Saturday, January 19, 2019

Saturday Stories: 'Oumuamua, A Probable Serial Rapist, and Running

Isaac Chotiner, in The New Yorker, interviewing Harvard's chair of astronomy, Avi Loeb, on why he believes 'Oumuamua may have been an alien spacecraft.

Matt Mencarini, in Lansing State Journal, with an infuriating story on probable serial rapist Calvin Kelly

Bella Mackie, in The Guardian, on the anti-anxiety medication she started when her life came crumbling down - running.

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Because Finding Them Now Is Too Difficult? PepsiCo Launches Mobile, Self-Driving, Health-Washing, Vending Machines

Caught this the other day.

PepsiCo has partnered with the University of the Pacific campus in Stockton, California to launch mobile vending machines that, at least according to PepsiCo, deliver "healthier" snacks to college students by way of a smartphone app.

Peeking at the launch video one can see that the "healthier" snacks include Pure Leaf Lemon Flavor tea (with its > 10 teaspoons (41g) of added sugar), and an assortment of baked chips (which generally have marginally fewer calories but are otherwise comparable to their fully fried brethren).



Because no doubt it's tough these days for college students in in California to find junk food. I mean before Snackbots, they actually had to walk to buy some.

I wonder how much money the University of the Pacific is reaping from PepsiCo in return for feeding up their students and in so doing, helping to market sugar water and baked chips as "healthier"?

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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

The Only Thing Public Health And The Food Industry Fully And Firmly Agree Upon About Canada's Next Food Guide Is That It Definitely Matters

Generally speaking, there probably isn't much that public health professionals and the food industry agree upon when it comes to Canada's imminent new Food Guide.

Briefly, public health would like to see the Guide discouraging the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, ultra-processed foods, processed meats, trans-fats, and see a swap recommended so that people are encouraged to replace their saturated fats with unsaturated fats. Public health would also like to see the Guide discourage frequent use of restaurants, encourage cooking, and promote the free-from-distractions consumption of those cooked meals, ideally with loved ones, on a regular basis. There's more, but that's the basic gist.

The food industry would like to see the Guide avoid the discouragement of any particular food, would like to see dairy maintaining its undeserved separate food category while simultaneously not admonishing against chocolate milk, saturated fat swaps, and would like soft, ambiguous language around processed foods and more.

But there is one area where public health and the food industry wholeheartedly agree - they both agree that the Guide matters a great deal and it wields real influence on the eating patterns of Canadians.

No, Canadians don't shop with the Guide in hand, but industry relies on the Guide's messages in their marketing and sales. For instance, if the Guide, as drafts suggest, has indeed eliminated the dairy category and rightly lumped dairy in with other sources of protein, the dairy industry may no longer be able to suggest to kids (even kindergartners), parents, educators and more that we need a particular number of servings of dairy per day. This in turn, along with the removal of chocolate milk as a dairy equivalent, will likely, over time, affect school milk programs, and will certainly impact the "dairy educators" that schools bring in to chat with students. It will also preclude the dairy industry's ability to buy skewed surveys designed to provide a veneer of health to their products, to launch apps to ensure you're having enough, and when articles are written about dairy in the media, no longer will there be a throw away line included about how many servings the Guide recommends daily.

And all of that will undoubtedly affect dairy sales.

Which of course is why the dairy industry has mounted a years long campaign to try to prevent changes to the Guide's dairy recommendations. They've sent in letters to Health Canada and ministers, they've seeded the media with interviews and concerns, and they've even created an astroturf front group called "Keep Canadians Healthy" that pushed Facebook ads to the public encouraging them to be concern and upset about the plans to downgrade dairy, and provided the public with a call to action and a fill in the blank form to mail their MPs (scroll down through the link to see).

So the next time you hear someone cluelessly (or insidiously) suggesting that the Guide doesn't matter (like the feckless Canadian Taxpayers Federation did on CBC's The National two days ago for instance), remember that pretty much the only area where public health and the food industry fully agree in regards to the Guide is the fact that it matters a great deal to what Canadians buy, and consequently, to what Canadians eat.

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Monday, January 07, 2019

Caring About The Quality of Your Food Is Not A Disorder (Orthorexia's Many False Media Positives)

That's not to say people can't see their concerns about diet quality not deteriorate into a disorder - where their concerns have sometimes even dramatically negative effects upon their qualities of life and/or mental health.

But that's not what I'm talking about here.

Here I'm talking about the knee jerk comfort people have in ascribing a disorder to someone else's dietary concerns or choices, especially in the both traditional and social media.

Just because you might personally find someone else's attention to their diet excessive, that doesn't mean it is to them. Their caring about the choice and types of their foods, so long as it isn't negatively affecting their physical health, mental health, or their quality of life, isn't an eating disorder!

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Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Dominic Cardy, New Brunswick's Minister of Education, Champions School Chocolate Milk Sales In Name of Hunger, Poverty, Food Insecurity, And Fundraising

Before the break, New Brunswick's new Conservative government proudly honoured their promise to restore the elementary school sanctioned sale of chocolate milk.

Never mind that the World Health Organization and Canada's Heart and Stroke Foundation have explicitly called for the marked limitation of the free sugars provided to children.

Never mind that the Director General of Health Canada's Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion (the folks in charge of the Food Guide), Dr. Hasan Hutchinson, has been on record since February 2014 that chocolate milk's inclusion in the 2007 (and sadly still current) Food Guide was a mistake - a mistake which almost certainly will be remedied when (if) the Food Guide's revisions are ever published.

Never mind that research on what happens when chocolate milk sales are stopped in schools found that stopping the sale of chocolate milk in schools did not affect the students' total daily milk or dairy consumption, that on average all students were meeting their daily recommended amounts of dairy, that kids who swapped from chocolate milk to white milk drank pretty much the same amount of white as they did chocolate (unless you think 4/5ths of a tablespoon of milk is a lot), and that by removing the sale of chocolate milk from the school, in the first month alone nearly half of the initial chocolate milk drinkers switched to white and in so doing, saved themselves piles of calories and the nearly 2 full cups of monthly added sugar.

No, the New Brunswick Conservatives clearly know better, and in late December, Dominic Cardy, their Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, explained what it was about chocolate milk that made its sale in schools so important - calories. In an interview with the CBC, Cardy explained that selling chocolate milk in schools was important because, "Would you rather have kids have some calories in their stomach or none? You need the calories to start with"

So the sale of chocolate milk in schools is to ensure New Brunswick children consume enough calories? Given New Brunswick's own health council reports the province's rates of childhood obesity are among the highest in the country, I wouldn't have thought that was a problem, and that's putting aside the fact that white milk provides calories too.

And honestly, I wondered if perhaps he was misquoted, or his words were used out of context.

Apparently not. Oh, and also, there's more.

On Twitter, Cardy doubled down on his kids need calories therefore elementary schools need to sell them chocolate milk stance, and then added in that my concerns were due to my privilege and that the sale of chocolate milk was also there to address hunger,

And when RD Karine Comeau quickly pointed out that if food insecure New Brunswick children were the concern, enabling and promoting the excess consumption of sugar in that vulnerable population, a population already at increased risk of chronic disease, probably isn't in their best interest, and instead perhaps an emphasis should be placed on increasing their access to fresh fruits and vegetables, Cardy agreed but stated that the problem with the prior policy was, "yanking milk and juice with no replacement plan"

Yet milk and juice had not been "yanked". You might have noticed that I've bolded the word "sale" throughout this piece - the reasoning is simple - the policy that Cardy and the New Brunswick Conservatives have reversed was the end of school chocolate milk sales. Meaning there was never a ban on chocolate milk (or juice) - they weren't "yanked", they simply weren't sold. Nor were (or are) schools distributing chocolate milk freely to hungry, impoverished children. And when schools weren't selling it, there was nothing stopping a parent from sending their kids with a thermos of chocolate milk (or a juice box) to school, or signing their kids up for the white stuff's sale.

And finally, Cardy calls the concerns of various public health professionals, "self-righteous indignation", and shifts the goalposts a fifth time (from hunger, to poverty, to food insecurity, to yanking) to fundraising. As if there are no other ways to raise funds for schools than by selling sugar.

And perhaps here it's worth repeating, Cardy is New Brunswick's Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development. Drink that in for a moment.

(And reporters who will inevitably be covering the new Food Guide's eventual release, if the Guide, as expected, calls for a limitation on sugar-sweetened milk, I'd suggest an interview with Mr. Cardy with a focus on his chocolate milk beliefs and New Brunswick's school food policy might make for a delicious side story)

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Saturday, December 29, 2018

Saturday Stories: Body Nos, Blood Spatter Analysis, and Caregiver PTSD

Christopher Solomon, in Outside, on when your body says no.

Leora Smith, in ProPublica, on the virus of blood spatter analysis.

Jennifer N. Levin, in The Washington Post, on caregiver PTSD.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Why You Might Want To Step Away From The Kale Chips

As has been my tradition, in December I repost old favourites from years gone by. This year am looking back to 2015.
I spotted these as I wandered around Whole Foods before heading to the movies.

The packaging screams out health. "Kale", "Air Dried, Not Fried", "GMO Free", "MSG Free", "Gluten Free", "Vegetarian"

Turn the package over however and you might be surprised to learn a few things.

The bag's 640 calories clock in at 16% more than a Big Mac's 549 (and more gram for gram than Doritos), and they're also packing the same amount of sodium gram for gram as Lay's potato chips (regular flavour).

The nutrition data is also a bit curious.

Looking at 28g of raw kale you'll notice that it contains 86% of your Vitamin A %DV and 56% of Vitamin C. And yet 28g of these dehydrated kale chips, which you might imagine would in fact represent more than 28g of raw given the dehydration, have 97% less vitamin A and 73% less vitamin C.

Putting aside the fact that if you're actually looking for the nutritive benefits of kale, at least as compared with Kaley's Kale Chips, actual kale's the way to go, some might say that I'm being too harsh. They might say that the bag isn't meant to be consumed in one sitting. But as you can see from the photo where I'm holding it, the bag's no larger than your average checkout aisle chip bag, and at least with chips, you won't for a moment convince yourself they're a healthful choice.

If you want chips buy chips. Simple.

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Monday, December 24, 2018

Supplement Maker Arbonne Thinks You're An Idiot

As has been my tradition, in December I repost old favourites from years gone by. This year am looking back to 2015.
Well truthfully I don't know that for sure, but what other explanation is there for their trying to sell their product with this statement as their proof of its efficacy?
"Data based on consumer perception after a 60 day home-use trial of PhystoSport products by 25 Arbonne Independent Consultants, Arbonne employees, and friends."
As to what that means? Well basically Arbonne, referred to by many as a multi-level marketing scheme, asked its own salespeople, employees and friends about the very products they were trying to sell, and then compiled their answers into really awesome sounding statistics with a tiny disclaimer that they're hoping no one will read.

Scumbags might be too kind a descriptor.

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