Friday, February 28, 2014

I'm Really Not Sure Why This Made Me Laugh

Today's Funny Friday's a quick one.

And all I can say is you'll have to wait for 35 seconds to get where I know you'll want to go.

Have a great weekend!



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Thursday, February 27, 2014

More of What's in it for Coca-Cola to be Tied to Charities (and Bloggers)

Here's a short tweet exchange that covers the "what" succinctly. It stems from, get this, a "nutrition" conference organized by Coca-Cola and put on for non-nutrition expert bloggers.

The first tweet in the exchange was a non-attendee expressing their frustration that the invited bloggers weren't able (or didn't want) to see the inherent conflict of Coca-Cola hosting a nutrition conference for them.

The second was a blogger explaining it's totally cool because Canadian public health icon ParticipACTION and the World Wildlife Fund charity both work with Coca-Cola.


Innocence by association is not an insignificant return on their investment.

And if you care to see more of why Coca-Cola hosts conferences for bloggers have a peek at these other #KOConversations tweets (just get past the first few from non-attendees that happened after the fact and were actually critical).

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Think Before You Link!

Periodically I put this plea out - especially to those of you with positions of influence in your fields and/or large numbers of friends and followers.
THINK BEFORE YOU LINK!
Before you link to the press release about that study that says chocolate is a weight loss aid, or that dieting raises the risk of developing diabetes, or that low-carb causes heart disease, or that kids with obesity eat less than kids without, take the time to actually read the source article and critically appraise it just as you would with an article whose press release didn't fit your own personal narratives or confirmation biases.

Or at the very, very, least - indicate to your followers that you haven't actually read the study in the tweet or status update itself.

Think before you link - you owe it to those who trust you.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New Canadian Health Minister Continues Assault on Health

In a classic move of trying to bury government nonsense by means of timing the news this past Christmas Eve Health Canada pushed out a press release by our new Health Minister Rona Ambrose highlighting what it sees as Canada's 2013 public health victories.

In the press release Minister Ambrose states,
"Canadians expect the foods they eat, the health products they take and the consumer products they use to be safe"
Breathtaking hypocrisy from a government that not only has reversed their decision to regulate unnatural trans-fats out of the food supply, but to also stop their program of trans-fat marketplace surveillance.

Shame on you Minister Ambrose, and on the Harper government, for continuing your fatal dithering on the trans-fat file.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Deepak Chopra Thinks People With Obesity Are Lazy, Gluttonous, Monsters

Or so it would seem from his video for something called, "The Weightless Project", which according to Chopra is "an initiative, where any attempt at shedding a few pounds results in funds that will help the undernourished".

Somber almost creepy music, headless plodding bodies, an obese man in an undershirt blankly staring forward holding a television remote, large butts hanging precariously over picnic table benches, cars pulling up to drive-thrus, scary obese silhouettes in dark alleys, and all of this juxtaposed with images of starving children and poverty to bring us to the video's ultimate message of if you folks with obesity just get off your lazy asses you can not only help yourselves, but also feed the poor.

Don't believe me?

Think I'm exaggerating?

Watch the video:

.

[Deepak, for more on why the portrayal of people with obesity matters please visit Yale's Rudd Center]

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Saturday Stories: Goals, Trolls and Brazil

A fabulous piece by Jeff Haden in Inc. on why you shouldn't bother setting goals (you'll see why it's great when you read it).

Chris Mooney in Slate discusses the evidence that proves internet trolls are genuinely horrible people.

Marion Nestle provides a translation of Brazil's fabulous new food based dietary guidelines (no nutrient nonsense)!

[And if you don't follow me on Facebook or Twitter, here's my piece from the Globe & Mail and how just 2 minutes of effort a day can double your weight loss.]

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Friday, February 21, 2014

This 8 Year Old Boy is Now a Hero of Mine

With self-confidence and talent that I can only dream of this little Indian boy dances his way to my heart and to today's Funny Friday.

Have a great weekend!



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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Olympians Target Children for their Food Industry Sponsors

One of the most obvious reasons for the food industry to partner with sport is to help deflect blame for diet and weight related illnesses away from their products and onto inactivity. But there's another reason they get involved - to reach impressionable children (often younger than those they claim not to target) and create lasting emotional brand attachments.

For instance a few months ago ParticipACTION offered up their sponsor Coca-Cola (yup, Coca-Cola is ParticipACTION's largest sponsor and to date has given them $10 million) the opportunity to send their brand ambassadors out to meet kids. It was called a "Teen Challenge" but looking at Coca-Cola's promotional video of the event (screengrab up above, video linked here), it would seem teens were not the predominant attendees.

And in comes Coca-Cola branded Patrick Chan, a highly charismatic figure skating Olympic hero to brighten up their days.



Same goes for a Coca-Cola branded Olympian speedskater Marianne St-Gelais,



And here's Coca-Cola branded BMX Olympian biker Sarah Walker at a Let's Move 60 event.


But it's not just smiles given out at these sorts of food industry sponsored charitable sport events. Here's an email from someone who wishes to remain nameless describing their recent trip to a Coca-Cola sponsored, Olympian attended, event. But before we get to their description, here's a photo from the Coca-Cola press corp that accompanied their headline, "Fruit and Veggie Fest Teaches Children About Healthy Living"

Looks and sounds great, right?

Here's that non Coca-Cola paid for coverage of the event I mentioned receiving,
"Dispatch from the Coke’s Health and Wellness Promotion:

I just was required to take a group of kids to a Coca Cola-sponsored Fruit and Veggie Festival. The other partners were Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Wellpoint. The event started with a welcome which featured:

  • Key message: Eat lots of fruits and veggies kids
  • Olympic athletes: One who is also a Coca-Cola executive and the other was Gale Devers, Olympic gold medalist.
  • A thank you to Coca-Cola.
The kids were engaged in an obstacle course, zumba, crafts, and fruit and veggie snack making tables. There were also 4 food trucks handing out tastings of vegetarian tacos and sandwiches. The kids were also served Dasani Water and neon-blue Powerade Zero.

After a significant amount of eating, and a small amount of physical activity, the youth exited with bags of trinkets and water bottles, an 8-inch Subway sandwich, and more bottled Dasani and Powerade.

The small crowd of black and latino children was very well documented by photographers and videographers.

I am pretty sure the kids didn't leave the event with a message of “Eat and drink less.” I am sure there was atleast 1000 calories provided to each child in a 2 ½ hour period.

In fact, I believe the message they existed with was stuff your face, and then some, and wash it down with Coke products was reinforced.
"


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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"Sponsored" Tweets from the #F3K Food & Nutrition Influencer Conference

Those of you who follow various nutrition professionals on Twitter have no doubt seen the #F3K hashtag these past few days.

Briefly, the #F3K hashtag stems from an annual influencers conference run by Porter Novelli, a multinational PR firm that boldly (and rather terrifyingly) exclaims,
"We motivate people to change deeply ingrained behaviors rooted in cultural and social norms. Our results are greater than influencing people. We make them believe"
And here's Porter Novelli describing their annual PN Food3000 (#F3K) conference),
"We boast long-term relationships with the individuals and organizations that influence consumers’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviors related to food and health. The Food and Nutrition practice annually hosts PN Food3000, at which American Dietetic Association media spokespeople are exposed to the latest innovations and research in nutrition communications. Our team of expert communicators and registered dietitians helps clients devise intelligent strategies to introduce new products or line extensions against well-chosen market segments, including multicultural audiences. We are skilled in developing platforms that create a point of differentiation, establish strategic alliances and sponsorships, grow consumption and position brands for new growth segments."
And judging from the tweets emanating from this year's #F3K that took place in Amsterdam, they've done a bang up job and the sentiment from many non-attending RDs on Twitter is that those who did attend did so at least partially on the conference's industry sponsors' dimes.

I'm going to post these tweets without commentary. Most come from RDs at the conference, many of who boast large social networks and presumably are Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic spokespeople . And to be clear, the tweets are my own quick cherry picking (to see all the tweets, click here). They're not meant to disparage or shame those who tweeted them (in many cases they're just quotes from speakers), but rather for readers here to consider the wisdom of these sorts of conferences and their promotion, as well as whether the hashtag #spon is sufficient to explain to the public that the tweets come from food industry sponsored talks (it wasn't for me - I had to ask someone what it meant).

[BTW - I did ask Porter Novelli for further information regarding sponsorship and program. They have yet to send a response. I can only suppose then that transparency doesn't make for good PR.]



















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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Diet Book Review: James Fell & Margaret Yúfera-Leitch's Lose it Right

Before I get to the review I have many disclosures. I've known James for years and have worked with him on many stories in his job as a columnist for all sorts of folks including the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune and Chatelaine. We share a Canadian publisher and editor. I received a review copy of his book a while ago (and wrote a cover blurb for it), and he recently wrote a very kind review of my book The Diet Fix. I'm featured a bunch in Lose it Right. But wait, it gets even more conflicted. James is also one of those folks who by means of us working together on all sorts of stuff led us to even touch base outside of social media. James is a friend.

So, now that all that's off my chest, I'll tell you a bit more back story. When I first "met" James he really lived up to his moniker at the time of, "In Your Face". That he was. James has a very in your face style of writing, but what became clear rather quickly, an in your face style of living. He's never short of an opinion, nor is he ever shy about sharing his with you. And that's not a bad thing, it's just James. When our shared publisher reached out to me to consider writing a blurb for James' book (and he mine), I was actually hesitant. My worry was simple. While being a huge fan of his writing style, and while it certainly seemed from what I'd read of his that our opinions were in line with one another, I worried about not liking his book. I didn't think it would be awful or anything, but given our long working relationship and our shared publisher, I wondered what I would do if I didn't love it.

I needn't have worried.

Despite my extreme familiarity with the subject matter, and despite having read truly dozens and dozens of diet books, I can honestly state that I have never had more fun reading one than I did reading Lose it Right.

Its subtitle does it justice, "A Brutally Honest, 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind" as that's really what it's all about. No bullsh*t, just straight shooting laced with James' humour and Margaret's evidence base. Their 3 stages are straightforward. The first is the background they feel will help to inspire your lifestyle changes. The second are the preparations you'll need to enact those changes. The third are the whats and the hows of the changes they're aiming you at.

There aren't any real time frames attached to how long each stage will take, nor are there any nonsensical inflexibilities in their guidance. The crux of Lose it Right is that exercise, while not in and of itself useful in burning a whole boatload of calories, is essential in inspiring, fuelling and sustaining healthful lifestyles. They get into what they call the "virtuous cycle" whereby their theory is that exercise, "enhances ability to make wise food choices and makes you crave healthy fuel", and that said healthy fuel, "increases energy and positive attitudes about being active". And that definitely fits both with an evidence base that states that those who exercise more score higher on surveys of healthful living behaviours, and with my experiences working with literally thousands of patients trying to change their lives.

Ultimately Lose it Right is a doable healthy living business plan (James is an MBA grad) that lays out not only what changes you have to make to open your healthful living business, but also the return you can expect on your investment, as well as the blueprints for how to enact change, and it's a plan I can honestly endorse.

Should you want your own copy, here's an Indigo link and here's an Amazon link (its publication date is April 1st). So far it's only available here in Canada, though I'm guessing it'll ship wherever you might be.

You can also read James on his blog Six Pack Abs, and Margaret on hers Psychology and Appetite

[And FYI - while I was asked to write a blurb for the book, I was never asked to write this review, nor is James or our shared editor aware that I'm writing it.]

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Saturday Stories: Olympic Hunger Games, Sugar Law, and Sugar Tax

Riveting piece by former Olympian Samantha Retrosi on why she feels the Olympics are like The Hunger Games.

When Marion Nestle says that an article on food politics is worth reading I listen! Here's a fascinating piece of investigative journalism by Eric Lipton in the New York Times on the rivalry between the Corn Refiners and Big Sugar

Lance Knobel in Berkeleyside discusses the possibility of Berkeley becoming the first city to impose a soda tax in the US.

[And if you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, here's this week's US News and World Report column on why you shouldn't take a flying leap at healthy.]

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Bad NFL Lip Reading Part 2

For those of you just coming out of your post Super Bowl NFL withdrawal and even for those who aren't actual football fans, today's Funny Friday is sure to make you smile!

Have a great weekend!



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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Are You Ready for "Sport Recovery Beer"? (Sadly Not The Onion)

No, this is not The Onion. It's "Lean Machine Sport Recovery Beer", and if this product ever makes it to shelves in Canada it will demonstrate well and truly that Health Canada doesn't give a flying you-know-what about what's being marketed and sold to consumers.

This seems smart.
So what is a "sport recovery beer"? It's beer. Beer advertised as healthful. Beer with marketing that suggests it will help you with your "muscle recovery", provide you with "electrolyte replenishment" and "Anti-Oxidants", and support your, "Immune system", and in so doing, "allow your body to recover quicker and more fully".

As far who Lean Machine feels is their target market, try this on for size straight from their website,
"Lean Machine will be known as a 'FIT BEER' and it will be marketed primarily to the Young Adults, 19-32 years of age. This age group represents the largest consumer of ready to drink beverages. Consumer research has indicated that this target group has a strong desire to purchase and consume quality tasting ready to drink beverages, and if available, they will switch from their current brands."
And while I too long for health food beer (and cancer fighting chicken wings, and blood pressure lowering potato chips), I desperately hope that Health Canada, and frankly governments the world over, will ensure that all of the money spent on developing and branding this beer is poured right down the proverbial drain and ban its sale long before it ever starts actively preying on our teens.

[And if you prefer research to greedy, immoral, marketing BS and you're considering this beer you ought to also consider the results of this recent study that found post-exercise alcohol impairs muscle recovery and adaptation - h/t Kevin Tipton]

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My Amazon Q&A Regarding The Diet Fix

It's hard to believe but in less than 3 weeks The Diet Fix will be on shelves, and just yesterday a Q&A I did with Amazon about it went live and happily Amazon has no issue with me sharing it here.

Q&A with Yoni Freedhoff M.D. on The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work

What misconception about dieting do you think causes the most damage?


The most damaging misconception about dieting is that our weights should all be “ideal” and that scales not only measure pounds, but also possess the ability to measure the presence or absence of health. It’s those messages that lead dieters to undertake wholly nonsensical approaches to weight management, and they also serve to help fuel society’s hateful weight biases.

What is Post Traumatic Dieting Disorder?

Post-traumatic dieting disorder or PTDD is the frequent consequence of years of recurrent traumatic dieting efforts. It’s a shared constellation of symptoms that often extends far beyond a dieter’s relationship with food and may include feelings of ineffectiveness, shame, hopelessness, loss of healthy body image, feeling permanently damaged, social withdrawal, and, at times, can even impact upon interpersonal relationships. Another very common symptom of PTDD is the belief that traumatic diets are required for weight management success; oftentimes folks with PTDD spend huge portions of their lives yo-yo’ing from one traumatic diet to the next. This leads to a vicious cycle of suffering, binge dieting, and feelings of inadequacy that sets people up for failure.

What is the most important factor in sustaining your weight?

The most important factor in sustaining your weight is not just tolerating, but actually liking your life and being both consistent, and, believe it or not, imperfect. Truly, your job in regard to both weight and health is to live the healthiest life that you can enjoy - in other words, to do your best. That said, it’s important to note that the best you can do over say, Christmas or a vacation, is very different than the best you can do during a plain, old, boring week, but that also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be thinking about things. Given our modern day Willy Wonkian food environment, not paying attention, for many, leads to easy gains, and given it’s so much easier to gain than it is to lose, remaining thoughtful, but not blindly strict, and doing so consistently, is crucial. Putting this another way - the healthiest life you can enjoy still needs to include chocolate, but that amount of chocolate needs to be the smallest amount that you need in order to be happy, and that amount changes day by day.

Why is the label of obesity misleading?

Unfortunately the label “obesity” carries with it a huge amount of societal stigma, stereotype and frankly ugly judgment whereby people who are described as “being” obese are regularly perceived and portrayed as lazy and gluttonous. Yet the presence or absence of weight really doesn’t define anyone. There are healthy people with weight to lose, and unhealthy skinny ones, and I certainly know plenty of beanpole gluttons. While there’s no doubt that medical risk rises with weight, risks are certainly not guarantees, and more importantly, weight does not and cannot be used to judge a person’s lifestyle. So if you’re ever writing about obesity, remember that a person cannot “be” labeled as obese, they can only have obesity, and that given the negative stereotypes and implications surrounding the word obesity, that distinction matters.

What is the biggest misconception you wish people could shake off about dieting?

The biggest misconception that I wish people could shake off about dieting is that suffering and sacrifice are dieting’s true determinants of success. Unfortunately, as a species, we just aren’t built to suffer in perpetuity. Consequently, weight that’s lost through suffering, through some combination of under-eating and/or over-exercising, is bound to come back.

What’s the best diet?

There really is no one “best” diet - if there were, there wouldn’t be tens of thousands of different diet books available, and weight struggles would be rare to non-existent. Ultimately a person’s “best” diet is the healthiest diet that they can enjoy, as diets that are merely tolerable, given food’s star billing as one of life’s most seminal pleasures, simply don’t last. Real life does, and frankly must, still include chocolate.

(and if you're interested, it's of course available for preorder - just click here!)

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Over 60% of Supermarket Foods Purchased in Canada are "Ultra-processed"

No doubt you've heard of "processed" food before, but what about "ultra-processed"?

According to researcher Jean-Claude Moubarac and colleagues we might all be well advised to consider a more complete classification scheme whereby processed foods can be categorized into 3 groupings.

Group 1: Unprocessed and minimally processed foods (eg. fresh produce and meats, fresh or pasteurized milk and plain yoghurt, whole or polished grains and nuts).

Group 2: Processed culinary ingredients made up of inexpensive substances extracted from Group 1 foods (eg. vegetable oils, flours, and pastas) and that are typically inedible on their own and rather are used in cooking to enhance the flavour of a meal.

Group 3: The ultra-processed. These are ready to consume (or heat) formulations manufactured from cheap ingredients either directly extracted from whole foods or processed from components extracted from whole foods (eg HFCS). These products are said to typically contain the addition of preservatives and "cosmetic additives" and are usually energy dense with high fat, sugar and salt contents and with little or no water, fibre, micronutrients or other "protective bioactive compounds" which exist in whole foods.

Using their groups, Moubarac's team assessed Canada's FOODEX data and found that as a function of calories purchased 61.7% of the average Canadian's shopping cart was ultra-processed.

Nutritionally that's bad news. According to the paper,
"when compared with a diet made of Group 1 foods and Group 2 ingredients, a diet containing only Group 3 products contains less than half the dietary fibre, almost six times the free sugars, and significantly more Na... Perhaps most significant of all, the diet made up only of ultra-processed products is more than twice as energy-dense as the other one."
I've said it before and I'll say it again, mixing, pouring and stirring ain't cooking - but sadly, at least here in Canada, it would seem that's the bulk of what we do as evidenced by what I feel is Moubarac's most important discussion statement,
"A main finding of the study is that 80 % of the Canadian population has diets that include more than 50% of ultra- processed products in terms of energy. It is not possible to manipulate these diets to make them to correspond with WHO and other recommendations designed to prevent and control obesity and related chronic diseases without radical reductions in ultra-processed products. This would mean a fundamental change, from a reliance on ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat Group 3 products to preparation and cooking of meals based on Group 1 foods and Group 2 ingredients."

Bring back Home Economics!

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

American Heart Association Joins the NFL to Lie to Kids About Childhood Obesity

It's called "NFL Play60" and it's supposed to help kids to play each day for 60 minutes and is "designed to tackle childhood obesity".

And no doubt getting kids more active is a noble cause and were Play60 actually effective, one that would improve kids' health. Putting aside the fact that I'm unaware of any public health intervention that has led to a sustained rise in kids' physical activity levels, the research to date would suggest that even if one did, although health might improve, weight almost certainly won't.

Which is why I find the AHA's involvement so frustrating. While the NFL surely isn't expected to be up on the medical literature that has objectively (using accelerometry) reported that even if kids are 10x as active as their peers their activity doesn't confer protection against weight gain, the AHA certainly ought to be. And yet the AHA has just helped in cobranding a smartphone app where, believe it or not, kids are expected to hold their smartphones while running and jumping so as to move an avatar and collect points (fun?).

So besides lying to kids about the impact of exercise on weight (and in so doing perpetuate the myth that obesity is consequent to laziness), what else will NFL Play60 do?

Teach them that if they're going to play more they'd better "Fuel Up to Play60" (something no one really needs to do - 60 minutes of casual play, doesn't require any special "fuelling")

And with what shall they fuel?

Why chocolate milk of course. The perfect beverage to "tackle" childhood obesity given that drop for drop it can contain up to double the calories of Coca-Cola along with 20% more sugar.


http://www.genyouthfoundation.org/my-super-bowl-weekend-experience/


And why might they be promoting a hyper-caloric liquid sugary chocolate bar to help kids tackle childhood obesity?

Because Fuel Up to Play60 was co-founded by the National Dairy Council.

Sigh.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Is the Heart and Stroke Foundation Rethinking its Candy Endorsement?

One of these things is not like the other
Just over 4 months ago I published a video chastising the Heart and Stroke Foundation for offering its front-of-package Health Check seal of approval to healthwashed candy. That video's been viewed nearly 45,000 times thus far, and I'd imagine has led to some embarrassment and soul searching for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.



Well I noticed something in the supermarket yesterday. Where there was once a sea of Health Checks in the healthwashed "fruit" gummi aisle, now there were fewer. Some products, like the one pictured up above, consisted of a mix of Health Check'ed boxes and plain, while others that I know used to be dressed with a Check, now were bare.

Unfortunately, even if the Health Check program stopped selling its Health Checks to candy makers it would still be painfully underpowered, but if these non Health Check'ed candies are truly reflective of a program change, it's certainly a welcome one.

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Saturday, February 08, 2014

Saturday Stories: Hoffman, Beverages and Losers

A must read by Seth Mnookin in Slate on why Philip Seymour Hoffman's death is so scary.

Patrick Mustain in Scientific American covers the American Beverage Industry's propaganda machine.

Former Australian Biggest Loser participant tells us that 75% of Losers regain their weight, others have lap-bands, and that the show in general is a big steaming pile of manipulative BS.

[And in case you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, here's Publishers Weekly's review of my new book The Diet Fix (pub date March 4th, available for pre-order from your favourite online bookseller now)]

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Friday, February 07, 2014

Truly the Very Best Rendition of Frozen's Let It Go Ever Recorded

Not only have I gone to the theatre with my girls twice to see the movie, they are constantly singing its songs (and getting upset with me for my various toilet humour infused renditions).

To that end, and while they're not my children, today's Funny Friday video is what my home is like on most days (minus the headsets and mics).



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Thursday, February 06, 2014

Does Canada's Food Guide Lead to Weight Gain? The Debate Videos are Live!

Last week I had the pleasure of debating Dr. Hasan Hutchinson, the Director General of Health Canada's Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion (the folks in charge of the Food Guide). We were debating whether or not the Food Guide and its messaging might in fact lead folks who followed it to gain weight.

Rather than skew your viewing with commentary, I'll leave it to you to watch (and for the sake of watching ease it's split into logical chunks), but do want to once again thank and congratulate Health Canada for letting Dr. Hutchinson come out and play. Debate and discussion are the cornerstones of healthy dialogue and no doubt help to inform change, and while generally Health Canada has been loathe to allow their employees to speak candidly, this debate was a very welcome exception to that unfortunate rule.

(email subscribers - to watch these videos you'll need to click the underlined post title in the email or simply visit my blog)

[Huge thanks to David Baker the Founder of Live Fit Docs who despite his daughter being 3 days old, volunteered to come out and shoot the event. Huge thanks too to his VERY understanding wife! And of course thanks also to the CON-SNPs who organized the night.]

Introduction



Hasan Hutchinson's Opening Arguments



Yoni Freedhoff's Opening Arguments



Hasan Hutchinson's Rebuttal



Yoni Freedhoff's Rebuttal



Hasan Hutchinson's & Yoni Freedhoff's Closing Remarks



Post Debate Q&A



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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Yet Another Good Reason to Question Observational Diet Studies

Change in self-reported intake of fruits, vegetables, sweets and soft drinks by month
Or at the very least those that utilize food frequency questionnaires (FFQs) to account for dietary intakes (which is almost all of them).

I can't say I'm an ardent fan of research done with FFQs, and nor are many others (remember this letter to the editor begging journals to stop published research that utilizes FFQs?), but supporters will tell you that the errors of FFQs can be accounted for with fudge factor style statistics. While admittedly I'm no stats maven, I did find a study published yesterday in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour to lend support to my belief these studies aren't as useful as we might hope.

The study highlighted an obvious, and yet important issue that would further undermine FFQ utility - the month the data was collected matters. While the researchers looked at FFQ outcomes collected from adolescent residents of 36 countries, there were 3 - Canada, England and Norway - where data collections took place almost all months of the year. In all 3 researchers found that there were significantly lower reported levels of daily consumption of foods in January and February. In the remaining 36 countries, where FFQs were administered for shorter periods, researchers found lower reported consumption of fruit and sugared soda in the spring vs. the fall and the winter.

Now admittedly, the effect they found here was small, and in part may be explicable on the basis of seasonal food availability, though that wouldn't serve to explain the sugared soda or sweets results. Regardless of affect size or cause however, one thing's definitely clear, FFQs need to go, and I'm praying, in this day and age of smart phone ubiquity, that someone somewhere validates an app that combines daily recall with real-time photography, to help reduce error and markedly amp up the power of observational diet-related study conclusions.

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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Fighting Cruelty Against Animals with Cupcakes?

As I've said many times before, society has replaced creativity with junk food.

Whether it's for charitable fundraising, for a bunch of little kids breaking the ice, for hospital foundations, or for schools, the easy way out is always junk.

While I appreciate that coming up with creative means to fund charities, save hospitals, support schools, and entertain children won't always be trivial, I'm pretty sure that society's continual use and normalization of "junk food for good", isn't serving the truly greater good.

So why cupcakes to fight cruelty to animals? According to a humane society spokesperson,
"Cupcakes taste good and they make you feel good, especially when they’re making a life-saving difference in the lives of needy animals. We encourage all animal lovers and bakers in Ottawa to whip up a batch and do their part to fight cruelty with a cupcake."
These days the world is not suffering a shortage of cupcake eating opportunities and I do so look forward to the day where selling sugar to fund good deeds is no longer the acceptable norm.

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Monday, February 03, 2014

In Kids Which Leads to Which? Weight to Inactivity or Inactivity to Weight?

Today's guest post comes from rock star caliber University of Ottawa researcher J.P. Chaput where he covers a recent paper he co-authored on whether or not inactive kids gain weight, or whether weight leads kids to inactivity?

Weight to Inactivity or Inactivity to Weight?

Although decreased physical activity and increased sedentary time can certainly help promote weight gain in some individuals, findings that we just published in the International Journal of Obesity rather suggest that in kids excess body fat (adiposity) is better at predicting physical inactivity than the other way around. Using a longitudinal study design in a large sample of 8-11 year old Danish children, we observed that their objectively measured (accelerometer) activity levels at the study's outset didn't in fact predict changes in adiposity over the study's 200 day course. In contrast, higher amounts of weight at baseline predicted a decrease in total physical activity and an increase in sedentary time.

Our findings are novel and suggest that adiposity may be a better predictor of physical activity and sedentary behavior changes than the other way around. Of course there's always the possiblity of confounders skewing the results in ours (and any) observational study, but we tried our best to adjust for key variables including age, sex, pubertal status, socioeconomic status and energy density of the diet. One must nevertheless keep in mind that the measurement of behaviors is much more difficult to capture than the measurement of adiposity, implying that the true association between baseline movement behaviors and changes in adiposity may be underestimated.

Although interesting, future studies with longer follow-up periods will be needed to confirm our results. In the meantime, it appears reasonable to suggest that low levels of physical activity and high amounts of sedentary time are more the result of increased body fat than its cause. Our findings can also be relevant to the successful prevention of obesity by changing the focus, so that we must not only think of excess adiposity being the result of poor lifestyle behaviors but also and importantly as poor lifestyle behaviors being the result of excess adiposity.

Jean-Philippe Chaput, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor in Pediatrics, University of Ottawa
Junior Research Chair in Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research, CHEO Research Institute

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Saturday, February 01, 2014

Saturday Stories: Mortality, Brain Training and Penises

A thoughtful piece from the New York Times by Paul Kalanithi on how long he's got left.

A great piece by Jordan Gaines Lewis in Slate on whether or not online brain games actually help brains.

L.V. Andersen, also in Slate, with a great piece and my vote for headline of the week, exploiting men's insecurity about their penises is a terrible way to promote vegetarianism.

[And if you don't follow me on Facebook or Twitter, a bunch of extras from me:

Here's my case from US News and World Report on why I'm not so excited about Michele Obama's partnership with Subway

Here's my debut piece from Civil Eats on just who exactly is teaching your children "Energy Balance 101"

Here's me on CTV News chatting with Leanne Cusack in two segments - one about badvertising and the other about our Family Reset program.

And here's a lengthy interview I did with my friend Barry Dworkin on childhood obesity and our office's Family Reset program]

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