 separate countries and even more recently he reported on the Canadian results at the recent Centre for Science in the Public Interest conference.
So what did he find?
Well over 4 days of broadcasting in January, with Ontario, Quebec and Alberta's top children's channels recorded from 6am to 10am the following pie chart demonstrates what was being advertised:
Over a third of ads were for foods and when scored by his Australian colleagues for healthfulness, 95% came back unhealthy with an almost even split between fast food, sugary cereals, high fat/sugar or salt spreads/soups/pastas and snack foods and sugar sweetened snack bars:
So does that compare with adult advertisements?
The same group also recorded and scored 3 days of adult programming and found that only 19% of advertisements were for food and of those, 44% were for healthy foods:
Moral of this story?
I think Brian said it best at his talk,
"TV food ads to children are dominated by products that undermine parents’ and public health professionals’ efforts to promote healthy diets and physical activity"Perhaps that's why a study produced by U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research and published in this month's Journal of Law and Economics concluded that banning fast food advertisements targeting children would reduce the number of overweight children aged 3 to 11 by 18%, and for adolescents (12- to 18-year-olds) by 14%.
I tell you one thing, it sure as heck can't hurt!
[Thanks again to Dr. Brian Cook from Toronto Public Health for sharing his data and giving such a great talk]
Monday, November 24, 2008
It's that time of year again, and this year the Canadian Blog Awards has added a Best Health Blog category and that's where Weighty Matters has been nominated!
There are two rounds to voting and the first round began yesterday.
The other health blogs nominated include:
- Ottawa Street Dental
- Medical Education Blog
- Canadian Medicine
- Breast Reloaded
- Prostate Reloaded
- Fibromyalgia and Exercise
- Marijke: Nurse turned writer
- Dr. Sharma’s Obesity Notes
- Facing Autism in New Brunswick
- My Journey With AIDS
- Salted Lithium
- Baby will you love me when i’m bald?
When you're ready to vote just click here!
To see all the other categories feel free to take a trip over here!
Posted by Yoni Freedhoff at 5:19 am
"Small Hands Hold Surprisingly Big Bucks!"and it's an ad encouraging you to spend your advertising dollars on YTV. The ad itself likely comes from the folks at Pester Productions, the in-house kidvertising agency representing YTV, Treehouse and Discovery Kids.
In fact if you slide over to their respective websites you'll learn a bunch of stuff.
Treehouse, in their report entitled, "Targeting Moms", thinks that a mom plus a tiny kid equals a, "4-eyed, 4-legged super-consumer"
They also proudly report that they, "deliver kids with their parents wherever they are".
YTV builds on the "Kidfluence" theme and lets prospective marketers know that,
"96% of parents say they "always" or "sometimes" ask their tween's opinion when deciding on a Fast Food restaurant."They also report on the "long term prize" (emphasis theirs),
87% of parents say they "always" or "sometimes" ask their tween's opinion when purchasing groceries for the household.
Almost 3 in 10 parents say they "always" or "sometimes" ask their tween's opinion when deciding on which car to buy for the family.
20% of parents say they "always" or "sometimes" ask their tween's opinion when deciding which hotel to stay at for the family vacation."
"The long term prize: Loyalty of the kid translates into a brand loyal adult customer"They then break down where tweens get their $2.9 billion in direct spending (crunching the numbers from their allowances, extra money, birthday money, Holiday money, work money and back to school money") but of course emphasize the more than $20 billion kids control through what they call, "Nag Power", "Pester Power", or "Kidfluence".
Discovery Kids markets itself as,
"A 'must-buy' for advertisers trying to reach kids and their parents."They go on to state,
"Discovery Kids not only effectively reaches children six to 12, it allows you to associate your brand with 'parent-approved' television."These sites and messages sure don't give me the warm fuzzies! How about you?
Stay tuned tomorrow to find out the type of products being marketed by YTV and find out how even as far back as 1847 people recognized that advertising to children is simply unethical (I guess YTV didn't get the memo).
[Hat tip and thanks to Dr. Brian Cook from Toronto Public Health who provided me with the YTV poster and also gave a great talk at the recent CSPI conference]
Friday, November 21, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Hoodia, a cactus that grows in the Kalahari desert that was catapulted to fame by 60 minutes in 2004 as a potential weight loss aid and now a fixture on health food and pharmacy store shelves, was dropped yesterday by Unilever.
Unilever, a product manufacturing giant who had already sunk in over $40 million in the development and research of hoodia as a weight loss aid and who were reportedly grooming their Hoodia product to become a flagship $600 million a year brand reported yesterday,
"Data suggests using the extract would not meet our safety and efficacy standards",leading me to firstly marvel that Unilever has safety and efficacy standards for supplements and secondly to wonder whether or not this will have any impact at all on sales of hoodia in health food stores.
This report also proves something very important - the pharmaceutical and manufacturing industries spend a tremendous amount of money researching any potential weight loss supplement leads and were they able to prove that a product were safe and effective, it'd land up in prescription form and they'd literally beat down the doors of doctors' offices to try to convince docs to prescribe it.
Simple statement here - if you're considering a "natural" weight loss supplement, if your doctor doesn't prescribe it to you then it's safe to say it hasn't yet been proven to be both safe and effective.
Translation - if there really were magic, I'd prescribe it.
Oh, and Unilever didn't disclose the data that led it to abandon its $40 million investment but I think it's a good bet to suggest that if you are taking Hoodia, it's probably in your best interest to stop.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Long term readers of my blog may recall a post from June when I detailed an exciting abstract presentation from a team of east coast researchers who concluded that their study of dietary consumption patterns in Nova Scotia youth suggested,
"If strong education and messaging regarding the need to reduce intake levels from energy dense food sources isn’t implemented, the new guide may serve to further increase dietary intake in this population, rendering the new CFG more obesigenic for youth than the previous version."Well a funny thing happened on the way to publication - they dropped their conclusion.
Their study, Overweight Nova Scotia Children and Youth: The Roles of Household Income and Adherence to Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating, published in the July-August edition of the Canadian Journal of Public Health reported the following:
and here's their most important finding:
The VAST majority of both overweight and healthy weight students did not come close to meeting the recommended number of daily servings from the four food groups.
So what did they then go on to suggest?
- That perhaps overweight kids underreport their consumption of "other" foods.
- That perhaps energy balance (ie exercise calories) is more important than they had thought.
- That perhaps overweight kids should drink more "energy dense" milk.
So to summarize - they published a report that states that the prevalence of childhood obesity is far greater than we imagine and that with the exception of milk intake in Grade 11 there's no real difference in dietary patterning between normal weight and overweight/obese kids, and that none of the kids (including the overweight ones) were eating anywhere near the number of servings recommended by Canada's Food Guide and despite their well worded poster prior to publication they failed to mention that perhaps then following Canada's Food Guide carefully (and therefore having all kids including the overweight ones consume a lot more food) may in fact lead to higher rates of obesity in children!
Um, didn't you guys think that point was important enough before to base your entire abstract presentation on it?
So the real question is, did your Food Guide concerns get cut by the journal's reviewers or did you suddenly get cold feet about publically criticizing Canada's nutritional bible?
Monday, November 17, 2008
I don't know how I missed this story.
If you're an obese worker in Alabama who hasn't signed up for a free health screening with a doctor by 2010, you're going to get dinged an additional $25 monthly on your health insurance costs.
If you've seen the doc and you've got weight to lose then unless you make "progress" with your weight, you'll get dinged starting in 2011.
Alabama already dings smokers $25 per month.
While they haven't said what "progress" really means, the plan's horribly flawed.
While it may be fine and dandy to suggest that these workers' weights are health risks, unlike smoking, eating is not a choice, and given that there are no gold-standard commercial weight loss programs out there certainly many motivated, diligent and health conscious obese workers are going to fail in their efforts to make "progress" and then get dinged financially for something known to be incredibly difficult for the majority of self-directed and commercially directed individuals - sustaining a significant weight loss.
Sure, ding the smokers, but until you've got a great place to send your obese workers for help and a means to identify those who for medical or pharmacologic reasons may struggle with losing, get your hands out of their pockets.
[Belated hat tip to loyal blog reader Ruth]
Friday, November 14, 2008
I'm beginning to love the Onion News Network.
Today for Funny Friday is ONN's coverage of a Youtube press conference where Youtube offers $100,000 for a video that's, "somewhat watchable" and enjoyable for people other than those who made the video.
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
So yesterday the news hits that the arteries of our obese children and teens have as much plaque as 45 year olds.
You know what I found more terrifying (maybe horrifying is more accurate)?
Yesterday I also found out that a local elementary school run through the Ottawa Catholic School board offers six year olds not only pizza days but weekly pizza days and get this, they also offer weekly ice-cream sandwich days!
I actually couldn't believe it when I heard it so our fitness director formally called up to ask the school and sure enough, St. Andrew Elementary School in Barrhaven has decided to offer parents the option of buying in to both weekly pizza and ice-cream sandwich days for their elementary school aged children.
Now before you get all self-righteous on me and tell me that parents can always opt not to include their children I think you're missing the point.
Junk food is pushed on our children from everywhere. Television, the internet, movies, video games, food aisles, magazines, newspapers, corporate sponsorships. Why the hell are we allowing it to be pushed on them in our schools?
Shame on you St. Andrew Elementary School, and shame on any school that thinks it's appropriate to peddle nutritional garbage to our children.
If you'd like to write the Ottawa Catholic School Board and St. Andrews Elementary click here and your email will be sent to Catherine Maguire-Urban the school board trustee for Barrhaven/Gloucester-South Nepean, James McCracken the Director of Education and the general inbox for St. Andrew Elementary.
Dear Mr. McCracken,
Yesterday you may have read the news regarding the arteries of our obese children resembling those of 45 year olds. In general I’m certain that you’re well aware that currently there’s an obesity epidemic and that it has been predicted that the current generation of children will be the first in history not to outlive their parents.
Yesterday I was horrified to learn that St. Andrew Elementary offers not only weekly pizza days but also weekly ice cream sandwich days to even its youngest students.
While I recognize that theoretically parents can opt not to join these obscene and incredibly unnecessary programs, really that’s not the point.
One of the major contributors to childhood obesity is the never ending barrage of encouragement children receive from television, magazines, supermarket food aisles, video games, the internet and corporate sponsorship.
Frankly it absolutely sickens me that one (or perhaps more) of your schools feels it’s appropriate to peddle nutritional garbage to their defenseless, elementary aged children.
Yoni Freedhoff, MD CCFP Dip ABBM
Medical Director, Bariatric Medical Institute
575 West Hunt Club, Suite 100
Ottawa ON K2G5W5
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Thanks to loyal Albertan blog reader Kristine for sending in this ad she received in her mail from the do-gooders over at Pizza 73.
Yup - there's a plan. Eat a ridiculously high calorie meal and a whole 50 cents will be donated to breast cancer research.
I suppose you might argue that given that obesity raises your risk of breast cancer and high calorie meals raise your risk of obesity that buying this combo helps to stack your deck?
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Not sure if you've heard of them since they never really hit North American shores.
They were a class of drugs that worked on the endocannabinoid receptors and multiple drugs companies were working on obesity drugs based on blocking CB-1 receptors and in so doing, decrease caloric intake.
The drugs were actually fairly effective, one of them had even been released, but unfortunately there was an unacceptably high incidence of adverse psychiatric affects including suicidal ideation and less than 2 years after their much bally-hoo'ed launch, they've been permanently pulled from the market and the drug companies have all quashed their development.
Could someone please invent a safe and efficacious medication for weight management?
Monday, November 10, 2008
Following in the footsteps of New York City and the State of California, Philadelphia just became the newest member of the menu-board calorie posting club.
Just like NYC and California, Philadelphia's legislation requires that restaurant chains boasting more than 15 locations post calories on menuboards and menus.
Unlike NYC and California however, Philadelphia takes it one step further and has legislated that menus also contain information on trans fat, saturated fat, sodium and carbohydrate contents be printed in menus!
Of course the Philadelphia Restaurant Association's not too pleased.
They issues a statement that suggests that it's going to financially cripple the restaurant industry and make people think twice about opening up a new restaurant or expanding and thereby decrease employment in Philadelphia.
This story led me to revisit an older one - the LEAN act. It was meant to put calories on menus across the country but looking closer at the act I've realized why the food industry is supporting it. It actually doesn't require calories to be posted on menus or menuboards. Instead it suggests menus and menuboards as options but also allows for other means (like the giant, small font, difficult to read poster in some Canadian McDonald's, or trayliners etc.).
Knowing that, I withdraw my support of the LEAN bill and see it for what it is - an attempt by the food industry to weasel out of more stringent laws (like Philadelphia's, NYC and California's) as the way the LEAN act is written, if passed it will pre-empt all local, county and state labeling law legislation.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Thursday, November 06, 2008
The 2012 London Olympic games will be brought to you by - Cadbury.
And probably Coca-Cola, McDonald's and other healthy living giants.
Cadbury's share of the Olympic pie cost them $40 million.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Cadbury's involvement has raised some eyebrows from obesity advocates like Tam Fry of Britain's National Obesity Forum who stated his organization is,
"disappointed that the London games have gone to Cadbury, because sport and chocolate don’t mix"The controversy reminds me of the uproar when Michael Phelps decided to endorse McDonald's.
While I'm all for more regulation and legislation to help in the treatment and prevention of obesity, overweight and sedentary lifestyles, getting your feathers ruffled by who sponsors the Olympics seems like a waste of energy.
The Olympics happen once every few years and last for two weeks.
Real life happens every day and lasts forever.
While I agree it's intellectually off-side to have fast food and chocolate as Olympic sponsors I'd rather see energy spent campaigning for such things as mandatory calorie labeling, better in-school food, better nutritional education, subsidies for fresh produce, banning advertising targeting children etc.
Picking every single battle just makes you look churlish and takes the wind out of your main sails.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Longtime readers of my blog may remember my post regarding my 3 year old school's policy of pizza day.
Once a month the kids get pizza, carrot sticks, pretzels, juice and cookies.
Now as you might imagine, I'm not a particular fan of pizza day for 3 year olds as it really doesn't make much sense to me.
If the argument were made that it's for the kids I'd argue that 3 year olds would never expect a pizza day and therefore not miss it.
If the argument were made that it's for the parents I'd argue that while certainly at times harried, making your kids' lunches is one of the responsibilities of parenthood.
Nutritionally, depending on the type of pizza and other products it would not be difficult for the kids to be getting dramatically more calories and sodium than would be healthy for a single meal (sodium wise depending on the options they might exceed an entire day's recommendation)
My original post detailed my angst in choosing not to write the school.
Well my concern finally got the best of me and I wrote and I'm very pleased to say that the school was quite open to compromise and will be considering the following changes:
1. Asking the pizza place to only put on half the amount of cheese they would normally and to utilize part-skim mozerrella rather than full fat.
2. Making it policy to serve watered down apple juice (remembering that for 3-4 year olds the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a maximum daily juice consumption of half a cup).
3. Losing the pretzels.
4. Keeping the cookies (3 animal crackers per kid - certainly not worth me getting worked up).
The school also asked for help on organizing a talk for parents on what makes up healthy school lunches.
I guess the lesson learned here is that in many cases non-confrontational discussions regarding nutrition and schools may in fact yield fruitful and healthful change, and while I still don't think 3 year olds need pizza day, at least it's become a little healthier at my kids' school.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Yesterday I received an email from a reporter doing a story on Canada's Food Guide and my criticisms therein.
In her email she noted that she had spoken to several independent dietitians regarding the potential for the Food Guide to lead to weight gain if followed (something I've blogged about extensively here and here) and they, as do many dietitians and their parent organization Dietitians of Canada, disputed my claims.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation in their promotion of Health Check, proudly announce that,
"you can trust that your choice meets specific nutrient criteria based on Canada's Food Guide."Schools teach the Food Guide to our children.
Institutional menus (hospitals, cafeterias, nursing homes, daycares etc.) use the Food Guide for guidance.
The food industry uses the Food Guide to promote their products.
Since January alone according to my media scanning site there have been 1,174 references made to Canada's Food Guide made in the Canadian press.
So I've got a hypothetical question for you.
What would happen to all of the folks, institutions and programs listed up above if a large, independent, reputable and well respected third party came out and blasted the Food Guide? Me, I'm easy to slough off (though the evidence is not) as a lone voice...in fact in many cases that's exactly what has occurred as did with the Heart and Stroke Foundation whereupon rather than specifically address my evidence-based concerns they instead commented on me as an individual to the Canadian Medical Association Journal,
"He's not the sole arbiter of healthy eating in the country. He hates Canada's Food Guide. We respect that. We don't necessarily agree with him, but the food guide was established by hundreds of experts."So what do you think would happen if all of a sudden I was no longer a lone voice in the nutritional wilderness?
Stranger things have happened.....
Monday, November 03, 2008
So just how deep in the sand does your head have to be in order for Big Food to come in and generate a far more robust front-of-package labeling program than your non-profit, supposedly for health, organization's?
Why not ask the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check folks?
Rolling out in 2009 is Big Food's Smart Choices Program (example above) the stated aim of which is to,
"help shoppers make more nutritious food and beverage choices, at-a-glance, throughout the supermarket"Companies who are signing on?
Coca-Cola, ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Kellogg Company, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, Unilever, and Wal-Mart (and Nestle's reported as considering it as well).
Nutritional criteria will include limiting:
- Total fat
- Trans fat
- Saturated fat
- Added sugars
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Whole Grains
- Fat Free/Low Fat Dairy
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
Looking closer at the Smart Choices' criteria and then comparing them with the newly updated Health Check's (posted just over a month ago and not slated to be implemented until 2010) you can quickly see that aside from the fact that even Big Food recognizes there are more than 3 nutritional determinants of health, amazingly the Smart Choices Program is far stricter than the Heart and Stroke Foundation's on Health Check's 3 primary nutrient categories:
What this means of course is that once the Smart Choices Program rolls out, misinformed Canadian consumers who continue to choose Health Check options over Smart Choice Program ones thinking they're,
"shopping with the Heart and Stroke Foundation's dietitians"will at times consume orders of magnitude more salt, sugar and fat.
To give you some perspective on all of this, a comparable analogy would be Exxon coming up with a stricter set of environmental regulations than Greenpeace!
This of course brings me back to the notion that if this is the best that the Heart and Stroke Foundation's dietitians and Health Check's Technical Advisory Committee have to offer, perhaps it's time to hire some new blood (and frankly, fire some or all of the old).
Click here to send the Health Check's Technical Advisory Committee an email and included on the email will be Sally Brown (CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation), Stephen Samis (Scientific Director of the Heart and Stroke Foundation), and Terry Dean (General Manager of Health Check).
[Disclaimer: The Smart Choices Program, while certainly superior to Health Check, is still overly minimalist and lax in its inclusionary and exclusionary nutritional criteria so please don't consider this post to be an endorsement.]