Friday, May 30, 2008

Big Food Turns Seagull to Life of Crime

Corrupting even the wildlife....

Today for Funny Friday is a shoplifting seagull.

Have a great weekend!

[Very belated hat-tip to friend and colleague Geeta]

Thursday, May 29, 2008

NYC's Starbuck's Calorie-Inclusive Menu Boards in the Wild

Thanks to Flickr users pnoeric and scalleja who kindly shared their photos with the world, below are some shots of New York City Starbucks' menu boards.

Click them to see the more than a Big-Mac calories Venti White Chocolate Mocha, and then the more than a Quarterpounder calories everything baked.

Ya think that might affect orders?

Health Check - The Food Guide Made Us Do It!

That's basically their new advertising campaign (paid for of course by the money raised by selling the Health Check logo).

Yesterday's full colour ad in the Ottawa Citizen actually took up 3/4 of a page and given that I've advertised in the Citizen, I'd venture that the one time cost was in the neighbourhood of $7,000-$10,000.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Health Check it's the now nationally maligned Heart and Stroke Foundation mis-information program that sells companies the right to promote their products as healthy and formally endorsed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation even if those products contain flabbergasting amounts of salt and sugar and pays no heed whatsoever to decades of medical evidence suggesting refined carbohydrates and beef are not only unhealthy choices but in fact choices that increase the risk of developing heart disease.

The program was soundly slammed by both the CBC in the Marketplace expose Hyping Health that demonstrated foods with Health Check failed to classify themselves as healthy in the far more robust Yale's ONQI and Hannaford Brothers Guiding Stars food labeling programs, as well as in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

So what has Health Check decided to do about it?

Change their criteria to base them off of sound science?

Heaven forbid.

Instead they've decided to throw money at advertising in the hopes that Canadians have short memories.

They've also decided to formally get married to the Food Guide as evidenced in the ad above that starts with the line,

"With nutrient standards based on Canada's Food Guide"
So in effect they're saying, "don't blame us if our recommendations stink, they're simply based off the Food Guide."

"Simple" is indeed an excellent adjective to describe the brain trust behind Health Check's design.

Oh, and I love their new slogan too,
"Put Your Heart Into It - Check for Health Check"
Yeah, that sounds about right. They want you to trust in your heart's belief that the Heart and Stroke Foundation is looking out for your best interests and then shop with Health Check. What they don't want you to do is actually put your brain into it because if you do decide to use your brain you'll likely come to the conclusion that Health Check's not such a healthy choice.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hike to Help the Bruce Trail!

When I was growing up, my father would take me hiking on the Bruce Trail - Canada's oldest and longest public footpath that runs in Ontario from Tobermory all the way down to Niagara Falls. That photo up above is me and my dad on the trail circa 1983.

The first time I saw Niagara Falls was after I had walked there.

Now I didn't walk the full 850km in one go, but rather we whittled away at it, weekend by weekend until I became hiker #1139 to complete it.

It was my weekends on the Bruce that likely made hiking a passion for me and since then I've put my boots down all over the world, even hiking the Alpine Pass Route in Switzerland, from Lichtenstein to France clear across the Alps (some of my toenails fell off during the course of that one).

The Bruce Trail Conservancy has been working actively to try to purchase all of the land the trail runs on so as to protect it for future generations and while they've purchased over half of it, there's still a long way to go.

This summer you've got a unique opportunity. Almost simply by hiking you can help the Bruce Trail Club raise up to $50,000 for land purchasing.

How? As part of their "Boots on the Bruce" campaign bootmaker Keen has agreed to donate $5 to the Bruce Trail Conservancy for every pair of boots or shoes photographed on the Trail (any make'll do - they don't have to be Keen).

So really all you've got to do to help is head over to the Bruce Trail Conservancy site and figure out a hike (clicking here gets you to a page with 40 of the most beautiful hikes). Hike. Take a picture of your boots and upload that photo to Keen's Boots on the Bruce page, and suddenly, you've helped future generations enjoy one of North America's most beautiful hiking paths.

[Hat tip, thanks and love to my Dad whose bootsteps I'll try to follow with my own children]

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Bad Food on Campus"

So my series on Ottawa Hospital Food sure has sparked some talk.

Happily I received many a call from dietitians and doctors at the Heart Institute who strongly supported my contention that Heart Institutes' shouldn't be serving unhealthy foods.

I also received a bunch of emails and for today's post, I'm going to include one in it's entirety (with the author's permission). It's about food in Canadian Universities and I think it does a great job highlighting shortcomings therein and in the end those in our atrocious Food Guide.

Oh, and that picture up above. That's from the cafeteria at the University of Guelph (click it to get a better view of all the healthy goodness).

Here's the letter,


I think you are doing great work by exposing the poor nutrition in hospital food. You may also want to expose the poor nutrition offered on University campuses.

The thing about hospital food is that when you leave the hospital, you can go home and cook nutritious meals for yourself. Thousands of Canadian university students do not have this option. This past school year, I lived in a university residence for the first time. I cannot describe adequately how shocked I was about the poor quality of food offered. We had pizza at least three times per week, mashed potatoes that were stretched with a paste of flour and water and most meats were processed deep fried cutlets. The food had so much sodium that it burned my tongue. Although there was a salad bar, most of the contents were mayonnaise salads and leftovers. Fresh vegetables were scarce and often wilted.

Although I am considered obese with a BMI of 38, I have always been conscientious of consuming healthy food. Never before was I in a position where I had no choice but to eat deep fried, high sodium, high calorie food every day. As you would expect, I quickly gained 25 lbs within 3 months of living in residence. Thankfully, I have lost those 25 lbs since returning home.

Not everyone is prone to weight gain as I am. Many of the students were able to maintain their weight or only gain a few pounds extra, but their health was deteriorating. Others had BMIs of over 40. I met many young students who were suffering from high cholesterol and high blood pressure. People in their early 20s should not be suffering from high blood pressure and high cholesterol and I am positive that their health problems are associated with the type of food they are forced to eat while living on campus. I must insist the proper word to use is ‘forced’ because there are rarely kitchens available for student use and depending upon the university, a zero vacancy rate off campus.

Perhaps the most striking thing about my experience with campus food is how these cafeterias proudly conform to the Canada Food Guide. When the cafeteria worker dishes out a dinner platter that consists of a cup of white rice, a cup of white pasta, a cup of mashed potatoes, 2 oz of deep-fried, breaded meat, a scoop of frozen peas and carrots, a bowl of something called pizza soup, and a bowl of ice cream all while pointing to the Canada Food Guide for justification—then something is very wrong
Are you a University student or have similar campus stories? Do you want to send me some pics of the "healthy" food at your cafeteria? Feel free!

[Thanks very much to the reader who sent me such a thoughtful and interesting letter]

Monday, May 26, 2008

World's Least Healthy Beverage?

Seen by me first on Marion Nestle's What to Eat I bring you Baskin-Robbin's Heath Shake.

Here's the unholy breakdown:

  • 1,560mg sodium (more than a day's worth of Blood Pressure Canada's recommendations)
  • 266g of sugar (66.5 teaspoons - 1.5 CUPS OF SUGAR!)
  • 2,310 Calories (that's the equivalent number of calories in either 15 Twinkies, 8 1/4 Snickers bars, 4.3 Big Mac's, or over 1/2 gallon of Ben and Jerry's ice cream)

  • And yet people (McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner) still make arguments against putting calories on menu boards.

    Saturday, May 24, 2008

    Blogger's Choice Awards

    A rare Saturday post.

    Just wanted to let you folks know that Weighty Matters has been nominated for Best Health Blog in the Blogger's Choice Awards!

    My site was nominated for Best Health Blog!

    If you'd like to vote for me, click here (you've got to create an account with Blogger's Choice first and then go back to actually vote but hey, it's the weekend, you've got time)!

    Thanks Tiana for the nomination.

    Have a great weekend!

    Friday, May 23, 2008

    Welcome Ottawa Citizen, National Post and Chicago Tribune Readers

    I want to welcome the folks arriving from the article in the Ottawa Citizen, the one in the National Post and from the online Chicago Tribune feature and the brief feature on the A Channel (viewable below).

    I'm a Canadian family doctor with a focus in obesity medicine and my blog Weighty Matters tries to look at obesity, the media and nutrition from what I feel to be a common sense, realistic and hopefully at least sometimes, a humourous manner.

    The commotion today has to do with my series on Ottawa's Hospital Food and how woefully unhealthy many of the choices sold by our hospitals to captive patients and staff are.

    Enjoy yourselves, poke around and hope to see you again soon.

    Best regards,

    If Facebook were Real

    I haven't got into Facebook.

    The first time I logged on I found out that from my entire high school graduating class only 6 were on Facebook so I deleted my account.

    My wife on the other hand loves to "Facebook" (apparently it can be used as a verb).

    Well, what if Facebook were real?

    Today apparently is Facebookers' (now it's a collective noun) Funny Friday.

    Have a great weekend!

    [Hat tip to fitness director Rob who I'm sure loves being poked]

    Thursday, May 22, 2008

    Food at the Ottawa Civic Hospital

    Continuing with my Ottawa Hospital Food Series, today I bring you The Greenery, otherwise known as the Ottawa Civic's cafteria.

    Not surprisingly, much of it was junk.


    Bacon Cheeseburgers.

    Chicken fingers.

    Chicken wings.


    Sugared soda.

    Giant muffins.

    Potato chips.

    And that's just the obviously unhealthy stuff.

    While I was recording my brief video some folks alerted the cafeteria manager who cut my taping rather short.

    She was extremely pleasant and helpful and clearly was very sincere in her desire to provide a good dining experience for the cafeteria's patrons.

    She was excited to tell me that the cafeteria offered smaller poutine/french fry portions in 4oz containers - but was unable to tell me why it was important for a hospital of all places to serve poutine.

    [conservatively 4oz of poutine (for my international readers poutine is french fries, smothered in gravy, smothered in cheese curds) would have a minimum of 1,000mg of sodium and likely a fair amount of trans fats.]

    She was also excited to tell me that they've recently posted nutritional information on their soups. While I don't have a picture, the information was located on a laminated card that was actually not visible as it was tucked between items and was on its side.

    I took a look at the nutritional breakdown when I got home and my jaw still hurts from hitting my counter. Here's a smattering (or you can click here to see them all):

    Cheddar Cheese and Bacon Soup - 170 calories (that's fine), 10grams of fat (45% of it saturated and 30% (3g) of it trans) and 1,150mg of sodium.

    Hearty Chili Style Mix with Beef - 230 calories, 1,540mg of sodium, 2 teaspoons of sugar.

    or how about one that sounds like you couldn't go wrong:

    Garden Vegetable Soup with 70 calories but 970mg of sodium!

    Breaking out my calculator I found that the average amount of sodium in a soup choice at the Ottawa Civic cafteria is a brain swelling 957mg. That's 42% of your total daily Health Canada recommended daily maximum and 64% of your total daily Blood Pressure Canada recommended daily maximum in a tiny bowl of soup that you just bought at a hospital of all places and in many cases it came with an artery clogging amount of trans fats for added bad measure!

    Is there really a good reason why a hospital would serve soups with 3 grams of trans fats and a day's worth of sodium?

    Boy oh boy, after seeing the nutritional breakdown for soups I'd sure hate to see the breakdown for the burgers, fries, pizzas, liver steaks with onions, giant gobs of mashed potatoes and other cafeteria fare - good news I suppose that I'm told they don't have those numbers.

    Ignorance surely is bliss.

    Oh, and of course there's a Second Cup at the Civic serving gigantic as-many-calories-as-a-Big-Mac muffins and other wonderful sugar laden foods.

    I've got to ask again, why are our hospitals serving such unhealthy foods?

    I can only think of two arguments. The first is the, "we need them to make money" argument.

    I have a tough time with that argument. Frankly folks in hospitals are fairly captive. There simply isn't anywhere within walking distance (aside from the chip truck that parks by the Heart Institute) to buy food and therefore if the hospital decided to eliminate unhealthy foods from its premises, people would still need to eat and with some effort, thought and creativity I'm quite confident that the cafeteria could manage to serve up exclusively nutritious fare.

    The second argument is the, "patients and their families need comfort foods".

    I don't buy that argument either. Really the hospital is divided into 4 categories of folks:

    1. The non-urgent emergency room folks who certainly don't need comfort because their problems aren't urgent.
    2. The urgent emergency folks whose problems are too overwhelming to worry about food at the moment.
    3. Admitted inpatient folks - who may well need comforting but their families and friends can certainly bring in any foods from the outside that they want including comforting junk.
    4. Allied health professionals and hospital staff where again, comfort's not an issue.
    At the end of the day it's pretty simply math for me.
    A hospital should not be serving foods its doctors and dietitans wouldn't recommend to their patients.
    Or at the very least they should post nutritional information such as calories, trans fats and sodium smack dab on the menu boards so that patients have a fighting chance of navigating through the far less than ideal options.

    Sure is a shame you've got to fight to eat healthy in a hospital.

    Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    Congratulations to the Try-a-Tri'ers!

    This past Saturday was the 4th annual Somersault Events' Dr. Freedhoff Try-a-Tri challenge.

    Terry from Somersault changed the name after hearing about the "challenge".

    The challenge was pretty simple - if my office inspires more than "x" people a year to try a triathlon then I have to run one too.

    Every year we raise the number of people in the challenge and believe it or not, this year the number for me to run was 60!

    I wanted to post my sincere congratulations to everyone who came out and competed. Seeing folks who never thought they'd ever run triathlons finish is yet another reason why I've got one of the best jobs ever.

    For proof that I was there and ran, here's a video of me finishing. I'm posting it more for the reaction of the videographer (our fitness director Rob) who quite clearly demonstrates the appropriate response to hearing the adjective "famous" used to describe me.

    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    The Food at the Ottawa Heart Institute

    My regular readers will remember a ways back I blogged about the QEII hospital in Halifax where a cardiology resident wrote an opinion piece about the state of the cafeteria's food there.

    Well, I've decided to take a tour of our local hospitals and last week I took advantage of being at the Ottawa Heart Institute (OHI) giving a talk and I brought my new toy - it's a Flip video camera that's roughly the size of a cell phone that dead easy to use and at least a little bit inconspicuous.

    My goal was to record the dietary fare at the OHI. The picture of the frying bacon on the grill above in the Heart Institute's Cafeteria (named Tickers) sums things up fairly well, but I'll run it down for you a bit further.

    One of the first things you see when you walk through the Heart Institute's main doors is a Tim Horton's replete with its many varieties of deep fried donuts. More interesting are their non-donut options - here's a smattering along with some of their nutritional information:

    Sausage, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich - 500 calories, 34grams of fat and 920mg of sodium.

    Turkey Bacon Club - 440 calories, only 8 grams of fat and a blood pressure bursting 1730mg of sodium (that's more than Blood Pressure Canada recommends in an entire day for a healthy individual let alone a patient at the Heart Institute)

    Hearty Vegetable Soup - 70 calories, 0.4 grams of fat and, wait for it, 1,060mg of sodium

    In fact if you were a patient or a visitor at the OHI and you didn't particularly like the cafeteria or the hospital's food and instead decided to eat at Tim Horton's for breakfast, lunch and dinner and you chose the options with the lowest amount of sodium, you'd still almost certainly consume over 3,000mg of sodium. If you weren't being careful it'd be no trouble at all to clear 4,000mg.

    Ok, so maybe an argument could be made that Tim Horton's is just there for snacking rather than meals and that instead OHI's Tickers has the healthy fare.

    If only that were true.

    Eat at Tickers too often and heaven help your tickers. While there may be a healthy option here or there, the bulk of the food served at Tickers is junk food. Burgers, fries, pop, ice cream, pastries etc., and I could not find a nutritional breakdown anywhere. That's really a shame given that many of the folks eating at Tickers will be patients and their relatives, all of whom clearly have risk factors for heart disease and therefore don't need to incur any additional dietary peril - I wonder if they'd appreciate a means with which to evaluate their choices?

    Hey Heart Institute MDs - isn't sodium something you recommend we reduce?

    Certainly the hour long lecture entitled "Salt and Hypertension" available on your website suggests you do.

    Funny, I didn't see a slide that suggesting folks reduce their dietary salt intake by avoiding the food sold at the Heart Institute!

    Below's a choppy video tape I took at the OHI. Hopefully I'll get more skilled with the equipment as this series progresses.

    (Future editions of this series will cover the Ottawa Civic, the Ottawa General, the Queensway Carleton, the Royal Ottawa and the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.)

    Monday, May 19, 2008

    Please Don't Buy this for your Child

    Just what every child needs - a scooter after all, walking's for suckers.

    Buy this for your kid and you can feel confident that you're setting them up for needing one of these as an adult.

    [Via Gizmodo]

    Friday, May 16, 2008

    Coolest Thing you'll see Today

    It's not exactly funny for Funny Friday but it's just too cool to not blog about.

    It's a time lapse movie of graffiti drawn by an Italian graffiti artist (and I mean artist) named Muto.

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday, May 15, 2008

    Obesity Allows Artist to Hit the Jackpot

    Today I'll be quoted in the National Post talking about obesity rates and likely some relationship will be drawn to the incredible indirect and direct health care expenditures attached to it.

    Well today I've got a more positive spin on how obesity helped one man hit an incredible payday.

    Tuesday night Christie's auction house sold a painting by Lucien Freud entitled, "Benefits Supervisor Sleeping".

    According to CNN, The painting was painted over a period of 9 months back in 1995 and it's of Ms. Sue Tilley, a British governmental benefits manager.

    With the sale Freud gained the honour of his painting selling for the highest dollar value of any painting ever painted by a living artist.

    His obese payday?

    $33.6 million dollars.

    That's $3.73 million a month or $124,000 per day for the 9 months he spent painting it.

    Unfortunately Ms. Tilley didn't get paid quite as well - she took home a comparatively anorexic $51/day.

    [Hat tip goes out to my mom]

    UPDATE: I received a phone call today from someone who felt this post was offensive to folks with weight to lose.

    Frankly I don't see it.

    I definitely don't understand art, that I'll readily admit and I can't fathom how any painting of anything is worth 33.6 million dollars.

    I think it's a great painting and wonderful that the model wasn't self-conscious about her weight as frankly body image need not be tied into weight, but the post was really meant to highlight the tremendous value that society has placed on weight as evidenced by the incredible dollars spent on a portrait of an obese woman lounging on a sofa.

    Anyhow, if anyone else was upset by this post feel free to let me know in the comments.

    Wednesday, May 14, 2008

    Surprise! Protein's more filling!

    Ok, maybe it's not a surprise, but today at least, it's sure going to be news (and perhaps I'll be the first to break the embargo at 12:01AM - thanks Blogger for allowing scheduled posts!).

    It's going to be on radio, print and television - the results of the first prong of the DiOGenes study. DiOGenes is a multi-pronged study spearheaded over in Europe and today's spear has to do with trying to answer the question, "What's the best diet to help maintain weight loss?".

    This study was an enormous undertaking as it looked at whole families, in 8 different European countries for between 6 and 12 months and randomized their dietary intakes to compare weight gain with diets high or normal in protein and high or low in glycaemic index carbohydrates.

    In total, the study aimed

    "to recruit a total of around 850 obese/overweight parents (BMI>28) from the 8 participating centres, corresponding to 450 families with an estimated 450-1050 children, where at least one child in each family is overweight."
    Mandatory too was an 8 week run-in weight loss phase where adult family members were required to lose 8% of their body weight before their family was admitted into the study.

    The results weren't particularly surprising. Dietary protein helped maintain weight loss while GI index did not.

    I think the most important part of the whole paper was a quote in the introduction that does a great job explaining why the world's getting so big so fast,
    "Given our genetic background, it is essentially infeasible for humans to self-regulate food intake under current environmental circumstances."
    What this basically states is that in 2008, the default is weight gain, and I can't agree more. People haven't changed in the past 100 years, but our environment sure has and the reason we're gaining weight so quickly now is that since weight gain is the default, that means by definition maintenance of a healthy body weight in our current environment has actually become a skill. And just like other skills (martial arts for instance), just because your minds' eye might know what it looks like to do a jumping, spinning hook kick, it doesn't mean you can simply jump up and do one.

    To extrapolate a martial arts analogy to healthy weight think of it this way: Just because your minds' eye might know what a healthy lifestyle looks like, to expect yourself, without instruction, to be able to simply jump up and happily live with one is often too much to ask (people do it unhappily all the time - that's called dieting).

    Not surprisingly this study was funded by Big Food and here's one time where I think it's a great partnership. Here's an opportunity for Big Food to help by using their study to help pave the way to the creation of new food products that may be useful in preventing weight gain/regain.

    Hurray for Big Food!

    (there's something I don't say very often)

    [BTW, I'll likely have a 5-10 second sound bite on CTV's National News tonight in Avis Favaro's story on this study should any of my Canadian readers want to watch]

    Tuesday, May 13, 2008

    Dairy Still Doesn't Help with Weight Loss

    Not a magazine goes by it seems without a dairy ad extolling milk's (or another dairy product's) role in weight loss - this of course despite the fact that Big Milk in the US admitted that there was insufficient evidence to suggest or refute that milk has any weight-related benefits after being confronted by the FTC.

    Well guess what? A new meta-analysis came to a different conclusion - it came to the conclusion that dairy products do not help with weight,

    "Of 49 randomized trials assessing the effect of dairy products or calcium supplementation on body weight, 41 showed no effect, two demonstrated weight gain, one showed a lower rate of gain, and five showed weight loss. Four of 24 trials report differential fat loss. Consequently, the majority of the current evidence from clinical trials does not support the hypothesis that calcium or dairy consumption aids in weight or fat loss."
    So back to the FTC - if Big Dairy admits there's not enough evidence, and if the evidence suggests in fact there's enough evidence to prove dairy is not a magic food covered in pixie dust that disobeys the laws of thermodynamics without affecting dietary consumption, why then are there still so many ads from Big Milk tied to weight?

    Big Milk's new slogan by the way?
    "Milk your Diet"
    It's part of their,
    "Campaign for Healthy Weight"
    I've got to ask again, did Big Milk lie to the FTC?

    Monday, May 12, 2008

    500th Post!

    Today marks two occasions.

    Today's post is the 500th post of Weighty Matters and consequently I'd like to take the time to thank the folks out there who are taking the time to read it - it's only fun to write because of you.

    Today is also my wedding Anniversary and consequently I'd like to take the time to thank my wonderful wife as without her, there'd certainly be no blog, I'd likely not be doing what I'm doing, I wouldn't have my two wonderful girls and my life would definitely not be as happy.

    Thanks honey, I love you.


    (Back to my regularly scheduled ranting tomorrow)

    Friday, May 09, 2008

    Who Knew? Kermit's Post Muppet Show Despair.

    Poor Kermie.

    Life without the Muppets has clearly been hard on him.

    For today's Funny Friday, here's Kermit's rendition of Elliot Smith's Needle in the Hay.

    (for fans of the movie the Royal Tenenbaums, this is a must see video)

    Thursday, May 08, 2008

    The Heart and Stroke Foundation Needs Remedial Math!

    You know, the fact that I think the Health Check program is nutritionally bereft and a national disgrace is debatable for some and indeed there are folks out there who disagree with me and think Health Check's great.

    I think they're wrong of course (and so too does nutritional evidence) and certainly I've posted plenty on why Health Check stinks in the past.

    Of course even the folks who disagree with me the most aren't going to be able to squirm their way out of acknowledging that math is certainly not Health Check's strong point.

    Today I'd like to look at a page I've scanned in from Health Check's recent publication, "A Woman's Guide to Healthy Eating and Active Living" that my wonderful wife picked up for me at Sobey's.

    Click the page for a larger view (the red highlighted areas are my added emphases)

    So here the fantabulous dietitians of the Heart and Stroke Foundation are once again endorsing the consumption of beef. According to them,

    "Choosing leaner beef is part of healthy eating"
    "Beef, Goodness in Every Bite"
    "Eating well is easy by adding lean beef to your busy mealtimes"
    Now let's put aside the fact that eating beef is certainly NOT a part of healthy eating (for more information click on the Beef tag at the end of this post to see my various concerns regarding beef). Instead I want to focus on lean ground beef.

    I've gone through this math before on my blog, but for the sake of the Heart and Stroke Foundation (clearly they need some help), let's go through it again:

    Following the Food Guide and eating Health Check'ed-dietitian-approved lean ground beef women are allowed 150 grams a day and men, 225 grams a day.

    Lean ground beef in Canada by definition is 17% fat (extra lean is 10%).

    17% of a woman's 150 gram allotment = 25.5 grams of fat.

    17% of a man's 225 grams = 38.25 grams of fat.

    There are 9 calories per gram of fat.

    25.5 grams of fat = 229.5 calories.

    38.25 grams of fat = 344.25 calories.

    Health Canada, as evidenced by our food labels, believes the average adult needs 2,000 calories daily (though that's likely too much for the average woman and too little for the average man).

    If only 30% of our daily calories are supposed to come from fat, 30% of 2,000 calories would mean that Health Canada recommends that we get no more than 600 calories from fat daily.

    However, 229.5 calories divided by the recommended 600 total daily fat calories = 38% of the recommended daily intake of fat, while 344.25 calories divided by the recommended 600 total daily fat calories = 57% of recommended daily intake of fat!

    So in case you didn't follow all of that the end result is that if you choose the Health Check'ed lean ground beef that Heart and Stroke Dietitians say, "is part of healthy eating" and you even actually restrict your portion to those recommended by the Food Guide (and let me tell you, that's not a ton of meat), then in that single serving if you're a woman you'll be consuming 38% of your total daily recommended intake of fat and if you're a man 57%.

    That sure sounds like a lot.

    Apparently that's even a lot for the Heart and Stroke Foundation given that highlighted on the left hand side of the page is there admonishment not to consume foods containing more than 10% of your total daily recommended value of fat.

    So here we have the left hand telling us no more than 10% and the right hand telling us 38%-57% is just dandy.

    Brilliant work Health Check!

    (Oh, and of course I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the admonishment not to consume more than 10% also applies to sodium, yet doing the math on sodium, Health Check allows single items to contain between 21% and 57% of current daily recommended maximums and between 32% and 87% of those the Heart and Stroke Foundation themselves endorsed in signing the National Sodium Policy Statement)

    Any of my readers grade school math teachers that want to do a good deed? Maybe you can give the HSF a call and offer your help.

    Wednesday, May 07, 2008

    Walking Clear Across Canada (Virtually)

    Canada's a big place.

    Walking across it might take some time.

    I don't have much in the way of time.

    Doesn't mean I can't do it.

    Thanks to the Trans Canada Trail new website feature, by entering my steps daily, I can do it from the comfort of my own province and still walk the roughly 18,000km of trail (11,184 miles).

    Want to walk across Canada too?

    Simply sign up for a free account here and log your steps daily.

    Last one to the East coast's a rotten egg.

    [Hat tip to our fitness director Rob]

    Tuesday, May 06, 2008

    The World Gets Sweeter

    I had meant to blog about this ages ago but it got lost in bookmark limbo.

    It has to do with a book, McCance and Widdowson's The Composition of Foods that has been collecting information in Britain about just that, the composition of foods (ingredients).

    Not sure who it was that noticed it first, but low and behold, food's getting sweeter (and likely as a consequence higher in calories).

    Keep in mind, the graphic above refers to British cereal (compositions vary the world over) however I would be shocked to learn that the same weren't true in North America.

    And of course, it's not just mass produced items - can anyone out there remember fruit and berries that taste as sweet as today's do?

    Strange world and only getting stranger.

    [Via The Daily Mail]

    Monday, May 05, 2008

    Dietitians of Canada Officially, Formally and Happily Sell Out

    According to their vision statement, the Dietitians of Canada purports itself to be,

    "the voice of the profession"
    I think they forgot to mention they're also quite comfortable being the mouthpiece of Big Food.

    While I recognize that physician groups aren't immune from conflict of interest (primarily stemming from Big Pharma), I know as a physician I'd be fairly uncomfortable to land on the Canadian Medical Association's website and find advertising there from drug companies.

    Imagine my surprise when learning that the "Members only" section of the Dietitians of Canada (DoC) website does in fact have Big Food advertisements as evidenced in the screen captures below (click them to open them in a large window) where the first shills for President's Choice Blue Menu products and the second for eggs:

    Apparently if you keep refreshing the page, new ads pop up.

    But let's put internet advertising aside, we can chalk that up to poor judgment, (UPDATE - Poor judgment shared by the Canadian Medical Association where I also found some internet drug ads) I mean after all, it's not like it's a clinical practice guideline or a resource manual for the profession.

    Ummmm, about the DoC professional resource manuals....

    After a bit more sniffing on their website I came across this link to the Dietitians of Canada 2001 National Nutrition Month Resource Manual for Dietitians (I realize it's 2008, but this is still featured prominently on the DoC website and is one of many Fact Sheets explicitly endorsed and implicitly steered by Big Food).

    Read through it and you'll find it was sponsored (paid for) by the Canadian Sugar Institute, the Canadian Egg Marketing Agency, the Dairy Bureau of Canada and Kraft. Ominously the Canadian Sugar Institute was referred to as an "internal sponsor" while eggs, dairy and Kraft were merely, "official sponsors".

    Think the sponsors were just silent spectators?

    Then how come there's giant pictures of dairy products throughout; 3 pages on encouraging Canadians to drink more milk (replete with a section on getting the lactose intolerants to drink milk too); and two pages devoted to encouraging Canadians to eat more eggs?

    There's also messaging that sugar is a carbohydrate just like fruit and this great quobesity,
    "With the exception of dental caries, there is no evidence to show that sugar causes health problems. There is no specific limit or recommendation to reduce the amount of sugar we are currently eating."
    Did the Dietitians of Canada really just steer their members as the "voice of their profession" to educate the public that sugar doesn't contribute to health problems and that you can eat as much of it as you want and not worry?

    Looking at the 2008 Nutrition Month page that details some information about sponsors, DoC spells out who'll they'll happily take money from:
    "Food products and Manufacturers", "Food Retailers".
    No real limitations there either - basically if you makes or sell a food that can conceivably fit in Canada's Food Guide, you're welcome to play.

    Marion Nestle, world-renowned nutrition expert (don't believe me, click here and check out her rather ridiculous C.V.) on her wonderful blog What to Eat details the equivalent practice within the American Dietetic Association (ADA). Here's a recent excerpt with her call to action for her fellow ADA members (feel free to mentally swap DoC for ADA),
    "Respected ADA colleagues: as long as your organization partners with makers of food and beverage products, its opinions about diet and health will never be believed independent (translation: based on science not politics) and neither will yours. Consider the ADA’s Nutrition Fact Sheets, for example, each with its very own corporate sponsor (scroll down to the lower right hand corner of the second page to see who paid for the Facts). Is the goal of ADA really the same as the goal of the sponsors–to sell the sponsor’s food products? Is this a good way to get important scientific messages to the public? ADA members: how about doing something about this!"
    Now I know that I have many Canadian readers who are registered dietitians. What do you think about the involvement of the food industry with DoC?

    [Hat tip to a concerned dietitian who threw the screen caps my way]

    Friday, May 02, 2008

    The Urban Legend ER

    Ever wonder what the emerg would look like if urban legends were true?

    Well today on Funny Friday you need not wonder any longer.

    (Fair-warning - occasional random profanity)

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday, May 01, 2008

    World's Greatest Star Wars Product

    I know, I know, TV's bad and contributes to obesity and so do video games.

    I don't care.

    I want one of these!

    (Yes, I'm a nerd)

    Any remarkably generous multi-millionaire readers out there who want to donate one?

    Only $2,9995.

    Health Check's Latest Atrocious Product Endorsement

    Yup, Health Check, the nationally disgraced Heart and Stroke Foundation front of package labeling program, is at it again.

    Today's inappropriately labeled-as-healthy product is Chapman's Dark Chocolate Rapture YogurtPlus.

    Per half cup you'll be getting 3 teaspoons of sugar, 3 grams of fat, 85mg of sodium and 150 calories.

    I'm sure a great many consumers will be thrilled to have a "healthy", Heart and Stroke Foundation endorsed alternative to ice cream.

    Well, they shouldn't get too excited.

    Comparing the Chapman's frozen yogurt to another Chapman's product, Chapman's Original Dutch Chocolate ice cream you'll find that the Chapman's Health Check'ed frozen yogurt contains an identical amount of sugar, 2 grams less fat, an identical amount of sodium and 25% MORE calories than an equivalent portion of ice-cream.

    Comparing it to Chapman's Premium Vanilla Fudge Chunk ice cream described on Chapman's website as,

    "the essence of indulgence"
    you'll still find that the Health Check'ed yogurt has an identical amount of sugar, more sodium and more calories.

    Gee thanks Heart and Stroke Foundation.

    UPDATE July 23rd, 2009: Health Check's finally realized that dessert probably shouldn't get a Health Check and have removed the category that included this ridiculous product from their program!