Friday, November 30, 2012

Would You Pay Starbucks $7 For a Cup of Their New Confirmacebo Biaffect Blend?

This week's Funny Friday video featuring Jimmy Kimmel's crew giving people two identical cups of plain coffee and telling them one's uber-fancy suggests to me that if you do buy one, you're going to love it.

Not because it'll necessarily taste remarkably different, but rather because we as a species aren't all that bright.

The blend is actually called Costa Rica Finca Palmilera but I like my name better.

Have a great weekend!

(email subscribers, head to the blog to watch)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

If You Ever See This Product Endorsement - RUN!

Saw this as part of an ad for some weight loss snakeoil.

As mentioned, if you ever see this endorsement - run, don't walk, away from the product it's stamped on.

Here's the full ad for those who're curious:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Parental "No" Files: Public Libraries Push Junk Food on Preschoolers Now?

The next in the never ending line of insane examples of entirely unnecessary junk food provision to children comes from a fellow health blogger's local library in Ketchum, Idaho.

It's called The Children's Library and their in-library events are clearly geared at pre-school and elementary school aged kids.

Looking at their December schedule, of the 24 days they're open, 7 of them involve giving kids food. Junky food. Pancakes, holiday cookies, 2 days of gingerbread houses, hot chocolate, popcorn and drinks, and of course, "hot chocolate and donuts all day" - because what screams out reading more than donuts?


Since when was food even allowed in libraries, and more importantly, why would libraries feel the need to ply children with junk food in the first place? Aren't libraries places to go to cultivate a love of reading? Of learning? Aren't there plenty of other opportunities to cultivate a child's love of donuts?

So parents in Idaho (and perhaps elsewhere too), add children's libraries to your list of places where you're going to need to say, "No" at when your child is offered junk food that you yourself hadn't planned on giving them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Want to See Kellogg's Latest Cereal Marketing BS?

Yes, my kids like Rice Krispies, and yes, we even buy some from time to time.

Pulling out the box yesterday morning I noticed that brand-spangled new claim up above,
"Goodness of a Simple Grain"
The way it's featured and highlighted and the word, "goodness", all scream health benefit.

But of course it means absolutely nothing.

Except likely sales.

And for the record - I don't blame Kellogg's for front-of-package health claim cow pies, I blame the government for not giving a crap.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Canada's Heart and Stroke Foundation Calls Fast Food Burgers Healthy, Nutritious & Good for You

The Heart and Stroke Foundation's "visionary mission" is,
"Healthy lives free of heart disease and stroke. Together we will make it happen."
And among their stated values is,
"Integrity – acting ethically to ensure transparency, accountability and public trust."
So how then can one explain the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check program which just last week extended their imprimatur to Harvey's - a Canadian fast food burger joint? Yup, you can now buy Health Check'ed Harvey's veggie, chicken and regular burgers, where the veggie and chicken burgers contain 930mg and 950mg of sodium respectively (nearly 2/3 of the Heart and Stroke Foundation's daily recommended aim of 1,500mg).

What? Your family doesn't feel like burgers tonight? They want fast food pizza? No problem - Health Check'ed fast food pizzas exist too:

And you may as well wash it down with Health Check'ed grape juice containing double the calories and 30% more sugar than Coca-Cola, and why not have some Health Check'ed "fruit gummies" for dessert even though Twizzlers contain less sugar?

No self-respecting dietitian or health organization would ever claim that encouraging eating out in restaurants, drinking juices containing 10.5 teaspoons of sugar per glass, and eating faux-fruit candies that contain more sugar than actual candy could possibly be good for living healthy lives. And yet that's exactly what the Heart and Stroke Foundation is actively teaching Canadians with their disgraceful, and nutritionally unethical, Health Check program.

In fact they're abusing the very public trust they consider one of their core values - a trust that they use themselves to market the Health Check program. Here are some facts and figures from a 2004 Heart and Stroke Foundation press release on the Health Check program,

  • 8 in 10 consumers say they can trust Health Check because it comes from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

  • 68% of respondents agree with the statement: “I can rely on Health Check to help me make healthy food choices."

  • 64% of those surveyed by Ipsos-Reid indicate they are more likely to purchase a food or beverage from a grocery store if it bears the Health Check logo.

  • According to a report on Food Information Programs published in the Canadian Journal of Dietary Practice and Research (summer 2002), information logos are three times more popular than detailed nutrition information for helping to select between food products. The Health Check symbol reassures consumers that they’ve made a healthy choice.

  • A 2005 press release had this to say,
    "The Health Check symbol complements mandatory nutrition labelling, in a 2004 research study, sixty-five percent of consumers recognized the Health Check logo as meaning the food is 'nutritious', 'healthy', 'good for you' or 'approved by the Heart and Stroke Foundation."
    Really? Fast food burgers and pizzas, along with juices and candies that pretend they're fruit are "Nutritious, healthy, and good for you"?

    Dietitians of Canada (both the organization and individual RDs) - where are you on this? Journalists - how about you?

    It's beyond shameful.

    Make your voice heard, or at the very least, consider voting by closing your wallet the next time the Heart and Stroke Foundation comes looking for your support, and when you do, make sure you tell their canvasser why. The Heart and Stroke Foundation, despite the incredible amount of good work that it does, is blatantly and callously misinforming a nation, and it absolutely and undoubtedly knows better and we shouldn't be letting them get away with it.

    There are no ends that justify these means and how the powers that be at the Heart and Stroke Foundation sleep at night knowing that Health Check is out there and is actively misinforming Canadians is truly beyond me.

    [Hat tip to Dr. Paul Boisvert who alerted me to this most recent Health Check'ed nonsensical fast food endorsement]

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

    Saturday Stories: Coca-Cola Buys Chicago, Robinson Crusoe, and 4 Hour Chefs

    The incomparable Marion Nestle on Coca-Cola's purchase of Chicago's parks.

    The amazing and true story of an internet millionaire turned penniless real life Robinson Crusoe.

    Summer Tomato's Darya Pino reviews Tim Ferris' The 4 Hour Chef. Might have to grab me a copy one day as I'm not aware of any other book that apparently includes a section on surviving the zombie apocalypse on squirrel and pigeon.

    [And for those who don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, here's me on US News and World Report talking about how many meals you should eat a day]

    Friday, November 23, 2012

    Thanksgiving Etiquette For Children (LOL Funny)

    I'm glad I didn't have a mouthful of coffee while watching this week's outstanding Funny Friday video.

    Hope my American readers had a happy Thanksgiving!

    Have a great weekend!

    (email subscribers head to the blog to watch - this one's definitely worth it)

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    Parental "No" Files: Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts?!

    So today Royal Roads Public School in Ingersol, Ontario is selling their students $2 "candy bags" to support Hurricane Sandy's relief effort.  It doesn't breach Ontario's Healthy Schools Food and Beverage Policy (as that allows for 10 days of junk food fundraising speaking to the value of the policy), but no doubt it does undermine some parents' efforts to limit their children's exposure to and consumption of candy.

    Is there truly no other way to raise money than to sell candy?

    But no worries.  As they likely have to do multiple times a day consequent to the world's constant thrusting of junk food at their children against their wishes including in deeply trusted institutions such as our publicly funded school system, parents can just say "No".

    [Hat tip to disgruntled parent and healthy living advocate Dr. Jonathan Clow]

    Wednesday, November 21, 2012

    If This Isn't Proof Society Is Broken, I Don't Know What Is

    Thanks to my friend Kev for forwarding to me this actual photo of his microwave that clearly identifies what the world must perceive "Kids Meals" to be - mac and cheese, chicken nuggets and hot dogs.

    If that's kid food, what do you think those kids who are eating it regularly are going to gravitate to as grownups, let alone what they're going to feed their future children?

    Parents - as far as I'm concerned it's your obligation to ensure that before your children move out, that they can cook 10, healthy, calorie-controlled, from fresh whole ingredients, meals. And if you're not there yourselves as parents - this Christmas put some cookbooks on your list.

    Tuesday, November 20, 2012

    If Coca-Cola Never Markets to Kids What's it Doing in Comic Books?

    Just wanted to remind you of a quote from the Coca-Cola company advertisement that I found a few years ago in the Canadian Medical Association Journal,
    "Parents tell us they prefer to be the ones teaching their children about beverage choices. That's why for over 50 years we've adhered to a company policy that prohibits advertising soft drinks to children."
    Now I've blasted that claim out of the water a few times. First with the 17 YouTube videos that I pulled up in a matter of moments that clearly demonstrate Coca-Cola's predatory practice of targeting kids, and then later with a post highlighting all the toys Coca-Cola brands for children.

    Today let's add comic books.

    There's the co-branded book up above, and here's an ad that appeared in comic books themselves that tell kids Coca-Cola Classic is, "Always Great for Good Sports"

    And here's another Hulk co-branded Coca Cola comic

    Coca-Cola also made a series of comic books featuring hockey legend Brett Hull along with McDonald's

    And just in case you missed it here's the photo from yesterday's blog post with the 2007 Vancouver Rogers' Christmas Parade Coca-Cola float that couldn't possibly be targeting kids.

    Right Coca-Cola? That float, and the parade itself, clearly they're not meant to target kids.

    You know I've got nothing against Coca-Cola peddling its sugar water to children, that's what free markets allow corporations to do (whether free markets should is a whole different topic) - but blatantly lying to society about not doing so and pretending to be good corporate citizens who care about your children - that's just not cool.

    Monday, November 19, 2012

    The Big and Fast Fooding of Thanksgiving and Santa Claus Parades

    My close friend Brad sent me a photo from his local Hamiltonian Santa Claus parade. It was of the happy gang of McDonald's mascots.

    And indeed - pretty much every holiday parade comes replete with fast food mascots in float or balloon form.

    Of all the holiday parades, none's bigger than Macy's and according to Wikipedia, over the years the Macy's Parade has included the following fast food balloons and floats:
    • Ronald McDonald (3 different versions including the one pictured up above)
    • The Pillsbury Doughboy
    • M&Ms
    • Kraft KD's Cheeseasaurus Rex
    • The Honey Nut Cheerios Bee
    • The Nesquick Bunny
    • The Kool-Aid Man
    • Jell-O
    • Goldfish on Parade (the crackers)
    • Hamburger Helper
    • Jimmy Dean
    • Oceanspray
    Interestingly, I can only find reference to branded foods' Macy's inclusion from 1987 onwards.

    Nearer to me Toronto is the home to a truly world famous Santa Claus parade.

    Its current sponsors include: McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Redpath Sugar, Nestle's Turtles, Kraft Foods, Tim Horton's, Plantars Peanuts, Shopsy's Deli, and Villagio White Bread.

    And when I simply googled iconic fast food brands and parades, thousands of pictures came up. Those pictures included this one of a Coca-Cola float from the 2007 Rogers Santa Claus parade - this from the same Coca-Cola company that regularly claims it doesn't market Coca-Cola to kids. Guess they thought the parade was geared to Santa loving adults.

    So if you're a parent, and if you're keen on trying to reduce your children's exposure to fast food branding, you'll have to have your kids sit out your local Santa Claus parade.


    Is there anywhere or anything out there geared towards kids that the food industry hasn't co-opted to market their brands?

    Saturday, November 17, 2012

    Saturday Stories: "Kid Food", "Wrong" diets, & Calling Yourself Beautiful

    The inimitable Marion Nestle on why kids don't need kid foods.

    Skeptic North's irreverent Erik Davis on how he lost 40lbs "doing everything wrong"

    Amanda on the ignominy of self scrutiny around kids and why she's started telling her daughters she's beautiful (an awesome piece).

    And if you missed it, my piece from US News and World Report this week on why you should be inviting Charles Darwin over for dinner.

    Friday, November 16, 2012

    Have You Ever Watched Honest Trailers?

    They're genius, and having just come off a flight to and from Alberta where I watched the Amazing Spiderman I can tell you that this week's Funny Friday, an Honest Trailers feed that includes their Spiderman take, is a gem.

    Have a great weekend!

    (email subscribers head to the blog to watch)

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

    What's In the Average Vending Machine Snack?

    Friends in Edmonton recently published a paper on the tug of war between health concerns and sales concerns when it comes to community centre food sales.

    While the paper's an important read for folks trying to encourage local community centres' health reforms, something stuck out for me. It was a chart that highlighted the average calories/sugar in vending machine snacks.

    So if it's your practice, or your kid's practice, to have a drink and a snack from vending machines daily, according to the paper on average, the drink and snack together will contain 433 calories (a Quarterpounder worth) and an astonishing 60g of sugar (15 teaspoons!).

    The worse news?

    Even when the vendors fully adhered to Alberta's Nutrition Guidelines for Children and Youth, grab a drink and a snack and you or your child will be grabbing on average 342 calories with 41g of sugar (10 teaspoons!).

    My vote?

    Get rid of the frickin' vending machines! How hard is it for parents or people to pack snacks and do we really need to be making money on the backs of our children's health?

    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    Did You Hear the One About Disney Not Marketing Junk Food to Kids?

    Picture's worth a thousand words, no?

    (or in this case perhaps a thousand calories)

    Photo above taken by me at Heathrow airport, but admittedly, it was this past May - before Disney's big announcement on not marketing junk to kids.....


    This trailer for McDonald's Happy Meals with toys from the coming kid movie Rise of the Guardians?

    It came out today.

    Update: Am told the movie isn't being distributed by Disney....but that Disney's Wreck It Ralph also had a Subway tie in.

    Tuesday, November 13, 2012

    Guest Post: Pharmacist Blasts Canadian Diabetes Association Over Juice Endorsement

    His name is Tony Nickonchuk and he's a pharmacist, a blogger, and an all around evidence-based good guy.

    He's also a certified diabetes educator and as such he receives a regular publication produced by the Canadian Diabetes Association called the Diabetes Communicator.

    He was horrified to find in the most recent edition, an advertorial for the consumption of fruit juice that was paid for by PepsiCo. So horrified in fact that he penned a letter to the Editor-in-Chief of the publication along with the President and CEO of the Canadian Diabetes Association.

    He kindly included me on the letter's cc list and at my request, allowed me to include it here as a guest post.

    A fascinating read
    Dear Ms. Rand:

    I opened the latest issue of The Diabetes Communicator ready to learn. The stated purpose of The Diabetes Communicator is “to inform members of the activities of DES (Diabetes Educator Section), and to publish relevant, practice-based diabetes education information...[and] strives to be accountable and accessible to the DES membership”(1). As a DES member, I now ask you to demonstrate this accountability by removing corporate- sponsored advertorials from all future Diabetes Communicator releases.

    I speak of the PepsiCo promotional document entitled The Juicy News(2). Although disguised as an evidence-based clinical practice tool for Certified Diabetes Educators, it is nothing but sciencewashing, an advertorial designed to increase consumption of PepsiCo fruit juice and fruit drink products.

    The premise itself, that Canadians don't get their required servings of fruits and vegetables, is scientifically sound. The solution the document offers (I cannot say "authors" because they are not listed, only the reviewers), that 100% fruit juices are an appropriate replacement for whole fruits and vegetables, is not. Nor are the claims that consumption of 100% fruit juice may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and contribute to maintenance of a healthy body weight.

    The Canada Food Guide(3) does state that 125mL of 100% fruit juice is an acceptable choice as a fruit and vegetable serving. However, this does not make it true. Britain's National Health Service recommends much the same, but adds the caveat that only ONE serving per day should include juice(4). As does Ireland(5). Not surprisingly, and counter to the obvious purpose of this document, Ireland and Britain have much lower per capita fruit juice consumption than Canada, which leads the way among developed nations(6).

    The document then shows a comparison between fruit juice and whole fruit that states that by 100g fresh weight of edible portion, the two are practically identical. The comparison is disingenuous. To honestly compare the two we need to compare one serving of fruit as per the Canada Food Guide to one serving of fruit juice. Using grapes as an example, 20 grapes are listed as a serving in the Food Guide, containing 68 calories, 18 g of sugar, and 1 g of fiber(7). Tropicana 100% Grape Juice contains 85 calories, 20 g of sugar, and no fiber per 125mL (1 Food Guide serving)(8). In reality, 125mL of Pepsi-Cola comes closer in nutrient content to whole fruit, containing 53 calories and 14.5 g of sugar(9). But stating, based on this, that soft drinks are a nutritious alternative to whole fruits would be just as absurd as claiming that 100% fruit juices are.

    The authors then attempt to prove that consumption of 100% fruit juice reduces cardiovascular disease. One cited study(10) contained 24 subjects, a sample too small to allow for meaningful conclusions. The other(11) used surrogate markers like atherogenic gene expression, the clinical relevance of which is limited, providing no evidence as to impact on morbidity, mortality, or cardiovascular disease outcomes. Yet, on the basis of these small studies, the document states that “the area of cardiovascular disease appears to show the most convincing evidence from epidemiological and clinical studies for the beneficial effects of fruits and vegetables and their juices.”(2) The reality is there is not a single well designed and well executed study, nor a systematic review or meta-analysis to support the notion that consuming 100% fruit juice reduces cardiovascular disease.

    This hawking of bogus science continues with the claim that the “consumption of fruits and vegetables has been shown to be correlated with a reduced risk of becoming overweight or obese”(2). An honest evaluation of the literature shows nothing of the sort. One quoted study(12) only showed correlation, not causation. It was based on a population-based study that relied on self-reported fruit juice consumption and self-reported body weight, data collection methods fraught with potential for error. As well, all individuals with chronic diseases were excluded from the report, eliminating all patients with coronary heart disease, diabetes, or stroke, thus leaning the results squarely in favor of juice consumption. If you take all the people out of the study that may be overweight and obese, like those with diabetes and high risk of heart disease, you eliminate a whole cohort of subjects who may have had their bodyweight negatively impacted by consumption of fruit juice. Effectively you can conclude nothing meaningful from this study.

    Nor can you from the second study used by the authors to support their premise(13). Once the study adjusted for confounding factors, only obesity was negatively correlated with fruit juice consumption, and the association came close to non-significance. Interestingly, although they measured 16 potential confounders at baseline, they only adjusted for(13), not controlling for chocolate milk consumption, fat intake, or tea intake. Not doing so with the first two in particular calls into question the conclusions of the study. It is possible that adjusting for these factors, given their impact on total caloric intake, could have eliminated the small relationship shown in the study. Sadly we'll never know because the authors chose not to publish those results. Of course, this is not surprising given that the lead author of the study was an employee of the Juice Products Association.

    And let us not forget about diabetes, since this publication was placed inside the envelope containing the Diabetes Communicator. Although the document makes no claims with regards to the appropriateness of fruit juice consumption in diabetes, the CDA implicitly supports consumption of 100% fruit juice in place of fruits and vegetables by including this publication with their own. I could data mine like the authors of The Juicy News and point to one study(14) that shows an increased risk of diabetes in women the higher the consumption of fruit juice. Or another that shows that frequent intake of juice “is associated with an increased risk for development of Type 2 Diabetes”(15).

    But I don’t have to. The CDAs very own Just the Basics document, aimed at teaching patients how to make healthy food choices, states that “if you are thirsty, drink water [because] drinking regular pop and fruit juice will raise your blood glucose”(16). The NICE guidelines from Britain don't even mention the word “juice”, only recommending consumption of a variety of fruits and vegetables(17). The International Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Diabetes in their guideline for nutritional management of diabetes in children and adolescents suggests eliminating high sugar and high energy beverages “such as soft drinks and juices”(18).

    I can forgive PepsiCo for producing the document they did. They are a profit-driven multinational corporation, their sole purpose being selling products to realize profit. I could even excuse the reviewers of Juicy News, one of which (CS) is an employee of PepsiCo, the other (HS) a consulting dietitian with multiple corporate clients(19). In this case their employment depended on overlooking the blatant data mining and cherry picking of scientific papers.

    But I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the Canadian Diabetes Association would approve the placement of this document in an issue of The Diabetes Communicator. The CDA is trusted by Certified Diabetes Educators and other health professionals for evidence- based, professional educational material to advance their knowledge and clinical practices. Presenting this information under that pretense is shameful.

    I understand the need for corporate sponsorship but this kind of partnership with corporate donors is inappropriate. The CDA itself makes a stance on their relationship with corporate sponsors stating that they maintain “editorial independence and operational separation from [their] corporate sponsors” and that they make “decisions about information [they] provide without interference from [their] corporate sponsors and none of [their] health information is altered or edited by [their] corporate sponsors at any time”(20) (emphases mine) Placing this document into one of their publications is no different than having PepsiCo edit their health information. Like it or not, doing so suggests that they support the content of the document.

    In the future, keep corporate advertorials out of The Diabetes Communicator. They have no place there and their presence threatens the integrity not only of the publication, but of the Association itself.

    Tony Nickonchuk, BSc. Pharm., RPh., CDE, APA

    1 Canadian Diabetes Association [homepage on the internet]. The Association: Toronto; [cited Nov 8 2012]. The Diabetes Communicator; Available from:

    2 Smith H, Saunders C. Juicy News. PepsiCo Canada [homepage on the internet] Fall 2012 [cited Nov 8 2012]. Available from:

    3 Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide [homepage on the Internet]. Health Canada: Ottawa; [cited Nov 8 2012]. Available from:

    4 National Health Services [homepage on the internet]. [cited Nov 8 2012]. 5 a day: What Counts? Available from:

    5 Department of Health and Children, Ireland [homepage on the internet]. [cited Nov 8 2012]. Your Guide to Healthy Eating Using the Food Pyramid. Available from: YourGuide_HealthyEating_FoodPyramid.pdf?direct=1

    6 Fruit Juice Consumption by Nation [homepage on the internet] [cited Nov 8 2012]. Available from: http://

    7 Dietitians of Canada [homepage on the internet] [cited Nov 8 2012]. Eatracker. Available from: http://

    8 Tropicana [homepage on the internet] [cited Nov 8 2012]. Tropicana Pure Premium Original Nutrition Facts. Available from:

    9 PepsiCo Canada [homepage on the internet] [cited Nov 8 2012]. Pepsi Soft Drink Nutrition Facts. Available from:

    10 Morand C, Dubray C, Milenkovic D, Lioger D, Martin JF, Scalbert A, Mazur A. Hesperidin contributes to the vascular protective effects of orange juice: a randomized crossover study in healthy volunteers. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;93(1):73-80.

    11 Milenkovic D, Deval C, Dubray C, Mazur A, Morand C. Hesperidin displays relevant role in the nutrigenomic effect of orange juice on blood leukocytes in human volunteers: a randomized controlled cross-over study. PLoS One. 2011;6(11):e26669.

    12 Akhtar-Danesh N, Dehghan M. Association between fruit juice consumption and self-reported body mass index among adult Canadians. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2010 Apr;23(2):162-8.

    13 Pereira MA, Fulgoni VL III. Consumption of 100% fruit juice and risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome: findings from the national health and nutrition examination survey 1999-2004. J Am Coll Nutr. 2010 Dec;29(6):625-9.

    14 Bazzano LA, Li TY, Joshipura KJ, Hu FB. Intake of fruit, vegetables, and fruit juices and risk of diabetes in women. Diabetes Care. 2008 Jul;31(7):1311-7.

    15 Odegaard AO, Koh WP, Arakawa K, Yu MC, Pereira MA. Soft drink and juice consumption and risk of physician-diagnosed incident type 2 diabetes: the Singapore Chinese Health Study. Am J Epidemiol. 2010 Mar 15;171(6):701-8.

    16 Canadian Diabetes Association [homepage on the internet]. The Association: Toronto; [cited Nov 8 2012]. Just the Basics; Available from:

    17 National Institute for Clinical Excellence [homepage on the internet]. [cited Nov 8 2012]. Type 2 diabetes: National clinical guideline for management in primary and secondary care (update). Available from:

    18 Smart C, Aslander-van Vliet E, Waldron S. Nutritional management in children and adolescents with diabetes. Pediatric Diabetes 2009;10(s12):100-17-

    19 Heidi Smith Nutrition. [homepage on the internet] [cited Nov 8 2012]. About Heidi. Available from: http://

    20 Canadian Diabetes Association [homepage on the internet] The Association: Toronto [cited Nov 8 2012]. Disclaimer: Advertising and Editorial Independence. Available from: us/policies/disclaimer/

    Monday, November 12, 2012

    Patrick Luciani's Gigantic Soda-Loving Straw Man Rises to Fight Again


    I've written about Mr. Luciani's arguments before. To boil them down to their very essence, he believes that obesity can and should be managed individually. That presumably with appropriate education and encouragement, obesity could be conquered.

    This time Mr. Luciani is taking aim at the recent OMA call to action which included among other things, taxing energy dense and nutritionally bereft sugar sweetened beverages and junk food.

    Now I'm all for differences of opinion, but what gets to me is when someone who clearly knows better, resorts to straw men, logical fallacy, fear mongering and data cherry picking to make their case.

    His most recent piece starts out with these two lines,
    "What makes us fat? According to Ontario’s doctors the culprits are junk food and sugary drinks. That’s why last month the Ontario Medical Association issued a list of policy recommendations that would treat junk foods on the same level as poisons."
    Really? When I read the position piece by the OMA it was pretty clear to me that the OMA agrees with Mr. Luciani, that obesity is highly complex, but yes, dumbing down the OMA's report into a straw man from the get-go is a good way to bolster a crappy argument. And poisons?  Good grief.

    He then stuffs in more straw by starting off his next paragraph with another misinformed and damning nugget,
    "As much as the OMA hates to hear it, the causes of obesity are much more complicated than its report dares to admit."
    Actually the OMA's all over that. They're not, as Mr. Luciani's now gigantic straw man suggests, hanging their hat on soda and junk food taxes and suggesting sodas and junk food are the simple cause and cure for what ails us, what they're doing is identifying specific interventional targets that may help as part of a much larger fight. Here's the OMA on what they actually think is needed,
    "Just as no single intervention has been proven effective against the tobacco epidemic, no one or two isolated approaches to obesity prevention can hope to be effective. Ontario must set an aggressive course, with a comprehensive, multi-pronged suite of policies, in order to meet these challenges — and it must do so immediately."
    Next Mr. Luciani cherry picks historian John Komolos (sic - his name is actually John Komlos) and states that according to Dr. Komlos, obesity rates have been rising steadily since the 1920s. Indeed, that's what Dr. Komlos' article concludes, but I can't imagine what it has to do with Mr. Luciani's current argument except to add more straw, especially given Dr. Komlos' own note in that same article (bolding mine),
    "Of course, changes in dietary habits including the anchoring of a fast food culture in the social fabric reinforced and greatly exacerbated the trend toward increasing weight."
    Moreover Dr. Komlos concludes his paper with this call to arms - one very much akin with the OMA's,
    "The finding also implies that policies to attenuate or reverse the trend will have to reach deep into the social fabric and take into consideration that such socio-economic forces generally change at glacial pace."
    Now Mr. Luciani launches into the thrust of his argument. That given obesity's incredible complexity, soda and junk food taxes are a useless initiative,
    "This is further evidence that blaming junk foods or sugary drinks for the rise in weight over time is too simplistic. In light of those two factors, the OMA’s shame and blame policies don’t have a chance against the myriad causes of obesity."
    As I've written before, this argument is the, "that single sandbag over there isn't going to stop the flood" argument; that clearly the complexity of obesity is such that soda and junk food taxes alone are unlikely to make a difference. Of course the OMA knows that which is why it's calling for, "a comprehensive, multi-pronged suite of policies", with soda and junk food taxes being included among them.

    But here's his most insane bit of straw. He spends the bulk of his piece building up the argument that obesity's incredibly complex and that consequently simple interventions like taxes can't possibly help, and then he states that the solution despite incredible complexity, are doctors who will help society lose weight simply,
    "by monitoring and advising their patients on weight control"
    Honestly, the whole piece makes me wonder who Mr. Luciani is working for, as from my perspective, the incredible amount of straw and spin from such a reportedly intelligent man makes me wonder about the integrity of his motives for repeatedly writing such misguided misinformational missives.

    Sunday, November 11, 2012

    Giving Free Lecture in Edmonton this Wednesday at Noon

    Really looking forward to this one. Thanks to my friend, fancy law professor, and author of The Cure for Everything Tim Caulfield for inviting me.

    You'll understand why I'm looking forward to it when you read the subject and my description. Here's the U of A's email circular with the description and title included.  If you're around - I promise I'll do my best to both entertain and inform:

    The University of Alberta's Health Law Institute and Health Law and Science Policy Group are pleased to announce as part of their seminar series the following presentation:

    Hear No Evidence. See No Evidence. Speak No Evidence.
    How Omission, Commission and Downright Stupidity Shaped Canada’s Food Guide
    (and why you should care)
    Yoni Freedhoff, University of Ottawa

    Wednesday, November 14th, 2012
    12:00-1:00 PM
    Room 231/237, Law Centre, University of Alberta
    Edmonton Alberta

    Did you know that Canadians don’t eat French fries or potato chips? That as a nation we’ve sworn off chocolate, wine and ketchup? That the average Canadian’s diet is something we should strive to replicate? That we really don’t need to avoid trans-fat? That 50lbs of liquid calories a year will improve your health? That databases over a decade old are useful to scientific modeling? That the newest agricultural rage are juice trees? While the creation of a Food Guide should involve the straightforward translation of our best available evidence regarding the impact of diet on chronic disease, the creation of the 2007 Food Guide, an over 2 year long affair, was anything but. Come out and learn why the second most requested government document behind tax returns may be bad for our nation’s health by means of a raucous romp through some of its most egregious and mind-boggling shortcomings and methodological boondoggles.

    Yoni Freedhoff, MD, is an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, where he's the founder and medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute—dedicated to non-surgical weight management since 2004. Deemed a “nutritional watchdog” by the CMAJ, Dr. Freedhoff sounds off daily on his award-winning blog, Weighty Matters, and is also easily reachable on Twitter. Dr. Freedhoff's latest book Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work will be published by Simon & Schuster's Free Press in April 2013.


    Saturday, November 10, 2012

    Saturday Stories: Competitive Sports Bans, Aboriginal Deaths, and GMOs

    Gawker covers the story of Spelman College - a College that's ditching competitive sports for elite athletes and focusing on fitness for all students.

    The Globe and Mail's André Picard delivers an absolutely scathing and shaming must-read piece on Canada's failure to address the unanswered murders of hundreds of aboriginal women.

    Dr. David Katz, as he often does, says what I'm thinking, and as pretty much always, he does so about 100 times more eloquently than I ever could have.  This time on the defeated proposition 37 that would have had genetically modified foods labeled as such.

    And in case you missed it - here's my weekly column for US News and World Report's Eat + Run blog. This week? The 3 most dangerous words in weight management.

    Friday, November 09, 2012

    Ninja Cat!

    This felt like a tough week.

    Consequently today's Funny Friday is of the quick no-need-to-think, cute cat variety (and there's a bonus cat video too).

    Bonus video wise - a friend and colleague lost a feline family member and wondered if he couldn't get sent off in Funny Friday style, so here's Casey's special talent of "Paw Ball".

    Have a great weekend!

    (Email subscribers head to the blog to watch)

    Thursday, November 08, 2012

    What's Your Best Worst Choice?

    In any given week I bet I hear the phrase, "I fell off the wagon", at least 5 times.

    Makes me think the folks who are uttering it are on the wrong wagon.

    If your goal is simply to do your best, there's really never any need to fall off any moving objects.

    Sure, you might for various reasons make nutritionally or calorically frightening choices, but so long as you asked yourself those two ever important questions, "Is it worth it", and, "How much do I need to be happily satisfied", there can't be a wrong choice.

    Sometimes your best may be a basket of chicken wings but perhaps a smaller basket than normal and one less beer, or a fancy coffee with whip just ordered less frequently, or Chinese take out minus the calorie-insane General Tsao's staple, or a bowl of ice-cream instead of a pint, or a small bag of chips rather than the giant bag, or a full-sized chocolate bar rather than a Blizzard.

    What I'm getting at is that sometimes we make choices that are less than ideal, but that so long as you've made your best worst choice, you're still doing great!

    Wednesday, November 07, 2012

    A Food Industry/Public Health Partnership I Could Support

    A few weeks ago I at a talk I was giving in Halifax I was asked by my colleague Dr. Geoff Ball if I was still diametrically opposed to partnerships between public health organizations and the food industry.

    My answer was, "Yes".

    That said, over the past few years of my very vocal opposition to such partnerships I've been regularly challenged to come up with a mechanism that I could in fact stand behind.

    So for what it's worth, here's what I've been considering.

    What if there were a nutritional research fund that was financially supported by the pooled resources of the food industry, but governed by academics?

    Where the various food industry players who want to be "a part of the solution", put their money where their mouths were - with unrestricted grants to this hypothetical fund?

    Those monies would then be distributed on the basis of merit and need to nutritional research projects by means of academics with no industry ties.

    The food industry folks could still talk of their being part of the solution by means of corporate social responsibility reports that would highlight the money they're sinking selflessly into the fund, while researchers wouldn't be beholden to the food industry, nor would projects be chosen on the basis of what the food industry believed would result in product favourable outcomes. Keeping the food industry at arms length would also preclude industry's use of health organization's logos or specific researcher's good names to sell their products and healthwash their brands.

    It's not a perfect system as the industry players could still use their involvement in the fund as proof of their playing ball and might leverage that involvement into political gains and deflecting industry unfriendly legislation, but compared with the mess that currently exists consequent to these partnerships - I'd call an arrangement like this one as close to a win-win that I could imagine.

    Tuesday, November 06, 2012

    Move Over Babies! Similac Now Pumping Formula for Moms!?

    No this is not a piece from the Onion!

    Thanks to the University of Western's assistant professor and childhood obesity researcher Dr. Shauna Burke I came across this Frankenfood. It's a formula product made by Similac but instead of being predatorily marketed to Moms to feed their children, it's being predatorily marketed to pregnant women and breastfeeding Moms to feed themselves! And judging from the advertising up above, it would seem part of the marketing pitch is to help make healthier, smarter, babies.

    It's called "Similac Mom" and according to Abbott, makers of Similac Mom,
    "Healthy babies start with healthy moms. That’s why now more than ever, it’s time to really take care of yourself. Part of feeling your best is making sure you get the extra nutrition you need so you have energy for you and your baby"
    Energy eh? My experience has taught me "energy" is usually used as a healthful sounding euphemism for sugar.

    So how much sugar, er I mean "energy", is in a bottle of Similac Mom?

    7.75 teaspoons worth of it. And drinking just one premixed 235mL bottle packs the caloric punch of more than a half a litre of sugar enriched, vitamin and protein enhanced, Coca-Cola.

    Gotta love the ingredients list too. You can click on it here if you'd like, but if you want it in simplified terms it's basically,
    Water, sugar, emulsifiers, sugar, oil, proteins, oil, added vitamins and minerals
    Product spokesperson, Dr. Sonja Wicklum, a fellow Ottawa physician who works with the Ottawa Hospital's Weight Management Clinic states (bolding Abbott's),
    "Expectant and breast feeding moms need complete balanced nutrition. That is why I recommend Similac Mom along with a healthy diet rich in essential nutrients."
    Really the only "balance" I can think of here is balancing the healthy diet rich in essential nutrients with this vitamin-fortified, sugar-water horror show.  Because in my books this product is pretty much the opposite of what I would expect a healthy diet rich in essential nutrients to include.

    I reached out to product whistle-blower Dr. Burke as to what she felt was so horrifying about Similac Mom.   Here's her take,
    "It is in a formula company’s best interest to have women become emotionally attached to their brand as early as possible—to do so during pregnancy makes complete sense from a business perspective. But, given the link between maternal weight status and child obesity risk and the countless benefits associated with exclusive breastfeeding for both mother and baby, this product—marketed as a “nutritional beverage” despite the fact that it contains more sugar than Coca-Cola - makes no sense from a health perspective."
    But of course this isn't about health, now is it?

    [I also reached out to Dr. Wicklum for comment. Unfortunately I did not hear back.]

    Monday, November 05, 2012

    Heart and Stroke Foundation Encourages Bake Sales and Pizza Days for Fundraising

    Want more proof the Heart and Stroke Foundation is nutritionally challenged and way too cozy and comfortable with the food industry?

    Received an email this past weekend that detailed their 2012 Ottawa Fall Events. In it they pointed out that February was Heart Month and that "FUN" events could help raise funds.

    Topping off their 4 suggestion long list of "FUN" events?


    Saturday, November 03, 2012

    Saturday Stories: Big Sugar, Pinkwashing and Halloween

    While I'm not always on the same page as Gary Taubes, there's no arguing he's a heck of a writer and a top notch journalist. Here's his fascinating piece from Mother Jones on how Big Sugar promotes and defends its product.

    Author and blogger Bruce Bradley covers pinkwashing with a food marketer's lens.

    Here's my piece in US News and World Report on why I worry less about Halloween and more about the remaining 364 days of the year.

    Friday, November 02, 2012

    Recall-A Meat Lozenges and the Delicious Taste of Doing Nothing

    Thanks to Twitter's @renesugar for tipping me off to these three great Rick Mercer videos.

    The first is his not particularly funny (not supposed to be) rant on XL foods and the scale of their organization.

    The second and third are this week's Funny Friday videos. First up? Recall-A beef lozenges.

    And next is Ritz' Something I Should Have Mentioned BBQ Sauce (BTW - Gerry Ritz is Canada's agriculture Minister. In a recent CBC poll 84% of nearly 3,500 respondents felt he should resign consequent to his handling of meat inspections and the XL beef recall)


    Have a great weekend!

    (Email subscribers you need to head to the blog to watch)

    Thursday, November 01, 2012

    Badvertising: Smucker's Sure Has a Strange View of Mother Nature

    The ad copy couldn't be clearer in its inference,
    "Our Recipe Was Perfected in Mother Nature's Kitchen"
    It's also made with "natural ingredients" and "no artificial flavors".

    Heck, using it must be like simply spreading berries on toast.

    Looking at the ingredients and nutrition facts panel has me mad at either Mother Nature or Smucker's because either Mother Nature's kitchen spikes strawberry jam with the concentrated sugars of evaporated cane and white grape juice, or Smucker's does.

    How much sugar?

    Each tablespoon of jam contains 11g of sugar. That's 1g shy of 3 teaspoons of sugar per tablespoon of jam.

    How much is that?

    Well for perspective 1 tablespoon of this sugar spiked jam contains more sugar than 1.5 CUPS of actual strawberries.

    Now in fact that's true for pretty much all jams (unless artificially sweetened), but not all jams suggest that Mother Nature made them do it.

    Jam is not now, nor will ever be, a healthful choice.