Monday, October 21, 2019

The Journal of Nutrition Describes Gut Bacteria Prevotella Abundance As "The Key To Successful Weight Loss" Following Short Study Where Subjects With No Prevotella Lost Comparable Amount Of Weight

Hype around preliminary findings, animal studies, cell culture studies, underwhelming studies, and more is the clickbait that sells papers and likes. Some of the time hype comes from journalists, sometimes from press-releases, and sometimes from the authors themselves. Today's blog post sees the hype coming from an invited oped published by the American Society of Nutrition's flagship The Journal of Nutrition.

The oped, entitled, The Key to Successful Weight Loss on a High-Fiber Diet May Be in Gut Microbiome Prevotella Abundance, was written in reference to the results of the study entitled, Prevotella Abundance Predicts Weight Loss Success in Healthy, Overweight Adults Consuming a Whole-Grain Diet Ad Libitum: A Post Hoc Analysis of a 6-Wk Randomized Controlled Trial.

The op-ed described the "key" to successful weight loss on a high-fiber diet as gut microbiomes containing an abundance of the bacterium Prevotella, and was written to amplify the - hold onto your hats now - findings from a very small, very short study that was not originally designed to test the relationship between Prevotella abundance and weight, that found a whole 3.5lb greater weight loss among the 15 study subjects with the highest Prevotella abundance vs. the lowest (but still present amount) when consuming a whole grain (WG) diet.

But wait, there's more!

Though it's confusing because of the way they reported weight loss, the same study found that particpants with microbiomes containing no Prevotella also lost weight on a WG diet. In fact, looking at the study's diagram detailing the losses between groups it sure appears as if subjects whose microbiomes contained no Prevotella (0-P) lost statistically comparable amounts of weight as those whose microbiomes contained the most Prevotella (High-P).


So to summarize, people with microbiomes containing what The Journal of Nutrition called, "the key to weight loss on a high-fibre diet" lost pretty much the same amount of weight as people with none of it on a high-fibre diet. Oh, and that key that worked as well as not having a key at all? If we make the enormous leap that it was causal, it led to a 3.48lb weight loss. Whoop whoop?

Bottom line I guess is that if you're going to describe something at the "key" to successful weight loss on a whole grain diet in the title of an op-ed in a prominent journal, and where we're talking about a 4lb weight loss, but having none of that key leads you to lose pretty much the same amount of weight, not only is that not much of a key, but it's incredibly irresponsible as it blatantly contributes to the ongoing erosion of societal scientific literacy and promotes the harmful and erroneous belief that magic exists when it comes to weight loss.

[Also, unless I'm misreading the very small amount of actual data provided, it would seem that the authors of the study also reported the difference between high Prevotella and low Prevotella groups wrong whereby the high group was found to have lost 4lbs (-1.8kg), and the low 0.5lbs (-0.22kg), but rather than report a -1.58kg (3.48lb) difference between the two, they added their losses and reported a -2.02kg (4.45lb) difference.]



Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Real World Self-Selected Intermittent Fasting (IF) Vs. Continuous Energy Restriction (CER) Study Sees 73% of IF and 61% of CER Participants Not Lasting Even 6 Months

So what happens when you offer people with obesity the choice between 5:2 style intermittent fasting (IF) (very-low calories (VLC) 2 days weekly with 5 days of less restricted eating) and more traditional caloric restriction 7 days a week? Would encouraging people to choose between two strategies increase their likelihoods of successful weight management a year later? Would one group lose more weight than the other? Would adherence be the same?

That were the question post-doc RD Rona Antoni and colleagues set out to explore and they recently published a paper discussing their results.

197 patients with obesity presenting to the Rotherham Institute for Obesity were offered the choice between 5:2 IF (630 calories from liquid meal replacements on the VLC days), or an aimed 500 calorie continuous energy restriction (CER) 7 days per week with diet based off that recommended by the UK's dietary guidelines. Both groups received support from specialist obesity nurses for 6 months and were also asked to return for measurements and discussion at one year. All were also provided with access to, "a variety of specialist facilities, resources and multidisciplinary specialists including exercise and talking therapists", and all were reviewed in clinic monthly where measurements were taken (weight, total body fat, fat-free mass (FFM), waist circumference, systolic and diastolic blood pressure and an overnight fasted blood sample) and adherence was discussed.

99 patients chose IF, and 98 chose CER. 6 months later, 73% of IF patients and 61% of CER patients had dropped out. At one year, 83% of IF and 70% of CER patients were lost to follow up.

Of those who quit IF by 6 months, 18% explicitly reported they did so because they could not tolerate the diet, something that none of the CER drop outs reported, other IF drop outs reported they quit due to fainting or hypoglycemia on VLC days.

Regarding completers' weight losses at 6 months, the IF patients lost a statistically significant, but likely clinically meaningless, 4lbs more than the CER group. All blood measures (including fasting glucose, insulin, hsCRP, and lipids) were found to be the same between groups. Blood pressure changes were also not different between groups.

At one year, the 17 remaining IF patients were found to have regained their lost weight, while the 30 CER patients were found to be maintaining their albeit small amount (3%) of weight loss.

So what to make of this study?

I think the most striking finding was the overall 66% attrition rate across both arms. Certainly this study does not suggest that IF is an easier regime to follow than CER (at least not when provided at the Rotherham Institute for Obesity - given weight management support is a service and not a product, it's certainly possible that different providers might have seen different outcomes for both arms, but I do think this speaks to the challenge of scalability of behavioural interventions). But what I really think this study highlights is the fact that the real-world likelihood of purely dietary interventions treating our increasing weights is very low indeed. Instead, we need more tools for treatment (certainly including medications and surgeries), and more importantly, if we're going to see change, we're going to need environmental level changes to turn this boat around.

As to whether IF or CER will work for you don't forget that one person's horribly restrictive diet is another person's happy lifestyle. If you're trying to find your own right road, even if the first road fails, and even if angry diet gurus and zealots try to tell you there's no other road, keep trying different forks until you find the one that suits you best, as when it comes to diets, adherence is all that matters in the end, and if you don't like the way you're living, you're not likely to keep living that way.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Saturday Stories: Jimmy Dorsey's Generosity, Eating Disorder Recovery, And New Coke

Petula Dvorak, in The Washington Post, with two incredible stories, the first about hunting for one man whose generosity and $80 helped launch an incredible career, and then the story about finding that man - Jimmy Dorsey

Amelia Boone, in Race Ipsa Loquitur, discusses her eating disorder recovery.

Tim Murphy, in Mother Jones, on the murder of New Coke.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Dear @BowlCanada, Selling Chocolate Should Not Be A Prerequisite For A Child To Play In Your Leagues

This is not the first time someone has shared the story of a kids' sports league that requires junk food fundraising, but it may be the first time that the league's program coordinator explicitly stated that the child of a parent willing to pay a bit more instead of being stuck selling $50 of chocolate wouldn't be welcome.

I've said it before and will say it again, our food culture is broken and junk food fundraising is just one small aspect of that, and when you question social norms, no matter how broken they might be, don't be surprised when you get pushback. But damn, it's depressing.

Here is the redacted email exchange I was forwarded

Parent:
Hello,

My kids’ dad signed our child up for bowling and is telling me I have to sell half of these chocolates.

I asked for information and the lane said that Bowl Canada mandates this.

So I have a few things to ask.

I’ve noticed that General Mills is a sponsor. Do they make the chocolates and are they the party that is behind this arrangement?

Why chocolate when we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic? Especially for an organization encouraging health? There are all sorts of fundraisers. If given the chance I would gladly purchase fresh vegetables through Peak of the Market, for example.

Also, why not give parents the option of giving a donation for tax deductible purposes rather than making them buy a bunch of poor quality chocolate that is probably connected to child labour? You’d still cover the costs you are hoping for.
Bowl Canada Program Coordinator
Dear [Redacted],

We are happy to hear that your child will be registering for bowling this season! Yes, Youth Bowl Canada has one official fundraiser each year and our tried and true method of raising funds, to help keep costs down for families, is the sale of chocolates.

Every two years, Youth Bowl Canada considers proposals from many companies offering an array of products, with various levels of monetary return which benefits all levels of bowling in Canada. Chocolate companies can repeatedly offered the best deal to not only bowling, but to schools, community clubs, etc.

General Mills was a sponsor of Bowl Canada last year, however it was simply a free game of bowling offer on select food products in stores. They have not wished to quote on our fundraisers in the past.

I hope I have addressed your concerns. Please feel free to reply should you have any further questions
.
Parent
Hi [Redacted].

Thanks for your quick response. My understanding is, then, that these chocolate sales are mandatory if we want our kids in bowling. Is that correct?

If not correct, if this fundraiser is optional, no big deal; I don’t have to take part in something I find morally objectionable in order for my kid to have this opportunity.

If correct, that you require these chocolate sales, I would urge Bowl Canada to reconsider this policy, for 3 reasons.

1. It is objectionable to force fundraising on families. Some people are very good at this kind of stuff. Others have anxiety or lack the connections to have people to sell to. Sometimes the families least able to support a fundraiser are the ones whose kids most need this kind of programming.

2. This does not support physical health. As I mentioned, obesity is a major issue in society. I can appreciate that you are looking for good money makers but I think non-profits should be mindful of other considerations.

3. Why not give parents the option of something else? I am not going to sell these chocolates. If I end up buying half from my kids’ dad I will end up with chocolate I don’t want in my house and maybe end up throwing it out. I will have spent what? $50 on chocolate so Bowl Canada can get $20? I’d much rather just give you the $20 profit you are looking for. Why not just give me that option rather than making me spend more money than is necessary?

4. Chocolate is ethically problematic. Most chocolate manufacturers have child labour and harsh conditions as part of the production process. This is wrong and I believe what we support with our money should not hurt other people.

So I find myself between a rock and a hard place: I love my kid in bowling, it has been great for him. But I don’t think it’s right to force me to take part in something I find morally objectionable.

Please reconsider your policy.
Bowl Canada Program Coordinator
Hi [Redacted].

Yes, chocolate sales are required for the YBC program to participate in all YBC programs and events.

I will, however forward your concerns on to those that review YBC policies for future consideration.

Regards
Ugh.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Weekly Elementary School Pizza Sales Nets Just $8.57 Per Student Per Year

Last week I gave a talk to some parents at my youngest daughter's elementary school.

The talk was about our ridiculous food environment where we are all the proverbial frogs in pots of water that have slowly been heated to a boil, where food, especially junk food, is constantly used to reward, pacify, and entertain our children as well as to fundraise for every cause.

Ironically, the day before the talk I received an email from the school's parent council extolling me to sign my daughter up for weekly pizza days. In it I was told,
"The most valuable fundraiser is Pizza Mondays. $0.50 of every order, every week goes to the [redacted]. It's a win/win/win! One less lunch for you to make, a delicious (and nutritious) slice of pizza for your child and $16.50 to the [redacted]!"
Looking past the wisdom (or lack thereof) of children been taught by their school week in and week out, from Kindergarten to Grade 7, that fast food pizza is a normal, weekly, "nutritious", meal, I couldn't help but wonder just how valuable it really was in terms of fundraising, and so I asked principal.

She told me that the school's Pizza Mondays cut raises $6,000 per year (12,000 slices served).

There are 700 students in the school.

$6,000/700 students/year = $8.57/student/year

And if Pizza Mondays are the most valuable fundraiser, then perhaps it'd be fair to assume that in total, the school raises $10,000/year in food sale initiatives. That would be $14.30 per kid per year.

Is there really no other way to raise $14.30 per kid than selling them, and normalizing, weekly (or multiple times per week) junk food?

I think there probably is, and here are 3 suggestions each of which by itself might do the job, let alone together (and these are just 3 ideas, there are so many more out there as well).

Fundscrip
Fundscrip is simple to describe. Parents buy gift cards from Fundscrip for stores they already shop at (supermarkets, gas stations, hardware stores, clothing stores, business and school supply stores, toy stores, book stores, electronic stores, restaurants etc.). The gift cards work just like regular gift cards (meaning they work just like cash) and are mailed directly to parents' homes, and the school receives 2-5% (depending on the store) of the value of the gift cards. Given the average family of 4 in Canada's weekly grocery bill runs in at a reported $220, if even only 10% of the school's parents got involved, and if they only used the cards to cover half of their grocery costs, the 3% kickback to the schools would raise $12,000. And that's just by way of groceries!

Grandparents' Day
Many schools run grandparents' days. Simply put they involve inviting all the kids' grandparents to school, putting on some sort of song and dance production, giving the proud grandparents a tour, and either charging them a nominal fee for tickets ($5), or simply soliciting donations during the event (and perhaps annually having a singular cause which then gets branded for that year's grandparents if monies raised). 700 elementary students should conservatively mean at least 1400 grandparents. If only half of them attended, and an average of $5/grandparent was raised, that would bring in $3,500.

School Parents' Goods and Services Auction
With 700 families in our child's school, there are clearly a great many different professions represented among the parents. Creating a night whereby parents can donate goods or services (with a cut to the school) is a great way to both raise money, and raise interest and awareness of the parent body's businesses. Lawyers might donate a discounted will consultations, I could donate work with one of our RDs, or with our personal trainers, artists could donate their art, restauranteurs could donate meals, etc. Done right, and certainly once established as a valuable annual event, there's no reason why this couldn't raise $3,000-$10,000.

The bottom line is that schools truly don't need to sell junk food to children to raise money as there are plenty of other means to do so. Yes, school sold junk food is convenient for parents who aren't keen on making lunches every day, but given we are literally building our children out of what we feed them, and that weekly (daily in some cases) school junk food sales teaches kids, even those who don't order them, that daily junk food is a normal, healthy part of life, taking the time to pack those lunches (or to teach our kids how to pack lunches themselves) is well worth it.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

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.