Saturday, December 14, 2019

Saturday Stories: Judaism's Executive Order, Reunited Lovers, And The Benefits Of Weight Loss

David Schraub, in The Atlantic, discusses, with great nuance and balance, the issues surrounding Trump's executive order regarding Jewish identity.

Keren Blankfield, in The New York Times, on lovers reunited 72 years after their affair in Auschwitz.

Kevin Bass, in his blog Nutritional Revolution, reviews how not only is long term weight loss possible, even small losses have been shown to markedly reduce the risk of death, and how those benefits are treated very differently than lesser benefits from medication and screening.

Monday, December 09, 2019

#IfYouServeItWeWillEatIt Vegetarian Conference Food Nudge RCT Edition

As I've noted before (usually in the context of soda and junk food) if you serve it, we will eat it, even if the 'we' are a bunch of medical or dietetic professionals.

But what happens if you serve healthier fare? And what happens if you give people a little nudge towards it?

A recent study sought to explore that and prior to 3 conferences, randomized attendees into receiving one of the following two options to consider for their lunch choices
Group 1 (this was the non-vegetarian default ask): At the conference a non-vegetarian buffet will be served for lunch. Please state here if you would like to have a vegetarian dish prepared for you: __________________________________.

Group 2 (this was the vegetarian default ask): At the conference a vegetarian buffet will be served for lunch. Please state here if you would like to have a non-vegetarian dish prepared for you:__________________________________.
You know what happened next.

At all 3 conferences, whatever was highlighted as the default lunch option was chosen by the vast majority for lunch.

At the first conference, the vegetarian choice increased from 2% to 87%. At the second conference it increased from 6% to 86%. And at the third conference it increased from 12.5% to 89%.

You know what would have certainly led to even higher numbers? No non-vegetarian options. And to be clear, I'm not suggesting vegetarian diets are a panacea, there are plenty of unhealthy vegetarian foods, but this simple study illustrates the power afforded to conference organizers in terms of what's being served and how it's being presented to attendees. The same of course would be true of any venue where meals and/or snacks are presented.

Given we eat what we're served, it seems to me to be a straightforward expectation, at least for medical and dietetic conferences, that we're served healthy options.

[Thanks to my friend and colleague David Nunan for sharing this study with me, and you should follow him on Twitter if you don't already]

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Saturday Stories: Chaos, Hatred, And Ethos

Joshua Hammer, in GQ, writing on chaos at the top of the world.

Bari Weiss (and whether you loathe her or not everyone should read this harrowing article), in the New York Times, on how the global surge in Jew hatred should not be written off as isolated incidents of bigotry.

Rachel Laudan, in The Hedgehog Review, on the establishment of a modern culinary ethos.

(photo source)

Monday, December 02, 2019

Dear @OttawaCitizen, Your 83 Word Byline Free Drink Milk "Artice" Isn't Journalism And It Contributes to Scientific Illiteracy

Now to be clear, I'm not a journalist, though I have written my fair share of articles for various publications (including the Ottawa Citizen).

What I would never have submitted, let alone gotten away with, would be an 83 word (truly, that pic above is all there is), byline free, advertorial replete with a large photo promoting milk consumption in the name of Vitamin D and calcium citing a "report" that urged Canadians to drink milk, and mentioning "experts" three times, without actually naming the report or the experts.

Though I'm not sure which report the 83 words is referring to, my friend and PhD/RD Dr. Kevin Klatt (who you should absolutely be following on Twitter) was able to steer me to this study looking at non-dairy milk consumption and vitamin D levels in Canadian children which clearly demonstrates drinking non-cow's milk leads to lower, but still fine, vitamin D status markers.

He noted, as actually cited experts should, that vitamin D's daily recommended intake (DRI) levels were derived from intake studies performed in very high northern latitudes so as to remove the confounding issue of sunlight, and that consequently daily recommended intake levels are far more than are necessary to maintain safe vitamin D levels for everywhere but the far north. He also pointed out,
"there's not very strong evidence to suggest that not consuming milk places one at risk of having Vitamin D status in the range of insufficiency."
And though it may surprise you given the certainty of the 83 words up above, the data on dietary intake and Vitamin D are so limited that anyone who has concerns about their vitamin D status, regardless of whether they drink milk or not, should have their levels checked and not simply assume milk will be magical. Or better yet, not try to drink their way to higher levels of Vitamin D if they're concerned and simply take supplements (with meals if this is your plan as Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin)

Given the full court press the Canadian dairy industry has been making since our new Food Guide rightfully relegated dairy to simply a source of protein rather than suggest it is a unique food group, I can't help but wonder if this published seeming advertorial is consequent to their efforts and overtures, and while it might play to at least 50 years of Canadian dairy marketing, the Ottawa Citizen should know better than to simply pass along uncritical food takes suggesting magic benefits to specific foods to a population primed to believe them.

(Thanks to my friend and colleague Andrew Kujavsky for sending the photo of the article my way)