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Posts tagged ‘obesity’

If You Needed More Reason to Make Your Own….

So many of you might already have read this article. I heard about it from a Nutrition Diva Podcast. It’s an article outlining how the food industry really is out to get us. I don’t think there is anything new in this, but seeing it in black and white, with quotes from the people involved, really can give you pause.

In my last blog post I talked about how people don’t really factor the odds of their behavior into their choices. Immediate gratification wins out for most people. This article from the Times spells out why that is.

The public and the food companies have known for decades now — or at the very least since this meeting — that sugary, salty, fatty foods are not good for us in the quantities that we consume them. So why are the diabetes and obesity and hypertension numbers still spiraling out of control? It’s not just a matter of poor willpower on the part of the consumer and a give-the-people-what-they-want attitude on the part of the food manufacturers. What I found, over four years of research and reporting, was a conscious effort — taking place in labs and marketing meetings and grocery-store aisles — to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and inexpensive.

Nothing new, right? How many times have you said “I must have potato chips”,  “I can’t live without chocolate” or found yourself with things in your cart you didn’t want or need?

We KNOW the food industry spends millions of dollars “optimizing food”, finding the perfect combination of salt, fat and sugar, mouthfeel and odor, to make the food irresistable. irresistable. How’s that work with your waistline? Here’s another snippit from that article:

As we talked, he made clear that while he has worked on numerous projects aimed at creating more healthful foods and insists the industry could be doing far more to curb obesity, he had no qualms about his own pioneering work on discovering what industry insiders now regularly refer to as “the bliss point” or any of the other systems that helped food companies create the greatest amount of crave. (italics are mine)

Wanna feel sorry for them?

The prevailing attitude among the company’s food managers — through the 1990s, at least, before obesity became a more pressing concern — was one of supply and demand. “People could point to these things and say, ‘They’ve got too much sugar, they’ve got too much salt,’ ” Bible said. “Well, that’s what the consumer wants, and we’re not putting a gun to their head to eat it. That’s what they want. If we give them less, they’ll buy less, and the competitor will get our market. So you’re sort of trapped.”

Poor babies are trapped!

Release them! Don’t buy those products. Don’t try them. Don’t succumb. What’s the easiest way to quit smoking? Don’t start. I will tell you, in the beginning, you will go through withdrawal. The language of addiction in this article is not coincidental! You started out with a biology ready to succumb to sugar, fat and salt, as those used to be hard to get, and were like bonus rounds back when starvation was a real possibility. Now, when that basic drive has been shaped and honed by scientists, working on them to trigger them over and over, you will feel a loss when you stop stoking that fire. However, in 6 months to a year, you will find that some of your previous favorites taste too sweet. You’ll be able to taste the chemicals in many of them. Non dairy french vanilla creamer- yuch- once you are off it long enough to distinguish real from fake.

You know the answer; if it comes in a box, a bag, a carton, if it has more than five ingredients, and if sugar or salt are in the first two, don’t buy it. Start cooking for yourself, and if you tell me you don’t have time, I’ll tell you you are wrong. I can get a meal on the table in the time it takes you to go through the drive through at McDonalds. It does take planning ahead and preparation. I have about 6 containers of soup in my freezer for “quickies”.

Before you go freaking out about GMO or vegan, gluten free, dairy free or whatever, get chemical free and junk food free. See how you feel after that. Even peanut butter has been engineered, get all natural first, and see if your peanut butter intake drops. (That was for all my friends who complain about finding themselves pigging out on that in an attempt to avoid other sweet, salty, fatty snacks) Get unsalted peanuts- you won’t find those nearly as irresistible.

I Don’t Even Know What to Say

I just saw this article about a 2 year old getting bariatric surgery. They included images:

picture of an obese 2 year oldI don’t know about you, but my knee jerk reaction is “what’s wrong with the parents?” I have no doubt there is something there, but I can’t say that tells the whole story. We do know that obese parents are more likely to have obese children. I would lay that at the door of environment, rather than genetics. You don’t get obese without practicing certain habits. Anyone can get overweight without really trying, but obesity, defined as a bmi over thirty, takes overeating and underexercising with a certain amount of effort. You have to see a trend and continue to persist in that path, despite the consequences. The larger you get, the more calories it takes to maintain, so you have to increase your eating to continue to gain weight.

Having said this, we now know that genes are responsible for certain aspects of hunger and satiation. ghrelin and leptin are two hormones that control appetite. The production of, and sensitivity to are influenced by both environment and genes. It is a chicken and egg scenario though, does over eating reduce your sensitivity to leptin, the “full” hormone? Or were you already desensitized, and that’s why you got obese? We know that ghrelin makes you crave high calorie foods, but does eating those foods make you produce more? We are only starting to see the full picture on this. Here is a link if you’d like more.

Getting back to this poor little boy. As much as I would like to say this was child abuse, it may just be the state of our world for some time to come. I’ve seen in heavy families that not all members gain the same amount of weight. In one family, the older boy was very obese, and the younger perfectly normal. I’m certain both were faced with the same food choices, and the one could not stop, whereas the other could. Of course we want to educate parents about good food choices, and encourage making the right choices, but are they faced with a child who is constantly hungry? I’m not letting them off the hook, the child did not feed himself, but how hard was it to resist a child who is always crying for food? I know, you’ll say- if they were feeding him vegetables he couldn’t have gotten that big. What is my granddaughter eating? Yogurt, raisins, Cheerios, cheese, and what the rest of the family eats. If she binged on those things, could she eat enough to get obese? I would think it’s possible. If her mother was not smart about food choices, and there were chips and ice cream, hot dogs with buns and other high calorie, questionable choices, and she was faced with a child who just kept wanting more, I think it would be easy to go to far.

What do you think? Should we just give the parents a blanket indictment? What are the long-term consequences to this little boy and his health from this surgery? Is that better or worse than what he’d face with uncontrolled obesity?

Statistics and Lies

Mark Twain did not care much for statistics, he said:

Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.


There are lies, damned lies and statistics.

I have reason to agree, when simple curiosity drove me to do some quick research. Every time there is an article on health, I read it. The one that caught my eye today was one on Yahoo that another country beat out the United States as the fattest country. The main thrust of the article was that Mexico now has a greater proportion of obese people than the U.S. .This made me think about the link between obesity and heart disease, wondering where Mexico and the United States fall in the ratings of heart disease, so I went looking for statistics on heart disease to see what sort of correlation there was. That is where things got interesting. I googled it and clicked on the first two links. Both claimed to use the latest sources, both cited WHO, the World Health Organization, and yet they don’t have the same information. Part of this could be what filters they use, and that is part of the problem with statistics, they are endlessly maniple. The first site I went to worldlifeexpentancy.com, listed Turkmenistan as the number one country for coronary heart deaths, and Slovakia was way down on the list. The second site, nationmaster.com, listed Slovakia first, and Turkmenistan wasn’t even on their list. The initial article said that Japan was the slimmest country, and it was way down on both lists for heart disease, but not at the same point, and the number of deaths per million differed on the two lists.

I went to WHO’s website to try to find their original source, but either they don’t put it up there, or you can’t find it with a search engine. The closest I could get was a listing of CVD and diabetes. If anyone has a link to it, please put it in the comments, I would be interested.

Getting back to my original article, it raises some interesting points about the interpretation of facts:

According to a new report from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, the United States is no longer the world’s fattest developed nation―Mexico is.

The key word here is developed. Take that out, and you go from Mexico’s 32 % to :

The world’s fattest nation overall is Nauru, a South Pacific island where a staggering 71.1 percent of its 10,000 inhabitants are obese.

The U.N. report does not include data for American Samoa, which has been tabbed in the past as the world’s fattest country. According to a 2010 World Health Organization report, nearly all of that Pacific island’s inhabitants (95 percent) are considered overweight.

So one world makes a word of difference in what we are talking about. To quote Mark Twain again, “it’s the difference between lightning and a lightning bug”. There are many points to be made from this little exercise.

  • People are doing their best to study health and fitness, the shifting recommendations come from a variety of factors. A lot of smart people are spending a lot of time gathering data, and trying to come up with study designs that compensate for the flaws of previous ones.
  • After we’ve collected the data, It has to be analyzed, and that is fraught with hazards. That is where bias can wreak havoc.
  • Every word can count. What factors are included/excluded from the study?
  • News reporters just read the summaries, they don’t sift through the data to see if the summary is justified. A study might show a weak correlation between two things, and the news article may read “A causes B!”
  • Heart disease is affected by a lot more than just weight. The top countries for heart disease have high rates of smoking, and less health care.
  • The furthur you get from primary sources, the more corrupted the data.

It is hard to when the information changes over time, and it will. I don’t want anyone to get discouraged, just don’t put all your faith in one study, or get cynical when a study gets discredited.  It takes a whole lot of research to get any kind of picture of what is really going on.

Many of you may have heard about the link between omega 3’s and prostate cancer. The whole fish oil craze started with studying people who ate high amounts of cold water fish, and their lower risk of heart disease. They then took the fish into the laboratory to see what aspect of it was causing this. Once the oil was isolated, we then started to put it in a pill, for those who don’t like fish. We can’t study every aspect at once, so the prostate link wasn’t found right away. We are starting to see that even if there is one active compound in a food, it doesn’t seem to have the same effect once isolated that it appeared to have in the food.

The last point I’d like to make on this is that we will all die of something, at some point. All we can do is try to improve the quality of life until the end. No food will extend your life to extreme levels, and there are a variety of factors that influence health and life expectancy. Pills are not magic, and they all have side effects. You are far better off eating the best you can and not worrying about the rest. By the way, if you read that  link to the 2010 WHO report inside the quote I put in this article, it will dispell any doubts you may have about the link between diet and life expectancy.

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