Thursday, August 15, 2013

Biggest Loser Pediatrician Joanna Dolgoff Still Misinforming Nation Regarding Childhood Obesity

On The Biggest Loser, pediatrician Dr. Joanna Dolgoff promoted weight losses so rapid that prior to her involvement with the Biggest Loser she herself had cautioned they were unhealthy, and while thankfully there are no kids on The Biggest Loser's upcoming Fall season, that isn't stopping her from using her influential platform to further misinform a nation about childhood obesity.

Her current project is called, "Rally for Recess", and it's a Dannon initiative designed to increase the sale of three of their products - Danimals Smoothies, Danimals Crunchers and Dan-o-nino drinks. It's charitable healthwashing in that with every product purchased schools, parents and kids are encouraged to mail their labels into Dannon and the school sending in the most is awarded a $30,000 playground makeover.

So what are these products?

Here are some photos:

Before I get into their nutritional breakdowns, for perspective, I want you to know that the percentage of calories coming from sugar in Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream clocks in at 41%. These products? Of the Danimals Cruncher's 120 calories, 60% of them come from its 4.5 teaspoons of sugar, of the Danimals Smoothie's 60 calories, 66% of them come from its 2.5 teaspoons of sugar (crammed into a serving that's barely larger than a third of a cup with nary a raspberry to be found in its ingredient list), while Dan-o-nino drinks' see an astonishing 80% of their 70 calories coming from their 3.5 teaspoons of sugar.

Of course Dannon's Rally for Recess is a brilliant move for Dannon. It directly encourages the consumption of their products in the name of charity, and by tying it to physical activity and school recess the program perpetuates the myth that childhood obesity is a consequence of inactivity and that childhood obesity can be treated or prevented by means of kids just running around a little bit more. In turn that may lead parents to not notice (or not care) that the yogurt based sugar-spiked desserts they're feeding their kids have a substantially greater percentage of calories coming from sugar than does Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream.

And what of recess? A wonderfully objective 4 year study that utilized accelerometers to measure kids' actual activity levels found that even a ten fold difference in physical activity did not protect against obesity.

So what did Dr. Dolgoff have to say about Dannon's products and physical activity in regard to childhood obesity? The "sponsored by Dannon" TV news segment (embedded below) opens with scary childhood obesity statistics, and then a direct tie to decreased physical activity, and then to Dr. Dolgoff who explains that she's teamed up with Dannon because kids weren't getting much P/E at school so she's championing their rally for recess campaign. She doesn't mention that energy intake matters far more than energy output when it comes to childhood obesity. In fact her only real mention of intake involved her pointing out how committed Dannon is to kids that they've quietly cut the sugar in their product lines (apparently they were 25% worse before), and that,
"Dannon is very committed to the health and wellness of kids"
Because what could be healthier than yogurt desserts with chocolate candies or drinks where 80% of their calories come from sugar, or an expert physician spokesperson supporting a marketing initiative that by its very nature encourages those products' excess consumption, or that same expert physician helping to perpetuate the myth that childhood obesity and inactivity are tightly linked and that the problem, or the solution, lies with more recess or simple play?

I'm all for kids running around more, and I'm all for more recess, but to infer simple running around will help with childhood obesity (or that not running around led to childhood obesity) and to help to sell kids and parents dessert as a healthy snack isn't something I would expect from a pediatrician whose specialty is childhood obesity.

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  1. This "Morning Blend" is on the NBC affiliate in Milwaukee. I found the segment so egregious in its promotion for Dannon that I do not know what to think about "Dr." Dolgoff except that she has abandoned the Hippocratic oath to totally and utterly whore herself.

  2. Anonymous9:22 am

    Could a complaint be made to her professional association? Being self regulated should mean there is some regulation in the field.

    Appalling, but I suppose she is now guaranteed a great income for life and no stressful hours. Yuk,

  3. Anonymous11:59 am

    My question is, what yogurt is healthy? I feel my kids Greek yogurt for the protein, but it still has a fruit blend with sugar. I'll either get Oikos or Liberte brand. I can't seem to win, no mater what I try......

    1. Anonymous4:48 pm

      I buy plain greek yogurt and mix it with fruit, and Sweetleaf stevia drops. My favorite brand is Fage - I love the full-fat version.

  4. We have found a brand on greek yogurt without sweetners or sugars. But after reading Pandora's lunchbox, I'm not sure "Greek" yogurt is such a good idea, anymore. I may be better off just buying sour cream.

    Dr. Freedhof--what can we do about overweight teenagers--who won't even let you discuss their weight with them? My 16 year old son lives under my roof--do I simply control what comes into the house and leave the rest up to him?

    1. Anonymous7:49 am

      What brand of Greek yogurt is that?

    2. My daughter was an obese teenager, unfortunately because her clueless parents starved her throughout childhood on a low-fat, high-carb diet following the mainstream nutritional advice. As a child, we put her in pediatric weight-loss programs and did everything we thought was right, but she just got heavier and resented our efforts, so we backed off and "loved her as she was." Her senior year, she took the initiative to lose weight through calorie restriction and exercise and did lose half her body weight. She managed to keep off most of the weight but made some mistakes along the way, such as trying to "go vegan" and vegetarian, which resulted in an eating disorder, insomnia, and severe depression. By that time, I had changed my diet to low-carb and she, at first, called it my "crazy-space diet." After a few years, she began to have more interest in the science of nutrition and eventually adopted a low-carb, paleo diet which has helped her resolve all of her health issues. So, I guess my advice is to love your son, set a good example, don't nag or control, and hopefully he will get the message and take the initiative himself.

    3. Hi Alana,

      Teens are living their own lives and consequently it's much more difficult. Live the life you want your son to live, that goes for both food and fitness, and make sure he knows that regardless of the issue he's facing (meaning there's not a need to make it explicitly about weight - I'm sure he's aware of the issue and your concern), you'll do your best to support and help him.

      Wish I had more magical advice,

  5. Bravo, Yoni! You've hit the nail on the head.

    Anonymous, I agree. This is appalling and she deserves to be sanctioned by her professional association.

    As for Greek yoghurt, there are several brands that come plain, with no added anything.

    And why might Greek yoghurt (or any yoghurt) be bad? ...Unless you're a Paleo purist.

    As for teenagers who are overweight, I really don't think you can do anything but provide good, decent food at home. As the mother of two kids (now 18 and 20), it is abundantly clear that they won't listen and will in fact do quite the opposite if you try to put them on the dietary "straight and narrow". Just offer good, decent food to your family. That's all you can do.

    1. Anonymous7:51 am

      I realize that there is plain, but the my children won't eat it. Yes, I'm the parent, but yogurt is full of good stuff and I would like them to have some.

  6. The good news is that she doesn't come across as a doctor in the Morning Blend segment. She sounds every bit a Dannon spokesperson. Hopefully people will pick up on that.

  7. I've seen kids with "health conscious" parents that control the children's calorie intake; but the kids are still obese.

    Personally, I let my son to eat whatever he wants including burgers, ice-cream, sweets, coke; etc. Regardless of all these "junks" that the ingests, he's still underweight.

    So, how do you explain this in relation to your views on Dr. Dolgoff's recommendations?

  8. Anonymous11:24 pm

    My 8 year old daughter is having a wonderful experience using the Red Light Green Light Eat Right program. She has been labeled as obese though she has always from birth been heavier than average. We visited nutritionist, worked out daily and nothing was helping her for 3 years. We started using Dr.Dolgoff"s plan and she saw success within weeks! All plans are not for everyone, but for my family and daughter, it was a Godsend!