Friday, July 31, 2009

What ever did we do before Youtube?

Certainly without it I imagine the vast majority of the planet wouldn't have seen this clip from a 1977 Japanese movie entitled Hausu.

It's pretty tough to explain the clip. It appears to be from a horror movie.

Let's just say that today for Funny Friday Plan 9 from Outer Space has some serious competition for the worst movie ever awards.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ottawa Citizen Nutrition Watch Week 11 - Patience

Yeah, yeah, it's a virtue.

The update from my sources strongly suggest that published nutritional analyses for Citizen recipes will be a done deal - just not for a while longer.

Apparently the Citizen is going through some sort of transition or something and that has put this project on the back, back, back burner.

Will get more uppity about things in the early Fall.

For now, I'll just keep on calculating:

Raspberry Shortcake
(per serving): 427 calories, 16g saturated fat, 433mg sodium, 43g total carbs.

Raspberry Cobbler

(per serving): 272 calories, 6g saturated fat, 416mg sodium, 42g total carbs.

Raspberry Sorbet

(per cup): 339 calories, 0g saturated fat, 40mg sodium, 90g total carbs.

Cajun Grilled Beef Flank Steak (Chimichurri to follow)
(per 1.5lbs of flank steak): 1369 calories, 32g saturated fat, 614mg sodium, 10g total carbs.

(per recipe): 1007 calories, 15g saturated fat, 195mg sodium, 11g total carbs.

Tuna Bruschetta

(per serving): 263 calories, 4g saturated fat, 330mg sodium, 29g total carbs.

[All recipes calculated using Mastercook 9.0. Today it took roughly 2 minutes per recipe]

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The EU teaches the world what to do about health claims.

In a word?


I'm loving the coverage of the European Union's decision to actually ensure that health claims made on the front of packages meet rigorous scientific criteria.

The excellent, but understandably biased industry newsletters Food Navigator and Nutraingredients have been following the issue carefully and recently wrote of how the industry is watching with bated breath to see if the rest of the world picks up on what the EU's figured out - most health claims are overblown to the point of being dangerous.

You see the Times UK published a lengthy piece on the EU's new stricter approach to health claims and they framed it in terms of an expose of claims calling them out for what too many of them really are - exercises in overblown, pseudo-scientific hyperbole.

Nutraingredients when commenting on the Times piece had this to say,

"Industry will be hoping they don’t spread beyond the shores of Britain as they have massive potential to dent consumer confidence in healthy foods and healthy food messaging"
Nutraingredients felt the news piece was a one-sided report and the comments below their piece from some titans of the food industry seemed to agree. They suggest that the regulation was put in place to,
"stamp out unjustified health claims by the rogue elements of the industry"
I guess he was referring to "rogue" folks like the Beneo Orafti Corporation that has offices in Europe, Asia, North America and South America with distribution in 63 countries whose claim that one of their ingredients was "bone stiffening" was rejected by the new regulation, or Ocean Spray whose rejected claim was for cranberry juice protecting women against urinary tract infections, or Unilever whose claim that drinking their black tea would make you more alert. Those crazy multi-national multi-billion dollar rogue companies are messing things up for everyone!

Perhaps my favourite piece from Nutraingredients came last Thursday when a podcast was included detailing how the 2006 EU nutrition and health claims regulation is "putting the brakes on the commissiong of trials to back health claims". It's my favourite piece because of this quote from Cédric Bourges-Sevenier, PhD, general manager at French science and regulatory Big Food consultancy, Nutraveris,
"Everybody is thinking about their generic list with probably many ingredients which won't pass the test and now they're facing what they should do and the strategic advice is not easy and the good solution would be to make clinical trials to ask for a new health claim but it's a lot of money, it's not easy to design the right study and I believe industry will now be disappointed about what they should do or not and I believe that if there are too many bad opinions whether the file is good or not they will very certainly go back and maybe doing nothing"
Yes, how dare those Draconian EU health police actually suggest that before launching a supplement with a fantastical claim a company actually will have to prove the claim's truthful. According to Dr. Bourges-Sevenier for industry it apparently will be too difficult and too expensive to design such studies and therefore industry will most likely "do nothing".

Yup Dr. Bourges-Sevenier, Unilever's literally 18 billion Euros of profit couldn't possibly help them design or pay for a study to prove their various health claims. Gosh for that you'd probably need the world's largest brain trust and at least, at least, 50 trillion Euros.

Oh, and in case you're wondering what happens if we don't care (like the States for instance) - this:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Breaking News: Dietitians of Canada Support Calories on Menus

This just out. A Dietitians of Canada (DC) press release that provides their explicit support for posting of calories on menus in restaurants!

Regular readers will remember a few weeks back when I posted my concern that DC was actually going to come out against mandatory restaurants menu labeling. They had sent out a loaded questionnaire that reported they had their own concerns and then a spokesperson came out and suggested that putting calories on menus might cause Canadians who were reading them to misinterpret them as some sort of taste-o-meter reading and aim for more of them.

All I can say is kudos to DC for finding the right path on this issue and thank you to all of my dietitian and non-dietitian readers who wrote DC with their concerns.

[Hat tip to dietitian, author and columnist Rosie Schwartz and her Twittering (@rosieschwartz) of the press release]

Are all food labels' calorie counts wrong?

I lost track of how many readers and friends sent me links to this article in the New Scientist. The article details how our caloric calculations are flawed due to the fact that they don't take into account the ease with which macronutrients are processed by our guts.

The article posits that due to errors in calculations those food labels have an accuracy of plus or minus 25%. Indeed, were you always to be on the minus side (and hence eating 25% more calories than you thought) your weight might end up on the plus side.

At least that's what they posit near the beginning of the piece.

I'd suggest you read the whole thing before becoming too alarmed you're inadvertently overeating.

You see if you read the whole thing you'll discover that in fact the only errors are in the other direction meaning that with some foods the cost of digestion actually burns off more calories than others but in a fact that wouldn't be surprising to folks who believe in the laws of thermodynamics, in no cases does the food gain energy.

So don't fret. If you're trying to stay calorie aware and reading food labels your worst case scenario is that the label's right. Best case? It's overestimating the food's actual caloric impact.

Monday, July 27, 2009

We get mail (Canada's Health Minister responds)!

So one month ago I emailed Canada's Minister of Health and pointed out what I see to be the incredible hypocrisy behind Health Canada's recent decisions to ban bisphenol-A and phthalates, compounds which pose at this point primarily theoretical risks to Canadians, while simultaneously twiddling their thumbs asking the food industry to please, pretty please, stop putting trans-fats in foods, a compound the head of Health Canada's own trans-fat task force deemed, "unsafe in any amount".

Last week I finally received a response.

You be the judge, click the picture above and read the letter for yourself.


I'm not clear on why it is we still need to wait. I mean this is the same Health Canada that banned bisphenol-A with a press release extolling that they did so because,

"we believe it is our responsibility to ensure families, Canadians and our environment are not exposed to a potentially harmful chemical"
yet here with clear and present trans-fat danger they want us to keep waiting? Frankly I would have thought that even if voluntary measures were successful at a marked reduction of trans-fat in the Canadian marketplace that banning a toxic food additive would still be something Health Canada would feel compelled to do - and do in a hurry.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ottawa Citizen Nutrition Watch - Saturday Edition

Here are the nutritional breakdowns for today's recipes:

A Proper Tomato Salad:

(per serving assuming 2 tablespoons olive oil): 533 calories, 2g saturated fat, 181mg sodium, 110g total carbs.

Hot Smoked Flaked Salmon:
(per serving): 432 calories, 2g saturated fat, 1,263mg sodium, 45g total carbs

General Blackie's Crunchy Chicken
[I have to split this recipe up into sauce and chicken]
(per serving of just the chicken, no sauce and assuming the 2lbs of chicken absorbed 6 tablespoons of oil): 696 calories, 4g saturated fat, 155mg sodium, 53g total carbs.
(per tablespoon of sauce): 53 calories, 0g saturated fat, 459mg sodium, 12g total carbs.

[All recipes calculated using Mastercook 9.0. Today it took roughly 4 minutes per recipe]

Friday, July 24, 2009

Maybe we should reconsider the right to vote

Scary, scary, scary.

For today's Funny Friday I bring you your fellow voters!

Have a great weekend!

[Hat tip to my dad]

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ottawa Citizen Nutrition Watch Week 10 - And?

Still nothing out of the Citizen and at this point my cautious optimism is starting to wane. If indeed they were test driving a nutritional analysis program then certainly by now they ought to have an impression as to the doability of the initiative for them and given that here I am calculating calories again, I wonder if they've deemed it not doable.

(for a recap - click over here to understand what this is all about)

Certainly from a public health perspective the support for the initiative is there. To date we've heard from the Director of Partnerships at the Canadian Stroke Network, the Canadian Institute of Health Research Chair in Hypertension Prevention and Control, a prominent Canadian dietitian and the Communications Director of Quebec's federation of Kinesiologists who have all weighed in on the value and benefits of the publication of nutritional information with Citizen recipes.

Who's up this week? This week is CHEO's own Dr. Mark Tremblay.

Mark currently leads CHEO's Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group and his biography is impressive to say the least as he's certainly an internationally acclaimed expert in healthy active living and child obesity research, was the Senior Scientific Advisor on Health Measurement at Statistics Canada between 2003-2008, is an Adjunct Professor at the Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy at the University of New Brunswick, Chair of Active Healthy Kids Canada, former Dean of Kinesiology and Professor of Pediatric Exercise Science at the University of Saskatchewan and Executive member of the Board of ParticipACTION.

Mark was kind enough to cc me on his letter to the Citizen,
Gerry Nott
The Ottawa Citizen
1101 Baxter RoadBox 5020Ottawa, Ont.K2C 3M4

July 16th, 2009

Dear Mr. Nott,

It has recently come to our attention that The Ottawa Citizen is considering providing nutritional information for the recipes it publishes. We are pleased to hear this and feel that it would be a positive addition given the important role that nutrition plays in achieving and maintaining a healthy active lifestyle. We feel that this decision would help readers make healthy, informed decisions about the foods they and their families choose to eat, and could benefit their long-term health. For these reasons, we support the full disclosure of nutritional information for recipes published in The Ottawa Citizen and we commend you for demonstrating leadership in your industry in this regard.

Mark Tremblay, Ph.D., Director, on behalf of the
Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group
Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute

If you haven't yet written the Citizen to politely encourage them on this initiative and thank them for their attention, please take a few moments today to do so. Please send kind words of encouragement to Editor-in-Chief Gerry Nott, Food Editor Ron Eade and Wendy Warburton by clicking here.

Here are today's recipes' nutritional breakdowns (Theme of the day? Salt!):

Vietnamese Pho for Phriends
(per serving if serving 6 with NO added salt): 549 calories, 2gr saturated fat, 6,018mg sodium, 86g total carbs (Perhaps you can serve this to phriends, but I'd avoid serving it to friends)

Paella for Paddling
(per serving if serving 6): 484 calories, 4g saturated fat, 2,821mg sodium, 73g total carbs.

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Salad
(per serving): 492 calories, 4g saturated fat, 767mg sodium, 31g total carbs.

[All recipes calculated using Mastercook 9.0. Today it took roughly 4 minutes per recipe]

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

King Corn - a belated review

I watched the movie King Corn the other day.

It's a documentary on the corn industry in the States. The film follows two recent college graduates who decide to grow an acre of corn and then follow it through the food supply.

The movie's a fascinating look at a crop that's heavily subsidized and one that's responsible for one of the most celebrated nutritional boogey-men of the day - high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

The movie's both entertaining and informative and I highly recommend it.

Some interesting facts I gleaned from the movie?

  • You can grow 10,000lbs of corn on a single acre of farmland.
  • Each strand of corn silk is actually attached to an individual kernel.
  • The State of Iowa produces enough corn to supply the entire United States (2 trillion pounds of corn).
  • Most of the corn grown isn't edible (taste wise) without processing.
  • While overall consumption of sugar in the US is down over the past 30 years by 30% more sweeteners are being consumed due to HFCS.
  • Consuming one sugared soda per day doubles the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Food's cheap - at the turn of the century we spent half of our income on food, today it's closer to 15%.

  • I also especially like this quote:
    "We subsidize the Happy meals, not the healthy ones"

    Tuesday, July 21, 2009

    PETA: Eating animals - OUT! Objectifying women - IN!

    My sister received this invitation from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) last week. It invited her to a veggie dog lunch hosted by two Playboy "playmates" clad in lettuce bikinis.

    Sadly PETA has a long tradition of objectifying women to promote their message and I feel that PETA's campaigns do more to contribute to body image issues among women and normalizing their objectification for the population and other advertisers, than actually promoting such things as vegetarianism.

    I think the message PETA's trying to convey is that vegetarianism is sexy, and if you feel that nearly nude playmates and porn stars epitomize both sex and health then maybe they are doing a good job. Judge for yourselves. Head over to their youtube channel and you can watch plenty of videos with scantily clad young women in their "sexy celebrity videos" section which also include endorsements from porn stars and another with women in bikinis making out. Interestingly, of the 25 "sexy celebrity videos" only three involved men and of those, only one was scantily clad (Dennis Rodman).

    PETA, I'm not buying it and frankly I can't imagine that the best way to promote the ethical treatment of animals is to objectify women.

    I decided to write to Ashley Byrne from PETA to hear what they had to say for themselves.

    Perhaps not surprisingly I have yet to hear back from her.

    Here's my letter and right below it is a video from the event my sister was invited to. Watch the video and let me know if you think that those women in lettuce bikinis did anything for the promotion of PETA's cause.

    Dear Ashley,

    My name is Yoni Freedhoff and I’m a physician in Canada with a special interest in nutrition and obesity. I’m also a blogger and currently I’m writing a piece about your recent event held at the Rayburn House Office Building and the advertisement featuring a lettuce clad Playboy Playmate and of course a meet and greet with Playboy’s Playmate of the Year.

    My concern of course is how events and advertisements like these serve to objectify women and in turn contribute to disordered body image in the population. Did you know that studies in the United States have shown that almost half of girls aged 6-8 want to be thinner (1), that stigmatization based on weight and looks can begin as early as the age of 3 (2) and that body image distress is one of the strongest predictors of developing an eating disorder (3)?

    Frankly I find PETA’s use of objectified women in their campaigns to be surprising given your mandate and I’m wondering if you might have a comment regarding why the ethical treatment of women is seemingly not of consequence to you?


    Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, MD CCFP Dip ABBM
    Medical Director, Bariatric Medical Institute
    575 West Hunt Club, Suite 100
    Ottawa ON K2G5W5

    1. Dohnt, H., Tiggerman M. (2006) Body image concerns in young girls: The role of peers and media prior to adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 35(2):141-151
    2. Cramer, P., Steinwert, T. (1998) Thin is good, fat is bad: How early does it begin? J App Dev Psychol. 19: 429–451
    3. Striegel-Moore RH., Bulik CM. (2007) Risk Factors for Eating Disorders. Am Psychol. Apr;62(3):181-98.

    Monday, July 20, 2009

    My top 3 "hidden" causes of weight

    Over the years I've seen literally thousands of patients. While certainly many come to my office with a clear understanding of where their weight's come from, a significant percentage come in and truly can't understand why they're having difficulty losing weight or why they gained weight in the first place.

    Indeed there are a myriad of sources of struggle, but here are my top 3 (in order):

    1. Meal skipping

    These folks often come in and tell me they barely eat. Looking at their weight and lifestyle inventory (WALI) these are the folks that skip breakfast, generally avoid daytime snacks, have soups or salads for lunch and then eat a large dinner and often struggle with cravings and impulse control in the evening. I can understand why they feel they barely eat as the vast majority of the day, they're not eating at all. Of course by the time they do eat, they're hungry. And of course when we're hungry our bodies crave calories. So what happens? While it's true they might only eating one substantial meal per day, during that one meal, due to the influence of hunger, they're eating more calories than their bodies burn the whole day and hence, gaining - not losing.

    Simple try at home solution: To lose weight you can't be hungry. Eat every 2-3 hours and include protein with all meals and snacks.

    2. Eating out

    These folks often come in and tell me they only eat healthy. Looking at their WALI you'll see them eating out anywhere from 4-10 times per week. When I point out their frequent meals out these folks will often tell me that they're great at choosing healthy options at restaurants. Unfortunately for them, even healthy options at restaurants can contain ridiculous numbers of calories.

    Simple try at home solution: Here's an easy way to think about meals out. Assume that every meal out you eat will result in a day you don't lose. If you eat out 4-5x per week and then add in a few days of normal life stress struggle you might well not lose a pound. Eat out more than that and you're likely to gain. It's important to point out that while I think zero is certainly too few meals out in the context of a realistic and enjoyable lifestyle, to lose weight you'll have to lose the convenience meals out and keep only the truly celebratory ones and occasional social ones.

    3. Liquid calories

    These folks are often the most confused by their weight. They may be eating regular meals and snacks, eating in and watching their portions. Looking at their WALI you might see them having 2 glasses of milk, one glass of juice and one glass of wine a day. Put together that's roughly 40lbs of liquid, non-filling calories per year.

    Simple try at home solution: Don't drink your calories. If you're drinking any beverage for health reasons (milk for calcium, juice for vitamins, wine for heart health, V8 for vegetables, etc.), stop. If you're looking for calcium - take supplements. If you're looking for vitamins - take a multi. If you're looking for heart health - take a 10 minute walk a day and if you're looking for vegetables - eat them. At roughly 10lbs per glass per beverage/day per year none of these so called health benefits are worth their weight.

    Friday, July 17, 2009

    A trip to the "nutritionist"

    Did you know that if you live anywhere in Canada other than Quebec (thanks to Fon10 who noted that in Quebec "nutritionist" is indeed a protected term) you're a nutritionist?

    That's because the term isn't protected by any type of regulatory body. If you want to put "Nutritionist" on your business card, go right ahead.

    While I'm sure some "Nutritionists" are exceedingly good at what they do, knowledgeable, helpful and evidence based, unfortunately I'm sure that some are well represented by this week's Funny Friday video.

    Oh, and don't think I'm being too smug here. There are crappy, quack doctors out there too which reminds me of one of my favourite jokes

    Do you know what they call the person who graduates last in their class in medical school?

    Have a great weekend!

    [Hat tip to my friend and colleague Dr. Sara Kirk]

    Thursday, July 16, 2009

    Ottawa Citizen Nutrition Watch Week 9 - Not yet.

    I'm not sure what the hold up is but it looks like I'm still at bat for nutrition at the Citizen.

    My impression had been that a nutritional analysis program was being test driven last week and hence I figured that this week I wouldn't be spending my early morning calculating calories for Citizen recipes. Unfortunately when I opened up today's paper, nutritional analyses were no where to be found.

    (for a recap - click over here to understand what this is all about)

    Before I get to this week's fare, I'd like to introduce you to Dr. Paul Boivert. Paul's a friend and colleague from Quebec where he's also the communications director of Quebec's federation of Kinesiologists. Paul practices what he preaches having a penchant for good nutrition and engaging in seemingly insane amounts of swimming (generally 4km or more a day, 5 days a week). Here's what Paul had to say to the Citizen,

    "Dear Ottawa Citizen Editors,

    I congratulate you for publishing interesting healthy recipes in your newspaper.

    Many fast food chains make available the Nutrition facts of their foods on the paper place mats and grocery stores sales food with Nutrition facts of the packaging. These information are important for most consumers for better evaluate the nutritional value of foods.

    It is the same thing with recipes. It helps to better evaluate the portions to be served for a family and the value of a meal related to salt, fat and calories content, which matter enormously in a weight management program and health concerns like hypertension and prevention of heart diseases.

    These information would be a great value if added at the end of your recipes. Unfortunately, these information are missing in your recipes as published recently.

    I encourage you, then, to do so for the benefits of your invaluable readers.

    Thanks for your support and the consideration of my request,

    Paul Boisvert, Ph.D., PEC-SCPE, kinésiologue
    Directeur des communications
    Fédération des kinésiologues du Québec"
    If you haven't yet written the Citizen to politely encourage them on this initiative and thank them for their attention, please take a few moments today to do so. Please send kind words of encouragement to Editor-in-Chief Gerry Nott, Food Editor Ron Eade and Wendy Warburton by clicking here.

    Here are today's recipes' nutritional breakdowns:

    Lamb rack with chimichurri sauce

    (per serving if serving 2): 1,429 calories, 49g saturated fat, 691mg sodium, 6g total carbs

    Seared duck breast with heirloom tomato, herbs, corn and focaccia salad
    (per serving): 424 calories, 3g saturated fat, 95mg sodium, 51g total carbs

    Cashew-encrusted halibut with citrus aioli
    (per serving): 971 calories, 10g saturated fat, 172mg sodium, 49g total carbs

    Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest asian coleslaw
    (per serving if serving 4): 115 calories, 1g saturated fat, 52mg sodium, 8g total carbs

    Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest couscous salad
    (per serving): 468 calories, 4g saturated fat, 44mg sodium, 51g total carbs

    Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest roasted beet salad
    (per serving if serving 4): 204 calories, 2g saturated fat, 142mg sodium, 16g total carbs

    [All recipes calculated using Mastercook 9.0. Today it took roughly 2 minutes per recipe]

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    Are Canadian restaurants allowed to make health claims?

    Somehow I doubt it, but I'm not sure.

    Regardless of whether it's legal or not, check out Thai Express' new promotion,

    "Feed your Brain

    Beef Stir Fry with Eggplant and Vegetables on Rice with a 16oz beverage

    Nasunin found in the eggplant skin is a potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger that has been shown to protect cellmemBRANES from damage
    Yup, what could be better for you than fried red meat over white rice with a sugared soda chaser?

    I wish there were something we could put in the drinking water that would protect the general public from consuming junk food in response to ridiculous over-simplifications and extrapolations of basic science research.

    [Hat tip to loyal blog reader Émilie]

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    Life after the Biggest Loser

    I'm not a big fan of the Biggest Loser.

    For those of you who aren't familiar with it the Biggest Loser is a "reality" television show that features extremely overweight folks living on a ranch for 6 months and undereating and overexercising in order to lose weight and potentially win $500,000.

    Not exactly the reality that most of my patients face.

    In terms of the show's participants life post-show is a mixed bag. Some will parlay their weight loss into new lifestyles and in some cases, new careers.

    Unfortunately others won't fare as well.

    Now while it's certainly true that there is recidivism with all weight loss programs my beef is not that contestants regain weight, it's what they're taught. Watching the Biggest Loser I can't help but feel that the message it ultimately teaches is that all weight is bad and the scale is the only determinant of how you're doing.


    I think scales tell you what you weigh whereas you tell yourself how you're doing, where how you're doing depends on what you're actually doing. Are you eating in a manner that is both healthy and enjoyable? Are you exercising as much as you can happily include into your busy life?

    I came across this article and video online detailing the struggles of a former runner up on the Biggest Loser - Kai. It's well worth the read. Here's a snippet,

    "The philosophy of the show -- to radically change diets and exercise patterns of obese people -- seemed to have a hidden message about her character, Zwierstra said. It seemed to say that weakness made people fat. If they just had discipline, if they weren't lazy, they could be thin."
    There was a video too - I've included it below. Sadly it's a lot more real than the Biggest Loser will ever be.

    Monday, July 13, 2009

    344 Pounds - a guy on a journey

    I like this guy.

    I don't agree with everything he's said and done, but really, who cares if I agree with everything or not.

    His name is Tyler and in January he decided that he was going to lose some weight. At the time he weighed 344 pounds and he's set himself a goal of losing 150 of those. He's also set himself up with a blog.

    What I love about Tyler's blog is his use of social media to help get him where he's aiming to go. He's using it to keep track of his progress, he's using it to document his journey to one day show his young family who he was during this time period, and he's using it for motivation because for him putting everything out there inspires him.

    He tracks his daily calories there (I'd be encouraging him to add in more snacks and better sports nutrition as well as upping his calories a fair bit), he chronicles his own experiences with what works for him in changing his foodscape and fitnesscape, he details his workouts, graphs his weight change, and he even invites commenters on board to help increase the duration of his workout (links and comments add time).

    Tyler's found a way to go that he's enjoying and he's certainly losing weight.

    Tyler, if you're reading this my main piece of advice for you, whatever you're doing to lose weight, you've got to be prepared to do it forever if you want the weight to stay off.

    Best of luck Tyler.

    Friday, July 10, 2009

    WHO declares latest Evian ad a pandemic!

    This ad's certainly gone viral in a hurry!

    Today's Funny Friday is Evian's newest campaign.

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday, July 09, 2009

    Ottawa Citizen Nutrition Watch Week 8 - Hope!

    And now I can report cautious optimism.

    While I can't report on the specifics I can say things are moving forward at the Citizen - this despite CanWest's financial difficulties and staff squeezing and consequently a real testament to the Citizen's dedication to their readers.

    (for a recap - click over here to understand what this is all about)

    My hope is that this will be one of the last times I'll have to post the Citizen's nutritional information for them!

    If you haven't yet written the Citizen to politely encourage them on this initiative and thank them for their attention, please take a few moments today to do so. Please send kind words of encouragement to Editor-in-Chief Gerry Nott, Food Editor Ron Eade and Wendy Warburton by clicking here.

    So this week, no additional pressure, no additional letters, just today's recipes' nutritional breakdowns:

    Chickpea Curry

    (per serving if serving 4): 285 calories, 2g saturated fat, 985mg sodium, 38g total carbs.

    Avocado Salad

    (per serving): 232 calories, 3g saturated fat, 11mg sodium, 10g total carbs

    Cedar-Planked Salmon with Watercress Sauce

    (per serving if serving 4): 292 calories, 1g saturated fat, 141mg sodium, 13g total carbs.

    [All recipes calculated using Mastercook 9.0. Today it took roughly 2 minutes per recipe]

    Wednesday, July 08, 2009

    Has your chicken been "plumped"

    Apparently chicken plumping sells $2,000,000,000 of salt water per year in the USA.

    What's plumping?

    Plumping involves injecting "fresh" chicken with water, salt and sometimes seaweed extract to make the chicken look juicier yet still retain the label, "all natural". Plumping can also raise the amount of sodium per serving of chicken to almost as much as you'd find in a serving of french fries.

    How do you defend yourself against being plumped?

    Simple. Read the ingredients. If they include water, salt and/or carrageenan you're buying salt water along with your chicken at $4.99 or so a pound.

    [Via the WSJ]

    Tuesday, July 07, 2009

    Fortified ice cream - an osteoporotic miracle?


    From the labs at Unilever comes a study that calcium absorption following the consumption of calcium fortified ice-cream was comparable to absorption following the consumption of milk.


    I suppose that given obesity's ability to increase bone density, by creating calcium fortified ice-cream we might finally have the "natural" cure for osteoporosis.

    Some great quotes from the researchers in Food Navigator,

    "Concerns over the unhealthy image of ice cream appear unfounded however, with the ice cream being “formulated responsibly in terms of nutritional profile”, wrote van der Hee and her co-workers. Indeed, the energy value for both did not exceed 115 kcal"
    So no worries - because no one ever eats more than one serving of ice-cream, right?

    van der Hee, R., Miret, S., Slettenaar, M., Duchateau, G., Rietveld, A., Wilkinson, J., Quail, P., Berry, M., Dainty, J., & Teucher, B. (2009). Calcium Absorption from Fortified Ice Cream Formulations Compared with Calcium Absorption from Milk Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109 (5), 830-835 DOI: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.02.017

    Monday, July 06, 2009

    Supermarket salads - less healthy than Big Macs?

    I've had many patients tell me reassuringly,

    "don't worry about my lunches out, I usually go to the supermarket and just buy a salad"
    Um, about that salad....

    You see a newspaper in England decided to put some of those supermarket salads to the test. They bought a bunch and had them sent to nutritional labs for analysis.

    The results (click the photo up top to see them enlarged)?

    More calories and more sodium than Big Macs with comparable amounts of saturated fat (though greater amounts of healthy unsaturated fats).

    Bottom line?

    As always, calories and nutrition are not intuitive. The only way to truly know what you're having is to make it yourself.

    Friday, July 03, 2009

    Food still junk at Ottawa Hospitals

    Today's one of those rare days when something comes up that knocks Funny Friday to the backseat.

    Early morning readers of the Citizen may already know this (click here to read the article in the Citizen) but we've revisited Ottawa hospital cafeterias 14 months after we first showed up with my trusty little video camera to see what if anything has changed.

    If you recall (and if you don't just click here) 14 months ago I visited Ottawa's hospital cafeterias and I was appalled by the lack of healthy hospital food and so too was the Citizen and later the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

    In anycase, a few weeks ago I was speaking with Don Butler from the Citizen and invited him to join me on another cafeteria tour. This past Tuesday we visited cafeterias at CHEO, the Heart Institute, the Civic and the General and sadly, nothing has changed.

    I've written a letter to the CEOs of the hospitals (which I'll post below) asking if they would be willing to personally commit to improving the nutrition in their hospitals and I've extended a standing invitation to Don Butler to join me annually to revisit Ottawa's hospital fare to see how things are going.

    Bottom line - hospital cafeterias shouldn't simply be no-name junk food restaurants. If anything hospital cafeterias should serve as examples of healthy eating and extend their role as leaders in the provision of health care to their dietary offerings.

    [BTW - below the letter are a few videos we shot while walking around and you can hear Don and I discussing some of the available cafeteria fare]

    Dear Drs. Kitts, Roberts and Bilodeau,

    My name is Yoni Freedhoff and I'm a physician located in Ottawa with special interests in nutrition and in public health advocacy. A little over a year ago I spent some time touring the cafeterias of Ottawa’s various hospitals and was appalled by what I found. Rather than catering to good health and chronic disease prevention by offering nutritious foods I found that Ottawa's hospital cafeterias functioned more as no-name junk food providers and served foods that we as health professionals strongly advise our patients to avoid. Menus generally consisted of a slew of deep-fried fare, trans-fat containing soups, over-sized sandwiches, greasy pizza, walls of chips and soda pop, ice-cream bins, and giant muffins. I published my findings on my blog Weighty Matters and the Ottawa Citizen quickly picked up on the story and wrote a front page piece detailing the situation and followed it up with an editorial that rightly called for the hospitals to clean house in their cafeterias. The CMAJ then got in the mix and invited me to pen an editorial on the matter wherein we called on hospitals to put an end to this deep-fried hypocrisy.

    So has there been change? On Tuesday of this week the Citizen's Don Butler and I visited the cafeterias of your hospitals to see what, if anything, had changed. I was disheartened by what we found.

    In Mr. Butler's original article an Ottawa Hospital physician reported to him that detailed nutritional information would soon be posted to help patients and staff make more informed and hopefully healthier choices. 14 months later no such posting was visible. 14 month ago Mr. Butler was told that there was already program in place that steered people to healthy choices - "Healthwise". Apparently these reportedly healthy and wise choices are meant to identify meals containing fewer than 500 calories and 800mg of sodium and according to the Heart Institute's VP of communications, "if you see the symbol, you'll know you're eating the right stuff.". The "right stuff"? Since when are meals containing 800mg of sodium, "the right stuff" at a Heart Institute or anywhere else for that matter? Frankly I also doubt the validity of the Healthwise claims regarding calories as one of the "Healthwise" choices 14 months later was fish and chips whereby there's simply no way the calories of deep fried fish and chips come up shy of 500; and regarding sodium every soup on the menu received a "Healthwise" award, yet at the Greenery (the Civic cafeteria) where the only available nutritional information is for soup, only 3 of the 43 listed soups contain less than 800mg of sodium per serving with the average being 957mg.

    And about those soups. Did you know that of the Civic and General's 43 listed soups almost 50% of them contain trans-fat (with some having as much as 3g) and almost 50% have more than 1,000mg of sodium per serving?

    How is the provision of lowest common denominator nutrition good medicine?

    The arguments against reforming hospital cafeterias are both predictable and hollow and usually go as follows:

    1. Selling healthy food won't be profitable.

    Firstly since when did the hospital as profit centre become the hospital's mission? I thought that hospitals were public institutions geared to provide patients with excellence in health care. Given the incredibly important role of nutrition as a determinant of health and the incredibly important role of the hospital as role model and community leader, serving junk food does not fit either bill. But putting idealism aside, since when does serving healthy foods preclude profit? The Compass Group, the world's largest institutional provider of retail food service delivery, in 2007 attributed part of its rising profits on it's increased focus on healthy foods, and Capital Health in Alberta has in fact demonstrated that not only is serving healthy fare in a hospital feasible but that it's dramatically more successful than their traditional cafeterias. Their Healthy Trendz concept implemented in 19 different hospital based cafeteria and snack bar venues resulted in an overall 67% growth in revenue totalling $12.1 million and a 33% increase in the number of transactions.

    2. We're not the food police, (or grown adults should be allowed to choose for themselves).

    No we aren't the food police and grown ups are responsible for their own choices. While frankly I am not averse to hospitals selling exclusively healthy foods, to request that hospitals provide healthy, reasonably priced, flavourful options alongside less healthy fare surely does not constitute policing. Regarding choice - absolutely adults are free to make their own choices, however it is surely the hospital's duty to allow patients to make informed decisions as to their care. Given the role of good nutrition in health care, I would argue it is the hospital's responsibility to ensure patients make informed choices therein by at the very least posting nutritional information for each and every item sold. This is not in and of itself a difficult endeavour and certainly menu board calorie posting is slowly becoming law across the globe; was called for by the OMA on April 7th in a press conference; and is currently being debated in the Ontario legislature in the form of Bill 156. Given that Dana Hospitality, the food service provider for the Heart Institute (and perhaps the other hospitals as well), reports directly on their website that, "We provide Nutrient and Ingredient Content Information About the Food We Serve", I can't understand what might be stopping our hospitals from sharing that information with their staff and patients.

    3. Healthy food doesn't taste good (or we already sell salads).

    Believe it or not this was an argument put forth by an Ottawa Hospital spokesman when Mr. Butler wrote his article last year. I'm saddened to have to include a discussion of this argument here given how nonsensical it is, but nonetheless it will likely come up again. While it may be true that the creation of healthy, flavourful foods that will sell in a cafeteria takes a modicum more creativity than deep frying a potato, that certainly doesn't mean it isn't a doable endeavour. And yes, the hospitals do sell salads. Of course there is far more to healthy eating than simply salads and certainly there needs to be healthy, non-salad bar based options available for main dishes and snacks as well. And about those salads - while the hospitals do indeed sell them, their cost is astronomical. At $1.25 per 100grams the average cost of a plated salad the day we were observing seemed to fall in the $7-8 range - far more expensive then the less healthy, fried, value-meal styled servings at the hospitals various fry counters and sandwich bars and certainly not a price conducive to encouraging their purchase or consumption.

    Hospitals should not be in the business of making business for themselves by serving foods known to be contributors to the development of a myriad of chronic diseases, especially not in the absence of healthy choices and readily available nutritional information. Frankly I think it's downright shameful that the very institutions built to protect our health feel comfortable serving junk food not only to their patients but also to the thousands of hardworking and dedicated allied health professionals who have committed their lives to protecting and promoting health, and then when challenged seem to myopically talk of profits rather than focusing on opportunity - the opportunity to become community leaders in what healthy cafeterias can constitute.

    Drs. Kitts, Roberts, and Bilodeau, I'd like to ask each of you, are you willing to personally commit to making nutrition a priority in your hospitals?

    Sincerely,Yoni Freedhoff, MD
    Medical Director, Bariatric Medical Institute

    Ottawa Civic Hospital

    Ottawa General Hospital

    Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario

    Thursday, July 02, 2009

    Ottawa Citizen Nutrition Watch Week 7 - Bated Breath

    So now we wait.

    The Citizen folks have copies of the nutritional program I use to analyze their recipes, have seen how quick and easy it is to utilize and have heard why providing its readers with nutritional information would be beneficial to them.

    (for a recap - click over here to understand what this is all about)

    Let's hope that the wait will be a short one and herein I'd like to make the Citizen one final offer:

    If by chance, for reasons I will likely have difficulty appreciating, the Citizen determines it will be too difficult for them to in fact publish nutritional information with their recipes (even with me doing the legwork), I'd like to suggest that instead of publishing nutritional information with each recipe that they instead publish a link to my blog where I will continue to post nutritional values on a weekly basis. For the Citizen this would mean no weekly calculations and the addition of a single, predictable line at the end of each recipe directing their readers here. For me of course it will be a new source of traffic and given that my blog is entirely ad-free and non monetized (except I suppose for the penny a subscription I'd theoretically get from Kindle), not something ethically challenging to promote.

    As part of the campaign I've opted to collect the opinions of influential Canadian health professionals as to the utility and value of nutritional information. My hope is that perhaps some of my blog readers might these posts to help inspire their local papers to consider posting as well. Last week we heard from Dr. Norm Campbell, who among other impressive things is the CIHR Research Chair in Hypertension Prevention and Control, and the week before we heard from Kevin Willis the Director of Partnerships at the the Canadian Stroke Network as to why they felt the Citizen ought to take the initiative and publish nutritional information. This week we've got Rosie Schwartz!

    Rosie is a Canadian dietetic treasure and is certainly one of the most well known names in the country when it comes to nutrition. A former columnist for the Citizen and National Post (and many more papers), a best selling cookbook author and a regular feature in magazines from coast-to-coast Rosie and I have had the chance to Tweet at each other regularly and via one such tweet she kindly agreed to weigh in on the matter. Here's what Rosie has to say about the value of newspaper nutritionals,

    Rosie's Letter

    The issue here is simple. There are tens of thousands of Citizen readers for whom nutritional information would be beneficial. Readers with diabetes, hypertension, obesity, kidney disease and those who simply are concerned about their nutritional health. Those individuals would greatly benefit from having access to the nutritional breakdown of the recipes published by the Citizen.

    If you've got a moment, even if you've sent emails before, could you please take the time to drop the Citizen a line again to let them know how thankful you are they're seriously considering this initiative? Please email Editor-in-Chief Gerry Nott, Food Editor Ron Eade and Wendy Warburton by clicking here.

    Here's the breakdown for this week's batch of Citizen recipes:

    Tennessee Big Boy
    (per serving): 459 calories, 14g saturated fat, 114mg sodium, 46g total carbs

    Gus and Mary's Strawberries, Balsamic Vinegar and Cream
    (per serving): 254 calories, 14g saturated fat, 24mg sodium, 14g total carbs

    Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Poppy Seed Dressing

    (per serving): 132 calories, 1g saturated fat, 112mg sodium, 8g total carbs

    Delicious Strawberry Ice Cream

    (per cup): 547 calories, 15g saturated fat, 119mg sodium, 64g total carbs
    (by means of comparison, Ben & Jerry's Strawberry Ice Cream per cup has 460 calories, 18g saturated fat, 100mg sodium, 52g total carbs)

    [All recipes calculated using Mastercook 9.0. Today it took roughly 2 minutes per recipe]

    Wednesday, July 01, 2009

    Weighty Matters - Kindle Edition!

    So for all the early adopting techies out there I'm pleased to report that Weighty Matters is currently streaming through the ether of America in the form of a Kindle subscription.

    For those who don't know what a Kindle is - don't worry about it.

    For those who do, feel free to check it out.

    And like my blogging inspiration Joe from BookofJoe said,

    "Why read for free when you can pay?"
    Full disclosure: If you do choose to buy a subscription Amazon will pay me a full penny a day (it'll cost you 3 cents).

    Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure you've got better things to do with your pennies.

    Feel free to keep reading here for free.

    [Happy Canada Day!]