Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened on the way to Publication

Long term readers of my blog may recall a post from June when I detailed an exciting abstract presentation from a team of east coast researchers who concluded that their study of dietary consumption patterns in Nova Scotia youth suggested,
"If strong education and messaging regarding the need to reduce intake levels from energy dense food sources isn’t implemented, the new guide may serve to further increase dietary intake in this population, rendering the new CFG more obesigenic for youth than the previous version."
Well a funny thing happened on the way to publication - they dropped their conclusion.

Their study, Overweight Nova Scotia Children and Youth: The Roles of Household Income and Adherence to Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating, published in the July-August edition of the Canadian Journal of Public Health reported the following:

  • The combined rate of overweight and obesity in Nova Scotia children is one of the highest in Canada.

  • The prevalence of childhood obesity in Canada is likely grossly underestimated due to the fact that self-reported heights and weights make people taller and skinnier and the fact that it has been quantified using the criteria of the International Obesity Taskforce rather than the more stringent criteria of the Centre for Disease Control.

  • Nova Scotian children of all weights consume 25% of their daily calories from the sugar, fats and oils that comprised the now-ignored by our Food Guide "other" category but consumption was lower in the overweight vs. the normal weight students (yes, lower).

  • There was only one significant difference found in consumption patterns of normal weight vs. overweight children with regards to Canada's Food Guide and that was the overweight students in Grade 11 (note, not significant in Grade 7), drank less milk.

    and here's their most important finding:
    The VAST majority of both overweight and healthy weight students did not come close to meeting the recommended number of daily servings from the four food groups.

    So what did they then go on to suggest?

    1. That perhaps overweight kids underreport their consumption of "other" foods.
    2. That perhaps energy balance (ie exercise calories) is more important than they had thought.
    3. That perhaps overweight kids should drink more "energy dense" milk.

    So to summarize - they published a report that states that the prevalence of childhood obesity is far greater than we imagine and that with the exception of milk intake in Grade 11 there's no real difference in dietary patterning between normal weight and overweight/obese kids, and that none of the kids (including the overweight ones) were eating anywhere near the number of servings recommended by Canada's Food Guide and despite their well worded poster prior to publication they failed to mention that perhaps then following Canada's Food Guide carefully (and therefore having all kids including the overweight ones consume a lot more food) may in fact lead to higher rates of obesity in children!

    Um, didn't you guys think that point was important enough before to base your entire abstract presentation on it?

    So the real question is, did your Food Guide concerns get cut by the journal's reviewers or did you suddenly get cold feet about publically criticizing Canada's nutritional bible?