Friday, May 29, 2009

A new plan for economic recovery!

Another gem from the Onion News Network.

Here we have the nation's girlfriends' plan to end the recession.

Have a great weekend!



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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Help get nutritional information into the Ottawa Citizen!


Last week I blogged about how a number of weeks ago I wrote a letter to the editor of the Citizen asking that the Citizen publish nutritional information for its Food Section recipes. I included in my letter the calorie, sodium, fat and sugar counts for that week's recipes and pointed out that it took me all of 5 minutes to make the calculations. The letter never got published and so last week I calculated all the calories and asked readers to contact Ron Eade, the Citizen's Food Editor.

Ron kindly wrote me back and here's what he had to say,

"Dear Dr. Freedhoff,

We have in the past received requests for nutritional information in the Food section recipes, but we do not have the software to input the ingredient list to obtain this data. While we have in the past included nutritional information in recipes where it is provided by the originating source, sadly, most of our recipes from chefs, from the wire service(s), and books we consult do not include this. If it is a matter of buying the software, that is a decision for management at the Citizen who have budgetary authority.

Kind regards to you and your readers,

Ron Eade, Food editor
."
I wrote Ron back and explained that the "budget" required for such a move would be either $0.00 (as there are sufficient tools online that freely help with calculations like Sparkpeople's recipe calculator and Calorie King if Sparkpeople's lacking an ingredient) or as low as $15.99 (the cost of Mastercook 9.0, the program I use at home to calculate calories). I then suggested that it would take a lucky intern all of 20 minutes maximum weekly to make the calculations.

So who has budgetary authority for a less than $20 purchase? According to Ron the person we should be writing to is Ms. Wendy Warburton.

Therefore if you're an Ottawa Citizen reader (or even if you're not), and you'd like to see calories, fat, sugars and sodium published alongside Citizen recipes please take a moment of time to email Wendy Warburton and let her know.

Remember, the information would not be meant for judgement but rather knowledge and it would benefit the tens of thousands of Citizen readers who may be dealing with obesity, heart disease, kidney disease or diabetes - all diseases where nutritional information can be very useful.

If you're a local blogger or Twitter'er please repost this blog. If you're not into blogging and such, just email this to your friends. Perhaps we can make enough noise to affect change for as you may recall, the Citizen's editorial board in their piece on posting calories on menus suggested that legislation isn't necessary to get restaurants to post calories but rather than consumer demand would do the trick. Please consumers - make some demands.

Here are this week's recipes:

Grilled Lamb with Summer Salad and Minted Couscous
(for entire recipe) 6888 calories, 209g saturated fat, 1474mg sodium, 216 total carbs - 72% of calories come from fat

Asparagus Wrapped in Pancetta with Citronette
(per serving assuming 1 teaspoon total salt) 152 calories, 2g saturated fat, 888mg sodium, 7g total carbs

Grilled Asparagus with Garlic
(per serving) 106 calories, 1g saturated fat, 354mg sodium, 3g total carbs - that's a lot of sodium for a small side dish

Flank Steak Fajita
(for entire recipe) 2824 calories, 18 grams sat fat, 4042mg sodium, 389g total carbs

Rhubarb Custard Bars
(per bar) 137 calories, 3g saturated fat, 84mg sodium, 21.5g total carbs

Bacon and Olive Apertif Cake
(per entire cake assuming 1/4 teaspoon salt) 2,153 calories, 43g saturated fat, 3,033mg sodium, 135g total carbs

Chef Andrew's Fig Anise Crackers
(per entire recipe) 4,940 calories, 25g saturated fat, 30,272mg sodium (GOOD LORD!), 739g total carbs.

Chef Andrew's Fig and Ginger Jam
(per entire recipe) 991 calories, no fat, 12mg sodium, 254g total carbs

[All recipes calculated using Mastercook 9.0. It took roughly 3 minutes per recipe]

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Is Nestle's Good Start probiotic infant formula breaking the law and harming babies?


It sure looks that way to me.

You see Nestlé has a product line of infant formula entitled Nestle Good Start. Here's some stuff from their website:

"Protecting your baby's future. It's what every parent wants. And what every baby needs. Starting with the right nutrition. Introducing Nestlé® Good Start® Natural Cultures™."
What parent wouldn't want to "protect their baby's future".

So what's the issue here?

Well actually there's a bunch.

First let's go to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. In their 2007 Letter to Industry: Requirements Related to Nutrition Information and Nutrition and Health Claims for Infant Formula they spell out a few things to folks like Nestlé,
"Comparing infant formula to breast milk, including comparisons of the levels of a nutrient in infant formula to the levels of the same nutrient in breast milk, is contrary to the message embodied in the Code".

and

"the infant formula industry is encouraged not to make a reference to breast milk on a label or advertising of infant formula, other than a statement regarding the superiority of breastfeeding
"
Yet on Nestlé's site,
"Natural cultures are part of what gives breast milk its naturally protective qualities. And of the natural cultures found in breast-fed babies, one is by far the most prevalent - Bifidobacteria. That's why we added Bifidobacteria, which we call bifidus BL, to Good Start® Natural Cultures™. It's the first and only Infant Formula to contain it. Because we believe your baby deserves it."

and,

"Enhanced with Omega-3 (DHA) and Omega-6 (ARA) - two of many important nutrients also naturally found in breast milk - to help support your baby's normal brain, eye and nerve development right from the start."

and,

"There are only two places your newborn can get natural cultures. The first is you. The other is from Nestlé® Good Start® Natural Cultures™. "
Sure sounds like Nestlé's making the case that they've basically powdered breast milk!

But it gets worse.

Going back to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency document,
"The use of health claims on food labels and in advertising of foods including infant formulas is limited by the Food and Drugs Act. Although the Food and Drug Regulations currently allow five diet-related health claims on food labels, these are not permitted on foods for children under two years of age, including infant formulas. The dietary recommendations that lay the foundation for these claims are for adults and are not appropriate for infants and young children."
I guess Nestlé didn't get that memo as they promote their formula on their labeling and website as having the following health benefits,
"easier to digest",

"naturally protective",

"helps support babies’ normal brain, eye and nerve development",

"helps your baby build strong, healthy bones and teeth",

"crucial to his continued mental development"

"As good bacteria, Bifidobacteria can compete with unwelcome harmful bacteria in the gut by helping keep them from entering your little one's vulnerable body - providing added protection to help keep your baby healthy."
And it's about those harmful bacteria and your little one's vulnerable body where Nestlé's product can become potentially fatal.

You see there's this bacteria, Enterobacter sakazakii, it's been found to be a contaminant in infant formula. Sadly it has been known to cause sometimes fatal cases of meningitis (brain infections), sepsis (blood infections) and necrotizing enterocolitis (very bad intestinal infections) in infants. Consequently the World Health Organization in their Guidelines for the safe preparation, storage and handling of powdered infant formula recommend that with the specific aim of minimizing the risk of E. sakazakii infections, the water mixed with formula ought to be a minimum of 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit) and then be allowed to cool.

And what of Nestlé "Good Start"?

They explicitly advise consumers,


But of course given that E. sakazakii actually can contaminate the formula itself even if you use previously boiled water that has cooled to 40°C you'll still run the risk of not killing this opportunistic pathogen.

As Kim Sheeler, OB nurse and whistle blower asked me in her email pointing out Nestlé's egregious behaviour,
"I wonder if the parents who spend an extra $10 or more per container of powdered probiotic formula are willing to take the risk of having their baby exposed to E. sakazakii or Salmonella in exchange for the benefits of the probiotics, or is it that they are lulled into a false sense of security by the probiotic halo and think that any risk of a sakazakii or salmonella infection is minimized by the presence of probiotic cultures?"
Great questions Kim.

This isn't the first time Nestlé's come under the gun for their aggressive formula marketing as this article from the UK attests - that said, aggressive marketing is one thing, breaking the law and endangering children is quite another.

I'll be sending this post along to the consumer protection division of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and to the Director of the Bureau of Nutritional Sciences at Health Canada. Perhaps they will be able to put a stop to what appears to me to be both a horrendous abuse of public trust and a potentially fatal product for infants.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is your OJ filled with ethyl butyrate?


Probably, according to Toronto based author Alissa Hamilton.

She's recently finished writing an expose on the OJ industry entitled,

"Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice"
and this past weekend the Toronto Star interviewed her about her findings.

Among them:
"Juice companies therefore hire flavour and fragrance companies, the same ones that make popular perfumes and colognes, to fabricate flavour packs to add back to their product to make it taste like orange juice."

"Most of the juice sold in North America contains flavour packs that have especially high concentrations of ethyl butyrate"

"Any product that has a 60-plus day shelf life and is available year-round has to be heavily processed. If you want a product that is fresh-squeezed or close to it, the "best before" date is a good gauge. Fresh-squeezed juice doesn't last for more than a couple of days"
She also wades into the marketing reporting that,
"the statement that appeared at the top of Tropicana's new and now discontinued carton: "squeezed from fresh oranges." (is) meaningless – one would hope the oranges were fresh when squeezed – the statement could easily be misread as "fresh squeezed" by all but the most discerning shoppers."
I'm excited to read her book - it's available for preorder from Amazon.ca for $24.89 (37% off) right now for shipping on or around the end of the month!

Oh - and Alissa, like me, recommends you eat your oranges, not drink them.

[Via Marion Nestle's Food Politics]

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Health Canada Clueless on Probiotics


Now I can't claim I'm an expert on probiotics but Professor Gregor Reid sure can. Professor Reid is a Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Western Ontario, Director of the Canadian Research and Development Centre for Probiotics, and Assistant Director International at the Lawson Health Research Institute. According to his biography on Canada's Advanced Foods and Materials Network website he,

"holds 28 patents, has published over 300 per-reviewed papers and given over 380 talks in 38 countries. In 2001-2002, he was appointed Chair of United Nations - World Health Organization Expert Panel and Working Group on Probiotics. In 2006, he was appointed President of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics"
Professor Reid is both a strong proponent of probiotics and of ensuring claims made by probiotic food manufacturers are in fact evidence based.

In February Health Canada published a product monograph on probiotics meant to,
"serve as a guide to industry for the preparation of Product Licence Applications (PLAs) for natural health product (NHP) market authorization of probiotics".
Last week the e-newsletter Nutra-Ingredients interviewed Professor Reid and asked for his thoughts on the monograph. Here are some choice bits of what he had to say,
"Health Canada has no expertise on its Expert Advisory Committee to assist with preparation of this Monograph, and I assume no consultation was made with anyone who actually knows anything about probiotics."

"They don't understand that unless you show that a product confers a health benefit on the host (which by itself requires a properly designed human study) then it should not be called probiotic. NHPD need only ask companies to show such documentation, refer to the FAO/WHO document and if they can't satisfy this, then they need to call their product something else,"

"Sadly, we have probiotic chocolate, bread, orange juice, certain dairy products and even an ice cream that has a flyer which mentions probiotics can prevent colon cancer (how much ice cream should I take every day to do this?). I am not questioning the quality of these products or that they might be beneficial, I just want to see some data on what they have been shown to do. Otherwise, we are fooling the consumer and/or not giving them sufficient information."

I guess here we have yet another example of why I call Health Canada, Happy Corporations.

So sad.

[FYI - Dr. Reid is a fan of Danone's yogurts Activia and Danactive both of which he believes Danone has sufficient scientific evidence to support their probiotic benefit claims.]

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Friday, May 22, 2009

10 Things you don't know about orgasms!

Like for instance they can cure intractable hiccups.

Thanks to blog reader Sebastien who brought this video to my attention.

Not my typical Funny Friday as it's lengthy but well worth all 17:11.

Believe it or not it's a TED talk by author Mary Roach all about orgasms that will also teach you how to best arouse a female pig so as to encourage a larger litter.

Have a great weekend!



Roni Peleg, MD Aya Peleg, PHD (2000). Case report: Sexual intercourse as
potential treatment for intractable hiccups Canadian Family Physician, 46, 1631-1633 PMID: PMC2144777


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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Calories in the Ottawa Citizen Food Section Recipes


A number of weeks ago I joined the Ontario Medical Association in calling for legislation to force chain restaurants to post calories on menus.

The vast, vast majority of news pieces and editorials were strongly supportive however my local paper, the Ottawa Citizen, wasn't so enthralled with the idea.

In their editorial on the matter the Citizen made the case that while they felt indeed it would be useful that rather than legislate the matter that consumers should demand it and industry would respond.

In that spirit that week I wrote a letter to the editor of the Citizen "demanding" that the Citizen publish nutritional information for its Food Section recipes. I included in my letter the calorie, sodium, fat and sugar counts for that week's recipes and pointed out that it took me all of 5 minutes to make the calculations.

The letter didn't get published and still the recipes are count free.

Starting today I will endeavor to calculate the Citizen's Food Section calories but in return I'd like to ask a favour. If you find this information useful please click here to email Ron Eade, the Citizen's food editor, to request that the Citizen include this information in their newspaper. The information would not be meant for judgement but rather knowledge and it would benefit the tens of thousands of Citizen readers who may be dealing with obesity, heart disease, kidney disease or diabetes - all diseases where nutritional information can be very useful.

Ron, if you're reading this, I'd be very happy to sit down with you and show you how easy it is to calculate. We could even sit down over a smoked brisket.

So without further ado, this week's recipes:

Mixed-Grill Vegetable and Chick Pea Lasagna
(per entire dish) 3,356 calories, 4,569mg sodium, 172gr fat (33g saturated), 39.7g sugar
- Fairly high in both calories and sodium.

Blueberry Orange Muffins
(per muffin) 240 calories, 286mg sodium, 14.5g sugar, 3.1g saturated fat
- Not terrible for a muffin. Would be much less on all counts if you substituted Splenda (wholly or partially) for sugar and apple sauce for oil.

Whole Wheat Penne with Chicken, Wild Mushroom and Tomato Basil Pesto
(per serving) 446 calories, 106.4mg sodium, 2.8g saturated fat 0.4g sugar
- A winner! Especially given the 11 grams of healthy unsaturated fat in the recipe.

[BTW, Ron has a great blog Omnivore's Ottawa and is on Twitter as well!]

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Antioxidant Immune Protecting Grape Juice


Twice the "antioxidant power" of orange juice - you don't say.

Um, what exactly is "antioxidant power" and how does it "protect" my immune system?

According to the advertisement it has to do with the "Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity".

Is that an established measure of healthfulness? Of course not. Has it been shown to "protect" immune systems? Of course not. Does that stop Welch's from making health claims to boost sales? Of course not.

You know what else Welch's grape juice has twice as much of compared with orange juice (and Coca Cola for that matter)? Calories and sugar.

Yeah, that's right.

And I don't think they protect your immune system.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A personal trainer for eating your vegetables?


I've got one.

It's my subscription to a local farm's community shared agriculture (CSA) opportunity.

Why? Because really I'm like everyone else. Sometimes it's difficult to motivate myself to exercise and sometimes it's difficult to motivate myself to eat healthier.

To that end this year my family subscribed to Bryson Farms' CSA program. It's fantastic. Yes, it's more expensive than buying vegetables in the supermarket, but when left to our own devices my wife and I certainly weren't the most adventurous vegetable consumers. Now, each week, we receive a large bag of vegetables. Some are familiar to us while some are not. Bottom line for us it's analagous to folks using personal trainers to insprie themselves to exercise except here instead of paying for it and exercising we're paying for it and eating it.

In so doing we're also supporting local agriculture, eating pesticide free produce and just in general eating a heck of a lot more vegetables than we used to.

[If you're in Ottawa and you're interested in Bryson Farms' CSA just head over to their website to learn about their various options.]

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Does just thinking about exercise make your heart beat faster?


I certainly hope not because if a recent study holds true, if thinking about exercise causes your heart to race you're twice as likely to die of a sudden heart attack.

Of course it occurs to me that the folks whose hearts are likeliest to race at the thought of exercise would be those who are the least fit as they'll be worried about the prospect of exercising which in turn might cause their adrenaline to flow and their hearts to race.

So perhaps the results aren't so surprising - those who are the least fit are the most likely to suffer sudden heart attacks.

Bottom line? We should all do more exercise.

Jouven, X., Schwartz, P., Escolano, S., Straczek, C., Tafflet, M., Desnos, M., Empana, J., & Ducimetiere, P. (2009). Excessive heart rate increase during mild mental stress in preparation for exercise predicts sudden death in the general population European Heart Journal DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehp160

[via bookofjoe]

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Health Canada does NOT advise you to stop taking Hydroxycut


By means of example as to just how pathetic Canada's natural health product laws and regulations are one needs to turn no further than the recent Hydroxycut recall.

In case you're unaware, on May 1st the FDA warned consumers to immediately stop taking 19 different Hydroxycut products due to adverse effects including liver failure and death.

So what happened in Canada?

On May 1st Health Canada issued a press release stating that they were looking into the issue.

Then on May 3rd they issued an advisory that does not in fact advise Canadians to stop taking Hydroxycut. Instead they have this generic line,

"Health Canada advises consumers not to use any unauthorized health products, as they may pose a risk to health. Authorized health products will bear either an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN), a Natural Product Number (NPN), or a Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM) on the label."
Why such a non response? Because there is no Canadian mechanism or government body that oversees Hydroxycut products. Meaning that even though they're not "authorized", clearly there's nothing stopping companies like Iovate Health Sciences (the makers of Hydroxycut) to sell whatever they want, with whatever claims they want, in Canada. All that said, I still can't help but scratch my head at the fact that Health Canada still hasn't told Canadians to stop taking Hydroxycut. I wonder if they're worried about being sued by Iovate?

Hey here's a conundrum. What if the folks currently taking and buying Hydroxycut don't read Health Canada bulletins? What if one of those folks develops serious complications?

I'd recommend they sue our government for failing to provide even the smallest amount of due diligence on a drug that even the manufacturer has decided is deadly enough to voluntarily recall it.

Doesn't Health Canada have an obligation to review ALL products sold to Canadians purporting to affect their health?

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Something tells me these guys are single.

Another week's gone. Great week though - I can't believe how much play the story on Health Canada fortifying junk food received!

Today's Funny Friday is another reminder of just how odd our world is.

Have a great weekend!

video

[Hat tip to loyal blog reader Annette!]

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Doctorate in Big Macs?

A little over a year ago I blogged about McDonald's in Britain being given the right to award advanced high school degrees to its workers.

Well the Bizarro world we live in just got a little more bizarro.

Apparently British McDonald's are set to start award McPhD's.

Yup, doctorates.

According to David Fairhurst, McDonald's "Chief People Officer" the awarding power proferred to it by Britain makes McDonald's, "a University in its own right".

Really, I couldn't make this stuff up.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ottawa children needed for focus groups on food marketing!


A few days ago I was contacted by Bernie Gauthier, the CEO of Delta Media (a PR firm that helped our office out in our early days). His firm has become involved in a study being conducted by associate professor of communications and culture Dr. Charlene Elliott, funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research, and ethically cleared by the University of Calgary.

Currently Bernie's firm is trying to find enough children for Ottawan focus groups. While the study is indeed looking at both healthy weight and overweight children, it's the overweight children that are required for this round of focus groups. Boy focus groups will occur on May 27th and girls on May 28th. The cutoff for inclusion is a BMI of 25 (BMI cutoff values differ for children - to calculate your child's BMI click here). They're looking for 6 boys and girls for each grade from 1-6.

Having worked with Bernie in the past I can tell you that the groups will be professionally run and organized.

If your child fits their needs and you've got the time, please consider contacting Bernie's team (information below) - who knows, maybe the work from this project will be the last straw that causes the government to ban advertising foods to children.

Here's some information from the study's consent form:

What is the purose of this study?
The purpose of this study is to examine child and parental responses to child-oriented food/food packaging so that researchers, nutritionists and policy makers have a more complete understanding of the current food environment, and its influence on children’s food choices, habits and nutrition. Understanding the consumption habits of children is necessary in order to create effective strategies (and policy) for promoting wholesome food habits and combating childhood obesity.

What Will I Be Asked To Do?
We are looking for children in grades 1-6 to participate in a one-hour focus group session, which will explore how they feel about the supermarket foods specifically targeted at them. During the session, the children will be asked questions and participate in activities that will help us to understand the appeal of these foods and to understand the evaluation of nutrition/nutrition claims from their point of view. The sessions will be digitally recorded for transcription. They will take place after school hours, and there will be a comfortable space for you to wait as your child participates.

Parents will also be invited to participate in a one-hour follow-up telephone interview to discuss how they make food purchasing decisions for their child—and to discuss some of the challenges of doing so. Children will receive an honorarium of $25 for participating in the focus groups and parents will receive a further $25 for completing the interview.

What Type of Personal Information Will Be Collected?

The focus groups and interviews will be audio recorded and transcribed. No names will be used in the analysis of any of the reports. The identity of all participants will remain completely confidential.

Are there Risks or Benefits if I Participate?
There are no risks associated with participating, and both you, and your child’s anonymity is ensured in the reporting of results by use of participant number.

I'm Interested. What should I do?

Call or email Nyree St. Denis at Vision Research to find out more:

nyree@visionresearch.ca

(613) 233-9191



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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Is "vicarious goal fulfillment" to blame for that order of French fries?


Here's a strange one.

We've talked about health halos before - if you think a food's healthy you're more likely to consume larger portions of it. Things like "low-fat" front-of-package claims and even restaurants (Subway) have been shown to have health halos that lead to less healthy consumption patterns.

This one has to be the strangest health halo yet. This one states that if there's salad on the menu you'll be more likely to order the fries.

In this study, when menu choices included healthier ones individuals were more likely to choose less healthy options than when the exact same menu was provided minus the healthy options. When salads were on the menu, fries were eaten more frequently, bacon-cheeseburgers when veggie burgers were available, chocolate covered Oreos when 100 calorie packs of Oreos were present etc. In fact there was not one menu in this study with which this phenomenon was not found to occur.

The researchers called the phenomenon, "vicarious goal fulfillment" whereby the mere ability of being able to meet their goal of eating healthier actually caused individuals to feel that they had already met their goal and therefore could order the less healthy, more indulgent option.

Wow - brains are crazy places.

Wilcox, K., Vallen, B., Block, L., & Fitzsimons, G. (2009). Vicarious Goal Fulfillment: When the Mere Presence of a Healthy Option Leads to an Ironically Indulgent Decision Journal of Consumer Research DOI: 10.1086/599219

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Congratulations to the Canadian Obesity Network!

This past weekend I had the pleasure and honour of attending and presenting at the first national Canadian Obesity Network (CON) conference.

It was held in the Kananskis (at the foot of the Alberta Rockies) and I can honestly say that it was one of the loveliest conferences I've ever attended.

Many of the who's who of obesity in Canada were there and topics ranged from program development, to genetic determinants to public policy and perhaps the best part of the conference was the incredibly warm and close atmosphere that was generated by the 400 attendees.

The standout lecture for me was one by Dr. Alejandro (Alex) Jadad the Canada Research Chair in eHealth Innovation, Professor at the University of Toronto and Director of their Program in eHealth Innovation. His accomplishments are far too wide and varied to be included in this post but if you're interested click his name above to read about him on Wikipedia.

Alex spent an hour both entertaining and scolding the audience for letting technology pass us by leaving us pondering whether or not we ought to ask our patients for their email address while patients themselves set up sophisticated social networking sites that allow them to make up for our failings in providing them with sufficiently timely information and support. He also spent time chastising us for putting too much of our focus and energy on, "applying for grants, seeking promotions and giving ourselves awards" when instead we could be doing more to improve patient care in Canada.

Personally I think Alex's message was spot-on. There are tangible things that we could be doing to help improve patient care (not just with regards to obesity but in fact to medicine as a whole) and yet vastly disproportionate amounts of resources are being spent on basic science that while certainly noble, is not helping Canadians in any concrete way.

We were able to discuss this further after his talk when he and CON's communications director and mutually good friend of ours Brad Hussey and I closed the bar. We all agreed that frankly there are too many times when we've read newly published studies only to ponder, "So what?!" and without revealing our hand, by the end of the night, we had set in motion a plan of action to shake things up a bit in the research world (stay tuned).

Me? I was able to discuss regulating the weight loss industry. I discussed two options. The carrot and the stick.

The stick is formal regulations but I'm actually pushing for the carrot.

The carrot would involve an organization establishing an auditable set of inclusionary and exclusionary criteria designed to identify ethical and evidence based weight management programs.

Programs would then pay for their own audits annually and if deemed appropriate would be allowed to use a front-of-program logo on their websites and promotional materials. Governments, NGOs and allied health personnel would then be recruited to promote awareness of the logo and in so doing would help provide patients with a simple but powerful tool to help navigate the morass of the commercial weight loss industry.

My belief is that this is a job for CON.

Why CON?

In just 5 years CON has established itself as the Canadian authority on all matters obesity related; the Canadian Medical Association has called on Provincial, Territorial and municipal health authorities to work with CON on their obesity policies; and this type of an endeavour would help extend CON's recognition to the general public.

If you're interested I've managed to post my talk below (remember, email subscribers need to click the post's title to get back to the blog to view the videos).

Really kudos to CON and sincere thanks to everyone who was involved in putting together what turned out to be a fantastic conference.

If you missed it this year, don't miss 2011 in Montreal!









[Thanks to Brad Hussey - friend, CON communications director, and now too, videographer!]

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Friday, May 08, 2009

World's Best Yoga Teacher

Today's a cross between Funny Friday and Feel Good Friday.

It's a brief video of an inspirational yoga class.

Have a great weekend!

video

[Hat tip to my friend and sensei Claudio Iedwab]

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Frankenfood: WHOLE chicken in a can


If you needed one more reason why Armageddon's a bad thing here's a food that I imagine when the world is gone you'll be willing to fight your neighbour gladiator style for the privilege of eating - Whole cooked chicken in a can!

The pictures are astounding.

I've clipped just two - you really owe it to society to click through to see the rest.

Here's the view when you open the can:



Here's the can giving birth:



No nukes!

[Hat tip to one of my favourite cousins - Ilan]

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Guess the clueless Ottawan obstetrician

Apparently there is an Ottawa Civic based high-risk obstetrician who has a habit when seeing women who have gained a significant amount of weight during their pregnancy to say,

"Gained a lot of weight there eh? Oink, oink."
Horrifying.

If you're reading this and it's happened to you that a health care professional has made such a comment you really ought to complain to them and/or their Chief of Staff and/or to their regulatory College.

Unfortunately weight-bias does not elude health care.

Have you a similar story to share?

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Are Smarties (Canadian M&Ms) trying to pass themselves off as healthy?


Eagle-eyed blog reader Michael Stasica sent me this shot of a Smarties box where sure enough there's a symbol that looks suspiciously like a Heart and Stroke Health Check symbol.

Apparently the symbol means that there are no artificial colours in Smarties.

Huzzah?

As mentioned in yesterday's post - the semblance of health sells and clearly Smarties are no dummies.

I'd tell Health Check to get lawyers on this right away but of course it'd be a tough case to suggest Smarties' check was hurting Health Check's credibility - they do that all by themselves (remember there are already Health Checks on Slush Puppies and frozen yogurt with more calories and sugar than ice cream).

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Health Canada set to fortify junk food!


(Perhaps soon to be fortified with vitamin E and B-carotene!)

Just when I thought the decisions at Health Canada couldn't get any worse than their industry based Food Guide or their allowance of whole wheat labeling in Canada to exclude the germ, Health Canada's now preparing to allow the food industry to fortify junk food.

Yup, the corporate shills over at Health Canada are getting set to roll out new regulations that will allow the food industry to "fortify" non-nutritious, highly processed foods at Big Food's discretion with vitamins and minerals.

What's that you say? You can't understand why we need fortification at all? We don't have a public health crisis whereby there are emergency rooms stocked with Canadians with nutritional deficiencies?

Well yes, that's true.

So why is Health Canada allowing for this? Who could it possible help?

Perhaps here I should remind you of my moniker for Health Canada - Happy Corporations. You see corporate food Canada will be absolutely thrilled with the ability to "fortify" at their discretion as it will allow them to put half a penny of nutrients into a pile of highly processed, diabetes and heart disease inducing, nutritionally deficient Frankenfoods and then use the front of the package to talk about how they'll help you build your immune system, strengthen your bones and support your nervous system.

The thing is, given that we know of the "health halo" effect, consumers may well choose to eat larger portions of these highly processed, chronic disease inducing foods under the false impression that they're suddenly good for them, or worse yet, consumers may choose them over cooking their own far more nutritious versions.

Looking over Health Canada's list of vitamins and minerals that can be added at Big Food's discretion I see included B-carotene, folic acid and vitamin E. Interestingly all three have been linked to adverse health outcomes in patients taking supplemental sources. B-carotene has been linked to lung cancer, folic acid recently to prostate cancer and colon cancer, and vitamin E to all causes of mortality.

The bottom line is this - our food supply does not need fortification - it has ample amounts of nutrients. What Canadians need is the education and encouragement to actually utilize our whole food supply not our processed food supply.

Allowing for the fortification of junk food will simply encourage the consumption of junk food and will become one more shining example of just how out-of-touch, backwards, and harmful are Health Canada's food policies.

Shame on you Health Canada - what an incredibly bad joke you've become.

[Interestingly, this policy had been slotted to roll out in early March yet for some reason the launch has been delayed. One of my sources thinks it's because Health Canada's trying to figure out the best way to launch this mess on an unsuspecting public. Given the H1N1 flu monopolizing the health news my bet is that Health Canada is going to quietly slime this policy out over the next few weeks while the country's attention is elsewhere. Why not take a moment of your time and contact your MP and let him or her know what you think about this proposed policy? To find your MP click here.]

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Ever buy a new gadget that you just couldn't figure out?

Have you ever bought some gadget only to be driven insane trying to figure out how to use it?

Well if you have, today's Funny Friday is for you.

That said, SEVERE PROFANITY ALERT. If swearing bothers you. If there are young ears nearby, if you're at work - DON'T watch the video.

Have a great weekend!



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