Thursday, July 31, 2014

More Staggering New Statistics, This Time Regarding Kids' Food

A recent study out of PLoS One aimed to quantify the percentage of calories coming from various sources in kids' diets.

And while no doubt dietary recall sucks, the authors looked at calories from,
"grocery stores, fast food restaurants, full-service restaurants, school cafeterias, and "other". The “other” category included foods or beverages from someone else or as a gift, child-care centers, sports/recreational facilities, and vending machines"
The results are awful.

According to the paper, 35%, or just over every third calorie consumed by an average American kid between the ages of 4-19, comes from foods not purchased in a grocery store.

And given what's being sold (and purchased) in grocery stores these days I think it's safe to say that as far as the quality of kids' calories go these days, the kids are most assuredly not all right.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

If True, This New Soda Stat is Staggering


According to this new Gallup poll, nearly 2/3 of Americans aren't drinking any soda whatsoever. Yet according to the soda industry itself, the average American is getting nearly 7% of their total daily calories from soda.

But if 2/3 of Americans don't drink any soda, and if the per capita soda industry reported 7% average is correct, that would suggest that actual soda drinkers are consuming truly insane amounts of the stuff as the 7% average is per capita - which includes in it the 2/3s of Americans who don't drink any of the stuff! Consequently it may well be that among actual soda drinkers the average percentage of calories in their diets coming from soda may be as high as 25%.

Holy crap!

Of course there is another very real possibility - maybe those polled are lying about avoiding soda consequent to the hugely negative press on soda and their feeling ashamed to admit they're drinking it. Though even were that true it's always important to remember that per capita consumption data doesn't give you the most useful data when it comes to the consumption of an intrinsically unhealthy product.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

There's No Fruit in Glaceau fruitwater.

Here are the ingredients for Glaceau's orange mango fruitwater:

Seems to me that missing from this "orange mango fruit water" are actual freaking oranges and mangos!

If this is legal, no doubt it shouldn't be.

Monday, July 28, 2014

No, I Won't Debate Whether or Not Jell-O Cures Cancer

It's simply too stupid to discuss.

I guess that's the impolite way to explain the "burden of proof" fallacy in which someone, usually a cranky Twitter or Facebook troll, challenges you to prove that their particular position of nonsensical stupid isn't true.

The onus isn't on you to prove that they or their position is idiotic, the onus is on them to prove that it (or they), aren't.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday Stories: Shalom, Motherf***er, Letters and Crossfit

Shalom, Motherf***er - an amazing visceral and heartfelt piece by Eitan Chitayat that jumped from being a personal posting on his Facebook page on Wednesday, to a blog piece in Times of Israel that as of Friday (when I'm writing this) has been shared over 60,000 times.

An amazing tale of love and lost letters via Abigail Jones in Newsweek

Is Crossfit a religion asks Jon Gugala in his piece exploring the craze.

[And for those who don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, below's a segment I did with the globe and mail on dietary sugar reduction, and here's a segment I did with CTV's The Social on digestive health, bloating, FODMAPs, detox, salt, and poop.]

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mornings a Misery without Coffee? This Ad Nails That.

Today's Funny Friday is an old commercial for Folgers coffee.

They nailed it.

Have a great day!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Guest Post: A Response to Fruits are NOT Vegetables

Last week saw a guest posting from RD Rob Lazzinnaro who is concerned that by lumping fruits and vegetables together we give marketers the ammunition to sell us fruit-washed junk food as well as risking personal dietary caloric excess. Today's guest posting come from RD Jennelle Arnew who is involved in the Aim For 8 Everyday campaign that inspired Rob's post.
Wow! We were surprised that our Aim for 8 everyday! messaging campaign made it to your blog site. In fairness to our campaign, we are hoping to put the Aim for 8 everyday! messaging into context for you and your followers.

Firstly, we agree with much of Rob Lazzinnaro’s argument of why he thinks it’s important to differentiate between fruit and vegetables. However, amongst many initiatives including our Aim for 8 everyday! campaign we believe by increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables regardless if it’s one or the other will likely translate to better health. The research tells us that replacing foods of higher caloric density with foods of lower density, such as fruits and vegetables, can be an important weight management strategy (1, 2). Our hope is that if people increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables they are more likely to decrease consumption of high caloric density foods.

Additionally, as many of your followers know, fruits and vegetables offer more important nutrients compared to high density foods (e.g., packaged foods and fast food options). Unfortunately, much of our population is consuming high density foods on a daily basis.

Unfortunately in Chatham-Kent, 70% of our adult population eat fruits and vegetables less than 5 or more times a day (3), AND we are the lowest consumers compared to other regions in Ontario (3). Among youth grades 9-12 (4):
  • 40% consume soft drinks at least once daily;
  • 27% consume drinks such as aides and cocktails at least once daily;
  • 13% are consuming potato chips one or more times per day;
  • 18% are consuming chocolate bars at least once daily;
  • 20% are consuming cookies at least once daily;
  • 60% are not eating breakfast on a daily basis.
The objectives of the Aim for 8 everyday! strategy are mainly to increase awareness about the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, and to teach people how to plan meals, cook, and prepare fruits and vegetables. We believe these types of health promotion strategies provide a specific targeted approached based on local needs.

We know that a messaging campaign on its own will not necessarily translate into behaviour change and we’ve incorporated a variety of other strategies to complement the Aim for 8 everyday! campaign. Our current food state is complex; however, amongst many other government and community initiatives we are striving for a standard whereby we can focus on community based promotion strategies which emphasize the importance of vegetables and fruits as exclusive, but important, components of healthy eating. However, considering Chatham-Kent’s current low consumption of both fruits and vegetables, the Aim for 8 everyday! strategy, while not necessarily differentiating between fruits and vegetables, aims to get people eating healthier through eating more fruits and vegetables.

Jennelle Arnew, RD, MSC

  1. Tohill BC, Seymour J, Serdula M, Kettel-Khan L, Rolls BJ. What epidemiologic studies tell us about the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and body weight. Nutr Rev. 2004;62:365-374.
  2. Rolls BJ, Ello-Martin JA, Tohill BC. What can intervention studies tell us about the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and weight management? Nutr Rev. 2004;62(1):1-17.
  3. Statistics Canada. Table 105-0502 - Health indicator profile, two year period estimates, by age group and sex, Canada, provinces, territories, health regions (2012 boundaries) and peer groups, occasional. (Accessed 2013).
  4. CCI Research Inc. Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit 2007 School Health Assessment Grades 9-12 Summary report. October 2008.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fear the Nutrition Guru Whose Opinions Don't Change

Nutrition is anything but a set-in-stone science. It's staggeringly difficult to study as it's near impossible to control for the myriad of confounding variables that might influence outcomes, study durations are too short, and dietary self-reporting is abysmal.

As a consequence attitudes and opinions change.

It's not an academic crime to have a mind open to change, on the contrary, it's an academic crime if you don't.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Did You See the One About Low-Carb Diets Being No Better than Others?

There is a study that has been making the rounds the past few days. It touts itself as a meta-analysis designed to answer the question of whether or not low-carb diets are better for weight loss, and also whether low-carb diets are safe.

I'll cut to the chase. The study concludes low-carb diets are no better for weight loss and yes they're safe.....but, the authors bizarrely used a carb cutoff of 45% to define "low".

A diet with 45% of calories coming from carbs is not a low-carb diet and certainly isn't usefully comparable to one containing 20% carbs (and yet the authors did).

So sadly this paper doesn't help with the questions it set out to answer, but for what it's worth, my non-objectively quantifiable take on low-carb diets is that if they help you to control your intake, and you enjoy living that way, I wouldn't waste a moment worrying about safety. Of course if you don't enjoy low-carb life, please don't think there's no other way to go.

Reading this piece I could help but wonder, where, oh where, is peer review?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pregnant? Dead Simple Healthful Eating Life Hack for When Baby's Born.

And it's dead simple. Buy a freezer (used chest freezers on local buy and sell websites are often under $100), freezer storage containers, and freezer bags.

Well, there's a tiny bit more.

3 months before the baby's due date start cooking and freezing your family's favourite meals. Aim for 3 full months of home frozen dinners and lean on them heavily during those exhausting first weeks and months. And if you also cook on those rare days where you've got some time, you can stretch your pre-emptive home cooking even longer.

Way better than take out and dry cereal.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday Stories: Language and War, Dr. Oz, Health Literacy, and Physical Inactivity.

"And so it happens. Without one’s being aware of it, it happens. A gradual habituation to the language of loathing." - Written in 2009 during the last war in Gaza. It may as well have been written today.

The wonderful Julia Belluz introduces the world to the medical student who's trying to take down Dr. Oz.

"Would you take fitness tips from a mouse?", the Globe & Mail's Adriana Barton covers health literacy for health news readers.

The Incidental Economist's Dr. Aaron Carroll saw those news reports last week that covered obesity as if it were purely caused by physical inactivity and he calls bullshit.

[And if you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, Had a nice chat with CTV Ottawa Morning yesterday about "refueling" or "recovering" post exercise]

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Blues are the Same in any Language

Don't believe me?

Watch today's Funny Friday video.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Guest Post: Newsflash! Fruits are NOT Vegetables.

Today's guest post comes from our office's own RD Rob Lazzinnaro and why he thinks it important to differentiate between fruit and vegetable.
The title of this post may seem like an obvious observation, yet a surprisingly important one. I’m not talking plant taxonomy, no, I want to explain why fruits and vegetables are essential to differentiate nutritionally.

How many times have we heard the saying “eat your fruits and vegetables!” They have become synonymous with one another, and often translated to mean they are one and the same. The idea is so entrenched that fruits, like vegetables, should be eaten in abundance that it is a common recommendation like “half your plate campaign” and Weight Watchers new fruit doesn't count (zero points) system. It started with Canada's Food Guide (CFG), and to be fair most every government food guide. Fruits and vegetable recommendations are provided as a single categorical entity without any serious distinction between the two.

It needs to stop, and here's why - most food guides recommend a minimum number of servings for the category of fruits and vegetables. CFG recommends 8-10 Fruits and veg for a male 19-50. They do not specify how to get this minimum recommendation in on the basic form, and on their detailed instructions simply recommend a minimum of one dark green vegetable every day.
Here are two scenarios:

Scenario 1
I eat 1 cup of cooked greens, 2 apples, 2 oranges, 1 banana, 1 pear.
= 8 servings of fruits and veg.
= ~700 calories (Potentially an underestimation considering I used large fruit while many of the Frankenfruit found in today's supermarkets actually way in far larger than large).

Scenario 2
I eat 1.5 cups of cooked greens, 2 cups of bell peppers, half a cup of carrots
= 8 servings of Fruits & veg
= ~100 Calories.

That is a potential difference of ~600 calories between two examples that would both allow me to meet the CFG recommendations. You might ask who in the heck is scarfing down all that fruit, and you might be correct in thinking not many are, however, it's easy to substitute four of those servings with two cups of say apple and/or orange juice (as many do) leaving a person thinking they were making healthful choices. Most Canadians do not follow food guides, but many have had its recommendations established in their thinking in some shape or form from institutions that use it as a guiding principle - primary/elementary/high school, hospitals, day care, etc.

Fruit or whole fruit anyway is certainly not “bad” or the crux of any major nutritional issue, but using it interchangeably with vegetables is nutritionally misleading and a serious error. An error that has been manipulated by advertisers for years; how?: 1. Fruit is much more palatable than vegetables 2. It comes with high recommendations by health professionals. Virtual gold for marketers! Gather round and get your 5-10 fruit or vegetable servings easily from “healthy” fruit muffins, juice, fruit gummies, fruit leather, fruit filling, fruit ice cream, fruit bars, dried sweetened fruit, fruit filled granola bars; hooray!

Here’s to an abundance of vegetables.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

No, Artificial Sweeteners Won't Make you Gain Weight

Of course that doesn't mean you should abuse them either.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First the meta-analysis. Out of the gates, it looks like it was funded by the food industry and no doubt, industry funded studies have been shown to be industry positive. That doesn't mean the results are bunk, but definitely something to consider when evaluating.

The study did what others studies on artificial sweeteners should have done - it looked at them in the context of populations actively involved in weight management and in this case the authors looked at both randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies that utilized low calorie sweeteners (LCS). What they didn't include were broad sweeping studies that aimed to tie LCS consumption to weight and I've argued about why this is important before but briefly, if you simply look at all comers when it comes to artificial sweeteners you run the risk of including folks who justify their Mega-Combo by ordering a diet beverage and/or high consumption may represent a greater reliance on restaurant and processed foods as a whole.

So what did the researchers find? Overall of the 15 randomized trials and 9 prospective cohorts identified, the use of LCS did not lead to weight gain, and in the case of the randomized trials, the use of low-calorie sweeteners in place of high calorie ones did in fact lead to weight reduction.

At the end of the day less sweet from all sources should be the goal as regardless of source, sweet affects our palates and conditions us to foods that likely we ought to be minimizing, but if you're trying to manage weight, and you can use LCS to replace their fully-leaded counterparts, I'd say the evidence would suggest LCS products are the lesser evil.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Crucial Question Regarding Canada's Nutrition Facts Panel Changes

Will fruit juices, evaporates, purées and concentrates be considered sources of added sugar? Health Canada doesn't consider them to be now, and there was no suggestion yesterday that there were any plans for change.

No doubt juices, evaporates, purées, and concentrates should all be considered sources of added sugars as ultimately that's what they are. Pulverize, extrude, concentrate, and/or evaporate fruit, and sugar is predominantly what you're left with. And if juices, evaporates, purées, and concentrates aren't formally considered added sugars by Health Canada, get ready for a huge increase in nonsensical food-like items with claims of "no sugar added" and "made with real fruit" to hit the shelves.

The corollary of that too of course is that existing such nonsensical food-like items will still be allowed to make their nonsensical, predatory claims.

[I do have other minor suggestions and issues with the proposals, but overall I have to say, assuming the above issue is handled properly, it's a big improvement over what we've got now. The other major concern I have is that there's not a value for a package's total calories - useful given many of us treat entire packages as serving sizes.]

Monday, July 14, 2014

Should Religion be Used to Sell Junk Food?

Coca-Cola sure thinks so.

Of course we're all familiar with Coca-Cola's conscription of Christmas.

I guess selling on the back of religion must be a great way to do business because Coca-Cola's just launched a new Ramadan themed campaign.

Here's Coca-Cola's description of their Ramadan centric campaign in Indonesia,
"In honor of Ramadan, Coca-Cola Indonesia is holding a series of unique activations to inspire a reconnection. The program is named, “Sampaikan dengan Coca-Cola” which means, "Say it with Coca-Cola".

During the month of Ramadan, 1 and 1.5-liter Coca-Cola plastic bottles will feature a special design that includes the names of loved ones like Ayah (father), Ibu (mother), and Sahabat (best friend). The special packaging is intended to encourage family, colleagues, friends and companions to reconnect.

"The holy month of Ramadan is about reconnecting and forgiving each other. Yet over time, it often becomes a routine and loses the real meaning. This year, through a bottle of Coca-Cola, we want to bring positive inspiration to people to ensure that we have a good and close relationship with them by continuously reconnecting,": says Esther Tanudjaja, Senior Integrated Marketing Content & Connection Manager Coca-Cola Indonesia.
And here are some videos from the campaign:

And if you're a practicing Hindu rather than Christian or Muslim, no worries, your holidays' emotions are also conscripted by Coca-Cola as seen in this Diwali ad

To be fair, this practice isn't unique to Coca-Cola. Virtually all fast and junk food makers use religion to sell food. And now I'm not a religious man, so I truthfully don't know the answer to this but for those who are religious, is Coca-Cola's (and others') usage of your religion's holiday joy and spirit to brand undeniably unhealthy products not a touch repugnant?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Saturday Stories: War, Genetics, and a Must Read

Slate's William Saletan covers the war in Israel.

My friend Tim Caulfield explains why we shouldn't be looking to genetics to solve societal weight woes.

And an absolute must read by an Anonymous author on breakfast. Trust me, it's not what you're expecting, and be forewarned, it hits very, very, hard.

Friday, July 11, 2014

How Can I Not Jump on the Hedgehog Birthday Cake Bandwagon?

It's just too cute not to share for Funny Friday.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

7 Nutrition Hashtags You Need to Be Aware Of - #Sp #Cl #Cli #Spon #Spons #Client #Ad

That's not to say that tweets with any one of those hashtags should be dismissed, or that the person who is putting them out doesn't believe in their content, or that the content isn't 100% true, but please take them for what they are - advertising - as those hashtags are there to make you aware that the tweeter involved is getting paid by the industry/corporation/product referenced in the tweet.

And while I think those folks using those hashtags are doing the right things with their disclosures (and sort of obeying the law as the FTC has ruled that RDs who receive compensation by companies must disclose - but the FTC feels only #Ad right up front does the job), and by no means should someone reading this post think I've got it out for folks getting paid to tweet, I do wonder how many regular folks reading those tweets would recognize those hashtags' significance (especially #Sp, #Cl, #Cli, #Spon, and #Spons)?

I also have to wonder what percentage of directly or indirectly compensated RD tweets actually include disclosures as from my tweet stream at least, it would seem that percentage is very small, and the percentage of those that disclose with #Ad up front is even smaller still.

Examples of each (including those that use those far less obvious hashtags and the FTC's required #Ad up front):

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

High School Phys-Ed Horror Story Demonstrates Risk of "Energy Balance"

Thanks to Jonathan Clow for sharing this story with me.

So last year a PE teacher at Huron Park Secondary School in Woodstock, Ontario had their Grade 10 co-ed class use scales and measuring tapes in front of one another to calculate their body mass indices. Why? Because his gym class for the semester was to include once weekly circuit training that consisted of ten 90 second stations of burpees, weighted squats and other squat variations, mountain climbers, with no breaks, then a water break then 2 more circuits at 60 seconds and 30 seconds each without a break in between. At the end of the semester the kids were to once again publicly re-weigh and measure themselves in order to see how much weight their once weekly circuit training helped them to lose.

Oh, and he also allegedly informed the kids whose BMIs were elevated to begin with that they would likely develop diabetes.

No doubt the PE teacher was well-intentioned and felt that both public shame and just a bit of moving around would help his students because as far as he was concerned weight is an "energy balance" issue between in and out and that if he just had the kids up their "out", the problem would be solved. I've no doubt too, that his sentiments represent the societal norm rather than an exception.

I'm told the kids mounted a boycott and letter writing campaign to the school but am unsure on how it all shook out. Fingers crossed for the kids.

I'd imagine there are many more such PE based horror stories out there, and if the teacher or school is reading this, perhaps he might have a peek at this meta-analysis of school PE programs which demonstrated yet again (and yes I know I'm a broken record), that kids aren't going to outrun their forks, or this study that suggests negative experiences in high school PE may well discourage the adoption of a commitment to lifelong exercise.

Bottom line for all of us - exercise should be cultivated and promoted on the basis of health and fun, and fat shaming has no place (or utility) in society let alone in a high school's curriculum.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

9 Weekly Hours of Vigorous Exercise Didn't Help These Kids Outrun Their Forks

This from a small Portugese study involving 12 pre-teen boys with overweight or obesity who were assigned to participate in a structured 5-month soccer program. The program was rather intense and consisted of four weekly 60-90 min sessions designed to get the boys' heart rates up to > 80% of their HRMax (and confirmed by heart rate monitors). In addition to their 4-6 hours of soccer (the average boy in the study played nearly the full 6 hours weekly), the boys also participated in 1.5-3 hours of regular PE at school for a total of 5.5-9 hours of weekly exercise, the bulk of which was undeniably vigorous. The soccer playing lads were compared with a control group consisting of eight boys of equivalent age from an obesity clinic located in the same area as the school and who also received the schools' standard 1.5-3 hours of PE.

As far as what was measured, along with some psychological testing was body fat percentage (by means of DEXA), and of course weight.

The results? After 5 months of genuinely heroic amounts of exercise,
"no significant changes were observed for the BMI and percentage of body fat"
The good news is that the kids felt better about themselves with improvements to their body image and self-esteem, and I've no doubt, they also likely improved their health (blood pressure, lipid profiles, exercise capacity, etc.).

If your kid's weight is a concern, help it with your kitchens, and then when you're done washing the dishes, head outside with them to play.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Another Ridiculous "Psst, Kid, Wanna Have Some Candy?" Example

Chalk up another win for McDonald's as well as for the normalization of junk food and the use of sugar as a reward, and chalk up another loss for public health.

Thanks to Twitter's Bill Back for sending along a photo of the coupon for soft serve ice-cream his daughter received from a Spokane Washington police officer as a reward for wearing her bike helmet.

Our communities need to be working to provide children with fewer opportunities for junk, not more.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Saturday Stories: Pitchforks, Facebook, and Statins

Really great long read in Politico by Nick Hanauer to his fellow zillionaires on how the pitchforks are coming for them.

Thoughtful piece by Matthew Herper in Forbes where he asks Facebook to kindly continue experimenting on us.

Dr. Ben Goldacre on his own blog (and the BMJ) with what I can only describe as the best short read on statins ever written.

Friday, July 04, 2014

An Honest McDonald's Commercial

If you can put aside the chemophobia and the fact that correlation and causation aren't one in the same, today's Funny Friday McDonald's commercial is definitely good for a giggle.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Will Mucking with our Microbiomes Help to Manage Obesity?

Right out of the gates I need to tell you I'm not anywhere near an expert in gut flora, and so maybe I'm completely misinterpreting the implications of microbiome papers, but here's my concern.

If diet does, as this and other papers suggest, rapidly and reproducibly alter the human gut microbiome, if we're considering mucking with our microbiomes to help manage weight, how will our mucking with it ever stick? Meaning it sounds like permanently changing our microbiomes would require permanently changing our diets - but isn't that the struggle inherent to dieting in the first place? Or would the plan be daily permanent pre/pro-biotic supplements?

I know I have at least a few readers who know a great deal about this topic - would love it if you could weigh in.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Should Ontario Provincial Police Really Be Handing Out Candy to Children?

Since 2010 the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have partnered with Mac's Milk convenience stores in what the OPP call a "positive ticketing program".

The gist of the program is simple. Police give out "positive tickets" to reward good behaviour and/or influence desired behaviour - and generally they give them to children. Since 2010 they've given out somewhere in the neighbourhood of 500,000 such tickets.

Sounds good so far, right?

But they're not really tickets, they're junk food advertisements. Only they're not just junk food advertisements, they're also junk food coupons. They're junk food coupons that entitle the recipient to a free 710mL Mac's Milk Froster (their version of a Slurpee) which in turn packs 444 calories and 26 teaspoons of sugar - the same number of calories as you'd find in 1.1 litres of Coke and the sugar of more than 10 Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnuts.

I completely understand the concept of "positive tickets", but the further normalization of junk food (and especially liquid candy) in Ontario's children's lives simply isn't positive.

And honestly, how difficult would it be for the OPP to partner up with Ontario's municipal governments and instead of rewarding kids with sugar, instead reward them with free skates and swims at local arenas and pools?