Friday, September 28, 2007

Food on Sticks

Not sure if this is funny, scary or just plain odd.

Here for Funny Fridays, in youtube glory, are the 59 foods on sticks sold at the Minnesota State Fair in 2006.

I thought the weirdest one was the loaf of bread with a pound of mustard on a stick.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Incredible Adventures of the Amazing Food Detective - Review

Yesterday the HMO Kaiser Permanente released an online video game targeting childhood obesity.

It's meant to teach kids more about healthy eating and according to the press release it's aimed at kids between the ages of 9-10.

Here are the main components of the games.

Eats too much - you zap away at portions, with no explanation or instruction as to how to do so without inviting hunger

Not very strong - you add protein sources to an enourmous portion of pasta and 3 large slices of bread.

Too much junk food - you help a kid choose a carrot, a banana juice and water instead of granola bars, fruit roll ups and chocolate bars (yup, that'll happen).

Doesn't exercise enough - you help a kid stop watching TV and go out and play soccer (by himself)

Needs to play more - you help a girl jump rope instead of play with a yoyo (by herself)

Teeth and bones are weak - help a kid to sit down to a glass of juice, a glass of milk, a giant bowl of cereal, a giant hunk of cheese and a yogurt.

Tired all the time - Click a machine that "speeds up" a boy named Matthew's speed doing jumping jacks (in a gym, by himself)

Skips breakfast - Click a stopwatch so the kid stops and eats breakfast (a bowl of cereal or even "just a banana".

This is just more part and parcel of the same old useless messages bundled with little explanation, conflicting portion sizes and non-inspiring depictions (yay, jumping jacks in a gym by myself are fun!).

Do people really think kids don't know that exercise is healthier for them than watching TV? That vegetables are healthier choices than chocolate bars? That breakfast is a healthy start to the day? That doing more exercise is healthier than doing less? That smaller portions lead to smaller waists?

Of course kids know all of these things.

What they need to be taught is not things that they know, but things that they don't know.

Not to beat a dead horse but they need to be taught about caloric intake vs. caloric expenditure, they need to be taught hunger prevention strategies, they need to be taught how to be thoughtful with food rather than blindly and unrealistically restrictive.

If this is cutting edge, the edge is duller than I thought.

You can play the game yourself here and come to your own conclusions.

I give it an F. It doesn't teach kids anything they don't already know and instead gives them a parentally acceptable reason not to turn off the computer.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Do you have scale addiction?

It's certainly not a condition written about in medical textbooks.

I'm talking about scale addiction. An affliction that causes the sufferer, usually someone in the midst of a weight loss effort, to step on the scale multiple times a day whereupon if the scale does not go down or goes up, they suffer mild to severe mental anguish.

I've met many folks who are scale addicts.

They tell me that rationally they understand that getting on the scale multiple times a day won't make a difference, but that they just can't help themselves.

For those folks I usually offer to babysit their scales in my office or I recommend that they turn them over, take out the batteries or put tape on the solar strip.

The thing is scales are truly frustrating devices because they don't simply measure caloric intake vs. caloric expenditure. They measure clothing, water retention, constipation and time of day differences.

Folks who do weigh frequently will know that weight fluctuates both day by day and within a day.

So for scale addicts out there, here are two things you need to know.

Firstly, there's 3,500 calories in a pound, and while bodies are not mathematical instruments whereby if you do or don't eat 3,500 calories you'll see a pound change on the scale, bodies do obey the laws of thermodynamics and if you step on a scale on a Wednesday and it's 3 pounds heavier than Tuesday, unless you consumed at least 10,500 calories more than you burned, the scale is weighing something other than true weight.

Secondly, your weight doesn't matter. What do I mean by that? To put it simply, what moves the number on the scale is not the act of standing on the scale, it's what you're doing and choosing during the times you're not standing on the scale. It's your lifestyle and your choices that change your weight. You need to determine how you're doing by how you're doing. What have your dietary choices been like? How's your fitness? Are you being thoughtful? Are you organized and consistent?

Scales can be helpful to illustrate trends, but weight fluctuation, both inter and intra day fluctuations are normal.

At the end of the day, it's your life that can change the scale, not the other way around.

My recommendations? During a weight loss effort weigh yourself once a week, stark naked Wednesday morning before breakfast. During a weight maintenance effort weigh yourself daily and get to learn your body's weight fluctuations and more importantly, use the scale to nip any weight regain in the bud.

Break the habit, stop the weighing.

(P.S. Those aren't my feet, just a scary picture from the internet)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Alberta's Useless Child Gestures

Last week the Province of Alberta unveiled their new warrior designed to help combat the rising tide of childhood obesity. It's called Create a Movement and for a cost of $2,000,000 your Province can design one too.

In a nutshell it's a series of slick media advertisements and then a slick webpage all of which serve to shuffle Albertans off to pick up their copies of Canada's Food Guide.

The crux of their advertising campaign is fear. The goal of the campaign is to scare Albertan parents and kids into action. Their target,

"Unhealthy weights among our generation is on the fast track to replace smoking as Canada’s #1 killer"
And when I say scare tactics, I mean scare tactics. Here's one of their scary commercials:

So let's say you've just watched the scary commercial and you've decided to look past the fact that the child that the doctor is speaking to clearly has a very healthy body weight and is not at risk for any weight related chronic diseases and in fact makes the entire commercial seem rather ridiculous and fear mongering and you click yourself over to the webpage. What help will you find there?

Pretty much none.

The entire website reminds kids to, "Eat Smart", "Move More", and of course, "Start a Movement".

There are T-shirt stencils for you to download, certain to make you the coolest kids in your class.

There is wallpaper for your desktop, certain to make you turn your computer off to go and "Eat Smart" and "Move More".

There are copies of all of the scary commercials and there are "Webisodes".

Here's an example of a "Webisode" - a teenage skateboarder with a BMI in the neighbourhood of 20 talks of how he drinks two Cokes a day. The hostess then tells him that the Coke he's drinking leads him to gain 12lbs in a year. She then goes on to talk about the sugar in pop.

Interesting that the "Webisode" that clearly is anti-sugar doesn't mention that juice has as much or more sugar as pop and that chocolate milk has more. Also, do you really think that first skater should be aiming for a 12lb weight loss by stopping his Cola habit, and lastly was picking healthy active teens to focus on - doesn't that miss this website's target audience (the sedentary overweight ones)?

The "Facts" section of the website has the same old stuff - eat less fat, eat more vegetables, get off the couch, and the resource section - of course it points you to Canada's Food Guide (Canada's Food Guide to Unhealthy Eating), My Food Guide (The bad joke that is My Food Guide) and Eattracker (Eattracker - your new weight gain weapon) (click the links for my reviews therein) where juice, chocolate milk, refined flour and red meat are all "healthy" choices.

Clearly there's some care regarding energy because at the bottom right hand corner of every page is a little graphic that illustrates how long you have to run to burn off some common junk food items. But of course the website has completely ignored calories and while they point out it takes 43 minutes to run off a fountain cola, they fail to note that it would take just as long to run off juice and longer to run off chocolate milk.

All in all I can't blame the folks putting together the website - they're just promoting the messages our government has deemed to be helpful.

Quick question - if the eat healthier, move more diet worked, do you really think that close to 70% of Canadians would be overweight or obese?

Another question - Do you think this website is telling kids anything at all that they don't already know?

It's time that governments and health professionals get past the tried and true messages that not only aren't helpful, are frankly unhelpful. Healthy eating does not mean healthy weights. Exercise is not in and of itself sufficient for dramatic weight loss. Calories count.

Kids and adults need to be taught that healthy eating and weight management are two separate healthy endeavors, with healthy eating involving food choices and weight management calorie choices. They need to be taught means to prevent hunger. They need to be taught the sad truths of the Calories burned through exercise.

Basically, they need a new message, because this tired old one, the one we've had for the past 50 years, the eat smarter, move more message, doesn't work.

The site did succeed with me however - its reminder of just how woefully inadequate (nonexistent) our government's guidance on weight management is certainly left me wanting to "create a movement".

[Hat tip: Julie from It Must Have Been Something I Ate]

Monday, September 24, 2007

I Need your Help

Today I'm taking a day off nutrition blogging to ask you for your help.

Next Sunday I'm running in the CIBC Run for the Cure, a charity run supporting breast cancer research.

It's a rare individual who escapes being touched by breast cancer as 1 in 9 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetimes. Obesity is definitely a risk factor and weight loss appears to be protective against recurrence.

My office, the Bariatric Medical Institute, over the course of the past 3 years has raised over $70,000 for Run for the Cure. That picture up above is part of our team last year when for the second time in as many years, we raised more money than any other office based team in Ottawa. This year for some reason, fund raising has been more challenging and with the run next weekend, we're sitting just shy of $20,000.

I put a great deal of time and energy into this blog and while I promise that I will never ask my readers to pay for access, I am hopeful that if you enjoy my work, you will consider donating to my Run for the Cure effort.

To donate click the pink button below which will take you to the CIBC website. You can choose to give anonymously, you can use a credit card and if you donate more than $10, you'll receive a tax receipt.

Click here to donate!

Thank you and back to normal programming tomorrow.


Friday, September 21, 2007

More Doctors Smoke Camels

Some things never change, but clearly some things do.

Today for Funny Fridays (new subscribers - Friday's my day off anger) is an old commercial for Camel cigarettes.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sugar is Sugar

In a bit of a flying pig type moment, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has apparently joined hands with Big Food (in the form of the Corn Refiners Association) in chastising the President's Cancer Panel's report that vilifies high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

HFCS is a sweetener that's made from corn and used widely in sugared soda. It has been demonized by consumers due to the suggestion that it somehow, independently of the laws of thermodynamics, causes those ingesting it to gain more weight than those consuming more "natural" sugars.

In fact, this attitude has become so prevalent that there are now foods that splash the words, "HFCS Free" on their front labels.

CSPI, like me, thinks sugar is sugar, whether it's god sugar or HFCS and in their letter state,

"the 2006-2007 Annual Report of the President's Cancer Panel diverges from accepted science in its unfair effort to identify high fructose corn syrup as a uniquely important contributor to obesity, which is a risk factor for cancer."

"The report's multiple, pejorative references to HFCS are unwarranted and risk mistakenly reinforcing the myth - now effectively disproved by a steadily growing body of research evidence - that HFCS and sugar might affect the body differently
Bottom line here - CSPI thinks we all eat too much sugar and it doesn't really matter where the sugar comes from, sugar is sugar and there's no sense in perpetuating a myth that one sugar is better than any other (even if God made it).

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"You should stop losing weight"

In my practice I get to see a great many people lose a great deal of weight and I've noticed two trends.

Firstly it's usually somewhere between a 15 and 20 pound weight loss when folks start noticing, but it's the second trend I want to talk about, the, "You should stop losing weight" trend whereby if you lose enough weight, folks will start telling you to stop.

In my experience it happens at somewhere around the 15-20% mark (i.e. a 30-40lb weight loss if your starting weight is 200lbs). Now there is a difference in terms of how starting weight affects this phenomenon and the higher the starting weight, the less likely this phenomenon will occur but as an anecdotal rule, if your starting weight is less than 250lbs and you lose more than 20% of your starting weight, somebody will tell you to stop. They'll often even do so despite the fact that you may still want to lose more weight and may still have a significant amount of medical risk associated with your weight.

Sometimes they'll even come right out and say you look bad.

I've got two theories about this. There's the less likely theory - jealousy, but honestly I don't believe that plays a big role for most folks. I think the more likely theory is the fact that consciously or perhaps unconsciously as a function of evolutionary biology, we interpret weight loss as reflective of illness.

The fact is that many major and sometime fatal illnesses have a wasting away component to them and I wonder if we as a species have it hardwired in us to recognize weight loss as a sign of illness. Many of us too have personally watched friends and relatives waste away and seeing a friend or a relative lose weight may trigger memories and emotions that less than pleasant.

For all those obesity researchers who may be reading my blog, I think this phenomenon would be a fascinating study and it's certainly not one I've read about. There'd be two ways to study it. One with a prospective study whereby the folks losing weight keep track of when they first run into someone whose concerned about their weight loss or perhaps an easier study using photographs of folks as they lose weight with captive audiences and well designed questions.

Anybody out there experience this phenomenon?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Canada's Cheese Plan Stinks

Rosie Schwartz, nutritional columnist for the National Post, author and RD has exposed yet another instance where our government is bending over for Canada's dairy industry.

To explain let me take you back to the 80s, when the first low-fat cheeses began to hit the market.

They tasted terrible didn't they?

Nowadays though they don't taste half bad. In fact in some cases, it's almost impossible to distinguish the low-fat version from the regular.

The reason low-fat cheeses taste better nowadays is that over the years the cheese making industry has found ways to improve taste while still keeping the saturated fat levels low. They've been adding milk solids and whey and other foods that affect the "mouthfeel" of cheese.

By lowering fat content, calories are lowered and saturated fat levels are lowered.

Those are good things, right? Lowering calories and saturated fat in our diets is supposed to be healthy, right? Health Canada and our government in general would want that, right?

You'd sure think so. You'd think that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), an agency who Rosie points out's mandate is to,

"protect Canadians from preventable health risks"
would want and encourage Canadians to consume less saturated fat and calories and in so doing help protect Canadians from chronic conditions like heart disease and the number one preventable cause of death in Canada, obesity.

You'd sure think so.

But of course you'd be dead wrong.

The CFIA actually wants to limit the amount of whey that cheese makers use to make their cheese, thereby requiring cheese makers to utilize more fluid milk, increasing the saturated fat content of cheese, the calories of cheese, the price of cheese and decreasing the palatability of low-fat cheeses.

So why would they want to do that?

Perhaps because the CFIA doesn't work for Health Canada, the CFIA works directly for the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture works directly for our farmers. You see, by limiting the whey that cheese makers are "allowed" to use they will require cheese makers to buy more liquid milk from Canada's dairy farmers.

So what does Health Canada have to say on the matter? Health Canada who as I mentioned yesterday quite literally launched the Food Guide while basically holding hands with the Secretary of State for Agriculture?

Rosie managed to contact Renee Bergeron a Happy Corporations spokesperson who had this to say,
"Based on our initial review, Health Canada considers that the proposed changes to cheese standards would not be expected to compromise the nutritional quality of cheeses and cheese products."
I wonder which corporate shill in Health Canada had the honour of signing their name to a paper that stated that raising the saturated fat content and calories in cheeses wouldn't compromise their nutritional quality.

Health Canada and CFIA, please stop cutting the cheese.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I'm moving to Australia

You know that was actually the plan once. Before I finished my residency I had met with some recruiters from Australia and was offered a job doing medicine in rural Australia - then I met my wife.

Today I'm once again itching to move, but today it's simply because Australia is the first country I've come across (there may be more) that has not bowed to Big Food's pressure and has actually gone and done what in Canada and the United States is almost unthinkable.

What have they done?

They've officially recognized fruit juice to be the glass of God sugar that it is.

They've even informed parents that half a glass a day is a maximum!

Contrast that with our god-awful Food Guide that states drinking juice is as good for you as eating fruit.

Here's what Australia's national science agency the CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, has to say about juice:

"Fruit juices provide nutrients but almost no fibre so they don’t give the same benefits as eating fresh fruit. Fruit is also more filling than fruit juice. Juices are high in kilojoules and the sugar in fruit juice may play a part in tooth decay. It is recommended that children do not drink more than ½ cup of fruit juice each day."
They've also got some sensible words regarding milk as they are aware that you can actually eat dairy products rather than drink them and have an entire campaign entitled, Give Thirsty Kids Water

Just in case you've forgotten, Happy Corporations....I mean Health Canada includes juice as a serving of fruit (complete with pictorial reference in the Guide) and does not give any maximums on its consumption.
"Make water your beverage of choice. Milk, fortified soy beverages and 100% juice are also healthy options. Make them part of your recommended number of Food Guide Servings per day."
Regarding milk, Health Canada believes it to be a magic food - apparently the only substance on the planet that can provide vitamin D.
"Encourage young children to drink water to quench their thirst and replenish body fluids. Canada 's Food Guide recommends that children and adults choose vegetables and fruit more often than juice. Children also need a total of 500 mL (2 cups) of milk every day to help meet their requirement for vitamin D."
That's right Canadians, your Food Guide, part of how we sell food in Canada, and for those who don't remember, a guide officially co-launched by our Secretary of State for Agriculture.

My plans to move however, may be premature as when my just barely 3 year old daughter heard me mention the "Give thirsty kids water" campaign shouted out with great concern,
"No! We like milk!"
Guess Health Canada got to her.

Friday, September 14, 2007

John Hodgman's System for Success

Welcome new readers from Weight Wise up in Edmonton! Hope you folks are being nice to Arya.

You might not know it yet, but Fridays are different here at Weighty Matters.

Whereas the rest of the week may well involve my proverbial crying about the weighty matters of the world, Fridays are Funny Fridays.

For email subscribers I'm told that to view the Funny Friday videos, you've got to visit the actual blog.

Have a great weekend!

Oh, and here's John Hodgman from the Daily Show with his motivational power system for success.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Quebec's Useless School Gestures

Yesterday Quebec's provincial Health Minister Philippe Couillard reported Quebec is planning to ban sugary soft drinks and junk food from schools.

La Presse newspaper even reported that poutine (french fries smothered with cheese curds and gravy) will be cut from school cafeterias.

Some brief observations:

  • Soft drinks will be replaced with juice and chocolate milk which in many cases will have more calories and sugar drop per drop than the pop they're replacing.
  • The fact that poutine was ever on the menu in Quebec public schools is absolutely horrifying.
  • Putting healthy foods in schools won't stop kids from eating junk.

  • When I was in high school at lunchtime we would run across the street to the coffee shop for donuts or to the fish and chip place for chips. Was it a coincidence that those shops were there?

    Remember, Big Food is anything but stupid.

    If only there were a study looking at the proximity of fast food outlets in relation to public schools.

    Well guess what, there is one.

    Wanna guess what the researchers found?

    The study, done in Chicago, found,
    "The median distance from any school in Chicago to the nearest fast-food restaurant was 0.52 km, a distance that an adult can walk in little more than 5 minutes, and 78% of schools had at least 1 fast-food restaurant within 800 m. Fast-food restaurants were statistically significantly clustered in areas within a short walking distance from schools, with an estimated 3 to 4 times as many fast-food restaurants within 1.5 km from schools than would be expected if the restaurants were distributed throughout the city in a way unrelated to school locations."
    Quebec and anyone else who might be listening, what we need in our schools is sensible education about calories being worked into multiple classes from a very early age (for instance math class where calories burned through exercise can be calculated and represented by potato chips consumed), the only beverages in the vending machines being zero-calorie and calorie-reduced, healthy calorie controlled school food with menu board posting of nutritional information and perhaps, like celebrity chef and school lunch reformer in the UK Jamie Oliver is suggesting, a ban on leaving school premises during lunch.

    Oh, and a complete rewrite of Canada's Food Guide of course, this time without the food industry doing the rewriting.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2007

    Kiss menu calories goodbye (for now)

    Consumers want Calories listed on menus - that's why politicians have been pushing bills through their respective government bodies to have menu board calories become a legislated affair. In the United States there are now 16 States with similar legislation in their dockets.

    A few months ago New York city became the first city to enact such a law and Big Food promptly took the city to court.

    Unfortunately yesterday Big Food won the first round.

    A New York city judge struck down the law stating that it broke a federal law that exempted restaurants from posting calories on menus if they were posted elsewhere (like the internet), though some writers have pointed out that the judge's decision left room for a reworking of the bill to restrict action to restaurants with 10 or more locations.

    The Wall Street Journal had a quote from a McDonald's spokesman named William Whitman who of course was thrilled with the court's decision because,

    "posting information like this on a menu board really runs the risk of confusing customers"
    So just how stupid does McDonald's think you are that posting calories on menus will be confusing? Do you get confused each week when supermarket fliers report new sale prices? Does the half off rack at the clothing store give you seizures? Do you eat glue? Ummm, that 410 number beside the quarter pounder....does that mean it's $410? That sure seems like a lot for a burger.

    Good news is, eventually calories will be posted on menus and menu boards. The will of the people, even the incredibly stupid people that McDonald's apparently thinks we all are, will eventually prevail. Reason being that as far as weight goes, eating without knowing calories is about as smart as shopping without knowing prices, and our eating without knowing calories is costing our governments dearly as they bleed weight related health care dollars.

    Tuesday, September 11, 2007

    Obesity - maybe your stomach is depressed?

    This has to be one of the most ridiculous comments I've read in a long time to describe obesity and it comes from Dr. Nora Volkow the director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

    Dr. Volkow, in an editorial published in May in the American Journal of Psychiatry says that,

    "some forms of obesity are driven by an excessive motivational drive for food and should be included as a mental disorder in DSM-V"
    She then goes on to compare obesity with drug addiction with food of course being the drug.

    Yes, let's add one more stigma to obesity and label it a mental illness and compare the obese to drug addicts. Brilliant! Helpful! Oy!

    You know what should be included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V (the bible of psychiatric disorders) as a mental disorder? Quobesity.

    Quobesity occurs when a person, just because they eat, believes that they are experts in all things obesity related. Side-effects include ridiculous editorials and quotations that often manifest as blog entries here.

    The comparison of eating behaviours and drug addictions is certainly not a new one, but it does have a fatal flaw - how many folks do you know whose addictions only exist from 4pm onwards?

    The vast majority of food addicts (chocoholics, carb-addicts etc) will report that their addictive behaviours and struggles with food only manifest from the mid to late afternoon onwards. It is an exceedingly small proportion of these folks who struggle all day long. The all day long folks, if they meet certain criteria, may indeed have a diagnosable psychiatric condition entitled binge eating disorder, however to reiterate, in my experience, the vast majority of bingers tend to only do so from the afternoon onward.

    Those same folks, when taught to eat frequently, not skip meals or snacks and include foods helpful with hunger prevention tend to see their binging disappear, in many cases literally overnight.

    If Dr. Volkow is keen to make changes for the up and coming new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V (the bible of psychiatric disorders), might I suggest an exclusion criteria for binge eating disorder whereby the diagnosis cannot be given to an individual who skips any daytime meals or snacks.

    For food addicts or binge eaters who might be reading this post - try this recipe to see if it helps minimize your addictive type behaviours. Worst case scenario you prove me wrong and you may indeed be a truly food addicted binge eater. Best case scenario, you regain control over what is most certainly a very frustrating and potentially demoralizing behaviour:

  • Breakfast within 30 minutes of waking, at least 350 calories with at least 15grams of protein
  • Eating every 2.5 hours with between meal snacks of 100-200 calories a piece with at least 8 grams of protein
  • Lunch of at least 300-400 calories with at least 15 grams of protein
  • Dinner of at least 400 calories with at least 15 grams of protein
  • For every hour of sustained exercise add an additional 100-150 calories that are primarily carbohydrate based.

  • Monday, September 10, 2007

    American Heart Association loves sugar and butylated hydroxytoluene

    So Cheerios has recently launched a new cereal entitled, "Fruity Cheerios" and smack on the American website is its AHA "Heart Check" endorsement.

    So what's a Heart Check? Well it's pretty much the same thing as the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check.

    According to the AHA's website,

    "We know grocery shopping isn't always easy. With so many food product options, it's hard to spot healthful choices without spending a lot of time. That's why we created our Food Certification Program. We wanted consumers like you to be able to quickly look for a simple symbol that means a food product is heart-healthy.

    You can rely on our mark because the American Heart Association is your most trusted source of heart-health information. Before our mark can be displayed, a food must pass nutritional guidelines and reviews as well as meet all appropriate governmental regulations. The distinctive heart-check mark on a package assures you that a food meets criteria for heart-healthy levels of fat, saturated fat and cholesterol for healthy people over age 2
    So what kind of nutritional wonder makes up Fruity Cheerios?

    Well each serving has over 2 teaspoons of sugar made up from 4 different sources:

  • Sugar (2nd ingredient)
  • Corn Syrup (4th ingredient)
  • Orange Juice Concentrate (6th ingredient)
  • Dried Corn Syrup (7th ingredient)

  • In a cup per cup comparison with Froot Loops, Fruity Cheerios only has 1 gram less sugar and 7 fewer calories.

    What else is in Fruity Cheerios? Well like Froot Loops it's also got such yummies as Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 1 and butylated hydroxytoluene (listed as BHT on the box).

    What's BHT?

    Well BHT is produced by an alkylation reaction of p-cresol with isobutylene and it's used not only as a food additive, but also in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, jet fuels, rubber, petroleum products, and embalming fluid (according to Wikipedia). As a food additive BHT has been banned in Japan, Romania, Sweden, England and Australia and the Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends it be avoided whenever possible.

    So the American Heart Association basically recommends that you feed your toddlers Froot Loops with a questionable food additive for breakfast?


    I wonder how long before it gets a Heart and Stroke Foundation Health Check?

    Friday, September 07, 2007

    Only for Star Wars fans

    Today's Funny Friday clip's fabulous - if you love Star Wars.

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday, September 06, 2007

    Canada Fails its Children Yet Again

    This past Friday our government quietly snuck out their official response to the Healthy Weights, Healthy Kids report that summarized the already politicized "findings" of the Standing Committee on Health.

    If you recall, I was kindly asked to testify before that Committee regarding the shortcomings of Canada's new Food Guide.

    Previously I had criticized the report itself for being toothless, however if the report was toothless than the official government response lacks even gums.

    The original report had recommended:

  • More research into childhood obesity
  • More funding for advertising campaigns designed to educate about childhood obesity
  • A call to implement the findings of the trans-fat task force
  • Research on the special needs of first nations Canadians in the battle on obesity
  • Improvement of nutrition labeling
  • Better data collection for research
  • The sharing of data with health professionals
  • The identification of what will become the "lead agency" on childhood obesity in Canada
  • The finding of means to reduce the costs of "nutritious" foods to the more remote parts of Canada
  • The tracking of childrens' involvements in sports
  • Improvement of school health and fitness curricula
  • New funding for improved infrastructure in schools for healthy fitness and food choices
  • The evaluation of the efficacy of the ban against advertising to children in Quebec.

  • The official response?

    A 31 page document that tried to highlight all of the great work the government's already doing (so great that obesity rates rise year by year and no real dollars are being spent to do anything about it) but plainly avoided making any true commitments to any firm changes.

    Bill Jeffery, national coordinator for Canada's arm of the Center for Science in the Public Interest summarized it well in his press release,
    "after studying the report for five months, Minister of Health Tony Clement meekly committed mainly just to further research and consultations, leaving the impression that the government hasn’t done its homework or is stalling to curry favour with key food industry players."
    I guess our industry-based, rather than evidence-based Food Guide is here to stay, as are trans-fats in our food supply, fast food commercials targeting children too young to discern the difference between truth and advertising, misleading food labels, poor school nutrition and a lack of calorie information on food menus.

    Wonder how much money the government just wasted on the months of testimony, the creation of the report and the official response of self-validated, misguided, inaction?

    Wednesday, September 05, 2007

    J. K. Rowling is a big, "fat" hypocrite

    So I'm a big Harry Potter fan and have read all of J.K. Rowling's books therein.

    I've also recently visited J.K. Rowling's blog where she has posted a rant about fat stereotyping and thinness.

    In a nutshell her rant involves how awful it is that society uses the word "fat" as an insult, how society is too focused on weight as a whole and how much she likes Pink's latest single Stupid Girls which according to J.K.,

    "satirises the talking toothpicks held up to girls as role models".
    She reports that she finds the "fat insult" to be,
    "strange and sick."
    and then she then goes on to blast skinny folks in general stating in reference to her daughters,
    "I've got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don't want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I'd rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before 'thin'."
    So basically J.K.'s rant places her vehemently against the use of the word "fat" as an insult, and clearly demonstrates her willingness to wield the word "thin" as one with "thin" for her denoting empty-headedness, self-obsession, lack of originality and dullness.

    Hypocritical behaviour all by itself, for if you are against the notion of using excess weight as an insult it should follow that you'd be against using lack of weight as an insult too.

    All the more hypocritical though for the author of the Harry Potter series to complain about fat stereotyping as throughout her series she milked those same "strange and sick" fat insults for all they were worth in her portrayal of Dudley Dursley, Harry's fat cousin and muggle nemesis.

    So what fat insults does she cultivate in her books?

    That fat people are lazy, stupid, gluttonous, angry, will-less, pigs.

    Think I'm exaggerating?

    Here are some quotes from her books:
    "Dudley looked a lot like Uncle Vernon. He had a large, pink face, not much neck, small watery blue eyes and thick, blond hair that lay smoothly on his thick, fat head....Harry often said that Dudley looked like a pig in a wig."

    - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

    "Aunt Petunia obviously scented danger too, because she said quickly, 'And we'll buy you another two presents while we're out today. How's that popkin?' Two more presents. Is that all right?' Dudley thought for a moment. It looked like hard work. Finally he said slowly, 'So I'll have thirty... thirty...' 'Thirty-nine, sweetums,' said Aunt Petunia. 'Oh.' Dudley sat down heavily and grabbed the nearest parcel."

    - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

    his piggy little eyes [were] fixed on the [television] screen and his five chins wobbling as he ate continuously

    -Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban

    "Dudley looked furious and sulky, and somehow seemed to be taking up even more space than usual."

    -Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

    "Dudley had reached roughly the size and weight of a young killer whale"

    -Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

    "Dudley who had already finished his own grapefruit quarter was eyeing Harry's with a very sour look in his piggly little eyes"

    -Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
    She also had Dudley eating candy dropped on the floor, growing wider than he is tall, and to really hammer home the pig analogy, Hagrid, a wizard grows him a pig's tail,
    "Dudley was dancing on the spot with his hands clasped over his fat bottom, howling in pain. When he turned his back on them, Harry saw a curly pig's tail poking through a hole in his trousers....Meant ter turn him into a pig, but I suppose he was so much like a pig anyway there wasn't much left ter do."

    - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
    J.K., I love your books, and agree with your rant that society is far too quick to judge on the basis of weight. Such a shame that despite a clearly tremendous imagination and a brilliant gift for words, that you've decided that while "fat" insults are "sick", "thin" insults are acceptable. It's also a shame that given how self-reportedly anti-fat-insults you are, that you utilized classic fat stereotyping to help sell over 400 million copies of your books and in so doing helped to solidify those same fat stereotypes in an entire global generation of children.

    J.K., you are a big, "fat" hypocrite.

    Tuesday, September 04, 2007

    Health Check blesses God Sugar

    My morning paper yesterday was sheathed in an advertisement from Welch's Grape Juice.

    There were two parts to the ad.

    The first part detailed new Welch's sugar reduced grape juices, while the second extolled the fact that the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check has been applied to their 100% grape juice.

    So let me ask you some questions.

    Q. Do you think Coca Cola is a healthy beverage?
    A. Of course not, it's high in calories and sugar with no nutritional benefits.

    Q. How about if I took Coca Cola and added in some vitamins?
    A. No, still not healthy - lots of sugar, and lots of other preservative type stuff.

    Q. How about then I just take a glass of pure spring water, add to it 10.5 teaspoons of sugar and then a few vitamins - would that be a healthy beverage?
    A. 10.5 teaspoons of sugar in water a healthy beverage? You've got to be kidding me. You could put in all of the vitamins in the world, drinking a cup with 10.5 teaspoons of sugar simply isn't healthy.

    Q. Then how come the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check program has endorsed Welch's 100% grape juice?
    A. Because Health Check doesn't care about calories and apparently doesn't bother to critically appraise or apply sound science to their nutritional criteria.

    Welch's 100% red grape juice has 42.5 grams of sugar per glass and contains 170 calories per serving. That's 10.5 teaspoons of sugar per day, is glass per glass almost double the calories and sugar of a glass of Coca Cola, and if you drink a glass daily (or worse yet, give it to your children) that's almost 18lbs worth of grape juice calories per year.

    Sounds super healthy to me.

    But wait, there's more!

    Welch's has come up with a calorie reduced version of its grape juice. It's partially sweetened with Splenda and it has only 70 calories per glass and only 4 teaspoons of sugar.

    Sounds a lot better right? Maybe that should get the Health Check rather than the 10.5 teaspoons of sugar and double the calories and sugar of Coca Cola version right?


    Health Check's criteria require that juices all be 100% juice so the lower calorie light versions do not qualify.

    When are the Heart and Stroke Foundation's dietitians (and Health Canada's for that matter) going to recognize calories as a valuable nutritional component, and when are health professionals finally going to admit that a glass of sugar is a glass of sugar, whether god made the sugar or man made the sugar drinking a glass of sugar with vitamins in it is NOT a healthy choice.

    (Sorry for the late post, my home internet was down)

    Monday, September 03, 2007

    Labour Day Video Post

    So today's likely going to be a lazy day for most folk.

    If anyone's got an hour to spend, here's Charlie Rose's excellent recent round table on obesity.