Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Canadians Who Care About Science Might Not Want To Vote NDP

I have to admit, I found this story jaw dropping.

The federal NDP health critic, Don Davies, is opposed to plans geared to rein in the wild, wild, west of natural health products and supplements that prey on desperate Canadians.

The proposed regulations are meant to require, gasp, that natural health products have evidence to prove they're both safe and effective before they're allowed to be sold.

In the CBC story, Davies even parroted the common line that it's too expensive for supplement makers to conduct studies to prove their products work. That statement contrasts poorly with the other one he gave in the same article where he reports the natural health industry enjoys $12 billion in Canadian revenue and $2 billion in exports.

But even were it true, that there's a presumably want-to-be federal Health Minister arguing we shouldn't require proof of safety and efficacy for products being sold to Canadians in the name of treating their medical conditions, for anyone who cares even an iota about science, should be a non-starter.

And it gets worse.

Davies, in trying to push his post-science world view, was encouraging people to sign a petition developed by the Health Action Network Society (HANS), a Vancouver charity with a history of spreading anti-vaccination claims, but they themselves noted that they were not working with him directly.

Shame, shame, shame, indeed.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Let's Stop Using The Terms "Healthy Weight" And "Normal Weight"

Words matter, and your weight cannot determine whether you're "healthy", or "normal".

Honestly.

Firstly, scales don't measure the presence or absence of health, and so the term "healthy weight", means literally nothing.

Secondly, the CDC defines a "normal weight" as one giving a person a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 yet if we were using the word normal correctly, it would differ by country and would reflect its population's mean BMI. So in Nauru for instance normal weight would be a person whose BMI was 32.5, whereas in Eritrea it would be someone whose BMI was 20.5. Given mean BMIs in the US and Canada are 28.8 and 27.2 respectively, in North America, it should be considered abnormal to have a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9.

So what could we use instead?

Risk based terms.

Weight, though not a guarantee for any medical problem, does increase the risk of many, and so I'm proposing that rather than terms which confer judgment, we categorize weight as low-risk, medium-risk, and high-risk, and by doing so we'll stop the erroneous use of healthy and normal terminology that constantly and insidiously promotes weight bias, shame, and stereotype.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Saturday Stories: Crane Wife, Domestically Violent Cops, and Brain Boosting

CJ Hauser, in The Paris Review, with the crane wife.

Kyle Hopkins, in Propublica, on the village where every cop has been convicted of domestic violence.

Kaitlyn Tiffany, in Vox, on brain boosting.

Monday, September 09, 2019

If There Were Quick, Easy, Flying Leaps That Lasted, You'd Have Already Taken Them

The saying is that long journeys begin with first steps, not flying leaps, and if there were flying leaps that routinely led to lasting change, you'd have already taken them.

It's a straightforward message, but when applied to weight management, diet culture regularly asks us to ignore it.

The inconvenient truth of healthy living is that it will certainly require effort.

Yes, there are likely those who will succeed by changing everything all at once, but for most, slowly building and layering change, and respecting the fact that their roads will absolutely also see their share of disappointments and setbacks, is the way to finally get somewhere.

Your first step might be as small as losing one restaurant meal a week in place of cooking, or trying to reduce your sugar sweetened beverages by 50%, or actually scheduling a day to buy, or a service to deliver, weekly groceries, but if you choose steps you can actually accomplish without suffering, you're more likely not to fall, which in turn, will help keep you moving forward.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Why You Should Turn Off Your TV And Holster Your Devices Before You Eat

Ok, it's a short study and it relied on dietary recall, but if taken at face value, the results certainly suggest you should be turning off your devices and eating away from the TV.

The study involved the 3 day recall of both diet and media use among 473 individuals.

Plainly, researchers found that meals that were consumed along with some form of media distraction contained 149 more calories. They also found that people consuming those extra calories at a media meal did not compensate by eating less at their next meal.

Given how easy it is to do this, and how by doing so you might even strengthen some interpersonal relationships by eating with friends or family around a table, you really have almost nothing to lose by trying, except perhaps a few calories.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Saturday Stories: Suicide, Goop, Vaccines, And Kurbo

Connie Schultz, in Creators, on what to say (and not say) to someone whose loved one has died by suicide.

Amanda Mull, in The Atlantic, on what Goop really sells.

Richard Conniff, in National Geographic, on the world before vaccines.

[And if you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, here's my take on Weight Watcher's new kids Kurbo app and how while Weight Watchers might know kids aren't likely to lose much weight, do the kids?]

Monday, August 26, 2019

The Rewards Project - A Registered UK Charity Geared At Putting An End To Sugary School Rewards

So it's back to school time, and zero doubt, many of your kids are going to have teachers and schools who will use candy and junk food as a reward.

It's a shame too, not just because they'll be providing your kids with junk, but also because they'll be teaching them, over and over and over, that junk is a reward for anything and everything.

I've written before about easy non-junk food rewards for teachers, I've also written about how you might want to approach things with your kids' sugar pushers, and I even kept track one year of just how much junk other people were offering my kids. What was clear from the response to all of these pieces was just how prevalent this problem was, and just how frustrated parents are.

Well as a sign of those times, in the UK, a new charity has popped up called The Rewards Project and its mission is trying to change this common practice. Click through and you'll find some sample letters to send to your child's school (though I think they'd be much better were they to offer some alternatives and suggestions in them and as I wrote about and linked above, lead with praise for the school and its teachers).

All this to say, if there are charities popping up geared at tackling this issue, clearly there's a real appetite out there for change. In turn this suggests - and my experiences with my kids' schools and more would definitely support this notion - that your kids' schools and teachers might be more open to changing things than you might think.

You'll never know unless you try.

(Thanks to Dr. Miriam Berchuk for sending this my way)

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Saturday Stories: Fitness Evolution, Soda Taxes, and Tick Saliva

James Steele, in The Evolution Institute, on how evolution best informs exercise.

Jeremy B. White, in The Agenda, on how the food industry may be winning the war against soda taxes.

Sarah Zhang, in The Atlantic, marvels about tick saliva.

Monday, August 19, 2019

9 Great Suggestions For Improving The Quality Of Dietary Research (And 1 That According To @JamesHeathers Is "Deeply Silly")

Last week saw the publication of an op-ed authored by Drs. David Ludwig, Cara Ebbeling, and Steven Heymsfield entitled, "Improving the Quality of Dietary Research". In it they discuss the many limitations of dietary research and chart a way forward that includes the following 9 great suggestions,
  1. Recognize that the design features of phase 3 drug studies are not always feasible or appropriate in nutrition research, and clarify the minimum standards necessary for diet studies to be considered successful.
  2. Distinguish among study design categories, including mechanistic, pilot (exploratory), efficacy (explanatory), effectiveness (pragmatic), and translational (with implications for public health and policy). Each of these study types is important for generating knowledge about diet and chronic disease, and some overlap may invariably exist; however, the findings from small-scale, short-term, or low-intensity trials should not be conflated with definitive hypothesis testing.
  3. Define diets more precisely when feasible (eg, with quantitative nutrient targets and other parameters, rather than qualitative descriptors such as Mediterranean) to allow for rigorous and reproducible comparisons.
  4. Improve the methods for addressing common design challenges, such as how to promote adherence to dietary prescriptions (ie, with feeding studies and more intensive behavioral and environmental intervention), and reduce dropout or loss to follow-up.
  5. Develop sensitive and specific biomeasures of adherence (eg, metabolomics), and use available methods when feasible (eg, doubly labeled water method for total energy expenditure).
  6. Create and adequately fund local (or regional) cores to enhance research infrastructure.
  7. Standardize practices to mitigate the risk of bias related to conflicts of interest in nutrition research, including independent oversight of data management and analysis, as has been done for drug trials.
  8. Make databases publicly available at time of study publication to facilitate reanalyses and scholarly dialogue.
  9. Establish best practices for media relations to help reduce hyperbole surrounding publication of small, preliminary, or inconclusive research with limited generalizability."
But there is one recommendation that seems at odds with the rest,
Acknowledge that changes to, or discrepancies in, clinical registries of diet trials are commonplace, and update final analysis plans before unmasking random study group assignments and initiating data analysis.
For those who aren't aware, clinical registries are where researchers document in advance the pre-specified methods and outcomes being studied by way of an observational experiment. The purpose of pre-registration is to reduce the risk of bias, selective reporting, and overt p-hacking that can (and has) occurred in dietary research.

Now to be clear, I'm a clinician, not a researcher, and I'm not sure how commonplace changes to or discrepancies in clinical registries of diet trials are, but I'm also not sure that's an argument in their favour even if they are. I do know that recently two of the authors claiming registry changes are commonplace were found to have modified one of their pre-specified statistical analysis plans which if it had been adhered to, would have rendered their results non-significant.

But commonplace or not, is it good science?

To answer that question I turned to James Heathers, a researcher and self-described "data thug" whose area of interest is methodology (and who you should definitely follow on Twitter), who described the notion of accepting that changes and discrepancies to clinical registries were commonplace was, "deeply silly".

He went on to elaborate as to why,
First of all - the whole definition of a theory is something which sets your expectations. the idea that 'reality is messy' does not interfere with the idea that you have hypothesis driven expectations which are derived from theories.

Second: there is nothing to prevent you saying "WE DID NOT FIND WHAT WE EXPECTED TO FIND" and then *following it* with your insightful exploratory analysis. In fact, that would almost be a better exposition of the facts by definition as you are presenting your expectations as expectations, and your after-the-fact speculations likewise.

Third: if you have a power analysis which determines there is a correct amount of observations necessary to reliably observe an effect, having the freedom to go 'never mind that then' is not a good thing by definition.

Fourth: The fact that changes were made is never ever included in the manuscript. i.e. they are proposing being able to make changes to the protocol in the registry *without* having to say so. it's a 'new plan' rather than a 'changed plan'.

Fifth: If you can still do the original analysis then no-one will ever believe that you didn't change the plan after looking at the data. you have to protect yourself, and the best way to do that is to follow your own damned plans and be realistic from the get.
Lastly, Heathers is unimpressed with the argument that registry changes are A-OK because they're commonplace, and he discussed ancient Aztecan punishments for those citing it.

All this to say, there's plenty of room to improve the quality of dietary research. Here's hoping the bulk of these suggestions are taken to heart, but please don't hold your breath.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Kellogg's Partners With Random House To Use Free Books To Sell Ultra-Processed Sugary Junk Food To Children

To be clear, neither Random House, nor Kellogg's, should be fairly expected to do the right thing when it comes to health.

Kellogg's job is to sell food. Random House's job is to sell books. Nothing more, nothing less.

So it's hard to get mad with either company for their "Feeding Reading" initiative which provides parents with permission or excuse to buy their children such health foods as:
  • Frosted Flakes
  • Pop-Tarts
  • Eggos
  • Nutrigrain Bars
  • Froot Loops
  • Rice Krispie Treats
  • Apple Jacks
  • Frosted Mini-Wheats (note, unfrosted mini-wheats are not eligible)
  • Corn Pops
  • Raisin Bran
  • Krave
  • Keebler cookies
  • Cheez-its
  • Austin crackers
  • Pringles
Truly, not a single choice parents or children should be encouraged to make. All ultra-processed, sugary, junk (and some crackers and potato chips).

Again, no reason to expect either Random House or Kellogg's to be doing the right thing by kids, but in my opinion, their clear partnership in doing the wrong thing here certainly doesn't reflect well on either of them.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

The Recipe For Aging Gracefully And Adding Life To Your Years

No one wants aging to happen to them, and yet.

While eventually we'll all lose the fight, that doesn't mean we can't go down swinging, and the good news is the recipe for aging without frailty is exceedingly straight forward and was recently spelled out in a systematic review published in the British Journal of General Practice.

The magic formula the 46 included studies pointed to? A mix of regular strength training with regular protein supplementation.

Spelled out a bit further?

20-25 minutes of strength training 4x per week and the purposeful inclusion of protein with every meal and snack (or alternatively, two daily protein supplements providing 25g of protein each).

Though the aforementioned formula won't guarantee a long life, the evidence certainly suggests it'll help to provide a better one adding life to your years if not years to your life.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Most Generous Conclusion Of Chocolate Milk In Exercise Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis? It Will Increase Your Time To Exhaustion By 47 Seconds Over Placebo

Literally every time I write about chocolate milk being a beverage worth actively minimizing in your diet (have the smallest amount of it you need to like your life), someone inevitably chimes in to tell me I'm wrong because it's great for exercise recovery.

And I'm not sure how I missed this when it came out, but last year, the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials involving chocolate milk and exercise recovery.

After excluding studies that didn't meet their inclusion criteria, the (non-conflicted) authors were left with 12 studies, 2 deemed of high quality, 9 of fair quality, and 1 of low quality with 11 having extractable data on at least one performance/recovery marker including ratings of perceived exertion, time to exhaustion, heart rate, serum lactate, and serum creatine kinase.

Their overall conclusion?

The systematic review and meta-analysis revealed that chocolate milk consumption had no effect on any of those variables when compared to placebo or other sport drinks.

Their most generous conclusion?

If they excluded one study from their analysis of the effect of chocolate milk on time to exhaustion then chocolate milk was found to increase time to exhaustion by 47 seconds over a placebo beverage. They also found, in another subgroup analysis, that lactate was slightly attenuated in chocolate milk drinkers compared to placebo (a finding that was not present in the high quality RCT looking at same).

(for a brief discussion on the stats involved and the subgroup analysis, here's a post on same from epidemiologist @GidMK who concluded that chocolate milk is "not a fitness drink").

Happy to have this post published so that I can share the next time someone inevitably tries to suggest that chocolate milk is magic.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Sorry, Eating Thin People's Poop Isn't Likely To Make You Thin

Though there are certainly some celebrity quacktacular physicians I would like to see eat crap, but what I wouldn't be able to tell them is that doing so would likely have a beneficial impact on their weights.

A recent small study, Effects of Fecal Microbiota Transplantation With Oral Capsules in Obese Patients, found results that to me at least, seemed wholly unsurprising. 22 patients with obesity were randomly assigned to receive either a "fecal microbiota transplantation" from a donor whose BMI was 17.5 or a placebo and to take them for 3 months (and for those curious, the induction dose was 30 capsules).

The transplants were successful in changing the microbiome of the recipients, but alas, did not affect their weights.

Perhaps the only thing surprising about all of this is that there are people out there who strongly believe that a microbiome transplant stands a chance against thousands of genes, dozens of hormones, and a Willy Wonkian food environment all of which being coupled with millions of years of an evolutionary crucible of extreme dietary insecurity.

Monday, July 15, 2019

From The Journal Of If Only It Were That Easy: Walking To School Was Not Associated With Lower Weights In 4-7 Year Olds

Walking school buses for kids are often promoted on the basis that if more kids were involved with them, their weights, fitness, and maybe even learning would improve.

Wouldn't that be great? After all, it's a relatively inexpensive intervention and one it seems everyone can at least theoretically get behind.

But does it work?

This is definitely not a good news story, nor frankly is it all that surprising, but here it is - recently the MOVI‐KIDS Study set out to explore whether or not there was an association between active transport in 4-7 year olds and their weights, fitness, and cognition.

The study involved 1,159 children in Spain and they were categorized on the basis of whether the active components of their school commutes totalled more or less than 15 minutes and then tested and measured to explore walking to school's possible impact. Heights and weight were measured, a validated cardiorespiratory fitness test was administered, as were multiple batteries of validated cognitive tests. Efforts were also made to control for familial socio-economic status, as well as of course the children's ages and sexes.

As you might have gathered, the walkers were found to be no better off on any studied variable with the authors very plainly concluding,
"Walking to school had no positive impact on adiposity, physical fitness, and cognition in 4‐ to 7‐year‐old children."
Too bad. Truly.

I have to say too, I did scratch my head reading the next bit of their conclusion though,
"it would be of interest for future studies to examine the intensity and duration of active commuting to school necessary to provide meaningful benefits for health and cognitive performance."
I can't say I agree with them here as I'm not sure lengthy, intense, daily school commutes for 4 year olds is something we need to explore regardless of their impact on anything. Moreover, I don't need to see "meaningful benefits" to want to continue promoting more movement and play in our children, and if we buy into the need for same, we'll risk the cessation of programs that don't prove themselves to provide perhaps broader reaching or more dramatic outcomes than could ever be fairly expected of them.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Only 41% Of People Who Were Given Free Preventive Medications Following Their Heart Attacks Were Still Taking Them 1.5 Years Later

You might think that having a heart attack would be motivating when it came to behaviour change, and that taking medications is a very straightforward behaviour.

And yet.

The Post-Myocardial Infarction Free Rx Event and Economic Evaluation (MI FREEE) trial set out to study whether or not cost had a role to play in why so many patients, even post heart attack, don't take the medications prescribed to them in the hopes of preventing another one by freely providing them with those medications.

Results wise, though the group receiving free preventive medications were taking more of them than the group that did not, at the end 1.5 years, only 41% of those receiving all their medications for free, medications prescribed to them after they had an actual heart attack, were taking them.

So file these results under human beings, even when faced with knowledge, and in this case knowledge coupled with a very real glimpse at mortality, struggle to maintain even the easiest of behaviour changes, and consider that in the context of the trope of education and personal responsibility as the sole means to target diet and weight related diseases. If we want to see population level changes, we're going to need to change the food environment.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Cancer Research UK (@CR_UK) Launches Awful New Fat Shaming Advertising Campaign

According to Cancer Research UK's new public advertisements, obesity is apparently the new smoking.

What that means of course is that by formally adopting, amplifying, and promoting the message that obesity, like smoking, is a choice people make, Cancer Research UK fuels hateful weight based stigma.

More amazing perhaps is that the aim of the campaign is to apparently target the environment with their ads steering people, in the small print that people will likely miss and certainly can't click on in train stations, to their web page calling for an end to junk food advertising to kids.

Obesity is the normal consequence of normal people living in abnormal, obesigenic, environments. Obesity often has hugely negative impacts upon health and quality of life (especially at its extremes), fuelled in no small part by the never ending blame, shame, and scorn heaped upon those who have obesity by society, and yet here is Cancer Research UK's campaign to further justify that weight hate.

Shame on them. They absolutely should have known better.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Monday, June 24, 2019

On Instagram, RD Working For Welch's Implies That Drinking Welch's Grape Juice Won't Raise Your Blood Sugar (By @DylanMacKayPhD)

Today's guest post comes from Dylan MacKay. Dylan is a nutritional biochemist who has type 1 diabetes and when I saw RD Marie Spano's Instagram post, I knew he would have both personal and professional thoughts to share and so I invited him to do so.
I don’t know what it is with grapes but they always seem to be raisin my ire…

I mean as a person with type 1 diabetes, a PhD in Human Nutritional Science, and who does diabetes research and occasionally clinical trials looking at glucose response, maybe I’m not the one to talk about this, but I just can’t not.

Recently a Welch’s (*cough* big grape juice) "nutrition advisor" posted the above nutrition translation travesty on Instagram.

This really surprised me because when I have low blood sugar I often drink grape juice, How am I still alive? I mean I can honestly say there are times grape juice may have saved my life (by raising my blood sugar). Yet you could potentially look at this Instagram post and fairly think
drinking 100% juice made from polyphenol-rich fruit juice does not raise your blood sugar
unlike apparently that bad candy or pop that raises your blood sugar.

That would be of course 100% wrong.

Polyphenols are not magic sugar blockers, otherwise we would be using them to treat diabetes and you would get serious gastrointestinal upset from eating berries and grapes. I feel like you don’t even really need to be an RD to see this messaging is bad (Seriously, Welch’s advisors, how much do you get paid for your credibility?). Especially on a social media platform, where someone might not scroll to the end of the associated comment and look at the “reference” provided.

Speaking of the reference used for this knowledge translation crime, it is for a review article called Impact of Dietary Polyphenols on Carbohydrate Metabolism and having reviewed it I can say it does not support the claim in that post. Most of the article talks about animal or cell culture results that show polyphenols may impact glucose digestion or absorption, but there's nothing in the article showing it stops it. It even concludes that
To confirm the implications of polyphenol consumption for prevention of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and eventually type 2 diabetes, human trials with well-defined diets, controlled study designs and clinically relevant endpoints… are needed.
The closest thing in the article supporting the Instagram post is
The shape of the plasma glucose curve with reduced concentrations in the early phase and a slightly elevated concentration in the later phase indicates delayed response due to berry consumption
about a study done with 12 healthy participants looking at berry puree (rich in polyphenols). The polyphenols (or something else in the berries) changed the timing of the blood sugar elevation.

I suppose the Welch’s RD nutrition advisor might say
well actually Dylan, changing the shape of the blood sugar elevation means it doesn’t actually raise blood sugar like candy
and we could get into a long argument of how you define “like”. When people are arguing over minutia or semantics big food companies have won.

This type of nutrition misinformation advertising works because ultimately it is designed to ruin peoples’ trust in nutritional science and nutrition experts (especially RDs). If consumers are confused and can’t trust anything in nutrition, they are ripe for the next trend or fad or advertising claim. That is a good thing for companies, but a bad thing for people.

If you like grape juice, drink it, I sometimes do when I have low blood sugar (I have chugged maple syrup for that too so…), but know that grape juice will raise your blood sugar, and liquid calories, like those found from the 9 teaspoons of sugar per glass of grape juice, are an easy way to go over on your energy intake. Most of us are trying to avoid excess energy intake, so for that, in my opinion, you can’t beat water.

Dylan MacKay PhD is a nutritional biochemist and an Assistant Professor at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. He is also a Clinical Trialist at the George and Fay Yee Center for Healthcare Innovation. Dylan has a special interest in human clinical trials related to lifestyle and diabetes. He is originally from St. John’s, Newfoundland where he started his graduate studies at Memorial University.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Saturday Stories: Anti-Vax Conferences, Vulnerable Child Syndrome, and Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Anna Merlan, in Jezebel, in what she learned getting kicked out of America's biggest anti-vax conference.

Rachel Pearson, in The New Yorker, on vulnerable child syndrome

Jen Ortiz, in Cosmopolitan, with a fabulous profile of celebrity profiler and author of the book I ordered on my kindle yesterday Fleishman is in Trouble's Taffy Brodesser-Akner

[And if you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, here's my most recent piece for Medscape on what actually works for obesity at a population level (hint, it's not shame, blame, or fear)]

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Scotland's "National Walking Strategy" Actually Increased Recreational Walking (A Tiny Bit) For The Whole Population!

Cynically, I've been known to ask for examples of population based initiatives that actually led to sustained increases in physical activity (with the expectation of there not being any).

Well, I can't do so anymore as Scotland's managed to increase recreational walking by 13% over a 6 year period for the whole of their population!

Their National Walking Strategy targeted Scotland's 5 million residents with messages about the health benefits of walking.

The strategy involved multiple sectors including:
  • Communication and public education.
  • Transport and the environment.
  • Urban design and infrastructure.
  • Health and social care.
  • Education.
  • Community-wide approaches.
  • Sport and recreation.
And together their aim was to create a culture of walking by way of developing better walking environments that supported ease and convenience.

How to counsel patients on physical activity became a topic in medical schools. The Daily Mile encouraged 1,000 schools to help every student walk, run, or jog a mile a day, increased funding for active transport programs was obtained including a doubling of infrastructure funding for same, #SoMe was leveraged to share encouragement and information to the public, and community walking programs were launched nationwide.

Now before you get too excited, the bar was low to begin with whereby the increase in walking represented the self-report of walking at least 30 minutes for recreation once over the past month, but at least it's a start.

Changing behaviour requires more than just education and a good reason to do so, it also requires a change to social norms and culture, as well as environmental engineering. Clearly there's more to do in Scotland and elsewhere, but nice to see that these needles might actually be movable.

Photo by Kim Traynor [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Saturday, June 15, 2019

Saturday Stories: Quantum Solutions, Stockpiled Insulin, and Multiple DNA Tests

Jana Asenbrennerova, in Quanta Magazine, on how a gifted grad student’s solution to a fundamental problem in quantum computing is an incredible breakthrough.

Maris Kreizman, in the New York Times, on why she's stockpiling insulin in her fridge.

Rafi Letzler, in Live Science, discusses the results of his 9 different commercial DNA tests.

Photo Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) at en.wikipedia - Originally from en.wikipedia; description page is/was here., GFDL, Link

Monday, June 10, 2019

Guess What? A Single In Office Visit Encouraging People To Weight Themselves More Often And Exercise Doesn't Prevent Weight Regain

From the Journal of Duh! (ok, actually it was PLOS Medicine) comes Behavioural intervention for weight loss maintenance versus standard weight advice in adults with obesity: A randomised controlled trial in the UK (NULevel Trial). The study involved 288 people who had lost ≥ 5% of their weight in the preceding 12 months who were randomized into two groups. One where they received periodic newsletters, and the other where they had a single face-to-face visit where they discussed goal setting and self-monitoring (including being told to weigh themselves daily) followed by every other day automated text messages. The hope was that the single visit and text messages would help prevent weight regain in the group that received them. So did that minimal intervention help?

No, both groups regained the same amount of weight over the study's duration.

What was most surprising about this study wasn't that minimal interventions don't help prevent weight regain, but rather that someone thought they might. Because if minimal interventions prevented weight regain, do you really think weight regain would be so commonplace?

So in case you were looking for proof that single office visits and text messages aren't in and of themselves sufficient to prevent weight regain, there you have it I suppose.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Saturday Stories: Only One Read This Week

Every once and a while there's a story that has such an impact on me that I want to feature it by itself.

Today's Saturday Story, written by Dana Horn for the Atlantic, was searing. It detailed her recent visit to a "massive blockbuster exhibition (about the Holocaust) that opened in May at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in downtown Manhattan", by the same people who brought you Human Bodies, and how it left her feeling flat.

Her closing paragraph,
"The Auschwitz exhibition does everything right, and fixes nothing. I walked out of the museum, past the texting joggers by the cattle car, and I felt utterly broken. There is a swastika on a desk in my children’s public middle school, and it is no big deal. There is no one alive who can fix me."
shouldn't be the only one you read. Please click it for more.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Bullying Or Teasing Kids With Obesity Doesn't Lead Them To Lose Weight But It May Lead Them To Gain

The recently published Weight‐based teasing is associated with gain in BMI and fat mass among children and adolescents at‐risk for obesity: A longitudinal study is an important paper for many well-intentioned parents, educators, and physicians who think that weight based teasing might help motivate a child to make behaviour changes that will lead them to weight loss.

In it authors followed 110 children at risk or with overweight or obesity for 8.5 years and tracked their weight and its association with weight-based teasing. They found that after adjusting and controlling for baseline sex, race, age, socio-economic status, BMI and fatmass, kids who reported the most teasing gained the most weight (p≤.007). Quantified, the authors found that the most teased kids' fat masses increased by 91% more per year (1.4lbs/yr) than those not reporting weight based teasing.

While it's important to note that causality can't be proven here, certainly these results fit with the notion that if any amount of teasing led kids to lose weight, we'd be seeing dramatic reductions in childhood obesity rates because weight is far and away the number one target of school based bullies, and even at home, 60% of kids with excess weight report being teased about same.

If you have a child with obesity, sadly you can rest assured that they'll receive plenty of shame, blame, fear, and bullying from the world around them, and if you're worried about your child's weight, instead of burdening them with it, ask yourself what you as a parent can do to help, where if nothing else, one thing for certain you can do is to make your home a safe space where weight is not something anyone's welcome to joke about or comment on.

(and if you live in Ottawa, and you have a child between the ages of 5 and 12 whose weight is concerning, and you're interested in our office's parent-centric, Ministry of Health funded, inter-professional, Family Reset childhood obesity treatment program feel free to call us at 613-730-0264 and book an appointment to chat)

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

According To This Comparison Of Canadian Dietary Recall Data, Underestimations May Help To Explain Purported Decreasing Sugar Consumption

This recent report from Health Canada about sugar consumption was an interesting read.

Not so much in terms of sugar, and yes, the report says we eat too much of it (I'll come back to that) but rather in terms of dietary recall. It seems we're getting worse at it.

According to their determination, whereby they compared dietary recall data's caloric totals with those that would be predicted by a respondent's age, BMI (measured, not self-reported), sex and activity levels, if your self-reported intake was less than 70% of that predicted, you were classified as an under-reporter, and if it was more than 142% of predicted, you were classified as an over-reporter.

Overall, compared with 2004, people were significantly more likely to under-report and less likely to over-report. In adults, under-reporters increased by 22% (from 28.2% to 34.5%), in kids aged 9-18 by 59% (from 16.5% to 26.3%), and in younger children it more than doubled (from 6.7% to 14.1%). Simultaneously, over-reporting dropped by 45% in adults (from 13.6% to 7.4%), in kids aged 9-18 by 41% (from 22% to 12.8%), and in young children by 35% (from 27.6% to 18%).

So how does this affect sugar consumption data?

Well you may have read that dietary sugar consumption is decreasing. And maybe it is (dietary recall data is fraught with error). But this data suggests that while consumption is shifting, with more added sugars coming from food and less from beverages, totals, if looking at plausible reporters only, have stayed pretty much the same, and has increased slightly in children.

As to what's going on, could it be that with ongoing discussion of the dangers of unhealthy diets that people become less likely to want to disclose what they're eating? Either way, it's further evidence that we need a better way of tracking dietary intake and a possible confounder for those reporting that sugar consumption is decreasing.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Calling People Successfully Maintaining Long Term Weight Loss "Unicorns" Is Dehumanizing, Unhelpful, And Misleading (And No, 95% Of Weight Loss Efforts Don't Fail)

A few weeks ago I tweeted about a patient of mine who is maintaining a 19% weight loss for 2 years, and who attributes her success to keeping a food diary and tracking calories, as well as to including protein with every meal and snack.

The point of my tweet was a simple pushback to those who want to claim that calories don't count or that counting can't help (like The Economist for instance whose recent article entitled Death of the calorie was the main reason I bothered to tweet), and those who claim that the only way to lose weight is their way (these days that's usually either #keto or #lchf).

A great many folks weighed in with their success stories, and some pointed to the National Weight Control Registry (where their over 10,000 registrants have kept off an average of 70lbs for 5.5 years). Others though weren't having it.

Instead they asserted that 95% of diets fail, that the weight loss industry was predatory (much of it is, no argument there), and called people who have succeeded "unicorns".

Unicorns. Not people. Mythical creatures.

And the implication of course is clear. Sustained weight loss is impossible. Those who succeed aren't human, or to succeed they employ superhuman efforts, sometimes even described as disordered eating and/or that those who succeed must be miserable. Consequently, trying is futile and those offering help (like me, as to be clear I am the medical director of a behavioural weight management centre) are unethical and are motivated by greed (despite the obvious irony that those championing explicitly non-weight loss programs are targeting the very same population of people and regularly charge a great deal of money for their services).

But boy, there sure are a heck of a lot of unicorns roaming around for something that supposedly fails 95% of the time. Putting aside the anecdotal facts that we all know people who have maintained weight losses, as well as my own office based experiences, this 2010 systematic review found that one year later 30% of participants had a weight loss ≥10%, 25% between 5% and 9.9%, and 40% ≤4.9%. In the LOOK AHEAD study, 8 years later, 50.3% of the intensive lifestyle intervention group and 35.7% of the usual care group were maintaining losses of ≥5%, while 26.9% of the intensive group and 17.2% of the usual care group were maintaining losses of ≥10%. Here's the DIRECT trial where mean weight loss at 2 years was 7.5% with 24% of participants maintaining losses greater than 22lbs. And in the recent year long DIETFITS study the average weight loss of all participants was 5%, with over 25% of participants losing more than 10% of their weights.

The Examine.com waterfall plots of the DIETFITS data

(And for an interesting thought experiment, have a peek at this thread from Kevin Bass that argues that even if the 95% failure number were true, those outcomes would be worlds better than the vast majority of medical treatments currently being offered for other chronic diseases)

So where does this 95% number come from? I could imagine it to be true if the goalpost for successful weight loss was total weight loss and reaching a so-called "healthy" or "normal" BMI. But that would be as useful a goalpost as qualifying for the Boston Marathon would be for running whereby the vast majority of marathoners won't ever run fast enough to qualify to run Boston. Does that mean non-qualifiers should be discouraged from running and told that running is impossible? It's also important to contextualize failures. If the methods being undertaken to lose weight are misery inducing overly restrictive diets, it's not people who are failing to sustain them, it's that their diets are failing to help them (which, with full disclosure, is the premise of my book The Diet Fix).

As far as what needs championing, it's certainly not failure. Given the medical benefits of weight loss, as well as the real impact weight often has on quality of life (especially at its extremes), what we need to collectively champion are the embrace of a plurality of treatments (including ethical behavioural and surgical weight management programs and greater access to them), along with more effective medications. What can simultaneously be championed is the removal of blame from the discussion of weight, fighting weight bias and stigma, recognizing that a person need not have a so-called "healthy" or "normal" BMI, that scales don't measure the presence or absence of health nor measure lifestyles, respecting people rights to have zero interest in losing weight or changing their lifestyles, that there is value to changing behaviours around food and fitness regardless of whether weight is lost as a consequence, and acknowledging that intentionally changing lifestyle in the name of health reflects a tremendous degree of privilege that many people simply don't possess.

Given the evidence maybe we can stop with the unhelpful, dehumanizing, and misleading unicorn talk, and while we're at it, stop telling everyone that failure is a foregone conclusion.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Monday, May 06, 2019

What's The Point of Tracking Your Calories With a Food Logging App?

First up, the quantity and quality of calories matter both to health and to weight. You can't gain without a surplus. You can't lose without a deficit. And the quality of the calories you're consuming will affect health and satiety which in turn will affect the quantity of them that you consume. Moreover, the bioavailable calories you consume will differ by food, and also likely differs by individual (which is why some gain and lose with more ease than others).

Next up, we're crappy food historians. We may forget portions, choices, or both, not all the time, but certainly some of the time. We can't possibly know what's in meals we haven't cooked ourselves. And even if we are cooking ourselves, most aren't going to be weighing and measuring everything and eyes are terrible at both.

And a recent study confirms some of the above whereby researchers looking at users of myfitnesspal found the average user was missing nearly a meal's worth of calories a day (445). Yet studies on food diary use pretty much invariably report they markedly benefit weight loss efforts.

Personally, though I think having some rough inaccurate sense of caloric intake is valuable (if you were in a foreign country and didn't know the exchange rate, price tags would still be somewhat helpful), more valuable is the use of the food diary to remind yourself that you're trying to eat thoughtfully and likely differently.

Human nature being what it is, without a system designed to consciously remind you to change your usual default behaviours, you're likely to drift back to those behaviours, healthy or not, and a food diary, even if inaccurate, if kept in real-time, will remind you many times a day that you're trying to change.

So long as you're not using your food diary as a tool of judgment, as it's not meant to be there to make you feel badly about your choices, chances are it'll be of benefit, and likely it'll be of benefit regardless of what it is you're tracking (calories, macros, carbs, whatever) and even if inaccurate, because it's primary job is to serve you as your constant change reminder service, not as your judge and jury.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Saturday Stories: Holocaust Memorial Day, Poway, And Synagogue Metal Detectors

Lori Gilbert-Kaye, may her memory be a blessing, murdered for being Jewish
A few days ago it was Holocaust Memorial Day, the day we commemorate the murder of 1 out of every 3 living Jews on earth prior to World War II. A week ago saw another murder for the crime of being Jewish, this time in California. Before that it was Pittsburgh. Though there's not much I can do about any of this, at least I can call your attention to these three pieces that try to weave it all together

Daniella Greenbaum Davis, in The Spectator, on antisemitism's new normal.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, in The New York Times, on how being almost killed by a terrorist last week has affected his resolve.

Carly Pidlis, in Tablet Magazine, on how Jews can no longer simply consider themselves safe in America.

Monday, April 29, 2019

New Study Suggests ADHD Steers Children To An Unhealthy Diet, Not The Other Way Around

To be taken with a grain of dietary recall data, but a new study, Children's Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms Predict Lower Diet Quality but Not Vice Versa: Results from Bidirectional Analyses in a Population-Based Cohort, found that an ADHD diagnosis led children to a less healthy diet, whereas less healthy diets did not lead children to ADHD.

The study was conducted in the Netherlands and it followed 3,680 children starting at age 6 and then ending when they reached the age of 10.

Put plainly, though more ADHD symptoms at age 6 were associated with less healthy diets at age 8, diet quality at age 8 was not associated with ADHD symptoms at age 10.

There are a number of proposed pathways to help explain how ADHD might affect diet quality. ADHD and its impulsivity may increase the risk of binge eating or loss of control eating, and the impact of ADHD on neurotransmitters may affect hunger and fullness. It's also possible that some parents of children with ADHD may offer foods their children prefer in order to decrease risk of conflict and/or reward desired behaviour.

Clearly more research on this would be welcome.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Saturday Stories: Freds, Sexism in Science, and Anti-Vaxx Marriage

Danielle Kosecki, in Medium, with her defense of Freds (less serious cyclists, and disclosure, I am one).

Mallory Picket, in The New York Times Magazine, on sexism in science's highest echelons.

Anonymous, in The Cut, on marriage with an anti-vaxxer.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Move More, Eat More? New Study Suggests People Do Eat More When They're More Active, But Not Much

One of the possible reasons that in freely living humans exercise doesn't seem to add up to weight loss as math might predict is that freely living humans might eat back their burned calories. Some may do so consequent to increased hunger. Others to a sense of virtue and the inclination to reward themselves for their hard work. Others still because marketing has convinced them that they must refuel, recover, replenish, etc..

A new study,Activity energy expenditure is an independent predictor of energy intake in humans, published this year in the International Journal of Obesity, set out to look at this phenomenon.

Now to be clear, the study certainly wasn't designed to explain exercise's impact on weight. It was just 7 days long and it involved the retrospective analysis of data from 5 prior studies and did not directly measure energy expenditure or energy intake. Instead researchers utilized estimated energy expenditure by way of heart rate and indirect calorimetry data, and energy intake by way of known to be problematic food diaries.

My stats skills are nowhere near good enough to comment on the various treatments of the data, but here's the scatter plot of the impact of energy expenditure on energy intake.

The increase in energy intake the authors attributed to energy expenditure wasn't high, roughly 3% of total daily calories (around 70 in this sample), an amount too small to explain away exercise's often uninspiring impact on weight loss.

Truth be told, I'd have predicted the difference to be larger as eating more consequent to exercise is something I know many people do for one or more of the various reasons mentioned above.

Of course none of this changes the fact that exercise has tremendous health benefits at any weight and that weight shouldn't be your driver for upping yours if you're able.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Saturday Stories: IN MICE, Cancer, and Future Dementia

James Heathers, in Medium, explains why he started the Twitter account that only ever tweets "IN MICE"

Anne Boyer, in The New Yorker, on what cancer takes away.

Tia Powell, in Elemental (on Medium), on how she's preparing for her future dementia.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

RDs! We're Hiring! Looking To Fill A Full-Time Permanent And Possibly Some Part-Time Positions

Will copy our job posting below, but the tl;dr version is we're both growing (our digital distance tool is deep into development and should be ready for beta-testing come late spring or early summer) and one of our wonderful RDs will be heading off on maternity leave. Consequently, we're looking for some great RDs!

Prior applicants are welcome by the way. In fact many of the RDs we've hired over the years had applied more than once.

Here's the posting. Please send resume and letter of interest to jobs@bmimedical.ca
The Bariatric Medical Institute (BMI) in Ottawa, an inter-professional weight management office that includes medical doctors, personal trainers, registered dietitians, a social worker, a clinical psychologist, and a therapy dog, is looking for a permanent full time dietitian to join our professional and unique team.

We are looking for an individual who loves working with people and technology, is great at multi-tasking, is a team players, thrives off of challenges and responsibility, and wants to utilize his or her skills in making a dramatic positive difference in people’s lives.

Responsibilities will include:
  • Collaboration with interprofessional team members.
  • One-on-one counselling sessions to motivate and help patients live the healthiest they can.
  • One-on-one counselling sessions with parents of children struggling with weight to help them navigate a healthy eating environment.
  • One-on-one counselling sessions to help prepare patients for bariatric surgery as well as post-surgery sessions to help patients ensure that they succeed.
  • Design individualized nutrition plans based on each individuals’ unique lifestyles, metabolic rates and dietary likes and dislikes.
  • Write for BMI’s different social media outlets: Website, blog, vlog, and monthly newsletter.
The skills you’ll need:
  • Exceptionally strong motivational counselling skills.
  • Must have excellent listening skills, empathetic and sensitive to patient’s needs. We do not ever utilize negative reinforcement in our counselling.
  • Able to adapt nutrition advice to recent scientific research with thoughtful critical appraisal.
  • Must be innovative and give patients realistic and helpful nutrition advice.
  • Positive and non-restrictive approach to weight management.
  • Comfortable giving presentations.
  • Possess sound professional judgment, initiative and enthusiasm.
  • Good time management skills and ability to organize.
  • Excellent computer skills, and comfort with social media
  • Strong cooking skills.
The requirements we’re looking for:
  • Minimum one year of clinical experience
  • Registered Dietitian
  • Member of the College of Dietitians of Ontario and in good standing (or willingness and ability to join).
  • Master level clinicians are preferred, although not required.
  • Previous experience working in weight management and childhood obesity is an asset.
  • Working with us you will have access to a full gym facility as well as shower and change rooms. Physical activity and healthy living are the primary focus of our work and therefore we view your active lifestyle as a great asset.
Because we are looking for the best candidate our wages are highly competitive with those in the community and after the 3 month probation period, medical and dental benefits are part of our package.

We look forward to hearing from and meeting with you.

Are You Successfully Maintaining A Weight Loss OR Have You Recently Quit A Diet? If Yes To Either Question, Please Spare 2 Minutes For Our Research (Shares Welcome!)

Back in 2012 I first posted my wish for there to be a questionnaire that would serve to help individuals and researchers determine how easy or difficult a particular diet would be to follow.

I called it the Diet Index Enjoyability Total or DIET score, and my hope was that by using a series of simple Likert scales (descriptive scales from 1-10), researchers could set out to evaluate a particular weight loss approach's DIET score where high scores would identify diets that could actually be enjoyed, and where low scores would identify under-eating, highly restrictive, quality of life degrading, dieting misery. This would be useful both to individuals who could use the DIET score to evaluate whatever approach they were considering, but might also serve as a surrogate for shorter term diet studies to give a sense as to whether or not there's a low or high likelihood of long term adherence to a particular study's strategy.

I'm happy to report that thanks to the hard work of Michelle Jospe and Jill Haszard of the University of Otago, along with your responses, we have completed the DIET score's qualitative review and this survey is meant as a simple pilot to test the hypothesis that higher scores associate with longer term success, and we hope, that once collected, these results will be compiled along with our qualitative review for the DIET Score's first published preliminary study!

So again, if you're currently following a diet, or if you've recently quit a diet, we would greatly appreciate it if you were able to take just a few minutes of your time to fill out our quick survey by clicking here.

Thank you in advance!

Yoni

[Today's survey is the final one (hopefully) before we submit our paper on the DIET SCORE. Consequent to our first two surveys we tweaked our questions to make them more relevant and representative by way our your comments and expert feedback. Even if you filled our survey out last time, if you've been successful on your diet (any dietary strategy or approach, we're not picky) OR if you've recently quit your diet, we'd dearly love to hear from you and we promise, it will barely take 2 minutes to complete]