Saturday, November 30, 2013

Saturday Stories: Poverty and Gluten Sensitivity

Hunt Gather Love's Melissa McEwen asks if gluten sensitivity is in fact a form of carbohydrate intolerance?

Linda Tirado (aka Killermartinis) explained to the world what it is like living with poverty and making "bad" decisions. It's an extremely important read and touches on many issues including cooking, food insecurity, and the small pleasure of junk food.

And here Ms. Tirado briefly covers how she winded up where she is.

[And if you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, here's my column for US News and World Report where I explain why I think nothing good can ever come from weighing your child]

Friday, November 29, 2013

I Can't Get Enough of These Videos

Longer term readers know, I'm a rather low-brow man.

Perhaps that's why all of these animals who sound like screaming people videos make me laugh and why I keep posting them on Funny Fridays.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

BREAKING! Coca-Cola Europe President James Quincey Supports Cup Size Limits!

The BBC's Jeremy Paxman, in discussing the insane amounts of sugar in movie theater serving sizes of Coca-Cola (23 teaspoons of sugar in a small movie Coke, 44 teaspoons in a large), leads Coca-Cola Europe's President James Quincey to state (at 4:38 in video below),
"Look, I do think we need to recognize that things need to change, that bigger cups need to come down. I don't think we are talking that the world can't change and that the world doesn't need to move on."

[h/t to Hemi Weingarten of Fooducate]

A Damning Expose of Food Industry Involvement In Canadian Health Policy Making

Would you want Exxon to be setting environmental policy? How about Pfizer organizing drug safety? Philip-Morris working on national smoking cessation strategies?

If you answered "no" to any of those aforementioned questions then I'll invite you to ponder the wisdom of the Canadian federal government's inclusion of the food industry as voting or advisory members at tables meant to hammer out public health policies that in turn would pertain to food.

That graphic up above? It comes from a brief paper published this week in Open Medicine which no doubt should shame the government.....though in order to feel shame you'd need to care and that's something I'm challenged to believe our government does.

Have a read yourself and if you're looking for some proof behind my statement that our government truly doesn't care, look no further than their Box 1.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Coca-Cola's New Slogan - "Movement is Coca-Cola"

I first reported on their new language a few weeks ago in a Coca-Cola ad coming out of Chile. Simply put it goes like this.

Coca-Cola's primary slogan is, "Open Happiness", with Coca-Cola presumably being the happiness.

Well now they have a new secondary slogan, "Movement is Happiness" (see video down below by the same guy who brought us that famous Chipotle Scarecrow ad).

Transpose one for the other and now we have Movement is Coca-Cola - reinforcing their primary message that if you just run around a little, you can drink all the Coca-Cola you want.

Think that transposition is unintentional? Not me. I think it's paying for some advertising executive's kid's private education.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Badvertising: Helixia Cough for Kids. Is It Really "Clinically Proven"?

I know it's a touch off my beaten path but as I was combing through this month's Today's Parent magazine looking for food ads to critique I happened upon this one for Helixia Cough which states that it has been,
"clinically proven to relieve cough and cold symptoms"
Wondering what "clinically proven" meant I headed over to Helixia's webpage and found their references section. There I learned that the "clinical proving" came primarily from studies conducted in the early 1990s and unfortunately, they were all published in German. The one item not published in German wasn't actually published and was described as, "internal data" and was sourced to South Korea.

That said, I was able to find a recent English language systematic review regarding the use of ivy leaf (the active ingredient in Helixia) on coughs and colds (I could not find any English language papers actually on Helixia in medline). It was published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2011 and I will highlight their conclusion here,
"Although all studies report that ivy extracts are effective to reduce symptoms of URTI, there is no convincing evidence due to serious methodological flaws and lack of placebo controls."
I often wonder how health professionals with conflicts sleep at night. That wonderment extends to the folks who have set up Canada's Natural Health Product Directorate as they're the very folks involved in clearing products like Helixia for the market (and for marketing).

Monday, November 25, 2013

Badvertising: Vanilla Cupcake Goldfish Grahams

The ad copy reads,
"Our grahams are made with
no artificial colours or flavours.
Think of it as the icing on the cake.
And then down down below,
"Baked with real vanilla extract. How sweet is that?"
So let's look at those claims briefly.

As far as thinking of it as the icing on the cake, I'd like to invite you to do so literally because from a caloric perspective, if you "iced" your cupcake like the one in the photo (where I count 28 grahams suggesting 56 to cover your cupcake) those highly processed Vanilla Cupcake Goldfish Grahams come in at 224 calories. If you were looking for 224 calories worth of actual vanilla icing, you'd need 4.5 tablespoons of Pillsbury Whipped Vanilla Icing (though people don't generally put that much icing on a cupcake).

Sugar wise the icing has significantly more of course, but that's not to say (even though Pepperidge Farm kinda does), that the Vanilla Cupcake Goldfish Grahams get their sweetness from vanilla extract. No, they get their sweetness from sugar and if in fact you did ice your cupcake with them, you'd be getting over 3 teaspoons of it.

To be clear, there are far worse products out there than Vanilla Cupcake Goldfish Grahams, but as opposed to what their ad copy suggests, you should think of them as a cookie-like treat for your kids, and not as health food.

[For those interested, here are the Vanilla Cupcake Goldfish Grahams' ingredients:


[UPDATE: An earlier version had a US ingredient list. Above now is the Canadian version (which would go with the Canadian advertisement]

Friday, November 22, 2013

Chris Farley Stars in Rob Ford The Movie

Oh how I'd pay to see the movie in today's Funny Friday trailer!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Nutrition Professor Champions Chocolate Milk in Medical Journal Advertisement

In an infomercial style advertisement placed in the Canadian Medical Association Journal by the Dairy Farmers of Canada, Associate Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics Dr. Carol Henry makes the case for school based chocolate milk programs.

She reports that removing chocolate milk from schools could have
"unintended consequences that could critically hinder optimal nutrient intakes",
that when chocolate milk was removed from schools it led to
a drop in milk consumption of 47% per student (ed. note: based on her own unpublished data)
"adding sugar to nutrient-rich foods improves diet quality in children and adolescents and has no adverse effects on weight",
and that,
"the estimated contribution of added sugars from flavoured milk, derived from per capita availability data (ed. note: and hence not applicable to students in schools) is low at less than 1g/day".
Just as a reminder, chocolate milk, drop per drop, has up to double the calories and 20% more sugar than Coca-Cola. One small 250mL carton a day consumed for a year would provide a child with 21.7 pounds of sugar - more than half of those added.

All this to say, I wonder if Dr. Henry would approve of a national school apple pie program to try to encourage the consumption of more nutrient-rich apples?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Guest Post: The Ritz Hits the Fan in Manitoba

Talk about viral. My post highlighting Kristen Bartkiw's daycare's bizarre implementation of Manitoba's food policy made international news and appeared on sites like BoingBoing, Gawker, and Grist driving intense interest and traffic.

Well my friend and colleague Dr. Joyce Slater, a Registered Dietitian and an Assistant Professor of Community Nutrition in the Department of Human Nutritional Sciences at the University of Manitoba caught sight of the story too and she sent me some of her thoughts. I thought they were important and so I asked her if it'd be alright to post them as a guest post and she kindly agreed. A bit more about Joyce - prior to returning to the University of Manitoba Joyce worked as a public health nutritionist for 18 years, has two teenagers, and likens eating a healthy diet to flying a jet – it’s always going off course; what’s important is recognizing it and making regular corrections!

The Manitoba Daycare ‘Ritz-Crackers-Are-A-Grain-Food’ Scandal is threatening to move Rob Ford out of the spotlight – it’s gone viral and the story of the "bad" mom that didn't have all four food groups in her childrens' lunch was even picked up by Gawker!

Really though, there are a couple other "layers" to this story. First, daycare workers are paid poorly, and these women (‘cause they’re almost all women) are expected to provide a lot of services while adhering to many (and growing) guidelines regarding health and safety. And it’s a good thing that we have those guidelines to ensure children are well cared for, but lets keep in mind that their main job is childcare, not ‘nutrition’.

Second, it’s great to have policies supporting healthy nutrition, but what support are daycares given to implement these policies? A short one-off in-service? A ‘fact sheet’? And then when the Ritz hits the fan we say “how stupid is that! Adding crackers to a homemade meal!!! They should know better!” Well, why should they know better? Are these daycare employees are expected to be all-knowledgeable about nutrition (perhaps because they are women)?

Well, with over 60% of us overweight or obese, and the massive loads of ultra-processed foods everywhere we turn, I would guess that most of the population is completely confused about “what to eat”. Add to that our complicated nutrition messaging (most of which now comes from food companies)- and guess what: "Ritz crackers" DO fit in the grain group! And hey – those potatoes; well, um… high carb, but… don’t they really go in the veggies? I have undergraduate nutrition students who are confused about this – because it is confusing!

And what kind of ongoing support do daycares have regarding nutrition education and implementation of policies? Not much. They have inspectors who go around to make sure there are proper locks on the cupboard, but what about healthy food?

The moral of this story is that the Manitoba government should have registered dietitians on staff working on an ONGOING BASIS with all community-based organizations that serve food, including daycares. Instead of hiring more nurses and doctors to provide more curative health care for skyrocketing chronic diseases, let's do some real prevention in the community.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

More on the Futility of Parents "Just Saying No"

For those of you who are familiar with the evidence base on parental feeding patterns it won't come as a surprise to you that just saying "No" (restriction) isn't a wise plan - yet there are many who feel that the ability of parents to "just say no" is a viable defense against our current food environment.

Well, here's more evidence, albeit from a small sample size of just 37 preschoolers, that demonstrated,
"the use of restriction does not reduce children’s consumption of these foods, particularly among children with lower regulatory or higher appetitive tendencies"
It's worse than that though in that restriction actually increased children's intake of restricted foods and had a more pronounced effect therein on kids who already struggled with larger appetites.

If we want to improve the overall health of children, rather than defending an environment that constantly thrusts garbage into our children by suggesting that in defence parents can, "just say no", instead we need to decrease the number of opportunities where "Nos" might feel warranted.

[And just a quick correction to yesterday's post. Yesterday the Manitoba Child Care Association was identified erroneously as the source of the policy that led a daycare to fine a parent for not including Ritz crackers in their kids' lunches. The correct policy attribution is in fact to the Manitoba Government's Early Learning and Child Care lunch regulations.]

Monday, November 18, 2013

Parents Fined For Not Sending Ritz Crackers In Kids' Lunches

It's quite possible that the single stupidest school lunch policy on the planet comes courtesy of a strange interpretation of the Manitoba Government's Early Learning and Child Care lunch regulations (an earlier version of this article incorrectly pointed at the Manitoba Child Care Association as the source of the strangely interpreted policy).

Apparently if a child's lunch is deemed "unbalanced", where "balance" refers to ensuring that a lunch conforms to the proportions of food groups as laid out by Canada's awful Food Guide, then that child's lunch is "supplemented", and their parent is fined.

Blog reader Kristen Bartkiw received just such a fine.

She sent her children to daycare with with lunches containing leftover homemade roast beef and potatoes, carrots, an orange and some milk.

She did not send along any "grains".

As a consequence the school provided her children with, I kid you not, supplemental Ritz Crackers, and her with a $10 fine.

As Kristen writes, had she sent along lunches consisting of, "microwave Kraft Dinner and a hot dog, a package of fruit twists, a Cheestring, and a juice box" those lunches would have sailed right through this idiocy. But her whole food, homemade lunches? They lacked Ritz Crackers.

So what say you? Have you come across a more inane school lunch policy? Because I sure haven't.

[Kristen also updated me that consequent to parents failing to pack "balanced" lunches they've moved to a hot lunch program that she describes as great. So perhaps some good came out of Manitoba's idiocy after all]

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Saturday Stories: Tap Water, Death and Football

My friend Andy Bellatti over on Civil Eats exposes Coca-Cola's war on non-revenue generating tap water.

A heart wrenching read from Freakonomics' Steven Levitt's father Michael on the death of his daughter.

ESPN's Rick Reilly on how football is getting harder and harder to watch.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Can You Watch This Without Laughing?

I couldn't.

So for Funny Friday today, see if you can manage not at least grinning while watching this under 1 minute clip.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Help Wanted Ads Highlight True Concerns of the Food Industry

I've been critical before about Health Canada and our government's warm embrace and inclusion of Canadian food industry lobby the Food and Consumer Products of Canada's (FCPC) on governmental panels setting policies or recommendations.

For instance I thought it was beyond obscene that among the 12 members who made up Canada's Food Guide's advisory committee one was Carolyn O'Brien, then the Director of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs at the Food and Consumer Products Manufacturers of Canada. I was horrified to learn that the FCPC had joined Canada's then Minister of Health in rolling out a watered down, worse than nothing, voluntary set of guidelines for the food industry and their predatory practice of targeting children. And I was beyond disappointed to learn that the FCPC Vice Presient Phyllis Tanaka was invited to join Ontario's Healthy Kids Panel as a full voting member.

So why do I have such a hate on for the FCPC? Well I don't actually. I think the food industry needs organizations like the FCPC to represent their interests - it's just that I don't think Health Canada or our government should expect the FCPC to do anything beyond trying to represent their interests. Meaning that give them a vote and that vote's not going to be used to further public health aims, it'll be used to further the aims of FCPC member companies.

And so why this post rehashing everything?

Well the FCPC is hiring an RD to succeed Ms. Tanaka as their Vice President Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, Food and Nutrition. Understandably their responsibilities will include protecting and promoting the interests of member companies and specifically in doing so with both Health Canada and Dietitians of Canada. Here's the job description (highlights mine),
"Reporting to the VP, Public and Regulatory Affairs, the Vice-President, Scientific & Regulatory Affairs – Food and Nutrition is responsible for:

Maintaining a profile and good relations with Health Canada bureaucrats with responsibilities for files of importance to FCPC member companies. This would include proactively establishing opportunities for Health Canada to meet with members on strategic files.

Maintaining a communications process between Dietitians of Canada (DC) and FCPC to share positions and perspectives on food and nutrition policy and regulatory issues and facilitating efforts to bring the industry dietitians’ perspective to the fore in DC’s development of policy and positions on issues that affect industry.

Major responsibilities include:

International Level: working with the Grocery Manufacturers Association staff on North American focused issues; working as required in other international fora to represent industry positions and concerns related to technical, regulatory and public health issues

Federal Level: working with member companies to respond to Health Canada consultations on food and nutrition policy and regulatory issues; maintaining a profile and good relations with key stakeholder groups with vested interest in federal level food and nutrition policy and regulatory issues.

Provincial Level: working with VP Provincial Affairs to develop technical input to government relations strategies on provincial based food and nutrition policy and regulatory issues.

Within FCPC providing food and nutrition related technical support to the Regulatory and Public Affairs Team; and acting as an industry spokesperson with media, NGOs and other audiences as required.
So Health Canada and DC, the next time you invite FCPC to the table, remember, they're there, understandably, to protect their members' interests, and if those interests don't coincide with public health, don't expect them to change, instead expect them to work tirelessly and vigorously to try to fight your health improvement efforts.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

If You Want Your Kids to Eat Their Veggies, Should You Spike Them with Butter?

Maybe you caught this study when it came out earlier this year, but I only just got around to reading it. It was published in the journal Appetite and it detailed the impact of spiking toddlers' vegetable soups with fats and carbs (sunflower oil and maltodextrin - and in so doing increasing the energy density and palatability of the soup) on the intake of non-spiked vegetable soup 2 and 6 months later.

Not surprisingly the kids preferred the energy dense soups.

Perhaps slightly surprisingly, how much the kids liked their soups from the get go didn't impact on how well they liked the non-spiked soups 6 months later. At that point all that mattered was exposure.

As I've mentioned in the past, my house is part of the "one bite to be polite" community and we've found that over time those bites condition our girls' palates to a wide variety of tastes and foods, while the one bite to be polite prevents those exposures from turning new flavours into battlegrounds.

[And please don't read this post as stating that I'm averse to you putting butter on veggies - that's quite delicious - I just used the study to illustrate the point that exposure is king]

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Two Sides of Coca-Cola's Slippery, Sugary, Mouth

I love these two dueling stories from this past spring - so much so that I'll share them with you here.

Up first is the indignant upset of Joseph Tripodi, Coca-Cola's chief marketer, who along with such gems as,
"If you are sitting on your ass all day then have a Diet Coke."
was quoted in this June 21st piece in the Guardian as rejecting a proposal for a tax on sugary drinks and stating,
"We are easy to demonise as we are the world's largest brand and so people say 'you guys are causing all the problems'"
Up next, just 5 days later is this report from the Associated Press, also based out of the UK, which reports on a Coca-Cola brand strategy document that asks,
"How do we motivate people to make soft drinks, like smoothies, juices and other on-the-go products, part of their morning ritual in the same way as tea or coffee?"
Of course Tripodi's got it wrong. Not in that we shouldn't target Coca-Cola and other sugary drink makers, but rather Tripodi's wrong about why Coca-Cola's easy to demonize. Coca-Cola's easy to demonize not because they're causing all the problems, but rather because they're duplicitously suggesting they're part of the solution when it comes to obesity.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Exercise Does Not Make Coca Cola Healthful

There is no weight at which drinking Coca-Cola (or any other sugar sweetened beverage) is suddenly less bad for you. There's also no amount of exercise that you can do before you drink one that's going to change the fact you're drinking, in the case of one of their ubiquitous 20oz bottles, 16.5 teaspoons of sugar and the calories of a large chocolate bar.

Yet Coca-Cola, go figure, is "Coming Together" to try to convince people that exercise makes drinking Coca-Cola A-OK.

Here's a recent ad coming out of Chile. Coca-Cola rigged up an awesome setup in a taxi that allowed those who pedaled while riding to receive a discount on their fare. The ad's translated copy reads,
"The statistics say that 70% of Chileans sedentary lives. The good thing is to lift a finger, can be the beginning to change this. Coca-Cola presents: Taxi movement. The more you pedal, the lower your fare. Combine Physical activity with moderate and balanced diet to manage weight. How much are you going to move today? Movement is happiness. Happiness is movement."

So there you have it. To paraphrase, if you "Balance" your dietary choices with physical activity - you're golden. Happiness is movement.

And what else is happiness?

Well it's Coca-Cola of course, as just like here in North America, Chile's Coca-Cola campaign involves opening happiness or, "destapa la felicidad"

Now don't get me wrong, if you love Coca-Cola, drink it, but only drink the smallest amount of it you need to enjoy your life. That said, just don't forget that exercise and/or a low body weight certainly won't make that beverage any less unhealthy. And if you think for one moment that Coca-Cola's "Coming Together" to do anything other than sell more Coca-Cola and forestall industry unfriendly regulation, then I think you've let the bubbles go to your head.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Saturday Stories: Sky Blue Pink, Vaccines, and Hackers

A touching story by Brian Anthony Hernandez in Mashable on the colour sky blue pink and one man's death.

Tara Haelle in Red Wine and Applesauce knocks it out of the park busting every vaccine related myth there ever was (with extensive references!)

Adam Penenberg and a chilling piece about what happened after he challenged hackers to investigate him.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Wow! (And Never Would I Have Imagined a Marching Band Would Make Me Say Wow)

While it's not laugh out loud funny, pretty sure that today's Funny Friday video will make you smile.


Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Badvertising: Go-Gurt Doubles Down on Health Halo Marketing

If I were asked to describe Go-Gurt succinctly the words, "sugary blech" would leap to mind, but if Go-Gurt's new packaging has any influence on consumers' thoughts therein, they may instead think, "healthy snack".

So what has Go-Gurt done aside from repackage? Well they've also reformulated.

Gone is HFCS, and, hold onto your hats, sugar's down by a whole gram per serving.

But what's still there?

A teeny tiny tube that is basically made up of a bit of milk along with a full 2.25 tsp of sugar that in turn delivers a hint of calcium, vitamin D and a measly 2g of protein.

The problem isn't that this stuff exists. The problem is that Yoplait's allowed to stamp Go-Gurt boxes with all sorts of copy that very directly scream to consumers, "HEALTHY", when really it may just be sugary blech.

Do you really want your kids eating sugary blech?

[And if you're so inclined to hear about its taste - have a peek at this laugh out loud review, albeit from a product tasting before that single gram of sugar disappeared.]

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Guest Post: An Open Letter to Youth Competitive Dance

Image Source

Today's guest post comes from Lori Leigh Wilson. Lori is a mom of 3, a writer, a voice-over actor and a plant-based foodie. She is passionate about holistic family health, taking time to enjoy the moments (almost always) and learning from her missteps. You can check out her family lifestyle blog (where this piece was originally posted) for veggie recipes, parenting successes and failures, and honest sharing.

Being the dad of 3 little girls, this post spoke to me and I asked Lori if it'd be alright if I shared and she graciously agreed.
Dear Youth Dance Competition Organizers and Judges,

First of all, I would like to start by thanking you for providing a forum for my daughter to express her passion. At 10 years old, she revels in the opportunity to move her body and pour her feelings and creativity into music and movement. Even when she isn’t training, she will most often spend her free time choreographing new routines and practicing the moves that have turned her into a strong and athletic young girl. And make no mistake, she is an athlete. And this is in no small part due to the focused training she undertakes in preparation for competition.

Like any competitive sport, there are things that I don’t love about dance – the incredibly high cost, the countless hours that make family dinners all but a distant memory from September to June and the scant costumes (many of which will come in handy if my daughter ever parlays her dance training into something involving a G-string and a pole). But like all parents who agree to enroll their children into competitive endeavors, I appreciate that I sometimes have to take the good with the bad and these are the issues I will grit my teeth and contend with as long as my daughter continues to love this sport.

There is however one thing I just cannot wrap my brain around. One thing that makes me sad and frustrated at the same time. Here’s my problem – can you please tell me why I am required to plaster my beautiful daughter’s face in layers of gaudy makeup and absurdly long false eyelashes in order for her to compete on stage? And why every dancer from the tender age of 6 must endure hours in front of a mirror layering on powders, blushes and lipsticks only to come out looking like ridiculous overly sexualized young women?

Here is why I have a real issue with this – you are essentially telling a group of young athletes (the vast majority of them girls) that they are not good enough just as they are. That all of the hours of sweat and training are not quite enough to prepare them to compete in front of a panel of judges. Instead of celebrating their natural beauty and athleticism, they must further prepare by slapping on face powder and body glitter and hairspray themselves to within an inch of their lives to make themselves presentable. In order to fulfill the advanced requirements of the sport, they must transform themselves from beautiful innocent young performers into sexy made-up temptresses.

When I’ve asked around, I’ve been informed that the makeup enhances the quality of the performances. And I can understand this point only in relation to particular themes – perhaps a zombie dance would require ghostly white faces and fake scars or a smurf song would lend itself to blue faces and costumes. But I’m talking about the lion’s share of dances that regardless of the theme or music require all female performers to apply obscene amounts of eyeshadow, mascara, foundation, blush and lipstick.

Now I’ve also been told that the thick and often garish makeup is applied to allow the judges to see the girls faces better. But if that were truly the case then why don’t I see bright pink gloss or spidery lashes on the equally talented male performers? Maybe I’m missing something but I’ve yet to see a young man dance across the stage in a belly shirt with rouged cheeks and a head full of laughable attached ringlets.

Can you imagine any other competitive sport where the athletes would have to endure such indignity before competition? Would we send our children who play rep level soccer or hockey or football or lacrosse onto the playing field wearing ruby-red lipstick and purple blush to better appreciate their athleticism? Are gymnasts, swimmers and track stars forced to spend hours in the mirror pre-comp carefully affixing 1-inch lashes to enhance the visual aspect of their performance?

And am I the only one who finds this completely nuts? Because I’m really starting to think I am. I have always been shocked by how few of my friends share my discomfort with this requirement. “Oh Lori” they say “it’s just part of the sport.” “The girls will lose marks if they aren’t wearing makeup” or “My daughter loves getting all made up.” To this last comment I say yes – my sister and I spent many an hour as young girls slopping piles of my mom’s discarded makeup all over ourselves and having a ball. But it wasn’t mandatory to any activity we were participating in. It was simply for fun.

I do not consider myself a dance mom any more than I’m a soccer or hockey mom to my sons. I’m simply one mother stumbling my way through parenthood trying to do what is best for my children. And like most parents I will support them in their choices as long as they are reasonable and not life threatening. But I also want to teach my children to speak up when something feels wrong and to challenge conventions when they are outdated or unreasonable (and you can bet I’ve had many frank discussions with my daughter about my feelings around makeup and dance).

And please don’t misunderstand me – this is not meant to be a dig at any particular person or studio. I happen to love where my daughter dances and her talented teachers and I’ll be the first to admit that I had a blast watching her on stage at each and every one of her competitions last season. I’m only asking that as a collective – moms, dads, kids, studio owners, teachers, competition organizers and judges – that we take a good hard look at this particular requirement and perhaps decide that at least for these young athletes- dance should be appreciated as a sport and an art form that ultimately needs no artificial embellishment.

To the organizers of the competitions and the judges, I can tell you this for sure- if you lose the makeup you might not see bright pink lips or electric blue eye lids but I can guarantee you will have a much better view of the pure and unaltered joy on the dancers faces. You will see natural smiles and cheeks flushed with effort and excitement. You will see their eyes lit up with happiness and passion. And at the end of the day – isn’t that what it’s really all about?



Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Canadian Pharmacies Using Flu Shots To Sell Non-Evidence Based Supplements?

A few years ago the Province of Ontario granted pharmacists the right to administer flu shots. Personally I think that's a great move as it takes a load of our already overburdened doctors' offices and markedly increases the availability of the shots.

But it's not all sunshine.

Last Friday my family went to our local Rexall Pharma Plus to get ours shots. And while the shots went smoothly, and putting aside the fact my children were all offered chocolate bars for their bravery, it was the coupon that came actually attached to my "vaccination record" that gave me pause.

That's it up above. It's for Jamieson Flu Shield with "Polinacea".

What's Polinacea? It's an extract from the roots of the Echinacea angustifolia plant.

So does it work? To answer that question first check out this disclaimer that was printed on the Flu Shield coupon itself,

Do the words, "emerging", "preliminary", "suggests" and "may" instill you with confidence?

Looking to the medical literature the full text of this "preliminary research" is available online, and it turns out it was so preliminary that it didn't in fact study whether or not Polinacea helped to improve the immune system's response after taking the flu vaccine.

It was published in Alternative Medicine Review in 2012 and it involved two "pilot studies". The first followed 38 individuals divided into those receiving the flu shot and Polinacea, those receiving Polinacea and no flu shot, and those receiving both. They then tracked  influenza-type symptoms in the groups. They also looked at various blood based "immune parameter" biomarkers, but only did so in the group receiving Polinacea but no flu shot. Given they didn't actually compare those "immune parameter" biomarkers in the flu shot only group, no conclusion whatsoever can be drawn from the findings as to immune system response in those who also received the flu shot.

The second pilot study involved 34 children who did not in fact receive a flu shot, and so again, no conclusion as to the benefit of Flu Shield following a flu shot can be drawn.

Reflecting on this I need to ask, should publicly funded health care dollars be spent to help pharmacies sell non-evidence based nonsense to Ontarians?

My vote is no.

Monday, November 04, 2013

The Heart and Stroke Foundation Needs International Experts To Tell Them Not to Sell Candy?

The Heart and Stroke Foundation's response to my call to action on their abysmal Health Check program has been something of a train wreck and includes this press release put out by Health Check's program manager Terry Dean.

In it he notes,
"The HSF is currently in the process of developing a comprehensive position on sugar. We will be soliciting national and international experts to provide us advice on the most recent international evidence in this area in order to develop an evidence-based position on intake, which currently does not exist in Canada."
So what exactly do the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check Registered Dietitians do for the Foundation if Health Check needs to ask for outside help to determine whether or not endorsing fruit juice gummis that are themselves 80% sugar by weight with virtually no associated nutrition is a good idea?

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if your organization needs international experts to tell them selling candy as a health food is a bad idea, perhaps you might want to consider the possibility that there's something wrong with your organization's own expertise.

Oh, and for the record, it's not like any of this is news to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. I've been calling them out on their candy endorsements since as far back as March 2010.

Regarding fruit juice and fruit? This tweet from RD Bridgette Kidd sums it up quite succinctly,

The other thing Health Check tried to do on Friday was to suggest that fruit sugar gummis are simply dried fruit. They made that case via Twitter and they even linked to an article by renowned Canadian RD, author, and national columnist Leslie Beck, naming her directly, that speaks to the virtues of dried fruit.

In turn, that tweet led to this brief exchange,

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Saturday Stories: Genetics, "Before Angelina", Bad Science and Gluten

Great piece by David Dobbs in Slates on the promise and failings of genetic research to date.

Time Magazine's Alexandra Sifferlin's photo essay "Before Angelina" in honour of breast cancer awareness month.

Michael Hiltzik with a hard hitting piece in the LA Times on how science has lost its way.

My friend Tim Caulfield and with his newly minted designation as a Trudeau scholar with too many designations to list, on Gwyneth, Miley and Gluten.

[And if you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, this week's US News and World Report piece explores Eat Drink Politics' Michele Simon's damning report on "Charity" and McDonald's.]

Friday, November 01, 2013

Did You Catch This Colgate Video on Kids and Halloween Treats?

Today's Friday video is that already famous Halloween Colgate ad for toothpaste and toothbrushes (that I'm betting many of you have already watched given its virality).

But is it funny?

Yoni Levitan reached out to me on Twitter wondering whether or not all this video is doing is reinforcing societal stereotypes and attitudes that suggest healthy foods (fruits and vegetables) are disgusting.

What do you think?

(and remember, Halloween was yesterday, today you can most definitely dial down the treats)

[h/t to Eating Rules' Andrew Wilder for first sending it my way]