Saturday, October 31, 2015

Saturday Stories: Hedonic Balancing, Weight Loss Myths, and Fake Meat

Alex Hutchinson in the New York Times on how salad can make us fat through "hedonic balancing".

Kevin Hall in The Washington Post covers 5 pervasive weight loss myths.

James Hamblin in the Atlantic on how the future of meat won't be meat at all.

Friday, October 30, 2015

What I Learned Actually Reading That New Low-Fat Diets Are Dead Study

So last night the embargo lifted on a study that looked at low-fat diets and weight loss. I read the article a few days ago as it was sent to me so that I could discuss with the CBC. Given the tenor of the discussion I'm seeing on Twitter right now, I've decided to share the 7 tweets I posted yesterday that coincided with the embargo's lifting.

A Tale of One Marathoning Woman's Incredible Bravery

Today's Funny Friday is an almost unbelievable tale of bravery.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Making Halloween Into a Positive Teachable Moment

(This post first published October 24th, 2013)

It's coming.

And I'm not really all that worried. At least not about Halloween night.

The fact is food's not simply fuel, and like it or not, Halloween and candy are part of the very fabric of North American culture and to suggest that kids shouldn't enjoy candy on Halloween isn't an approach I would support.

That said, Halloween sure isn't pretty. On average every Halloween sized candy contains in the order of 2 teaspoons of sugar and the calories of 2 Oreo cookies and I'd bet most Halloween eves there are more kids consuming 10 or more Halloween treats than less - 20 teaspoons of sugar and the calories of more than half an entire package of Oreos (there are 36 cookies in a package of Oreos).

So what's a health conscious parent to do?

Use Halloween as a teachable moment. After all, it's not Halloween day that's the real problem, the real problem are the other 364 days of Halloween where we as a society have very unwisely decided to reward, pacify and entertain kids with junk food or candy (see my piece on the 365 days of Halloween here). So what can be taught on Halloween?

Well firstly I think you can chat some about sugar and/or calories, and those rule of thumb figures up above provide easily visualized metrics for kids and parents alike.

Secondly it allows for a discussion around "thoughtful reduction". Ask them how many candies they think they'll need to enjoy Halloween? Remember, the goal is the healthiest life that can be enjoyed, and that goes for kids too, and consequently the smallest amount of candy that a kid is going to need to enjoy Halloween is likely a larger amount than a plain old boring Thursday. In my house the kids have decided upon 3 pieces - so our kids come home, they dump their sacks, and rather than just eat randomly from a massive pile they hunt out the 3 treats they think would be the most awesome and then take their time enjoying them.

The rest?

Well it goes into the cupboard and gets metered out at a rate of around a candy a day....but strangely....and I'm not entirely sure how this happens, maybe it's cupboard goblins, but after the kids go to sleep the piles seem to shrink more quickly than math would predict. I've also heard of some families donating candy to a local mission or homeless shelter, and others who grab glue guns and make a Halloween candy collage.

A few years ago we discovered that the Switch Witch' territory had expanded to include Ottawa. Like her sister the Tooth Fairy, the Switch Witch, on Halloween, flies around looking for piles of candy to "switch" for toys in an attempt to keep kids' teeth free from cavities for her sister. The joy and excitement on my kids' faces when they came downstairs on November 1st that first Switch Witch year was something to behold.

And if you do happen upon our home, we haven't given out candy since 2006 and we haven't been egged either. You can buy Halloween coloured play-doh packs at Costco, Halloween glow sticks, stickers or temporary tattoos at the dollar store (glow sticks seem to be the biggest hit in our neighbourhood), or if your community is enlightened, you might even be able to pick up free swim or skate passes for your local arena (they run about 50 cents per so if you're in a very busy neighbourhood this can get pricey).

[Here's me chatting about the subject with CBC Toronto's Matt Galloway]

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

We've Got a Serving Size Problem

Will posting more realistic serving sizes on packages help consumers make wiser choices?

I certainly used to think so.

The thinking was straightforward. If faced with the high calories (or sugar, or salt, or whatever an individual might themselves be focused on reducing) identified by a more realistically portrayed serving size, people might eat less.

Recent research however calls that thinking into question. A study published this year in the journal Appetite found that proposed changes to include more realistic serving sizes led those utilizing them, in laboratory settings, to serve themselves and others more, and that the serving sizes were perceived as amounts that people were supposed to eat.

What the study did not show was whether or not more realistic serving size postings would impact upon the frequency with which people ate a particular product, or whether they might lead them not to purchase certain products in the first place - behaviours which in turn would support the practice.

But those questions aside, the research was pretty clear in that the public's perception of "servings" including the erroneous notion that they were recommended amounts.

Makes me wonder whether or not having a dual column nutrition facts panel that includes a commonly consumed portion amount alongside the whole package coupled with the removal of the word "servings" would help (see up above)?

Future research for someone I'm sure.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

This New Kids and Sugar Study Will be All Over the News Today

Though the study's title, Isocaloric Fructose Restriction and Metabolic Improvement in Children with Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome (free full text link), definitely doesn't read like Buzzfeed clickbait, it's bound to make the news. Its lead author is UCSF anti-sugar crusader Dr. Rob Lustig and the study highlights the impact of a 10 day experiment whereby 43 children with obesity and metabolic syndrome saw their added sugar and fructose replaced with starch.

The rationale Lustig presents for the study is straightforward. The world is seeing a rise in the incidence of chronic non-communicable diseases in childhood including of course obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dyslipidemia, and non-alcholic fatty liver disease. Many finger the Western diet as the primary culprit and it's no secret that Lustig believes that it's the added sugars in the Western diet that fuel illness. What he and his lab set out to do here was to see if reducing added sugar and fructose while keeping calories and carbohydrate levels constant, would have an impact on the metabolic parameters of metabolic syndrome - an outcome you would expect if added sugar had unique risks.

The study measured oral glucose tolerance (OGTT), insulin, blood pressure, lipids, liver enzymes, body composition, and body weight, and through the intervention dietary sugar intake reduced from 28% to 10%, and fructose from 12% to 4%, of total daily calories. In a bid perhaps to preserve some realism, the reduction in sugar occurred not by way of sudden and complete home cooking, but rather included the use of no- or low-sugar added processed foods that were purchased in local supermarkets and was noted to include items such as turkey hot dogs, pizza, bean burrritos, baked potato chips, and popcorn.

The results saw diastolic blood pressure decrease by 4.9mmHg, fasting blood sugar by 0.3mmol/L, fasting insulin by 53%, peak insulin by 56%, and insulin area under the curve (for the OGTT) by 57%. There were also decreases seen in triglycerides, liver enzymes, and lactate, while glucose tolerance was found to increase.

Confounding the results was a slight weight loss (1kg) whereby perhaps the benefits seen were consequent to the loss and not the reduction in added sugar. Though that's a remote possibility (remote in that we're talking about just a 2lb loss), looking at the 10 children whose weights remained constant, their results were in-line with the group's as a whole. Also confounding the study was the use of dietary recall. Again here, I look forward to the day that we have more robust means of tracking dietary intake. The study's also small and short which too will lead to critique.

Ultimately this study furthers Lustig's assertion that added sugar and fructose are uniquely dangerous to health beyond their simple contributions to excess calorie consumption and weight.

Of course the bottom line for all of us isn't really news. Calories count, but so too do their quality.

Monday, October 26, 2015

I Agree with Cadbury, Sugar Taxes Insufficient to Overhaul Diets

Last week saw much debate in the UK about sugar taxes and for some reason The Guardian decided that it would be worth reporting on what Cadbury's UK President Mary Barnard thinks on the matter. Unsurprisingly, the head of the massive candy maker isn't fond of the idea of sugar taxes with the article's headline noting that a sugar tax would not change diets, and the story's first paragraph clarifying that by change, she means "overhaul".

And here we agree.

Sugar taxes, by way of simple economics, will certainly change the purchase frequency of those products taxed, but if the goal is a population based dietary "overhaul", many more changes are required, changes which from Cadbury could include:And though these changes too wouldn't likely "overhaul" British diets either, had Barnard championed anything other than personal responsibility in the article, well then that would have been a story worth reporting rather than a not even remotely newsworthy piece that the sugar industry is opposed to sugar taxes.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Saturday Stories: Dinosaur Digging, Creepy Puzzles, and the Mediterranean Diet

Steve Macone in the Atlantic with a beautiful essay on digging for dinosaurs.

Johny in with one of the creepiest stories I've ever read.

Anahad O'Connor in the New York Times on a Kickstarter campaign for a movie that asks an intriguing question, is the Mediterranean Diet in and of itself the thing that confers better health, or is it the lifestyle that goes with it? Kickstarter? Amazing to me that there's sufficient public interest in diets to launch Kickstarters for movies.

Friday, October 23, 2015

"Howard Kleiner", Gold's Gym's Best Regional Manager

"If it burns, it grows", "You have elbows and you have knees, so touch them" - Howard Kleiner the star of today's Funny Friday.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Did A City in PEI Just Cancel Halloween?

That's the message being pushed by this National Post article labeling the city of Summerside PEI's discounting of city fitness passes, and the city's subsequent promotion of their sale to parents to hand out in place of candy this October 31st,
"another assault launched in the war against Halloween".
Another? I guess I missed the start of the war, but putting the war's start aside, to launch their case the National Post quotes Lenore Skenazy of the blog Free-Range-Kids stating,
"I think of as Halloween as the holiday when we test market new fears"
and of the discounted fitness passes plan,
"To turn Halloween into such a seductive, dangerous night that children might get a taste of candy and go buck wild…strikes me as overkill."
Then they tap Toronto RD Abby Langer who infers that by offering the passes the city is demonstrating their opposition to letting kids have candy on Halloween,
"I really am a strong believer in letting kids have their Halloween candy. I know people don’t expect that"
and that by offering fitness passes for purchase means Summerside has effectively cancelled the holiday,
"I would say let the kids have their Halloween and let them enjoy it. The rest of the country is going to have Halloween, and kids are not oblivious to that. They’re going to know that they’re missing out on something."
The piece closes with Montreal RD Lisa Rutledge's quote,
"If children hear the parents sounding scared or worried with the children’s inability to control themselves, that sends a message that one should fear candy."
I know that manufactured controversies sell, but it seems to me that the only "assault" and "test marketed fear" here is the suggestion that a city's offering of discounted fitness passes, passes that in turn will undoubtedly serve as drops in literal buckets of candy, is part of a made-up war against Halloween.

For some, handing out fitness passes will allow them to cater to children with food allergies (and they may well also be boasting teal pumpkins) and for others they'll cater to a personal preference to hand out the treat of a free swim pass, but from what I've seen coming out of Summerside PEI and other communities where Halloween discounted fitness passes are available for parents who want to buy them, Halloween's not going anywhere, nor to my knowledge is anyone suggesting it should.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Why Buying Big Box Food at Costco and Walmart Might Not Save You Money

Simply put, portion size research has clearly demonstrated that we pour more from larger containers.

One famous experiment compared "usage volume" of cooking oil, spaghetti, and M&Ms.

Subjects poured 22% more oil, 23% more spaghetti, and 52% more M&Ms from their respective larger containers (vs. small ones).

So when you buy that next giant sack of food at a big box discount store, unless the by weight savings is greater than roughly 25%, you might well not be saving yourself any money, and you'll almost certainly be adding to your unconscious/mindless eating.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Children's Hospital Colorado Sponsors 9,000lb Candy Giveaway #NotTheOnion

Children's Hospital Colorado, along with, I kid you not, Colorado Springs Pediatric Dentistry have teamed up to sponsor "Boo at the Zoo", a Halloween extension program that has the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo hosting 6 days of Halloween whereby the zoo's "trick-or-treat stations" will hand out "over 9,000lbs of candy".

Oh how I wish I could have been at one of the board meetings where a Children's Hospital and a pediatric dentistry clinic decided this was an important activity to get behind. Perhaps these arguments came up?
"Kids don't get enough candy these days, how can we help to get them more?"
"What could be better than candy to promote our hospital and dental clinics?"
"Anyone else think Halloween's too short?"
And unless there's something I'm missing, other than brand exposure for the hospital and the dental clinic, I can't figure out a tie-in. I mean this isn't even junk food fundraising, it's just a candy giveaway!

Honestly, The Onion's got nothing on these guys.

[Thanks to Jen on Facebook for sending my way]

Monday, October 19, 2015

NFL Super Star Jimmy Graham Hawks Sugar Water to Kids

How much money does this guy need?

Jimmy Graham is a tight end playing in the NFL.

In 2014 Graham signed a 4 year, $40,000,000 contract, including a $12,000,000 signing bonus, $20,900,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $10,000,000.

And now he's selling sugar water and starring in a Powerade video that hits viewers over the head with the notion that Powerade was integral to Graham's rise from an orphanage to stardom.

One day we'll look back on these partnerships and wonder how anyone ever felt comfortable doing them.

Here's Graham's video, followed by one of my own that I made back in 2012. Oh, and Jimmy, Powerade sucks.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Saturday Stories: Dietary Guidelines, Abortions, and Mysterious Stars

James Hamblin in The Atlantic on how agriculture controls nutrition guidelines.

Alex Ronan in The Cut interviews 7 MDs who provided abortions before and after Roe v. Wade.

Ross Andersen in The Atlantic on the most mysterious star in our galaxy.

And if you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, here is my latest segment with The Social where we played Fact or Fiction with some common health myths

Friday, October 16, 2015

Men Wear High Heels For a Day, Develop Feelings

Today's Funny Friday has a group of men wearing high heels for a day one of who concludes, "when you take that shit off, it's like a damn orgasm".

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Announcing UNC's "Krispy Kreme Challenge Children's Specialty Clinic" #NotTheOnion

Presented for your consideration.

Yesterday the University of North Carolina's School of Medicine announced the renaming of their N.C. Children’s Specialty Clinic to The Krispy Kreme Challenge Children’s Specialty Clinic, in return for, you guessed it, money.

But not all that much money mind you.

$2 million. Well, sort of. It's not like that they'll be able to cash that gag check because it's actually $1 million dollars to be raised (note, not donated, raised) over the next 5 years, and as an acknowledgement too for the $1 million already raised over the last 9 years.

So to recap, the University of North Carolina's School of Medicine just sold the naming rights to their children's specialty clinic to Krispy Kreme Challenge in return for them raising what works out to be an average of $133,333 a year.

(For reference, while I was unable to find the budget for UNC Children's, here in Canada our children's hospital annual budgets run in the $200-$300 million range.)

Oh, and as to how they're going to raise it?

Well by way of the Krispy Kreme Challenge of course!

What's that?

It's an annual road race that challenges runners to run 2.5 miles to a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts shop, eat one dozen doughnuts, and then run back to the finish line in under 1 hour.

Again, I have to point out, this is not a story from The Onion.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

This Halloween, Look Out For The Teal Pumpkins

Launched in support of children with food allergies the Teal Pumpkin Project identifies homes that have non-food treats available for kids.

Though we haven't put out a teal pumpkin in the past, we've been providing non-food treats since 2006 (and we've yet to be egged). We started because it felt odd for us to be handing out candy and I was encouraged by a study that had reported kids on Halloween enjoyed getting toys as much as they did getting candy.

Over the years we've handed out Play-Doh, stickers, temporary tattoos, coupons for free swims/skates at local community centres, and glow wands and swords (the biggest hits by far).

Truthfully though, I'm not opposed to candy on Halloween. It's the other 364 days of the year we need to change.

(Will repost other Halloween posts closer to the date)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

ParticipACTION - One of These Things is Not Like the Others

A screen-cap of the funders page of ParticipACTION's - Canada's premier physical activity brand - most recent report.

Am betting too that if the logos were ranked in order of dollars, Coca-Cola's would be right at the top, as from the best I can gather, Coca-Cola has funnelled $10 million to ParticipACTION over the years.

[ICYMI, here's a recent editorial from The Lancet discussing these very sorts of partnerships.]

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Saturday Stories: e-cigarettes, Alzheimers, and Breast Cancer

Joanna Cohen, director of the Institute for Global Tobacco Control, in the USA Today, addresses the ambiguity of the current science on e-cigarettes.

Claire McNeill in the Tampa Times tells the story of an esteemed trauma doctor now facing early onset Alzheimers.

Christie Aschwanden in Mother Jones asks what if everything your doctor told you about breast cancer was wrong?

Friday, October 09, 2015

American Kids React to Global Cuisine

Today's Funny Friday video is part 3 of a great series of videos of American children reacting to non-American foods.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Ultra-Processed Food Giant Mondelēz Embraces School Gardens and Cooking

While it's easy to criticize the machinations of Coca-Cola when they aim to teach children about "energy balance" in a cynical bid to help with childhood obesity, it's a great deal more difficult to criticize the recent strategy put forward by Mondelēz geared at addressing obesity and other chronic, non-communicable diseases.

According to this brief article Mondelēz' initiatives will include - along with the fitness piece - education and support on whole food nutrition including championing cooking classes and school vegetable gardens.

An interesting move for an ultra-processed food industry giant, and a smart one too in that these initiatives likely won't result in any reduction in the purchase of Mondelēz' products while providing Mondelēz with genuinely laudable PR that depending on the course content, may well stand up to public health advocates' scrutiny.

Would love to see the initiatives' collateral materials and implementation in more detail.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Canada Food Guide's Director General Agrees It's Broken

In February 2014 I had the pleasure of debating the Director General of Health Canada's Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion (the folks in charge of the Food Guide), Hasan Hutchinson, about whether or not Canada's Food Guide could promote weight gain.

You can watch the whole debate if you want, but I want to focus on a statement that Dr. Hutchinson made during the discussion. It was just a single line and it had to do with chocolate milk.

I had mentioned that chocolate milk, given it's high in both calories and free sugar, should lose its billing as a Canada's Food Guide sanctioned dairy serving. Delisting chocolate milk matters as the trickle down effect of that might ultimately lead to its removal from school milk programs, which in turn might have the trickle down effect of fewer kids and adults believing that milk's such an important beverage to consume that it's ok to add piles of free sugar to it to encourage its consumption (a practice akin to encouraging more fruit consumption by serving more pie).

Dr. Hutchinson agreed.

He stated,
"One thing we're doing right now (Note: Right now means February 2014) is doing a reassessment of all of those things and certainly me personally, I agree with Yoni that it (chocolate milk) should not be there either"
Well that screen capture up above was snapped just this past weekend so certainly no changes yet.

Dr. Hutchinson also seems to be on the same page as me in regard to fruit juice not being a fruit equivalent. Back in May of this year he was quoted by the Canadian Medical Association Journal on juice's fruit billing as stating,
"You won’t be seeing that anymore … and there’ll be a fair number of new materials coming out in the next few months."
Well, that juice quote was from 5 months ago now, and chocolate milk - that was 21 months ago.

Wonder if we'll ever see those changes?

Brings to mind the article I wrote for the Globe and Mail this past April, Canada's Food Guide is broken - and no one wants to fix it.

It sure sounds like Dr. Hutchinson wants to fix at least some of it. I wonder what or who is getting in his way?

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Sarnia School Rewards Reading Kindergartners with Pizza

Because apparently learning to read and the many magical worlds that unlocks aren't reward enough, St. Michael's School in Sarnia, Ontario sent this Boston Pizza "Partners in Reading" reward sheet home with their kindergarten students.

And as I mentioned to the mom who sent the sheet my way, these sorts of partnerships are so commonplace nowadays that they can be considered the norm.

People tend not to question norms.

Our new norms are awful.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Ontario Schools Allow Dairy to Shamelessly Target Kindergartners

Thanks to fellow Ottawan Sarah Wise for sending these my way.

They're photos of the milk propaganda provided to her 5 and 7 year olds at school in support of their school milk program.

Putting aside your stance on whether you think milk is a magical beverage or the devil's brew, can we at least agree that providing the dairy industry with direct access to children who can't discern truth from advertising, let alone advertising from actual teaching at school, is plainly wrong?

For a story worthy of teaching kids in school, have a peek at pediatrician Aaron Carroll's short video on how the milk emperor has no clothes.

Schools should not be places that industries can pay or partner with to provide children with advertising collateral.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Beauty Facemasks Are Made of Human Placentas Now?

I certainly had no idea.

Neither did the guys wearing them in today's Funny Friday video.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Supplement Maker Arbonne Thinks You're An Idiot

Well truthfully I don't know that for sure, but what other explanation is there for their trying to sell their product with this statement as their proof of its efficacy?
"Data based on consumer perception after a 60 day home-use trial of PhystoSport products by 25 Arbonne Independent Consultants, Arbonne employees, and friends."
As to what that means? Well basically Arbonne, referred to by many as a multi-level marketing scheme, asked its own salespeople, employees and friends about the very products they were trying to sell, and then compiled their answers into really awesome sounding statistics with a tiny disclaimer that they're hoping no one will read.

Scumbags might be too kind a descriptor.