Monday, November 30, 2009

Of course there is such a thing as a bad food.

Gah. Sitting here in Ottawa airport's Porter lounge and a flight delay has me reading one of the stupidest newspaper nutrition articles I've ever read. It's from the Daily Telegraph but it was cross published in the Citizen's Food section and it's entitled, "Surprising Superfoods". Read it and along with an acute brain melt you'll learn among other things:

  • Ice cream can give your mood a lift and is therefore a "superfood"
  • Bacon contains some monounsaturated fat and is therefore a "superfood"
  • Apples contain sugar and are therefore a "bad for you actually" food
  • Sushi can contain mercury and is therefore a "bad for you actually" food.
  • Tofu has had some research suggesting it may affect male fertility and is therefore a "bad for you actually" food

  • You'll also learn that the author, Harriet Alexander, knows absolutely nothing about nutrition and is comfortable publishing whatever drek she believes is fit to inspire reading, however inane. I suppose her line of reasoning is that because there are components to foods that may be "good", that means those foods must be "superfoods" and apparently because a food might contain something "bad" that makes it "bad for you actually". Brilliant reasoning and journalism that. 

    It's true that in many cases we don't know what makes foods "good". The vast majority of research suggesting something is healthy or unhealthy for us refers back to whole foods, not respective nutrients. That said there are many foods we know are "good" for us. Fish, whole grains, legumes, nuts, healthy oils etc. would all fit into the good food category. The notion that, "there's no such thing as a bad food" is a notion popularized by the food industry and sadly adopted by many dietitians and physicians the world over. 

    Of course there is such a thing as a bad food. French fries are a bad food. Sausages are a bad food. Ice cream is a bad food. Hot dogs are a bad food. Lollipops are a bad food. Bacon double cheeseburgers are a bad food. Whipped cream is a bad food. Chocolate bars are a bad food. Deep fried chicken wings are a bad food. Nachos are a bad food. There are thousands upon thousands of bad foods. 

     For a definition let's say we call a "bad" food one where the risks of its consumption outweigh the benefits. Yes, there are nutrients in French fries however the calories and trans-fat from the oil likely outweigh the benefits of a potato's nutrients' inclusion. And yes, the definition is non-scientific and certainly lends itself to a large grey zone but that doesn't change the fact that absolutely, without a doubt, there are such things as bad foods. 

     Does that mean you should never eat a bad food? Of course not. Food is one of the most basic human pleasures. You should simply eat the smallest amount of bad food that you need in order to enjoy your life. But to adopt the Big Food sponsored notion that there's no such thing as a bad food is to admit that you simply don't want to bother taking the time to critically appraise the words coming out of your mouth and that you swallowed one of the most brilliant and pervasive Big Food apologist stances of all time. 

     Harriet, if you're reading this, perhaps you should hold your breath because after all, research has shown that oxygen in large quantities is in fact toxic and by your cutting-edge logic that would mean that breathing is perhaps, "bad for you actually". (Oh, and about tofu Harriet, did the population of China give you any pause when you were writing about tofu's supposed effects on fertility or are you truly as clueless as your article makes you out to seem?)

    Saturday, November 28, 2009

    Saturday Stories

    Stories that managed to capture my minuscule attention span this week:

    The Chicago Tribune's excellent series on autism, desperation and pseudoscience: Here, here and here.

    The scariest thanksgiving day parade float ever! (Courtesy of Jack from Fork and Bottle)

    Can a Palestinian-American journalist/comedian married to a Jewish woman change the face of the Middle East Peace process? Some thoughts from Israel here.

    The New York Times on how health is secondary at The Biggest Loser.

    A pharmacist writes critically of naturopathic practices and the push to allow naturopaths to prescribe actual medications in the National Post (cross posted on Skeptic North) and in just 12 comments Godwin's law is confirmed.

    Friday, November 27, 2009

    The best thing to hit the internet this year!

    That's what one of the youtube commenters had to say about Funny Friday's Muppet Show version of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.

    My advice, click the little HD button on the video to watch in streaming 1080p for your ultimate viewing pleasure.

    Have a great weekend!

    (Email subscribers, hit the blog to watch)

    Thursday, November 26, 2009

    Badvertising: Tostitos and their whole grain goodness!

    What, you didn't think Tostitos were good for you?

    They're whole grain dammit! That means they're a health food dummy!

    14g of whole grains per 50g serving!

    Oh, and by the way, 50g? That's 12 chips.

    260 calories for those 12 chips, along with 210mg of sodium.

    (When was the last time you only ate 12 Tostitos?)

    Sure sounds healthy to me.

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Frankenfood: Domino's Bread Bowl Pasta

    My wonderful wife noticed this in a recent flyer and peeked online.

    You ready for this?

    3-cheese mac and cheese bread bowl? 730 calories, 14g saturated fat, 1g trans fat and 1,420mg sodium.

    Yup, that's bad, but not that bad. Is this really a Frankenfood?

    Those numbers?

    They're for "1 serving". According to Domino's nutritional information chart each serving of bread bowl pasta is half a bowl.

    Funny, looking at the advertisement I scanned in above it doesn't mention anywhere it's meant to serve 2.

    What that means of course is that one of these monstrosities packs 1,460 calories, 28g of saturated fat, 2g trans fat and 2,840mg sodium (comparable to 3 Big Macs), and unlike some of the other Frankenfoods I've had on here it doesn't look or sound even remotely worth its calories.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    My Food Inc. Review

    Just in time for the holiday season Food Inc. has been released to DVD.

    For those of you not familiar, Food Inc. is a documentary film that details the industrialization of the American food supply with lenses trained primarily on corn and beef.

    I have mixed feelings about the film. On the one hand it's a tremendous tour of what's wrong with how we get and subsidize our food. On the other hand, it doesn't really offer up any solutions and the folks they chose to champion change in many cases are indeed great on camera but shy on authority. While it's wonderful to have the wise, sustainable agriculture farmer waxing philosophic on the food supply I do wonder whether or not his means of farming are in fact scalable to supply the masses.

    One thing's for certain however, the movie is both powerful and frightening. While I'll often blog about the health risks associated with red meat consumption and the development of various chronic diseases, Food Inc. takes the viewer on a tour of the acute diseases associated with contaminated ground beef and I found the story so chilling that I've decided to give up mass market ground beef.

    To that end some kind folks at sent me a meat grinder to try out to see what grinding your own meat's all about. I tried it out this past weekend and clearly I've yet to get the hang of it. I did succeed in grinding out 4lbs of beef, but I think I used meat that wasn't quite frozen enough (semi-frozen is apparently the way to go) and the grinding took multiple attempts, many cleans and a great deal of frustration.

    Despite the movie's shortcomings, I highly recommend this film though be forewarned, I'd bet this film has birthed its fair share of vegetarians in the past 6 months - it's that jarring.

    (If anyone reading this has any meat grinding tips, I'm all ears!)

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    The letter the Citizen didn't publish

    It's nice being your own publisher.

    Sure, I don't have the readership of the Citizen, but then again, I've got the ear of plenty of influential folks many of who probably don't read the Citizen.

    Last week the Citizen published an editorial critical of the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check program.

    Not surprisingly a few days later there was a letter in the paper defending Health Check and this time, surprisingly, it was written by Stephen Samis, the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Policy Director.

    This was surprising to me in that usually it's Terry Dean, Health Check's Director, that gets to write the letters of defense (he's had to write quite a few over the past few years).

    Stephen I've met before. He seems like a genuinely nice guy (Terry may well be too). I saw him at a recent conference we both attended and while I wanted to chat with him, I couldn't think of a way to do so without raising his ire. Truly I've got nothing against the Heart and Stroke Foundation, or Stephen, or Terry, it's just that their Health Check program is an embarrassing circus-mirror reflection of a healthy eating front of package program and they should know better.

    In any case, I wrote a letter to the Citizen in response to Stephen's and while the Citizen has found reason not to publish it, I think it sums things up pretty well:

    Re: Health Check strategy helps identify products, Nov. 20

    Not only is Health Check misinforming Canadians about healthy eating, in his letter to the editor Stephen Samis is misinforming Canadians about Health Check.

    Mr. Samis reports the foundation takes a “comprehensive” approach which includes “strict nutrient criteria” yet 65% of Health Check’s product categories score only 3 or fewer nutrient criteria, and of those they do bother to score many have set criteria half as strict as the ill designed and now embarrassingly withdrawn American Smart Choices program.

    Mr. Samis then goes on to state that the Foundation, “continues to be a leader in having trans-fat removed” in the foods we eat, yet Health Check allows for 5% of a product's fat to come from trans-fat sources. How is it that McDonald's, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken who have banned trans-fat entirely from their product lines have stricter trans-fat criteria than this so-called “leader” in trans-fat reduction?

    The Health Check program’s “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach to catering to Canadians who choose not find the time to cook from scratch and its endorsement of highly processed boxed foods along with its lax and sparse nutrient criteria does a tremendous disservice to Canadians and is an affront to evidence based nutrition. The Heart and Stroke Foundation and Mr. Samis would be far better off spending their time dismantling this plodding, half-baked initiative rather than defending it.


    Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, MD CCFP Dip ABBM
    Medical Director, Bariatric Medical Institute

    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    Saturday Stories

    Welcome to a new feature on Weighty Matters - Saturday Stories. It'll be a collection of links to stories that I thought were noteworthy throughout the week that was.

    Grab your mug of coffee and click away.

  • Matt Gurney's National Post column on the HST fast food exemption.

  • Fooducate on whether or not kids should really be served "kids food".

  • Australia's Sydney Morning Herald on the why funding aspiring Olympic athletes is likely a waste of money that could be better spent elsewhere.

  • San Francisco Chronicle on how reading this blog and surfing the net may lead you to "aquired attention deficit disorder".

  • Lastly here's a brief video from one of my favourite researchers, Dr. Brian Wansink, describing some holiday eating strategies (email subscribers you've got to head to the blog to watch the video):

  • Friday, November 20, 2009

    Do hockey and curling mix?

    I might have thought the answer would be self-evident but for Funny Friday you can watch the answer in all of its Youtube glory!

    Have a great weekend!

    [Email subscribers, you've got to visit the blog to watch]

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Hamilton Wentworth School Board to show the Province how it's done!


    Here's a change for you - a post that's extremely positive.

    The Hamilton Wentworth School Board recently published their draft new school food policy and I've got to say - those folks get it.

    Their draft policies calls for:

    • A ban on the use of food as a reward in classrooms
    • That celebratory food have at least a moderate nutritional value
    • That school cafeterias will cook with local food when possible, display calories on menuboards, lose the deep fryers, and serve whole foods as often as possible rather than highly processed boxed meals
    • That school events such as "meet the teacher" nights will set a nutritional example and not serve minimally nutritious foods
    • That there'll be a maximum of 5 special event food days a year (eg Pizza Days)
    • That school fundraising will not rely on the sale of junk food

    The policy has not yet formally been adopted and the school board is soliciting opinions from the public. If you want to provide feedback on their proposed policy you can fill out their brief online survey by clicking here.

    Kudos to the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board!

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Ontario Liberals promise pro-obesity tax breaks!

    What a train wreck.

    Back in 2004 Ontario's Premier Dalton McGuinty opened up legislature with a speech regarding his government's promise to bring about, "Real, Positive Change".

    He reported that,

    "Our government is committed to working together to build a stronger province with a higher quality of life for all",
    and with regards to health he promised,
    "Healthier living - with less obesity, less smoking and more physical activity."
    In 2007 he opened up legislature remarking that,
    "Your government will do more to prevent illness by introducing legislation that would ban trans fats from all school cafeterias, prescribe a healthier menu that conforms to the Canada Food Guide and create an Ontario Fitness Challenge program to fight childhood obesity."
    So what real, positive change is Dalton going to implement to improve our quality of life and promote healthier living and less obesity in Ontario?

    Apparently he's going to give a tax break to fast food.

    Last week in a fit of mind-numbing, vote pandering, mollycoddling the Ontario Government promised to exempt restaurant meals costing less than $4 from the looming spectre of the HST meaning that unlike your gym memberships, vitamins, kids' sports registrations, home heating fuel and ancillary health care services, your donuts, French fries, cheeseburgers and Frapuccinos are safe.

    So what possible justification could the Liberals have for tax exempting the very foods that ultimately end up costing the province hundreds of millions of dollars in direct and indirect health care costs? According to Dwight Duncan the Minster of Finance it's to,
    "save money for virtually all Ontarians on a daily basis",
    and according to John Wilkinson the Minister of Revenue,
    "Millions of Ontarians who buy their morning coffee would benefit from today's announcement".
    So are the Liberals truly suggesting this is to help Canadians save money?

    If in fact Canadians eat enough sub $4 fast food that a 13% tax exemption would have a dramatically positively impact on their annual bottom lines (and not just on their annual bottoms), then the Liberals are truly bending over backwards to fan the flames of our obesity epidemic by making fat, sugary, highly refined nutritional garbage cheaper for Canadians to consume. If it wouldn't truly have an impact then clearly they're just looking for votes.

    At the end of the day all this fast food exemption really proves is that Ontario's Liberals certainly don't have your or my health in mind and their money-saving justifications are simply the death rattle of a feckless government gasping frantically as they lipstick up their latest pig.

    [BTW - my request for an interview with Minster Duncan was ignored]

    [Hat tip to my friend Travis from Obesity Panacea who first alerted me to this intensely stupid plan]

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    (Podcast) Raise your finger for Chocolate Milk

    The past few weeks this blog has seen its fair share of posts about chocolate milk.

    Coincidentally the posting coincided with the launch of a new American Dairy Council sponsored chocolate milk campaign, "Raise your hand for chocolate milk" which has health professionals (dietitians, pediatricians etc.) recommending we raise our hands in support of chocolate milk.

    Someone who's not raising his hand for chocolate milk is Dr. Barry Popkin.

    Dr. Popkin is the Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor of Global Nutrition, has a Ph.D. in economics and is Professor of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill where he directs their Interdisciplinary Center for Obesity. Dr. Popkin has published hundreds of journal articles, book chapters, and books and much of his work has focused specifically on the impact beverages have had on the prevalence of obesity. That focus is certainly one of the subjects he covers in his most recent book, The World is Fat: The Fads, Trends, Policies, and Products that are Fattening the Human Race.

    Dr. Popkin was kind enough to spend a few moments chatting with me last week about chocolate milk and the Raise your Hand for Chocolate Milk campaign. Click below to download the file, or you can listen on the embedded player (won't work with email subscribers) and hear Dr. Popkin discuss how among other things the bone health concerns we've got for our children are better treated through increased activity rather than increased dairy.

    Me? While I'm certainly not about to raise my hand for chocolate milk, I'd be happy to raise for it one particular finger.

    Click here to download this podcast or click here to subscribe in iTunes!

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Badvertising: Cookies "more nutritious" than milk!


    Dare Simple Pleasures Oatmeal and Dark Chocolate Cookies.

    "Why does the milk have to be more nutritious than the cookie."

    Want to go through their badvertising claims?

    "Source of Calcium"
    - Yup. Each cookie contains a whopping 3% of your total daily recommended calcium intake.

    "Whole grains"
    - Yup. If you look carefully at the ingredients you'll notice that not the first (that's refined wheat flour), not the second (that's pure white table sugar) but the third ingredient is rolled oats.

    "Cholesterol Free"
    - Yup. So what if the cholesterol a food contains doesn't really have much of a bearing on your blood cholesterol levels?

    "Trans-fat Free"
    - Yup. Something to brag about. Is there a mainstream cookie left that still has trans-fat?

    "Low in saturated fat"
    - Yup. 1 gram per cookie. Huzzah?

    I can only suppose that Dare thinks their customers are either too stupid, too lazy or too misinformed to read actual food labels or think about what they're reading.

    I wonder what that says about Dare as a company?

    Listen, go ahead, enjoy a cookie from time to time, but don't kid yourself into thinking it's "nutritious". "Less bad" is not the same as "good".

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Cookie Monster joins the food police

    Who got to you Cookie?

    Today's Funny Friday has Cookie Monster explaining how it's not just about cookies. Me, I'd much rather watch Cookie Monster eating cookies. Watching him eat trout sounds potentially traumatic.

    Happy Birthday Sesame Street!

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Another stupid kid game from Goliath

    They sure can make 'em.

    Playing Fast Food's pretty easy. Your goal? Make the biggest burger.

    Because our kids need to be exposed to fast food even during those rare moments when they're actually not watching television.

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Shocking new study on how TV causes pediatric obesity.

    Ok, maybe not so shocking.

    In my talks on childhood obesity I'll always point out that the simple act of sitting on a sofa doesn't in and of itself cause weight gain and on my blog I'll also regularly point out that the rise in childhood obesity isn't a consequence of a lack of physical activity, but rather an increase in food. Putting those two together I've always presumed that TV watching was symptomatic of a less healthy lifestyle that included more calories than the lifestyles of kids who didn't watch much TV.

    Well guess what? Maybe I was right. A fascinating study was recently published in the journal Obesity that specifically sought to answer what it is about watching TV that leads kids to gain weight. The study looked at the TV viewing habits, lifestyles and weights of 2,374 Greek children between the ages of 1 and 5.

    The findings?

    Those kids watching the most TV were indeed the heaviest and this relationship persisted even after controlling for potential confounders like physical activity. What this means is that kids who exercised and watched lots of TV still had the same rates of obesity as the kids who didn't exercise and watched lots of TV.

    So what was the cause? The researchers studied many different variables but at the end it came down to the simple fact that the kids who watched the most TV consumed the most calories.

    Now exactly what, when and why they're eating more isn't yet clear. Are they eating more junk because they see more commercials for junk? Do they sit there with a bag of chips in their laps (the researchers think indeed, it's food consuming while watching TV that makes the difference), or are they eating more in the hours they're not watching TV? The stuff for future research.

    Bottom line? Once again it seems it's about intake and not output.

    Manios, Y., Kourlaba, G., Kondaki, K., Grammatikaki, E., Anastasiadou, A., & Roma-Giannikou, E. (2009). Obesity and Television Watching in Preschoolers in Greece: The GENESIS Study Obesity, 17 (11), 2047-2053 DOI: 10.1038/oby.2009.50

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Big Milk farms out PhDs to do their dirty work.

    Big Milk's onslaught of advertisements designed to look like newspaper articles continued last week with this full page feature in Canwest papers.

    I'm sure the Dairy Farmers of Canada were thrilled with Dr. Brian Roy, director of the Centre for Muscle Metabolism and Biophysics at Brock University, who happily perpetuated a dairy myth - that it magically helps with weight loss. Dr. Roy was quoted as saying,

    "While it may seem surprising, milk can even help people lose weight. Studies report calcium rich diets can prove effective as a weight loss regime. Those studies have also shown diets rich in milk and milk products provide an extra boost to weight reduction."
    Oh really Brian?

    Even the meta-analysis penned by Dr. Susan Barr, milk industry stalwart, who according to comments in my blog recently told the UBC medical school class that lactose intolerance was exaggerated and that everyone should drink a glass of milk a day, in a dairy sponsored and paid for symposium concluded,
    "the data available from randomized trials of dairy product or calcium supplementation provide little support for an effect in reducing body weight or fat mass."
    Want to know who else doesn't think the data on dairy and weight loss are impressive? America's answer to the Dairy Farmers of Canada, the National Dairy Council (the heavyweights responsible for the milk moustache and Got Milk? ad campaigns), who withdrew their assertion that drinking milk would help with weight loss when the Federal Trade Commission threatened them. Under the FTC's glare the Council stated they'd refrain from the ads,
    "until further research provides stronger, more conclusive evidence of an association between dairy consumption and weight loss"
    That was in May 2007. Looking at Medline since May 2007 there has only been one study published that specifically looked at the effects of dairy consumption patterns on weight loss. That study's conclusion?
    "Our results do not support the hypothesis that a higher dairy consumption protects against weight gain and development of metabolic disturbances in a Dutch elderly population."
    So to summarize. Big Milk itself admitted to the Federal Trade Commission that to date the suggestion that dairy contributes to weight loss is preliminary at best - a point agreed upon by Dr. Susan Barr, and a point the vast majority of studies on dairy consumption and weight conclude is in fact false as they demonstrate no benefit, yet here we have an advertisement published in the Canadian Press that includes a statement by a misinformed professor that the industry itself knows isn't even remotely conclusively true.

    I guess if pressed they could state that, "he said it, not us".

    Like I said before, if you're a physician or a researcher and Big Milk comes a'knockin' don't answer the call and if you see an "article" about the benefits of Dairy that calls itself a "joint venture", remember it's just an advertisement and given Big Milk's track record in advertising, it should be read with tremendous skepticism.

    (Brian if you're reading this I know you're partial to Zemel's research as you cite it a great deal in your review on chocolate milk as a recovery drink. To learn more about Zemel have a gander as the Centre for Science in the Public Interest's report on him and his patented, yes patented, research)

    Barr SI (2003). Increased dairy product or calcium intake: is body weight or composition affected in humans? The Journal of nutrition, 133 (1) PMID: 12514301

    Snijder, M., van Dam, R., Stehouwer, C., Hiddink, G., Heine, R., & Dekker, J. (2008). A Prospective Study of Dairy Consumption in Relation to Changes in Metabolic Risk Factors: The Hoorn Study Obesity, 16 (3), 706-709 DOI: 10.1038/oby.2007.93

    Monday, November 09, 2009

    "Pop the Pig" promotes preschooler fatism


    According to developer Goliath games,

    "Everyone takes turns to roll the die to see how many chomps the pig will take. Push down the pig's head to chomp the burger. With every pump, the pig's stomach will get bigger, bigger, and bigger. But don't feed him too much because if he pops, you lose!"
    Because everyone knows that people are fat because they're pigs and they eat too much, and if your kids didn't think that before, they do now.

    Want one? You'll have to find it yourself as I'm purposely not linking to Goliath Game's website - wouldn't want them to benefit from my Google juice.

    [Hat tip to my friend Brad Hussey from the Canadian Obesity Network whose 5 year old was innocently watching Scooby Doo when he was suddenly subjected to the commercial posted up above (email subscribers - gotta visit the blog for the video)]

    Saturday, November 07, 2009

    Odds, ends and help wanted!

    It's one of those rare weekend posts.

    A quickie though.

    First I wanted to let Ottawa based personal trainers know that my office, the Bariatric Medical Institute, is looking for someone for part-time work. Some group classes and some one on one. Unfortunately our fabulous trainer Kelly decided that for some reason job security, benefits and pensions were more important to her than making us happy and she's taking a job with Canada Post. Good for her. Bad for us. If you're an Ottawa based trainer who's interested, or know an Ottawa based trainer who's great please give Rob Matthews, our fitness director, a shout (click here to email him).

    Secondly I wanted to let you know of a pending post. It's my review of Food Inc. A great movie but be forewarned, it tends to change your eating habits. In my case it's had me shy away from store bought ground beef. To that end I've decided to start grinding my own ground beef and I'm going to have some help. The folks from who have all sorts of kitchenware for sale have offered to send me a fancy meat grinder for a review. I've also read somewhere that brisket makes the best burgers. I'll be putting both the meat grinder and the brisket to the test in the coming weeks (yes, I know, red meat's bad - that said I've always preached it's about having the smallest amount of bad food in your life that you need to be happy and frankly I need an occasional burger to be happy!).

    Enjoy your weekends!

    Friday, November 06, 2009

    The secret winning strategy of Nascar (drive fast)

    Now I can't say I understand the fascination with Nascar and I guess neither does the Onion.

    Today's Funny Friday is the Onion's report on the winningest coach in Nascar and his secret strategies.

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday, November 05, 2009

    Free workouts at all Gold's Gyms this Saturday!

    On Saturday November 7th working out in Gold's Gyms the world over won't cost you a penny, as Gold's Gyms and the American Diabetes Association team up for their first ever "Burn-A-Thon" to help raise diabetes awareness.

    Their goal?

    They want to see 180,000,000 calories burned this Saturday.

    The Burn-A-Thon is also the launch event for the American Diabetes Association's "Stop Diabetes" campaign and exercise, independently of weight loss, can have a dramatic impact on a person's glycemic control and insulin sensitivity.

    Sadly there's no Gold's Gym here in Ottawa.

    To find one near you click here.

    (BTW - thanks to Gold's for designating Weighty Matters one of their Gold's Gym approved blogs and for providing me with the shiny blog badge)

    Wednesday, November 04, 2009

    Kellogg's Froot Loops are soooo good for you!

    Really Kellogg's is shameless.

    First there was their ridiculous "Now helps support your child's IMMUNITY" claim they plastered over their Cocoa Krispies and other sugary sundry (for which they may face charges in San Francisco).


    Now on television they've got children pretending to be doctors extolling the benefits of Froot Loops and Apple Jacks and their complement of 3gr of fibre.

    I can't do the stupidity and shamelessness of their commercial justice so I've included a video below (email subscribers you've got to visit the blog to watch).

    (Hat tip to Rob, BMI's fitness director - he saw the commercial on television just this morning)

    The PEI Healthy Eating Alliance endorses chocolate milk.

    A number of people yesterday forwarded me an article from the CBC detailing a call to equalize the price of chocolate milk and regular milk in PEI schools.

    School principal Doug Doyle was quoted by the CBC as saying,

    "I would love to see the chocolate milk subsidized"
    and this was in reference to the price differential between his cafeteria's sale of 500mL of white milk for $0.75 versus 500mL of chocolate milk at $2.00.

    Now Doug I don't entirely fault. He's a school principal, not a dietitian or a health professional and frankly the buzz on milk out there is that it's magic. Here's his quote on the matter,
    "From what we understand, the nutritional value is the same in chocolate and white milk. So if we want them to drink milk, they're drinking the chocolate milk but they're paying more for it."
    What was really astounding to me however was this quote from Charmaine Campbell, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the PEI Healthy Eating Alliance (HEA) - a non-profit group dedicated to the improvement of eating habits of children and youth on Prince Edward Island,
    "The HEA would be supportive of having chocolate milk subsidized"
    Pardon me, what? The HEA of PEI wants chocolate milk subsidized? That 500mL box of chocolate milk that Doug wants subsidized contains 10 added teaspoons of sugar, 400mg of sodium, and the caloric equivalent of a litre of Coca-Cola, and the Healthy Eating Alliance wants to subsidize its sale to promote its consumption?

    Honestly, I didn't believe it. I thought perhaps Charmaine was voicing her own opinion rather than the HEA, and it's not because Charmaine works for Big Milk either. Unlike some of the other characters who've come out in strong support of chocolate milk Charmaine seems like an incredibly well-intentioned healthy eating advocate and not simply a corporate shill. So I called Dr. Jennifer Taylor, the volunteer president of the HEA to ask what was going on and in a very congenial discussion she affirmed that the HEA would indeed support the subsidization of the cost of chocolate milk in a bid to get children to drink more "nutrient rich" beverages.

    So is chocolate milk nutrient rich, and more importantly does that matter? Well certainly chocolate milk has more nutrients than Gatorade or Coca-Cola but at double the calories and double the sugar of Coke and Gatorade I certainly wouldn't be rushing out to recommend children drink it.

    If you're not sure where your opinion lies ask yourself this question, if there existed Coca-Cola with twice the sugar and calories of regular Coke and it was fortified to share the identical nutrient profile of chocolate milk, do you think it'd be a healthy beverage to serve your children?

    In my discussion with Dr. Taylor it seemed that the seal of approval the HEA is affording chocolate milk is one that comes from an it's less bad than what they're currently choosing stance and she readily admitted to me that,
    "in an ideal world they'd only be drinking 1% or skim white milk"
    My stance is certainly more black and white. Chocolate milk is a liquid chocolate bar. It's a sometimes food, and when the HEA reports that they'd support chocolate milk's subsidy it elevates it from what at best could be described as a "less bad" option to a "healthy eating" option which in turn may well encourage PEI's children, parents, educators and health professionals to think that somehow magic nutrients in chocolate milk offset the insane amount of sugar it packs.

    To put the sugar in perspective, if kids in PEI schools drank one 500mL carton of chocolate milk a day for a year they'd be drinking 76 cups of added sugar! That's just over 7 five pound bags of sugar and that doesn't include the sugar naturally found in milk. Add that in and they'd be drinking 118 cups or almost 60lbs of sugar a year. And with 200mg of sodium per 250mL they'd also be drinking a third of their daily recommended maximal sodium allowance and enough non-satiating, liquid calories to support a 37.5lb gain.

    The only silver lining here is that apparently PEI's milk program doesn't have the funds to subsidize the liquid sugar.

    Lastly I have to give kudos to Dr. Taylor. While we wholeheartedly disagreed, we had a nice, civilized chat - I wish more folks involved in nutrition were able to take the emotion out of their disagreements.

    [Hat tip to my friend Andrea from the fabulous Ottawa based parenting blog a peek inside the fishbowl who was the first to send this scariness my way]

    Tuesday, November 03, 2009

    Burger King's $0.0019 per calorie campaign

    Of course they're not calling it that but I think doing so illustrates just how cheap food has become.

    That $0.0019 per calorie applies to Burger King's new $1.00 Double Cheeseburger campaign.

    Burger King's Double Cheeseburger has 520 calories and with a cost of a dollar that'd be $0.0019 for each and every calorie. Per calorie that's exactly 10 times cheaper than their $3.99 Garden Salad with Tendergrill Chicken without croutons or dressing which clocks in at $0.019 per calorie and 13 times cheaper than the $1, 40 calorie side salad ($0.025 per calorie). Add in the dressing and croutons and it's still 4-5x cheaper per calorie to hit the burger.

    So let me ask you - if you didn't have much money, were hungry, and you walked into a Burger King what would you buy?

    I know where I'd spend my money.

    And people claim weight's only about willpower.

    Dr. George Bray said it best (and happily having met him last week I can confirm that my attribution all these years has been accurate),

    "Calories load the gun, the environment pull the trigger"
    And boy did Burger King squeeze it hard.

    Monday, November 02, 2009

    Family physicians resign MD group protesting Coke partnership

    Readers of my blog and listeners of my podcast might remember just last week when I interviewed American Academy of Family Physician president-elect Dr. Lori Heim about the AAFP's partnership with Coca Cola.

    During the interview I asked Dr. Heim whether or not any physicians had resigned from the AAFP as a consequence.

    She said she hadn't heard of any.

    Well I'm guessing she's heard of these folks. More than 20 doctors from Contra Costa Health Services told the AAFP to coma-caca over their partnership with coca-cola and resigned, complete with a press release, a podcast and a video.

    Personally I hope more AAFP physicians take their lead to protest this abominable partnership.

    Dr. William Walker, the Director of Costa Contra Health Services summed it up perfectly with his statement,

    "I am appalled and ashamed of this partnership between Coca-Cola and the American Academy of Family Physicians. How can any organization that claims to promote public health join forces with a company that promotes products that put our children at risk for obesity, heart disease and early death."
    and at the end of his speech he symbolically tore up his AAFP membership card - a card he'd been carrying for 25 years.

    Good on you Dr. Walker.

    For those of you who might be curious, below is a copy of their video protest.

    (Remember, email subscribers need to visit the blog to view the video)

    Sunday, November 01, 2009

    Weekend listening - Sunday House Call

    I first met my friend Dr. Barry Dworkin in 2004 when he invited me onto his show to discuss my office's approach to weight management and since then I've enjoyed many visits back to chat with him.

    Barry's a family physician and since 2003 he's been a broadcaster, first locally and now nationally, with his radio show Sunday House Call.

    Barry's show runs Sunday afternoons from 3-5pm EST and recently Barry launched his own website, where he's collected many of his interviews.

    I have many favourites but if you've only got time for a brief listen today have a listen to Barry chat with Dr. Brian Wansink. Dr. Wansink is the director of Cornell's Food and Brand Lab and his research focuses on why we tend to eat mindlessly and what we can do about it. He's a fascinating researcher and an entertaining interviewee.

    Barry's a stand up guy, an evidence based physician and a great listen.