Obesity in Canada

Yesterday, the Canadian Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology released their report on the state of obesity in Canada.

Included in that report is a series of 21 recommendations.

As a health/fitness/politics junkie, this report is like catnip to me, so I was pretty eager to get my grubby little paws on a copy.

Let’s take a look inside….

obesity in canada

The Cost of Obesity in Canada

The committee’s findings show the vast scope of this epidemic:

  • Each year 48,000 to 66,000 Canadians die from conditions linked to excess weight;
  • Nearly two thirds of adults and one third of children are obese or overweight; and
  • Obesity costs Canada between $4.6 billion and $7.1 billion annually in health care and lost productivity

In short: Canada’s obesity problem is way too big to be ignored

How did this happen???

1. Nutrition

In terms of eating habits, the committee was told that since the 1980s, Canadians have decreased their intake of high fat foods and increased intakes of fruits and vegetables, as recommended by the food guide. However, consumption of processed, ready-to-eat and snack foods have shown the largest increase over this period.

Over this period of time (80s – present), a review of Canada’s food guide reveals that Canadians have been told to switch…

  • from a diet of a modest number of daily servings reflecting a balance of whole foods
  • to a low fat diet that permits significantly more servings per day, a large proportion of which should be grain products, or carbohydrates.

The committee was told that, as a result, the food guide may be recommending a diet that is nutritionally insufficient with respect to vitamins D and E, potassium and choline and that only by eating artificially fortified and highly-processed cereals can the diet provide adequate levels of calcium, iron and vitamin B12

  • According to 2012 data only 40% of Canadians are eating even the lower recommended number of fruit and vegetables per day, 5 servings.
  • The food guide recommends that adults should be consuming closer to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

At the same time, Manuel Arango, of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, indicated that as much as 62% of the Canadian diet can be categorized as highly-processed, a percentage that has been rising in recent decades at the expense of whole foods.

As a consequence of the increased intake of highly processed foods, sugar consumption has increased dramatically from 4 pounds annually per person 200 years ago to 151 pounds annually per person today.

The overwhelming consensus among witnesses with respect to food consumption trends was that the consequence of Health Canada’s evolving food guide and the increasing variety and availability of processed and ready-to-eat foods has been a pronounced decrease in consumption of whole foods and alarming increase in the consumption of ultra-processed foods.

As a result, Canadians are eating too much calorie-rich and nutrient-poor food.

In short: Canadians eat too much processed food and not enough real food. 

2. Physical Activity (or lack thereof)

Regarding physical activity, the committee heard that the participation rate in organized sport among Canadians has not declined in recent decades, and may have increased. However, several witnesses emphasized that although participation in such activities is encouraged, it does not by itself ensure that Canadians, especially children, are getting sufficient exercise.

They described how many of these activities include a significant amount of sedentary time and that they tend to lead people into thinking that they are doing more than enough to be considered as being physically active. Members heard, for example, sports such as hockey, soccer or basketball include a lot of instruction time outside of games, and a lot of bench time during games, when participants are idle.

More importantly, several witnesses suggested that it is the decline in active, free play among children and a decline in the activities of daily living among adults that have primarily contributed to an overall decrease in physical activity.

In 2011 the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology  developed separate, evidence-based physical activity guidelines for four age-groups; children, adolescents, adults and seniors.

The physical activity guidelines recommend:

  • 180 minutes per day for toddlers and pre-schoolers,
  • 60 minutes a day for children and youth up to 17 years of age,
  • 150 minutes per week for adults aged 18-64 years including some bone and muscle strengthening exercises,
  • and similar guidance for seniors over 65 years with exercises aimed at improving balance and reducing the risk of falls.

In addition the guidelines recommend that:

  • children under four not be sedentary for more than one hour at a time.
  • Children and youth are advised to limit screen time to no more than two hours per day while limiting sedentary behaviour, indoor activities and motorized transport.

Unfortunately, a minority of Canadians are meeting these goals.

Although 50% of Canadians believe they meet the physical activity guidelines when asked, in fact, when objectively measured, only 15% of adults are actually getting the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

On average, Canadian adults obtain only 12 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per day.

Similarly, children and youth are largely failing to meet the recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise. According to Elio Antunes, President of ParticipACTION, less than 9% of children and youth are sufficiently active, and the proportion of active kids decreases with age.

The committee was told that only 7% of 5-11 years olds meet the physical activity guidelines and this proportion drops to only 4% for adolescents.

With respect to the sedentary guidelines, the committee heard that less than 15% of 3-4 year olds and only 24% of 5-17 year olds are meeting the recommendations.

In fact, members were told that children and youth are spending 38 to 42 hours per week in front of television, desktops, laptops, ipads and smartphones.

In short:  While we think we have increased our rates of physical activity via structured exercise (sports leagues, gym memberships, personal trainers, etc), we haven’t….our rates of daily physical activity continue to drop while our rates of sitting on our butts staring at screens have continued to rise.

To make it even worse, we are setting up our kids to be even lazier than we are.

So….what are we going to do about it???

In the discussions of what we can do to reverse the trend of obesity in Canada, participants kept coming back to Canada’s anti-smoking strategy.

Despite the obvious distinction that smoking is a completely unnecessary practice while eating is essential, witnesses noted several lessons that we have learned from the anti-smoking campaign:

  1. the anti-smoking strategy employed several different approaches implemented by different levels of government.
  2. the evidence-base of the negative health consequences had to be elucidated and presented clearly to Canadians.
  3. the strategy had to bring about a societal change in terms of how smoking was viewed.
  4. the change in behaviour would take time.
  5. the strategy would not be popular with the industry.
  6. and finally, the federal government provided the leadership for a pan-Canadian approach.

In their comparison of the anti-smoking strategy to any anti-obesity strategy, witnesses continued to emphasize the need for a comprehensive, health-in-all-policies, whole-of-society approach.

The committee was told that policies, wherever possible, should encourage or facilitate the pursuit of healthy lifestyles. In this regard, witnesses suggested that a health lens, should be applied to a range of policy development, across departments and across all levels of government. An effective all-of government platform would encourage the development of provincial and regional initiatives that promote healthy lifestyles. As such, the committee would like to see the federal government take aggressive measures to help Canadians achieve and maintain healthy weights.

In short:  While Canada’s successful anti-smoking strategy can serve as an effective model, we have to remember that obesity is a much more complex problem and as such requires a more comprehensive solution.

In that spirit, the “Obesity in Canada” Committee has come up with 21 suggestions for reversing Canada’s obesity problem.

Here’s the list….

Recommendation 1

The committee recommends that the federal government, in partnership with the provinces and territories and in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, create and implement a National Campaign to Combat Obesity which includes goals, timelines and annual progress reports.

@healthhabits says:  This is exactly the kind of thing government should be good at. Bringing all sorts of disparate stakeholders together to work together towards a common goal. IMHO, this is a necessary step.

Recommendation 2

The committee recommends that the federal government:

  • Immediately conduct a thorough assessment of the prohibition on advertising food to children in Quebec; and,
  • Design and implement a prohibition on the advertising of foods and beverages to children based on that assessment.

@healthhabits says:  Quebec has had a prohibition on the advertising of all food and beverages to children under the age of 13 under its Consumer Protection Act11 for many years. Studying the effectiveness of this program to determine if it should be rolled out nationwide makes sense to me.

Recommendation 3

The committee recommends that the federal government:

  • Assess the options for taxation levers with a view to implementing a new tax on sugar-sweetened as well as artificially-sweetened beverages; and,
  • Conduct a study, and report back to this committee by December 2016, on potential means of increasing the affordability of healthy foods including, but not limited to, the role of marketing boards, food subsidies and the removal or reduction of existing taxes.

@healthhabits says:  Skip the study and just go ahead and slap a tax on sugar-sweetened as well as artificially-sweetened beverages AND take ALL of that money and use it to subsidize un-processed (aka real) food

Recommendation 4

The committee further recommends that the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada immediately:

  • Address the recommendations made by the Auditor General with respect to the Nutrition North program and report back to this committee on its progress by December 2016

@healthhabits says:  Northern communities are much worse off in terms of overall nutrition and the cost of nutritious food in particular. Canada’s north is one giant food desert. As such, it may require special (aka expensive) intervention.

Recommendation 5

The committee further recommends that the federal government conduct assessments of the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit, the Working Income Tax Benefit and the Universal Child Care Benefit with a view to determining how fiscal measures could be used to help Canadians of lower socio-economic status, including our Aboriginal population, choose healthy lifestyle options.

@healthhabits says:  Skip the assessment, ditch the tax credits. They are designed to reward the well off & ignore the poor…which is just plain stupid as the poor are the ones driving Canada’s obesity epidemic. If we want to save healthcare & improve economic productivity, any physical activity incentives need to be directed primarily at the poor & secondarily at more affluent Canadians.

Recommendation 6

The committee recommends that the Minister of Health immediately undertake a complete revision of Canada’s food guide in order that it better reflect the current state of scientific evidence. The revised food guide must:

  • Be evidence-based;
  • Apply meal-based rather than nutrient-based principles;
  • Effectively and prominently describe the benefits of fresh, whole foods compared to refined grains, ready-to-eat meals and processed foods; and,
  • Make strong statements about restricting consumption of highly processed foods.

@healthhabits says:  All of these four recommendations sound great. 

Recommendation 7

The committee further recommends that the Minister of Health revise the food guide on the guidance of an advisory body which:

  • Comprises experts in relevant areas of study, including but not limited to nutrition, medicine, metabolism, biochemistry, and biology; and,
  • Does not include representatives of the food or agriculture industries.

@healthhabits says:  Agree 100%. Economic bias should not be allowed in Canada’s Food Guide…even if food lobbyists support an MPs re-election campaign.

Recommendation 8

The committee therefore recommends that the Minister of Health prohibit the use of partially hydrogenated oils, to minimize trans fat content in food, unless specifically permitted by regulation.

@healthhabits says:  Agree 100%

Recommendation 9

The committee further recommends that the Minister of Health:

  • Reassess the daily value applied to total carbohydrates based on emerging evidence regarding dietary fat and the fat promoting nature of carbohydrates;
  • Ensure that the regulatory proposals for serving size have addressed all of the concerns raised by stakeholders during public consultation, and,
  • Require that the daily intake value for protein be included in the Nutrition Facts table.

@healthhabits says:  Every few years, nutrition experts flip-flop their positions on the relative healthfullness of the different macronutrients. One decade, we are supposed to avoid fat…then it’s carbs…then it’s “too much” protein, then we’re back to fats…and so on…

My suggestion is to avoid making blanket statements on the healthfullness (or lack thereof) of any macronutrient.

There is nothing wrong with eating fat or carbs or protein.

The problems start when people:

  • start eating excessive quantities of overall calories
  • demonize a single macronutrient and replace it with a highly-processed substitution
  • choose poor quality highly-processed food over real food – fruit, veg, seeds, meat, etc.

With all of this said, I think that the consumer needs as much info about the quality of the food they are eating AND the gov’t can help them by requiring a total nutritional profile of every food product be made available on the company’s website

Recommendation 10

The committee further recommends that the Minister of Health assess whether sugar and starch should be combined under the heading of total carbohydrate within the Nutrition Facts table and report back to this committee by December 2016.

@healthhabits says:  Give us sugar totals, starch totals AND total carb totals.

Recommendation 11

The committee therefore recommends that the Minister of Health implement strict limits on the use of permitted health claims and nutrient content claims based on a measure of a food’s energy density relative to its total nutrient content.

@healthhabits says:  Agree 100%. I would also require any nutritional claims require scientific proof. Links to that science should be available from the products page on the company website. Make a claim…back it up.

Recommendation 12

The committee therefore recommends that the Minister of Health:

  • Immediately undertake a review of front-of-package labelling approaches that have been developed in other jurisdictions and identify the most effective one;
  • Report back to this committee on the results of the review by December 2016;
  • Amend the food regulations to mandate the use of the identified front-of-package approach on those foods that are required to display a Nutrition Facts table; and,
  • Encourage the use of this labelling scheme by food retailers and food service establishments on items not required to display a Nutrition Facts table.

@healthhabits says:  If you sell food in a package, you should be required to have a Nutrition Facts table as part of the packaging. As well, a website url pointing to a page with more complete nutrition info about the product should be included as well.

Recommendation 13

The committee therefore recommends that the Minister of Health encourage nutrition labelling on menus and menu boards in food service establishments.

@healthhabits says:  This is a little vague. How about something more specific like…calories, macronutrients, allergens listed in small print on the menu AND a more thorough nutritional analysis for each item on a separate booklet…and on their website as well.

Recommendation 14

The committee therefore recommends that the federal government increase funding to ParticipACTION to a level sufficient for the organization to:

  • Proceed with Active Canada 20/20; and
  • Become the national voice for Canada’s physical activity messaging.

@healthhabits says:  Based upon what I have seen from ParticipACTION in the past few years, I am not sure if giving them more money is the best idea. 

It may be simpler and more effective for Health Canada to hire the same PR flacks that put together Canada’s anti-smoking campaign and get them to focus on a “exercise more : play more : move more” style of message.

I’m not sure why we need ParticipACTION’s added layer of bureaucracy.

Why not…

  • hold a public contest for ad/pr/marketing firms to come up with their best message to get Canadian’s active again
  • have Canadians vote via the contest’s website/FB page/Twitter/etc
  • award the winner the contract
  • promote the heck out of the programs via internet, tv, radio and print.

And while we’re at it, why don’t we throw out a request to Canadian celebrities & athletes asking them to donate their time to film some short PSAs to add to the Health Canada Youtube channel.

Of course, I could be completely wrong about the fine folks who work for ParticipACTION. They may have exactly the kind of expertise to organize the kind of program needed to get Canadians active again.

Recommendation 15

The committee further recommends that the Minister of Health and the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities together use the recently established National Health and Fitness Day to promote the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines.

@healthhabits says:  I didn’t even know there was a National Health & Fitness Day. I guess that’s why they need the promotion.

Recommendation 16

The committee further recommends that the Public Health Agency of Canada provide sustained or bridged funding for pilot projects that have been assessed as effective.

@healthhabits says:  Hmmmmmmm who’s making the assessments? And what happens when they haven’t be PROVEN effective after a year or two of government $$$$ in their bank accounts?

Recommendation 17

The committee further recommends that the Minister of Health in discussion with provincial and territorial counterparts as well as non-governmental organizations already engaged in these initiatives:

  • Encourage improved training for physicians regarding diet and physical activity; • Promote the use of physician counselling, including the use of prescriptions for exercise;
  • Bridge the gap between exercise professionals and the medical community by preparing and promoting qualified exercise professionals as a valuable part of the healthcare system and healthcare team;
  • Address vulnerable populations, such as Canadians of lower socio-economic status including Canada’s Aboriginal population, and pregnant women;
  • Advocate for childcare facility and school programs related to breakfast and lunch programs, improved physical education, physical activity and nutrition literacy courses; and,
  • Engage provincial governments in discussions about infrastructure requirements for communities that encourage active transportation and active play.

@healthhabits says:  All of the suggestions sound great…and yet they are couched in the kind of government bureaucracy speak that makes me lose all confidence. Can we please get a little less talk about what we want to do and a little more talk about how we’re going to do it!!!

Recommendation 18

The committee further recommends that the federal government provide funding under the New Building Canada Fund to communities for infrastructure that enables, facilitates and encourages an active lifestyle, both indoors and outdoors.

@healthhabits says:  If that means more walking paths, more bike paths and more walkable neighbourhoods…I am on board. If that means funding for arenas & pools…I have to disagree. We need to keep a focus on the cost : benefit ratio. Tax dollars don’t grow on trees.

Recommendation 19

The committee therefore recommends that the Public Health Agency of Canada implement a strategy to increase the visibility, uptake and use of the Best Practices Portal by stakeholders across the country.

@healthhabits says:  Never heard of the Best Practices Portal. At first glance, it seems a little meh, but the idea is solid. Give Canada’s docs a dedicated site to source info on reducing obesity & related diseases seems like a great idea.

Recommendation 20

The committee therefore recommends that Health Canada design and implement a public awareness campaign on healthy eating based on tested, simple messaging. These messages should relate to, but not be limited to:

  • Most of the healthiest food doesn’t require a label;
  • Meal preparation and enjoyment;
  • Reduced consumption of processed foods; and,
  • The link between poor diet and chronic disease.

@healthhabits says:  See my comments on funding ParticipACTION above. We don’t need multiple groups coming up with different public awareness campaigns. Have a contest, using the Canadian people as judges, ask Canadian celebrities & athletes for assistance

As well, bring back Home Ec in school.

Recommendation 21

The committee further recommends that Health Canada and other relevant departments and agencies, together with existing expertise and trusted organizations, implement a comprehensive public awareness campaign on healthy active lifestyles.

@healthhabits says:  See above….physical activity, diet and healthy active lifestyles should all be promoted AT THE SAME TIME.

 

What do you think???

Hit me up on Twitter or Facebook if you want to discuss.

canada is the worlds fittest country

Reference

Like this article???

If you like this article, don’t forget to subscribe to @healthhabits. When you subscribe, my friends at MailChimp will make sure to send you an email every time I post something new here at the blog.

As well, you also get access to the series of Supplement Reports that I am publishing this year.

button subscribe

 

Research Proves Junk Food Advertising Causes Childhood Obesity

Back in the “olden days”, tobacco companies created marketing campaigns like this…

children_49

…and this…

young_35

…and this…

young_07

…in an attempt to make their product seem healthy, family-friendly and to CAPTURE THE YOUTH MARKET.

Because they knew that:

  1. Kids are more susceptible to marketing than adults
  2. People who start smoking as kids are likely to be life-long smokers
  3. Targeting children is the most effective business strategy

“Younger adults are the only sources of replacement smokers” – RJ Reynolds, 1984

“Today’s teenager is tomorrow’s potential regular customer, and the overwhelming majority of smokers first begin to smoke while still in their teens… The smoking patterns of teenagers are particularly important to Philip Morris.” – Philip Morris 1981

“The ability to attract new smokers and develop them into a young adult franchise is key to brand development.” – 1999 Philip Morris report

“They got lips? We want them.” – Reply of an RJ Reynolds representative when asked the age of the kids they were targeting

But of course, that happened way back in the olden days, before we got smart and told tobacco companies to stop giving our kids cancer. Nowadays, we would never let an industry knowingly make profits by making our kids sick….would we?

fat-kid-eating-chips-watching-tv

According to this meta-analysis of all of the available scientific research, we know for a fact that unhealthy food advertising does increase unhealthy food intake in children…but not in adults.

And IMHO, that’s because children are children and lack the awareness & experience to resist the siren call of Madison Ave mind control.

According to lead researcher Dr Emma Boyland : “Through our analysis of these published studies I have shown that food advertising doesn’t just affect brand preference – it drives consumption. Given that almost all children in Westernised societies are exposed to large amounts of unhealthy food advertising on a daily basis this is a real concern.

“Small, but cumulative increases in energy intake have resulted in the current global childhood obesity epidemic and food marketing plays a critical role in this. We have also shown that the effects are not confined to TV advertising; online marketing by food and beverage brands is now well established and has a similar impact.

“On the basis of these findings, recommendations for enacting environmental strategies and policy options to reduce children’s exposure to food advertising are evidence-based and warranted.”

And just in case anyone is confused about the health effects of childhood obesity, here’s what the CDC has to say:

Health Effects of Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term effects on health and well-being.

Immediate health effects:

  • Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
  • Obese adolescents are more likely to have prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes.
  • Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.

Long-term health effects:

  • Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.6  One study showed that children who became obese as early as age 2 were more likely to be obese as adults.
  • Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

What does this mean to you?

 

  • Advertisers used to market tobacco to children
  • When enough parents were convinced that tobacco was bad for their kids, they demanded (via gov’t) that advertising tobacco to kids be stopped immediately.
  • Today, advertisers market processed junk food to children
  • Some of us (me, you, World Health Organization, CDC, American Psychological Association, etc) are convinced that (1) processed junk food is bad for our kids and (2) our kids are susceptible to junk food advertising.

Unfortunately, not enough parents are convinced…and until they are, their kids are at a higher risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer,  osteoarthritis, and many types of cancer including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

What can we do?

Thanks to the wonders of social media & the interweb, all you need to do is share this article on Facebook and Twitter.

All we need is one @KimKardashian retweet and those corporate childhood obesity peddlers are screwed  🙂

Reference

 

Like this article???

If you like this article, don’t forget to subscribe to @healthhabits. When you subscribe, my friends at MailChimp will make sure to send you an email every time I post something new here at the blog.

As well, you also get access to the series of Supplement Reports that I am publishing this year.

button subscribe

Childhood Obesity Rates Ballooning All Around the World

Around the world, 41 million children under the age of 5 are obese or overweight according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And since 1990, the number of obese or overweight children around the world has grown by 10,000,000.

As if that wasn’t bad enough….the majority of that expansion has happened in developing countries…countries with fewer financial resources to help reverse this trend.

Why is this happening?

According to the WHO, the explosion in obesity rates of childhood obesity in developing countries is due to globalization and urbanization.

Or in other words…we took one of the crappiest parts of our society and spread it all around the world. Yay us.

fat_kid

 

Specifically, the WHO identifies the marketing & consumption of processed food and drinks factor responsible for the increase in global childhood obesity.

The report said that the global childhood obesity epidemic had the potential to reverse many recent health gains made across the globe and called on governments to address what it called a major health challenge.

“WHO needs to work with governments to implement a wide range of measures that address the environmental causes of obesity and overweight, and help give children the healthy start to life they deserve,” said Peter Gluckman, ECHO co-chair.

Among its recommendations, the WHO said governments should:

  • promote healthy foods,
  • promote increased physical activity and
  • promote healthy school environments

 

echo-info870

6711048845918208

6500368519790592

5834473938092032

6715391762497536.png

6554478229061632

4569145065078784.png

WHO Conclusions

The greatest obstacle to effective progress on reducing childhood obesity is a lack of political commitment and a failure of governments and other actors to take ownership, leadership and necessary actions.

Governments must invest in robust monitoring and accountability systems to track the prevalence of childhood obesity. These systems are vital in providing data for policy development and in offering evidence of the impact and effectiveness of interventions.

The Commission would like to stress the importance and necessity of tackling the complex issue of childhood obesity. WHO, international organizations and their Member States, as well as non-State actors, all have a critical role to play in harnessing momentum and ensuring that all sectors remain committed to working together to reach a positive conclusion.

My Conclusions

The WHO has identified a series global health issue, but like the carpenter who thinks that the solution to every problem is a hammer and a nail, the WHO is suffering from a great big case of confirmation bias.

While I agree that all the groups listed above have a responsibility to do their part in reducing global childhood obesity, the WHO neglects to hold PARENTS responsible for their part in this cluster-fudge.

As the father of an almost-one-year-old baby girl, I am royally pissed off that she will be inundated with messages 24-7 that the consumption of junk food is essential to living a happy life full of fun & friendship.

And I’m also not happy that quasi-governmental bodies allow industry to help develop the official government endorsed “health-eating plans.”

And don’t even get me started on CEOs that put short-term bumps in share price over the health of the children who consume their food products. Companies are made up of people…and if those people don’t care about my kid, I have no problems using social media to publicly shame them and encourage parents to make healthier choices.

Okay…that’s enough ranting for today.

If you can spare 5 seconds, please RT or share this article via Facebook 

Reference

Like this article???

If you like this article, don’t forget to subscribe to @healthhabits. When you subscribe, my friends at MailChimp will make sure to send you an email every time I post something new here at the blog.

As well, you also get access to the series of Supplement Reports that I am publishing this year.

button subscribe

Researchers Find a Link Between Excess Dietary Sugar and Breast Cancer

 

Researchers at the University of Texas – MD Anderson Cancer Center have found an alarming link between high amounts of dietary sugar and an increased risk of breast cancer and metastasis to the lungs.

And we’re not talking crazy-no-one-would-ever-eat-that-much-sugar levels of sugar consumption

In the study, the researchers found that lab mice who ate sucrose (table sugar) comparable to levels of the typical Western diet showed increased tumor growth and metastasis.

Previous research have shown this link between dietary sugar consumption and breast cancer development…with inflammation thought to be the cause.

In this new study, the researchers were able to identify sugar’s effect on enzymatic signaling pathway known as 12-LOX and a related fatty-acid called 12-HETE which is causing the cancer growth.

“The current study investigated the impact of dietary sugar on mammary gland tumor development in multiple mouse models, along with mechanisms that may be involved,” said co-author Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor of Palliative, Rehabilitation, and Integrative Medicine. “We determined that it was specifically fructose, in table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, ubiquitous within our food system, which was responsible for facilitating lung metastasis and 12-HETE production in breast tumors.”

Cohen added that the data suggested that dietary sugar induces 12-LOX signaling to increase risks for breast cancer development and metastasis.

What does this mean to you?

  1. This science is brand new, so there is no need to freak out and ban all sugar from your home.
  2. Even though it’s early days for this research, we have seen other studies linking excess sugar consumption and cancer, so while you probably don’t need to purge all sugar from your diet, it may be a good idea to at least limit your sugar consumption.
  3. Maybe avoid the Breast Cancer Sugar Cookies.

Reference

Like this article???

If you like this article, don’t forget to subscribe to @healthhabits. When you subscribe, my friends at MailChimp will make sure to send you an email every time I post something new here at the blog.

As well, you also get access to the series of Supplement Reports that I am publishing this year.

button subscribe

“Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon”

According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, “eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon.”

As news of this research spread around the web, Vegans reacted like this….

tumblr_lbvabxXijT1qbi71b

But wait…before everyone flips out…

Let’s take a closer look at the study

In this study, the Carnegie Mellon researchers were investigating how three different USDA-esque weight loss plans would impact the environment.

Here are the three diet plans

  1. Reducing caloric intake to achieve “normal” weight without shifting food mix…aka same diet as before, just less of it.
  2. Switching food mix to USDA recommended food patterns without reducing calories…aka “healthy” diet, same calories as before
  3. Reducing calories & switching to USDA recommended food patterns…aka “healthy diet” AND fewer calories

How did they measure the environmental impact?

To compare the three diets, the researchers calculated how…

  • growing,
  • processing,
  • shipping,
  • selling
  • and storing all the foods consumed in the three diets

…impacted energy use, blue water footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.

They crunched all that data to arrive at a series of environmental impact scores (energy, blue water, GHG) per kcal for each food.

From there, they calculated the overall energy, blue water & GHG scores for each of the three diets

Their findings?

Dietary Recommendation #1 resulted in a decrease in energy use, blue water footprint and GG emissions by approximately 9%.

Which makes sense…2000 calories of pizza is going to use less energy than 3000 calories of pizza.

Dietary Recommendation #2 increased energy use by 43%, increased blue water footprint by 16% and increased GHG emissions by 9%

The data showed that eating more fruits, vegetables, dairy & seafood bumped up the global footprint because of their relatively higher resource use and emissions per Calorie.

Even when the researchers dropped the caloric intake of the healthy food for Dietary Recommendation #3, they still saw an increase in energy use of 38%, an increase in blue water footprint of 10% and an increase in GHG emissions of 6%

And that’s where we get our headline…“Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon”

bacon

Even if you starve yourself on healthy food, you are harming the environment more than if you ate the standard American diet of grains & processed food.

This can’t be true, can it?

Yup…it’s true. But here’s why.

Our current food production system is geared towards producing the food most of us eat…processed grains and cheap fats & protein.

We are incredibly efficient at producing crap food. 

From farm to table, our mainstream food infrastructure is an amazing artificial organism.

Conversely, our infrastructure for healthy food is a joke in comparison. Small-scale healthy food producers give us amazing foodstuffs, but at a per-unit cost (financial & environmental) far in excess of their mainstream competitors.

If our healthy food producers had the infrastructure of our less-than-healthy food producers, they would match them for price & crush them in terms of environmental impact.

But they don’t and as a result, we are left comparing apples & oranges.

karl_smile

So cheer up my vegan brothers & sisters. And keep eating your fruits & veggies.

As more and more “normal” people start eating healthier, the financial & environmental costs of healthy food will drop.

Reference

Like this article?

Subscribe to @healthhabits and my friends at Mail Chimp will make sure that every time I scribble an article for @healthhabits, it will end up in your email inbox.

In addition to the articles, I will be writing a series of Special Reports this year exclusively for @healthhabits subscribers.

Subscribe now and make sure you don’t miss out.

button subscribe

Restaurant Revolution: When Healthier Menus = Healthier Profits & Healthier Kids

In April 2012, Silver DIner, a full-service family restaurant chain with 15 locations in Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey, made three major changes to its children’s menu in order to make healthier items easier to choose.

  • Meals were re-designed to meet or exceed nutrition standards set by the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program (59%, compared to 22% before the changes).
  • Healthy side dishes became the default choice – strawberries, mixed vegetables, or side salads–were automatically included with all kids’ meals by default.
  • And less-healthy choices such as french fries, soda and lemonade were removed from the menu.

NOTE: Fries and soda were still available…upon request.

What Happened Next?

  • Children’s meal prices increased by $0.79 for breakfasts and $0.19 for non-breakfast meals.
  • Restaurant revenue increased with yearly percent change as follows:
  • 2008-2009: +1.5%,
  • 2009-2010: −2.1%,
  • 2010-2011: +11.1%,
  • 2011-2012: +5.1%,
  • and 2012-2013: +5.1%.
  • Orders of healthy meals, strawberry and vegetable sides, milk, and juice increased
  • Orders of French fries, desserts and soda decreased
  • Total calories ordered by children decreased (684 kcal pre vs. 621 kcal post)
  • Except for the kids who requested un-healthy choices (935.0 pre vs. 942.9 post)

4829930123689984

5240489134522368

Conclusions

  1. Chain restaurants can create healthier menus without alienating their ‘non-health-food’ patrons,
  2. Kids will eat healthier restaurant meals when menus are designed correctly,
  3. Chain restaurants can increase profits by making their menus healthier

Where do we go from here?

  • If I was a restaurant owner, I would consider taking a look at the Silver Diner kids menu and use it as a template for re-working my own kids menu
  • If I was a restaurant owner, I would consider applying the same menu format for the main menu as well
  • As a parent, I am going to send a link to this article to the restaurants I frequent most often. The number of obese children in our society is truly horrendous and we all need to pitch in to reverse this trend.

Please Help

Most people will never hear about this article, this research, this restaurant.

Please help by tweeting, sharing, pinning, tumbling, stumbling, etc.

Reference

Like this article?

Subscribe to @healthhabits and my friends at Mail Chimp will make sure that every time I scribble an article for @healthhabits, it will end up in your email inbox.

In addition to the articles, I will be writing a series of Special Reports this year exclusively for @healthhabits subscribers.

Subscribe now and make sure you don’t miss out.

button subscribe

Warning Labels on Sugary Drinks – good idea, bad idea???

Last Friday, California’s State Senate Appropriations Committee voted (5-2) to pass a measure requiring distributors of bottled or canned sugary drinks to put a warning label on their beverage container.

SB1000 would require a warning label to be placed on the front of all beverage containers with added sweeteners that have 75 or more calories in every 12 ounces.

Not too surprisingly, America’s soda pop producers were not amused. The California Beverage Association issued the following statement.

“We agree that obesity is a serious and complex issue,” the group said in a statement, calling the proposed bill “misleading” claiming that “just 6 percent of calories in the average American’s diet come from soda, fruit, sports and energy drinks, compared with 11 percent in sweets and deserts. Moreover, it said most calories are consumed in the form of fats, oils and starches in food”.

Translation: We agree that our product is crap and directly contributes to obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, heart disease and cancer, but…we’re not as bad as the guys who sell candy bars, potato chips, pizza, etc.

What happens next?

  • SB1000 requires a majority vote of the full Senate before it can become law. That vote is scheduled to occur in the next two weeks. In the meantime…
  • Supporters of the bill (California Medical Association, California Center for Public Health Advocacy, the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, the California Black Health Network and supporting Senators) will issue public statements supporting the bill and it’s health & financial benefits.
  • Critics of the bill (California Beverage Association) will defend their position on health promotion, question the effectiveness of warning labels and raise the issue of potential job losses due to the cost associated with placing warning labels on their products.

Will the Bill become Law?

Who knows?  Going up against the processed food industry is no easy task. Pepsico and Coca Cola have lobbied and defeated previous labelling and “soda tax” bills in states across the nation.

Still, proponents of the bill are hopeful. California’s Democrats hold a super-majority in the Legislature and are traditionally more supportive of this type of motion.

Will the Warning Labels Have Any Effect?

Once again…who knows?

In a recent study,  researchers concluded that if the USA had adopted cigarette package warning labels in 2012 (when Canada enacted tobacco labelling legislation), the number of adult smokers in the USA would have decreased by 5.3–8.6 million by 2013….meaning that there would have been 5.3–8.6 million Americans with a reduced chance of dying from lung cancer.

Health warnings on cigarette packages saved lives in Canada and would have saved lives in the U.S. of A. And that sounds like a pretty darn good return on investment.

So….is it really such a jump in logic to assume that health warnings on sugary drinks would also reduce consumption of said sugary drinks…thereby improving American rates of insulin resistance, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, cancer???

Are all Warning Labels equally effective?

After looking at Canada’s gnarly anti-smoking images, I started wondering if California’s proposed sugary drink warning label….

…will be as effective?

Warning Labels on Sugary Drinks

Will a text-based warning be as effective as pictures of cancerous lungs and impotent cigarettes?

Methinks that California’s legislators need to go back to ye olde Photoshop drawing board and bedazzle their warning labels.

Let’s see if we can come up with something better

Warning Labels on Sugary Drinks

Nothing like a little parental awareness (guilt?) to help spark better shopping habits.

Somehow, I doubt that Pepsi will re-work their logo to create this custom sugary drink warning label.

If morbid obesity isn’t a strong enough warning, how about neuropathic foot ulcers and leg amputations???

obesity-warning-fruit-juice

There is nothing like a juice box full of chemicals & high fructose corn syrup to show that you don’t give a shit about your kid.

What do YOU think?

  • Are warning labels on sugary drinks a good idea?
  • Is a text-only label as effective as labels with scary pictures?
  • Can you come up with any better labels?
  • Would you like to see these labels where you live?
  • If so, would you be willing to email your gov’t representative RIGHT NOW and tell them that you want warning labels on sugary drinks?

Reference

Like this article?

Subscribe to @healthhabits and my friends at Mail Chimp will make sure that every time I scribble an article for @healthhabits, it will end up in your email inbox.

In addition to the articles, I will be writing a series of Special Reports this year exclusively for @healthhabits subscribers.

Subscribe now and make sure you don’t miss out.

button subscribe

Junk Food and the Free Market

I wrote an article today for the Medium.com site. Here’s a little taste to whet your whistle. Click through if you want to read the whole enchilada.

An article in today’s Daily Beast (How Washington Dooms Millions of Americans to Premature Death by Nicholas Freudenberggot my brain spinning about food, obesity, junk food, diabetes, the free market, corporate responsibility, politics, personal responsibility and how all this ‘stuff’ has come together to create an epidemic of lifestyle disease.

In his article, NF brings up a number of interesting facts:

  1. Chronic diseases cause 7 out of every 10 deaths in the United States
  2. 49% of Americans have one or more chronic diseases.
  3. In the United States, tobacco, alcohol and diet cause more than 1.2 million annual premature deaths from heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and other conditions.
  4. Chronic diseases account for $3 of every $4 spent on healthcare—about $1.5 trillion annually in the US of A.

So, how is it, that with all of this available data, the US spends less than 10% of total healthcare funding on health promotion / disease prevention?

  • Is it because public health campaigns don’t work?

Nope….while cases of diabetes have increased 176% in the last 30 years, it is estimated that 8 million ‘premature deaths’ have been prevented thanks to anti-smoking PSAs combined with increased taxes on tobacco products.

Public health campaigns can work…if they are well designed, well funded and receive government support.

So why isn’t that happening?

To find out the answer to that cliffhanger of a question, click through to the full article on Medium.com

Like this article?

Subscribe to @healthhabits and my friends at Mail Chimp will make sure that every time I scribble an article for @healthhabits, it will end up in your email inbox.

In addition to the articles, I will be writing a series of Special Reports this year exclusively for @healthhabits subscribers.

Subscribe now and make sure you don’t miss out.

button subscribe

How is it possible that Americans are living shorter lives with poorer health than the rest of the “rich” countries???

The United States of America spends more money on healthcare than any other country in the world. And yet, Americans have a lower life expectancy and higher rates of disease and injury than almost all other high-income countries.

  • How is it possible that Americans are living shorter lives with poorer health than the rest of the “rich” countries???
  • And why is it happening?

The Data

When compared with the average for peer countries, the United States fares worse in nine health domains:

1. Adverse birth outcomes

For decades, the United States has experienced the highest infant mortality rate of high-income countries and also ranks poorly on other birth outcomes, such as low birth weight. American children are less likely to live to age 5 than children in other high-income countries.

  • Infant mortality

infant-mortality-rate

How is it possible that almost 3x as many babies die in the US than in Sweden?

2. Injuries and homicides

Deaths from motor vehicle crashes, non-transportation-related injuries, and violence occur at much higher rates in the United States than in other countries and are a leading cause of death in children, adolescents, and young adults. Since the 1950s, U.S. adolescents and young adults have died at higher rates from traffic accidents and homicide than their counterparts in other countries.

  • Deaths from traffic accidents

traffic-mortality

  • Violent deaths

violent-death-usa

Hmmmmm, American boys dying violent deaths…I wonder what could be causing that?

3. Adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections

Since the 1990s, among high-income countries, U.S. adolescents have had the highest rate of pregnancies and are more likely to acquire sexually transmitted infections.

  • Adolescent birth rate

birth-rate

The boys are dying violent deaths, the girls are getting knocked up and everyone is getting sexually transmitted infections. Well done.

4. HIV and AIDS

The United States has the second highest prevalence of HIV infection among the 17 peer countries and the highest incidence of AIDS.

No surprise considering the high rate of sexually transmitted infections. 

5. Drug-related mortality

Americans lose more years of life to alcohol and other drugs than people in peer countries, even when deaths from drunk driving are excluded.

This might explain all the pregnancies and STIs.

6. Obesity and diabetes

For decades, the United States has had the highest obesity rate among high-income countries. High prevalence rates for obesity are seen in U.S. children and in every age group thereafter. From age 20 onward, U.S. adults have among the highest prevalence rates of diabetes (and high plasma glucose levels) among peer countries.

childhood-obesity-by-countr

Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and a whole bunch more lifestyle related medical conditions are driving America’s medical costs up and up year after year.

7. Heart disease

The U.S. death rate from ischemic heart disease is the second highest among the 17 peer countries. Americans reach age 50 with a less favorable cardiovascular risk profile than their peers in Europe, and adults over age 50 are more likely to develop and die from cardiovascular disease than are older adults in other high-income countries.

Hmmmmmmm, the home of McDonalds and Coca-Cola has the second highest rate of ischemic heart disease amongst their peer countries. Quel surprise.

8. Chronic lung disease

Lung disease is more prevalent and associated with higher mortality in the United States than in the United Kingdom and other European countries.

9. Disability

Older U.S. adults report a higher prevalence of arthritis and activity limitations than their counterparts in the United Kingdom, other European countries, and Japan.

NOTE #1 – Looking at all of these problems which cause Americans to live shorter lives with poorer health than the rest of the world’s “rich” countries, I keep seeing the same root problem. POOR LIFESTYLE CHOICES

  • Poor diet – quantity & quality
  • Inactivity
  • Violent culture + easy access to guns
  • Unprotected sex
  • High rates of drug & alcohol abuse

NOTE #2If you want all the details on this research, head over to the National Acadamies Press and download a free pdf copy of the report 

Like this article???

If you like this article, don’t forget to subscribe to @healthhabits. When you subscribe, my friends at MailChimp will make sure to send you an email every time I post something new here at the blog.

As well, you also get access to the series of Supplement Reports that I am publishing this year.

button subscribe

Health Food Makers Spending Billions To Keep You From Knowing GMOs Are In Your Food

In California, there is a ballot initiative – officially known as Proposition 37 – which is coming up for vote on November 6.

Proposition 37 will require labeling of genetically engineered / modified foods, and end the routine industry practice of labeling and marketing such foods as “natural.”

[box type=”important”]If there are GMOs in your food, companies will have to make this clear on their packaging.[/box]

Unfortunately, not all of America’s food producers want you to know if there are GMOs in your food. And from a financial standpoint, I can understand why companies like Monsanto are trying to block Prop 37. They have a lot of money invested in producing GMOs and they don’t want the public’s negative opinion of GMOs to hurt their profits.

What really pisses me off is when I find out that America’s major health food brands…

These organic and “natural” traitor companies and brands include: Kellogg’s (Kashi, Bear Naked, Morningstar Farms); General Mills (Muir Glen, Cascadian Farm, Larabar); Dean Foods (Horizon, Silk, White Wave); Smucker’s (R.W. Knudsen, Santa Cruz Organic); Coca-Cola (Honest Tea, Odwalla); Safeway (“O” Organics); Kraft (Boca Burgers and Back to Nature); Con-Agra (Orville Redenbacher’s Organic, Hunt’s Organic, Lightlife); and PepsiCo (Naked Juice, Tostito’s Organic, Tropicana Organic).

…are donating money through their parent companies to block Prop 37

It’s kinda disgusting when brands who make their money promoting HEALTH want to deny their customers the right to make healthy and informed food choices.

Reference

Does Big Food Need To Be Regulated?

Kelly Brownell, director of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity has picked a fight with America’s food industry.

In an article commissioned for the PLoS Medicine series on Big Food, Brownell said that working collaboratively with the food industry to improve America’s health is a mistake and a trap. Like other industries, Big Food has an obligation to it’s shareholders to sell more products and make more money irrespective of the impact upon consumers.

“Government, foundations, and other powerful institutions should be working for regulation, not collaboration”.

Brownell believes that:

  • Big Food is attempting to improve their image by making small contributions to public health (donations, public-private partnerships, “healthy eating” campaigns, etc) while “it fights viciously against meaningful change (such as limits on marketing, taxes on products such as sugared beverages, and regulation of nutritional labeling)”.
  • For example, the soft drink industry gave the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia a US$10 million gift at the same time that the city of Philadelphia was considering a soda tax. “Such public-sector interaction with industry could be predicted to undermine public health goals and protect industry interests”.
  • He also cites the organized defense against soda taxes, the lobbying of congress to avoid restriction of junk food advertising to children under the age of 12, and the unbelievably huge amount of money being spent on marketing to pre-teens while simultaneously claiming to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthy lifestyles.

Brownell argues that while America’s food industry has introduced healthier food options, they have not promised to sell less junk food.

“Quite the contrary; they now offer ever larger burgers and portions, introduce ever more categories of sugared beverages (sports drinks, energy drinks, and vitamin waters), find ever more creative ways of marketing foods to vulnerable populations (e.g., children), and increasingly engage in promotion of unhealthy foods in developing countries.”

Brownell’s Solution?

Brownell argues that:

  1. Big Food can’t be trusted with our health, and
  2. When industry can’t be trusted to do the “right thing” the American government has a responsibility to step in and regulate change

He cites 3 historical examples.

  1. Tobacco industry regulation
  2. The elimination of financial regulation that led to the sub-prime meltdown and resultant global recession.
  3. Automotive industry regulation – seat belts, airbags, etc

Brownell believes that without government intervention/regulation, the food industry’s drive for increasing profits will lead to a continuing increasing of American obesity and a continuing degradation of American health.

So….what sayest thou?

  • Does Big Food need to be regulated?
  • If so, how?
  • If not, why?
  • And if you say that government regulation/oversight is a form of socialism, you will also need to explain to me why we have public military, fire departments & police departments.

Reference

Are Overprotective Parents the Cause of Childhood Obesity?

Back in the olden days (the 1980s), me and my friends would race home from school, dump our schoolbags in our rooms, shove some leftovers down our gullets and run back outside to play road hockey (or baseball, football, etc) until…

  • it became too dark to see
  • or our Moms dragged us back inside for dinner & homework

Fast forward to 2012…

  • 46% of Canadian kids get 3 hours or less of active play per week
  • Only 35% of Canadian kids walk or ride their bikes to school
  • The average Canadian kid gets 7 hours and 48 minutes of screen time every day
  • As a result, Canadian kids spend 63% of their free time being sedentary
  • And they’re even less active on weekends than on school days

And according to Active Healthy Kids Canada, “two of the major barriers to regular, active play in Canadian kids are screen time and parental safety concerns. In combination, these societal realities force children and youth into highly-controlled environments, where they have little opportunity to let loose and just play“.

Play…like we all did back in the good old days…before the world became a scary place and we needed to start bubble-wrapping our kids to keep them safe.

Fifty-eight per cent of Canadian parents say they are very concerned about keeping their children safe and feel they “have to be over-protective of them in this world.” Safety concerns, whether or not they are founded, such as crime, traffic, neighbourhood danger, outdoor darkness and lack of supervision, discourage parents from letting their children and teens play outdoors.

And as a result, our precious little bundles of joy are fat and borderline diabetic.

NoteWhile this data is Canadian, I’m willing to bet that it isn’t unique to Canada.

Reference

Like this article???

If you like this article, don’t forget to subscribe to @healthhabits. When you subscribe, my friends at MailChimp will make sure to send you an email every time I post something new here at the blog.

As well, you also get access to the series of Supplement Reports that I am publishing this year.

button subscribe

exercise-is-medicine-health-fitness-healthhabits-

Exercise Is Medicine

I am a big believer in the power of social media as a tool to share information, affect public opinion and empower the little guy.

I am also a big believer in the power of daily exercise as a tool to keep you healthy, fit and looking super-sexy.

To that end, I would like to suggest that we all begin using the hashtag #ExerciseIsMedicine whenever we’re tweeting or re-tweeting a story about exercise.

Thanks in advance.

Doug 

Would you vote for a Ban on Junk Food Advertising aimed at kids under 13?

I think that a ban / restriction is a good idea…in theory.

  • Advertisers would be free to continue to market to everyone over the age of 13
  • Childhood obesity is a growing problem around the world
  • Junk food is called junk food for a reason – it’s junk. And it contributes to making our kids fat, diabetic & lazy.
  • We already ban advertisers from targeting children from cigarette & alcohol.

Obviously, the biggest argument against this act is going to be the cry of “Nanny State”.

And while I agree that government at all levels need to be reminded periodically that their job is to serve the public and not attempt to control or re-engineer the public, we should also remember that the job of advertisers, marketers and manufacturers is to sell products & services to the public.

They have no responsibility to care for the health of our kids.

That’s the job of family.

And when Ontario’s families wanted to stop advertisers from targeting their kids with ads for booze & smokes, they used government legislation to ban the practice.

Which Health Care System Is The Best?

Today, we’re going to take a brief macroeconomic look at healthcare systems around the world.

COST

BENEFIT

COST

BENEFIT

So, what can we learn from these colorful charts?

Well, we could learn that the U.S. health care system (pre 2008), was

  1. The most expensive, and
  2. Also one of the worst as it pertains to life expectancy and potential years of life lost.

We could also learn that countries with public health care systems can simultaneously achieve high life expectancy rates with relatively low health costs.

We could learn those things.

However, we could also recognize that these charts don’t tell the complete story…and that there are a bazillion different factors that influence health & life expectancy.

And maybe we should remember that the next time we get into a debate/argument over health care.

The answer isn’t as simple as the political pundits make it out to be.

http://cloudfront.mediamatters.org/static/flash/player.swf

(h/t Media Matters)

.

Genetics Isn't Destiny

  • You’re 20 pounds overweight.
  • You have been trying to lose that weight for years and years.
  • Not matter how hard you try, the weight just won’t come off.

Sound familiar?

Maybe it’s your genetics?

In the last few years, study after study has have linked genetics to obesity. Here are just a few of the studies:

And here’s the latest scientific gem:

In this latest study, scientists from the University of maryland looked at the common FTO (fat mass and obesity associated) gene variants that have recently been associated with high Body Mass Index (BMI) and obesity in several large studies.

Specifically, they investigated the effect that physical activity can have in those people born with the FTO gene variant.

Can Exercise Trump Genetics?

A little background on the FTO gene variant:

  • Carriers of this gene variant are more likely to be obese.
  • In fact, people with two copies of the FTO variant are on average 7 pounds heavier and 67 percent more likely to be obese than those who don’t have it.
  • Carriers also have higher rates of type 2 Diabetes.
  • The International HapMap Project estimates the number of FTO carriers as:
  • 45% in the West/Central Europeans population
  • 52% in Yorubans (West African natives) population
  • 14% in Chinese/Japanese population

The Study

Researchers looked at a population of Old Order Amish in conducting this study.

The Amish were used because:

  • Their day to day activities provide a high level of physical exercise. This is due to the fact that the Amish don’t drive cars or have electricity in their homes, eschewing many of the trappings of modern life. Most Amish men are farmers or work in physically demanding occupations such as blacksmithing or carpentry. Women are homemakers who work without the aid of modern appliances and often care for many children.

The researchers tested the particpants for:

  • The presence of the FTO gene variant
  • Their BMI scores
  • Their levels of physical activity

The participants’ activity levels were measured with the aid of accelerometers, worn on the participants’ hips.

The researchers gathered measurements of their physical activity over seven consecutive days.

Participants were classified as “high activity” or “low activity” depending upon their accelerometer readings.

The “high activity” group burned 900 more calories per day than the “low activity” group. This total translates into 3 to 4 hours of moderate intensity activity, such as brisk walking, housecleaning or gardening.

The Results

The researchers found that the Amish people with the FTO variant were no more likely to be overweight than their non-FTO carrying cousins….as long as they got their three to four hours of moderate activity every day.

Conclusion

Genetics isn’t Destiny

Being born with a FTO gene variant does not guarantee a lifetime of obesity and diabetes. Your health and physical appearance is up to you and the lifestyle choices you make.

Fit and Fat?

Is it possible to be fit and fat at the same time?

Researchers at Albert Einstein College found that despite their weight, nearly a third of obese people are not at high risk of diabetes or heart disease.

OK, not exactly a ringing endorsement in favor of obesity, but how about this…

A recent German study found that for normal and overweight people, excess belly fat is a strong link to heart disease and diabetes. However, for their obese cousins, belly fat is not such a big deal. For the obese, a fatty liver is a more accurate risk factor.

According to this study, obese people who get at least moderate physical exercise tend to have less fatty livers.

OK, here we go.

Fit and fat!

According to Dr. Wylie-Rosett (Albert Einstein College): “In our study, the obese people with better risk profiles tended to have more physical activity. And the normal-weight people with worse risk factors tended to have characteristics associated with lower physical activity levels.”

  • Alright, now we’re getting somewhere.
  • Maybe it is possible for obese people to be fit.
  • Maybe fitness is more than having a six-pack.
Beer belly....Six pack???
Beer belly….Six pack???

Maybe fitness means not having visceral fat around your internal organs, improving insulin sensitivity, having a healthy blood pressure, along with well developed aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.

How about we throw in some quality of life factors like enough muscular strength and balance to go about your daily activities without the aid of an electric scooter.

Conclusion

So what is it?

Can you be fit and fat?

My answer:

  • Yes…in theory. It is possible to carry excess fat and still be healthy as a result of a complete fitness program.
  • No…in reality. While there is a slim minority of people who gain excess fat due to a medical condition, the vast majority of obese people are obese as a result of their lifestyle. They eat too much and move too little. Until they change these habits, the resultant obesity will have a negative impact upon their health.

Your Kids are being Targeted

I just read a great post by Lisa Newton (CEO of Iowa Avenue), in which she exposes the amount of marketing money spent to encourage your children to drink pop, eat cereal and get fat.

Summary of Lisa’s Post

Food producers spend $867,761,000 per year marketing carbonated beverages, breakfast cereals and snack foods to your kids.

In comparison, $65,938,000 (or 8% of the pop/cereal/junk food budget) was spent marketing dairy products, fruits and vegetables.

Here is the full list:

But wait, isn’t the government taking steps to reverse the growth of childhood obesity….and spending big-time government money to do it?

“The Centers for Disease Control’s current annual budget for nutrition, physical activity, and obesity is about $41 million for Americans of all ages. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Team Nutrition, whose goal is to improve children’s eating and physical-activity habits, has an annual budget of about $10 million“.

  • $51 million?
  • That’s it?

Let’s recap:

  1. $867,761,000 per year spent on marketing carbonated beverages, breakfast cereals and snack foods to your kids.
  2. $65,938,000 was spent marketing dairy products, fruits and vegetables to your kids.
  3. And the government spent $51,000,000 marketing healthy eating and exercise to your kids.

In total, just under 13.5% of the pop, cereal and junk food budget is spent on marketing healthy alternatives.

And we wonder why our kids are FAT.

 

Like this article???

If you like this article, don’t forget to subscribe to @healthhabits. When you subscribe, my friends at MailChimp will make sure to send you an email every time I post something new here at the blog.

As well, you also get access to the series of Supplement Reports that I am publishing this year.

button subscribe

4 Steps to Developing Health Habits

We all know someone who is always saying that they are going to “get into shape”.

But, they never do. They know what to do, but they just don’t do it.

Basically, the opposite of Nike

So, how do we get them to do it? Glad you asked.

This study found that individuals who focused on behavior-changing strategies were much more successful than those people forced to endure their doctor’s cognitive approach to behavior change.

Instead of attempting to change their knowledge, beliefs and attitudes surrounding exercise and healthy eating, study participants were successful at increasing their physical activity levels by implementing 4 simple strategies:

Goal Setting

Setting SMART fitness goals involves 5 steps:

  • S – A specific fitness goal could be a walk each morning before breakfast.
  • M – For a goal to be measurable, you should define how far you are going to walk and how often you will perform the workout
  • A – To be achievable, you should start off with a task that you can achieve, knowing that the distance / intensity will increase as for fitness improves.
  • R – To be relevant, your goal should be in tune with your overall fitness goal – weight loss, improved blood pressure, etc.
  • T – To avoid ‘accidentally’ missing a workout, you should arrange a specific exercise appointment in your daily calendar.

Stimulus or Cues

Establish physical reminders to encourage yourself to exercise – Pack your gym bag and leave it by the front door every night, leave yourself notes encouraging yourself to work out, schedule your workout into your electronic schedule with an alarm, ask friends or family to call and remind you…really any reminder will help.

Self Monitoring

Keep a workout and/or food log book. It’s tough at first, but it pays off in the end.

Feedback

Reward yourself with a non-food based treat when you succeed. The rewards should become larger / more important to match the degree of fitness success.

Successfully completing today’s workout deserves a small treat, but not missing a workout for 3 months deserves a really big pat on the back.

Like this article???

If you like this article, don’t forget to subscribe to @healthhabits. When you subscribe, my friends at MailChimp will make sure to send you an email every time I post something new here at the blog.

As well, you also get access to the series of Supplement Reports that I am publishing this year.

button subscribe

greedypiggy-obesity-weightloss-diet-health-healthhabits

How much is your fat worth?

In a move that will probably cross the pond, the British government is actually paying it’s citizens to lose weight.

The governments Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives strategy consists of a series of projects run through the Well@Work scheme. This program, led by the British Heart Foundation offers rewards for workers who lose weight. One competition, called The Biggest Loser, awarded £130 ($260 approx.) in gift vouchers for the participant who lost the most weight.

The Government is investing £372 million ($725 million USD approx.) over three years to implement the strategy.

Sadly, a recent analysis of nine research studies which used financial incentives found there was no effect on weight after 12 months. Aberdeen University’s Health Services Research Unit said eating more fruit and vegetables was more effective than paying for weight loss.

However, Dr Ian Campbell, the medical director of Weight Concern, said work-based incentive schemes were a “win win” because the employer benefited from a workforce that was less likely to take time off sick, while employees improved their health. He said: “It might sound a bit desperate but we are desperate so we have to look at all these things.”

Another program for UK nurses (being run by American health care company Humana) “offers pedometers, access to personal trainers and vouchers for high street retailers as incentives to slim down. The scheme involves health information, motivational talks from health coaches and participants can upload data from their pedometers onto a computer to chart their progress”.

Humana spokesman Lee Phillips said: “This is the first time in the country we have got a programme like this running for hospital staff.

“The trust see this as being in line with the Government’s emphasis on health and wellness in the workplace and I think this will really take off with a lot of people – it is all about making people aware of their health.”

I guess time will tell. What do you think?

Pricecheck on Obesity: $2 Trillion Dollars

As published in this past Sunday’s Observer, Zoe Wood reports that “the market for products derived from the obesity ‘epidemic’ could be worth £1 trillion within four years”. That is $2 trillion in US dollars.

$2 000 000 000 000

According to the World Health Organization, almost 1/3 of the world’s population is overweight, while 400 million are clinically obese. The numbers for “first world” nations are even worse.

2005 WHO obesity estimates pegged the United States as the world’s fattest nation. (see chart below)

However, in a perverse show of nationalistic pride, a recent report by the Baker Heart Research Institute, claims that Australia has overtaken America as the world’s fattest nation.

To further cloud the issue, the WHO estimates for obesity rates in the year 2020 still show America as #1. And Australia lagging far behind.

Obviously someone has got their numbers wrong. Here are the WHO estimates.

Let’s move away from obesity for a minute. What about those individuals that are merely “overweight“.

Not obese; just fat, chubby, big boned, pleasantly plump…

According to the WHO, the world’s most overweight nations, regardless of economic, political or military dominance are:

Rank Country %
1. Nauru 94.5
2. Micronesia, Federated States of 91.1
3. Cook Islands 90.9
4. Tonga 90.8
5. Niue 81.7
6. Samoa 80.4
7. Palau 78.4
8. Kuwait 74.2
9. United States 74.1
10. Kiribati 73.6
11. Dominica 71.0
12. Barbados 69.7
13. Argentina 69.4
14. Egypt 69.4
15. Malta 68.7
16. Greece 68.5
17. New Zealand 68.4
18. United Arab Emirates 68.3
19. Mexico 68.1
20. Trinidad and Tobago 67.9
21. Australia 67.4
22. Belarus 66.8
23. Chile 65.3
24. Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) 65.2
25. Seychelles 64.6
26. Bahrain 64.1
27. Andorra 63.8
28. United Kingdom 63.8
29. Saudi Arabia 63.5
30. Monaco 62.4
31. Bolivia 62.2
32. San Marino 62.1
33. Guatemala 61.2
34. Mongolia 61.2
35. Canada 61.1
36. Qatar 61.0
37. Uruguay 60.9
38. Jordan 60.5
39. Bahamas 60.4
40. Iceland 60.4
41. Nicaragua 60.4
42. Cuba 60.1
43. Germany 60.1
44. Brunei Darussalam 59.8
45. Slovenia 59.8
46. Peru 59.6
47. Vanuatu 59.6
48. Finland 58.7
49. Jamaica 57.4

What the heck is going on in the South Pacific? Those are some crazy obesity stats.

What about the money?

In a report issued by Credit Suisse, analysts said “The global obesity “epidemic” will have a material impact on global business strategy over the next decade. A greater awareness about its costs is not only changing society but infiltrating the business world in health care and other major industries”.

In English, “the larger a problem gets, the more attention and resources it gets”

Credit Suisse claims that the “companies best placed to benefit from the development are those devising products that either help people to lead healthier lives or that treat the symptoms of obesity”.

So who are these companies best placed to capitalize on our expanding waistlines?

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, Credit Suisse has assembled an index of 15 stocks that they feel will “experience outsized revenue and earnings growth over the next 5 years compared to their peers.”

This “Healthier Living 15″ includes:

Health Care:

  • Allergan sells a “Lap-Band” used in an increasingly popular type of obesity surgery.
  • Novo Nordisk is big in the diabetes market
  • Merck sells drugs for diabetes and high cholesterol
  • CVS may benefit by selling vitamins and prescription weight-loss drugs
  • Healthways contracts with employers and government entities to manage preventive care, among other things.

Food:

  • General Mills should benefit from a move to “healthier, more convenient foods”
  • Kellogg and Danone also make the list
  • Grocery chain Safeway, which is rolling out “lifestyle” stores

If you want a wild card, go for Kuala Lumpur Kepong, a Malaysian palm-oil company that may see an uptick in business as food makers look for alternatives to trans fats

Athletics:

  • Under Armour sells athletic clothing and shoes
  • Lululemon athletica sells “yoga-inspired apparel”
  • Nike is Nike
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods is a big U.S. retailer
  • Life Time Fitness, a chain of health clubs, could outcompete smaller gyms to gain market share.

So what does this mean to me?

If you are looking for a growth market to invest your life savings in, the obesity industry might a good idea. Think about it. People are getting fatter and fatter with no end in sight.

For years, authors have promised miracle diets while drug and supplement companies have given us miracle pills. And yet, we get fatter and fatter.

So, we have a marketplace that is eager to believe in miracle solutions and apparently never becomes disillusioned when they don’t work. The dieters, pill poppers and frantic exercisers just blame themselves, their poor genetics, their lack of self-discipline….and hop right back into their SUV, drive down to the mall and pick up the latest best selling diet book and wash it down with a triple Venti half-caf mocha caramel frappuchino with extra whipped cream and a dollop of irony.

Methinks $2 000 000 000 000 is a gross underestimation.

Why is America so Fat

You’re Fat?… It’s your Fault

As reported in the Daily Telegraph, British politician David Cameron openly declared war on the “culture of moral neutrality” by “calling on the obese, the idle and even the poor to accept some responsibility for their plight.” (see video here)

Going further, Cameron says that “Britain risks creating a society where nobody is prepared to tell the truth about what is good and bad, right and wrong… Society has become far too sensitive to people’s feelings with no one prepared to say what needs to be said…. Instead, we prefer moral neutrality, a refusal to make judgments about what is good and bad behaviour, right and wrong behaviour. Bad. Good. Right. Wrong.”

About obesity in particular, Cameron said “We talk about people being at risk of obesity instead of people who eat too much and take too little exercise. We talk about people being at risk of poverty or social exclusion. It’s as if these things – obesity, alcohol abuse, drug addiction – are purely external events like a plague or bad weather.”

He went on to speak about personal responsibility – “We have seen a decades-long erosion of responsibility, of social virtue, of self-discipline, respect for others, and of deferring gratification instead of instant gratification.”

Wow, strong words indeed. I can only imagine the nasty emails in his Inbox after this went public.

If the comments from this blog post are any indication, then the honorable Mr. Cameron will definitely need a shovel to clean up all of the @$%#& and &$%#@* and ^#$$@& when he is finished sifting through his Inbox.

So, Is He Right or Wrong?

IMHO, he is…

  • 100% politically incorrect and…
  • 100% right on the facts.

Barring any genetic abnormality, such as a congenital leptin deficiency, we ARE responsible for our weight gain.

  • We choose which food we eat
  • We choose which beverages we drink
  • We choose how much we eat
  • We choose when we eat
  • We choose where we eat
  • We choose how much physical activity we get
  • We choose how long we sit on our butts
  • We choose our leisure time activities
  • WE CHOOSE…no one else chooses for us.

So…is this the end of story? Is it all my fault? your fault? the lady with the morbidly obese kids’ fault?

YES

And NO.

Obesity is not the same as alcohol or drug abuse. I don’t need to drink or smoke, but I do need to eat.

I just don’t need to eat bacon and Bagel-fuls and processed food-like products and high fructose corn syrup and Big Macs and Beefaroni and Slurpees and Frosted Flakes and triple latte mocha sugar bomb coffee desserts and……

And while it is 100% my fault if I choose to eat obesogenic processed foods, there is a systemic problem that contributes to the obesification of modern humans.

Tax dollars.

Western governments have decided to subsidize the production of obesogenic foods with your tax dollars. This has allowed big food producing companies to become giant food producing conglomerates able to pump out cheap calories that are nutrient deficient leading to a perpetual hunger for more cheap calories.

And those tax subsidies are unlikely to ever be repealed. The American (processed) food lobby spends a LOT of money and applies a LOT of pressure on government representatives to keep pumping tax dollars toward the big food corporations. This keeps the price of processed foods artificially low and the price of healthy foods comparatively higher.

Which…if you are on a strict food budget (and have kids addicted to processed food), makes it difficult to break the habit of buying obesogenic food.

Difficult…but not impossible. It is still YOUR choice to buy food that makes you and your fault that your kids are fat and unhealthy.

NOTE: In addition to voting with your wallet, feel free to combat the lobbyists by writing all your political representatives a “sternly-worded” letter threatening to organize a campaign against their re-election unless they start taking the health of your kids into consideration.

Or…like most of us, you can do nothing and be surprised when your kids become fat & unhealthy.

 

Like this article???

If you like this article, don’t forget to subscribe to @healthhabits. When you subscribe, my friends at MailChimp will make sure to send you an email every time I post something new here at the blog.

As well, you also get access to the series of Supplement Reports that I am publishing this year.

button subscribe

5 Ways to Get Fit Faster

The Future of Food???

Combining the best and/or worst aspects of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth and Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food / Omnivore’s Dilemma, U.K. author, Felicity Lawrence has written a new book (Eat Your Heart Out: Why the Food Business is Bad for the Planet and Your Health) detailing her investigation into the impact that multinational food chain companies have upon our food supply.

During her investigation, Lawrence arrives at some startling conclusions:

  • A “half dozen heavily subsidized commodities – soya, rapeseed/flax, palm oil,corn, sugar and rice – are broken down into their individual parts and endlessly reconstituted and sold back to us as processed foods or turned into animal feed to produce the factory meats that have conquered our diets in the past half-century.”
  • Lawrence coins this shift towards assembly line food production as “food Fordism”.
  • The Brazilian rain forest is being cleared for farmland on an unprecedented scale. Companies like Cargill and ADM have worked with the Brazilian government and farmers to create a rapidly growing soya bean industry within the Brazilian rain forest.
  • Her description of how foods like soya have to be chemically manipulated to make them suitable for human or livestock consumption might just put you off your next soy milk Starbucks latte.
  • The U.S. – European tariff agreements that were part of America’s post WW2 Marshall Plan allowed heavily subsidized US food, animal feed and fertilizer exports to enter the European markets and take over market share. “In other words, the raw ingredients for today’s global food system have been kept cheap for transnational corporations by government policy.” “And where U.S. subsidies go, western diets have a habit of following. American imports have created whole new patterns of consumption.” “Demand has been a function of price, availability and production.”
  • The U.S. government subsidized it’s agricultural commodities to the tune of $165 billion. Soya, corn, rice, wheat and cotton account for 90% of that money.
  • The real beneficiaries of these subsidies have not been the American farmer, but the agricultural commodity trading companies  – Cargill, ADM, Bunge and the Louis Dreyfus Group, collectively referred to as ‘the ABCD companies’ .

 

Lawrence casts an especially jaundiced eye at Cargill.

She quotes Brewster Kneen, the company’s unauthorized biographer, as saying “Cargill is the undisputed ruler in the global grain trade and extends its tentacles into every aspect of the global food system.”

A description of Cargill’s history describes how it “initially built up its power in the 1870s, in the speculative era of the American agricultural frontier when U.S. grain, along with sugar, began providing the fuel for workers in an industrialising, urbanising Britain.” She goes on to compare it to Britain’s fabled East India Company. Cargill’s own description of it’s own operations proudly boasts of the activities that Lawrence warns us of.

According to Cargill’s company brochures: “We buy, trade, transport, mill, crush, process, refine, season, distribute around the clock and around the globe.

And: “We are the flour in your bread, the wheat in your noodles, the salt on your fries. We are the corn in your tortillas, the chocolate in your dessert, the sweetener in your soft drink. We are the oil in your salad dressing and the beef, pork or chicken you eat for dinner. We are the cotton in your clothing, the backing on your carpet and the fertilizer in your field.”

Yikes….But don’t worry, apparently things turn out all right in the end.

While Lawrence may have presented a bleak look at the current global food supply, she boosts our spirits with the following:

“History shows that empires rise and fall, however, and that the fall when it comes tends to be fast. Food empires are likely to be no different. We are now entering a period of rapid transition. The postwar food system, dependent on prodigious quantities of crude oil for its production, has not only pushed us to our biological limits but is hitting the environmental buffers”.

“After half a century in which they shaped the nature of global diets with the disposal of their agricultural surplus, the Americans have done a sudden about-turn. With the price of oil constantly breaking new records, they want their surplus back to keep their cars on the road. The U.S. government has started pouring subsidies into the production of ethanol from corn. Grain prices have been soaring. the standard commodity parts are no longer cheap, but we are left with the legacy of the old economic order, with diets that were created out of excess.”

Double yikes…..Global warming and high oil prices are supposed to save us from the evil food conglomerates.

That doesn’t sound good at all.

exercise prescription health healthhabits

U.S. Surgeon General Issues Exercise Prescription

Rear Admiral Steven Galson, the U.S. acting Surgeon General, is calling on the nation’s doctors to prescribe exercise to patients who would benefit from being more physically active. Thanks to the support of the California Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, over 2,000 doctors have just signed up to support this new initiative.

  • Lunges instead of Lipitor.
  • Vegetables instead of vasodilators.
  • Healthy food instead of Hospitals.
  • Alliteration instead of Alli.

Alright – Enough of that. Anyone who has read this blog knows that I have a strong interest in this subject.

While I don’t believe that government should even try to legislate exercise and healthy nutrition, if there are going to become involved with health care, health promotion is the way to go.

Hopefully, doctors still have enough credibility to effect a lifestyle change in their patients.

If you are interested in learning more about this subject, here are some articles:

treadmill desk office

Corporate Workplace Fitness – Has your desk been replaced by a treadmill?

More and more employers are instituting voluntary health / fitness programs for their employees in an attempt to reduce rising insurance costs.

In the U.S., the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) allows employers to adjust benefits and insurance premiums based on whether their employees have met the standards of a corporate wellness program. The new rules apply to group health plans and went into effect last July.

While the new rules prohibit discrimination, they do allow employers to offer rewards to nonsmokers, employees with a LDL cholesterol level under 200 or a BMI below 25.

Here is where it gets a little bit 1984.

While employers can’t tell an obese employee to lose weight or a smoker to quit, they can require the heavy employee to participate in nutrition classes and the smoker to track their smoking habits.

Usually these programs are administered and monitored by a third party company. This company’s responsibilities would include assessing the health risk of the employees, helping them set goals, providing the wellness services and monitoring their efforts/results.

They are also the judge of whether or not the employee achieved their wellness goals. If the employee met their particular goals, they would receive their wellness incentive (usually a reduction in their insurance contribution). If they didn’t, there would be a financial penalty.

So what do you think?

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

chronic disease

Chronic Disease and a New Approach to Healthcare

The World Health Organization reports that “chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, are by far the leading cause of mortality in the world, representing 60% of all deaths“.

WHO data also shows that the major risk factors for chronic disease are:

  • an unhealthy diet,
  • physical inactivity,
  • and tobacco use.

The WHO also claims that if the major risk factors for chronic disease were eliminated, at least 80% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes would be prevented; and 40% of cancer would be prevented.

However, without action, 17 million people will die prematurely this year from a chronic disease. 17 million people dying from diseases caused by their own lifestyles.

Maybe that video was a tad over the top; but you get my point.

In a recent press release, the Ontario Health Quality Council reported that:

  • Ontario is failing to meet the chronic disease challenge: nearly 8,000 lives could be saved annually and the quality of life improved for many more by better managing chronic disease.
  • 1-in-3 Ontarians suffers from chronic disease. Eighty percent of Ontarians over 65 have at least one chronic disease and 70 percent of these have two or more.
  • Fewer than half (47%) of Ontarians with diabetes have their blood sugar under control and just 28% have their blood pressure under control.

This is coming from one of the richest provinces in a country with one of the world’s highest Health Adjusted Life Expectancies (HALE).

So what does the Ontario Health Quality Council suggest to combat chronic diseases?

  • Improve patient access to doctors
  • Improve patient access to medical tests/scans
  • Implement a province-wide electronic patient/doctor information system
  • Citizens should strive to live a healthy lifestyle

Groundbreaking ideas… More doctors, more money, more tests, more money, more technology, more money, and live a healthy lifestyle.

Not very original – spend taxpayer dollars and tell them what they already know to be true – smoking is bad for your health, being obese is bad for your health, stress is bad for your health, etc.

Is there a Solution?

Instead of spending more taxpayer dollars on doctors, MRIs and health promotion commercials (Like this ,this, this) , how about we offer taxpayers who live a ‘healthy’ lifestyle a reduction in income taxes?

Behavior modification through reward rather than punishment.

Now if only we could create a global lobby group to push this agenda to our respective governments.

treadmill desk office

Wellness and Workouts in the Canadian Workplace

According to this article in the National Post, Canadian employees desire workplace wellness and disease prevention education to be included in their health care plans.

In the Sanofi-Aventis Healthcare Survey:

  • 83% of the 1500 respondents would be more likely to stay at their jobs if they believed their employer was interested in maintaining their health through education and prevention.
  • 75% thought more highly of employers that offered it in the workplace.

According to Chris Bonnett, a member of the surveyem advisory board and president of H3 Consulting, “[employees] are looking to their employers for support and access to health education and programming.”

PRO

It’s great that Canadians are more interested in their health and that their employers may see a beneficial link between the employees’ health and their value to the company. Not like the good old days.

CON #1

The survey was conducted by Sanofi-Aventis Canada – the Canadian affiliate of the Sanofi-Aventis Group, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies. No conflict of interest there.

What are the odds that Sanofi-Aventis might have some suggestions as to the type of health education and programming (their word) that the employees should have access to?

CON #2

Who is going to say no to free stuff? Sure, pay for my gym membership. I’m down with that.

It would be much more honest to ask employees if they would be interested in having their employer pick up half the tab for fitness memberships, etc.

CONCLUSION

At the end of the day, any health promotion / disease prevention plan is a good thing. And what a surprise that in Canada, the home of socialized medicine, that business, not government is leading the way.

pills supplements nutrition fitness health

Canada’s War on Drugs…and Vitamins

On April 8, 2008, Canada’s federal government tabled bill Bill C-51, designed to “modernize the Food and Drugs Act”.

The Bill “proposes to maintain a rigorous assessment of health products prior to making them available. In addition, we’re proposing to gain the ability to continuously monitor the safety of products even after they are approved”.

Sounds good.

We don’t want any tainted vitamins, herbs, etc, getting into the marketplace. And if they do, the government has taken the power and responsibility of recall from the manufacturers and given it to themselves.

So, essentially what the government is doing is asking the natural health product industry to prove that their products will do no harm. Once proven, manufacturers will be able to make claims of efficacy like the pharmaceutical industry.

This may even improve the business model for nutritional supplements in Canada. Vetted health claims might increase the legitimacy of the industry in the public’s eye. And yet, something doesn’t seem right with this piece of legislation.

Here is my problem with Bill C-51 – What are they protecting us from?

  • In 2006, the U.S. reported one death associated with the ingestion of vitamins. Specifically, it was an unknown vitamin & it was reported that while the vitamin played a part, it was unlikely that it was the cause of death. How they would know that if the vitamin was unknown, I will never know.
  • Compare that to the 2006 data for Pharmaceutical deaths. The full report is here.

Here are the Pharmaceutical Categories associated with largest number of fatalities (Top 25)

Deaths – Substance
382- Sedative/hypnotics/antipsychotics
307 – Opioids
252 – Cardiovascular drugs
214 – Acetaminophen in combination
210 – Antidepressants
203 – Stimulants and street drugs
139 – Alcohols
138 – Acetaminophen only
98 – Muscle relaxants
93 – Anticonvulsants
75 – Cyclic antidepressants
69 – Fumes/gases/vapors
66 – Antihistamines
61 – Aspirin alone
55 – Other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
49 – Unknown drug
38 – Chemicals
35 – Oral hypoglycemics
27 – Miscellaneous drugs
25 – Diuretics
25 – Automotive/aircraft/boat products
22 – Antihistamine/decongestant, without phenylpropanolamine
20 – Hormones and hormone antagonists
18- Anticoagulants

Vitamins – 1 death  :  Aspirin & Acetaminophen – 199 deaths

As far as I am concerned, that should be the end of the story. The government has no business creating a problem where none exists.

Fin

Reference

  • video of an anti Bill C-51 rally
  • Health Minister, Tony Clement’s press conference to discuss Bill C-51
  • article in the Globe and Mail
  • article in the Vancouver Sun
  • The (CHFA) Canadian Health Food Association’s submission to the House of Commons.
  • article by Andre Picard, Globe and Mail
  • CHFA response to Picard article
Beware the NANNY STATE

Breaking News! The government thinks you’re fat!

Jeremy Sammut of ABC News (Australia) wrote an article in which he argued that government sponsored programs that promote public health don’t work.

While his focus is specific to the Australian experience, he claims that Australia’s government has squandered public funds on advertising campaigns…and this claim may be applicable to both Europe and North America. The fact is, obesity is on the rise in the both the ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ worlds. Attempts by national or regional governments to promote a healthy lifestyle have largely been unsuccessful in reversing this trend towards obesity.

Sammut makes a few very interesting observations.

  • First, he claims that when government assumes the role of health nazi/nanny, it absolves the individual of “their primary responsibility for the unhealthy lifestyle decisions they continue to make”, and as a result, “the lifestyle disease ‘epidemic’ is blamed on a lack of government-funded entitlement to preventive primary care”.
  • This takes us to his second point; “the limits of government authority over individual behaviour, and the importance of personal qualities in regulating it – why nearly 40 years of health promotion has coincided with ascending rates of lifestyle disease”.

And if we are going to allow government to assume authority over our behaviour, we have to question the motivations behind this program.

Quite often, “advocates of more spending on lifestyle disease prevention often draw false parallels with the success of the campaign against tobacco smoking”. This argument is specious in that smoking bans and the ‘sin’ taxes applied on tobacco products are examples of public health regulation, not health promotion.

cigarette-warning

You would think that applying this model to public exercise and nutrition would be near impossible. Smokers were a minority group and their behaviour was found to be less than enchanting by a large portion of the population. Simply put, the majority ganged up on them and enacted laws that made smoking a financial and logistical pain in the butt.

  • How would government apply this strategy when the majority of the population does not exercise, eats junk food and has no intention of changing?
  • Odds are, they would start with the children. Apply a little parental guilt. Ban junk food from school (already happening). Slap a sin tax on ‘junk food’. Expand that tax to include bacon, eggs, cheese, filet mignon, etc…

And while that is unlikely to happen, Sammut’s argument is that the health promotion programs advocated for by certain lobby groups, prepared by marketing companies and approved by governments have not been successful.

In Canada, advocates of the ParticipACTION program (historical info) have considered it a success due to it’s longevity and the fact that “two years after the agency had ceased to operate in 2001, almost 80% of Canadians still recognized the ParticipACTION logo and message”.

  • No mention of it’s positive impact on the health of Canadians.
  • Wasn’t that the point of the program?

Nope, as long as Canadians remember cheesy commercials…(Like this ,thisthisand check out this spoof.)…it’s a success.

My Two Cents

As much as I appreciate the light that Dr. Sammut has shined on this subject, I was a little disappointed by his conclusion.

“It is therefore timely to review the evidence. Because when the assumptions are questioned and the evidence examined with a clear eye, what is revealed is that there is actually slim support for the belief that preventive public health policies – be they ‘community-wide’ or ‘high-intensity’ lifestyle interventions – have in the past brought obesity and lifestyle disease under control, or that they are likely to in the future”.

  • Review the evidence?
  • Do nothing?

While I agree that most if not all governments have a great talent for throwing great big bags of money at problems that they have no hope of solving, does that mean that as a society we are doomed to accept gluttony and sloth as our birthright?

Here are two possible solutions.

  • In the U.K., doctors are able to write prescriptions for exercise.

Personally, while I believe that this plan is flawed due to the fact that when the government is looking to spend public dollars, there will always be bureaucrats and service providers ready and willing to overcharge and under-deliver. However, to be fair, I should mention that this program has not been in operation long enough to show whether it is successful or not.

  • Another possibility would be to offer tax refunds to those individuals that can prove that they are pursuing a healthy lifestyle. Instead of demonizing the couch potatoes amongst us, reward the energizer bunnies.

What do you think?

bigmac-health-nutrition-healthhabits-fitness

NYC Food Police: Keeping New Yawkers safe from the evil Big Mac

Newsweek reports that as of this past Monday, New York City’s health department began ticketing restaurants that haven’t complied with the new law requiring them to post calorie counts on their menus. By the end of Monday, five restaurants had been ticketed.

The perpetrators: Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonalds, Popeye’s, Sbarro and TGIFridays.

Lucky for them that the citations were little more than warnings. They carried no fines, because a federal judge had said the city could not impose fines until mid-July. When imposed, the fines will range from $200 to $2,000.

And what about those rebels that refuse to go along with this by-law? While the New York State Restaurant Association has taken the city of New York to court over this issue, the restaurateurs themselves seem to be falling into line.

And just to make sure they do, the form that the city gave to the offending restaurants carried the warning that the health department “expects that the conditions will be addressed promptly.” The form cautioned that “any recurrence of these conditions could result in further action being taken.”

Maybe they should call in McDonaldland’s former Chief of Police, Big Mac.

U.N., World Bank and IMF & their Food Riots

Over the last few days, representatives of the U.N. met with 27 international agency heads in the Swiss capital, Bern, to chart a solution to food price rises that have caused hunger, riots and hoarding in poor countries.

As reported by Reuters, the United Nations said today that “We consider that the dramatic escalation in food prices worldwide has evolved into an unprecedented challenge of global proportions.”

This group, consisting of the heads of U.N. agencies, funds and programs, the IMF and the World Bank under the leadership of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon , will set priorities for a plan of action and make sure it is carried out.

The recent surge in food prices is said to be due to several factors, including:

  • increased demand in developing countries,
  • higher fuel costs,
  • drought in Australia,
  • the use of crops for bio-fuels,
  • and speculation on global commodity markets.

The group is also urging countries not to use export bans as a tool to maintain the food supply of their own country.

So let me get this straight:

  • World leaders (business, gov’t, NGO) use the IMF/World Bank to encourage the governments of ‘developing nations’ to sell farm land to multi-national corporations. Farm land that used to sustain the native population is used to grow flowers and other export-only crops like coffee and cocoa.
  • Al Gore and the environmental-industrial complex creates an atmosphere of fear and political correctness throughout the world. The expansion of bio-fuels is one of the results of this fear.
  • The financial leaders of the world create another world wide panic over sub-prime mortgages and the related ABCP.
  • We are told that the world is running out of oil.
  • We are told that as China & India grow, oil supplies will become more scare due to increased industrial and automotive use.

Now we are told that the world is running out of food.

What the @**&%$#??? Why do we give ‘these’ people any control over our lives?

The 100 Mile Diet

The 100 Mile Diet is not really a diet in the modern sense (a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce ones weight)It is truer to the ancient Greek definition diaita, which means literally, manner of living.

The 100 Mile Diet is a practice of deprivation; it is a manner of living or lifestyle.

Originally coined by James MacKinnon and Alisa Smith , the 100 Mile Diet refers to the practice of consuming food that has been grown, manufactured or produced within a 100 mile radius of the person consuming the food.

On the first day of spring in 2005, James and Alisa chose to confront the fact that when the average North American sits down to a meal, they are sitting down to foods that have travelled over 1500 miles. In an attempt to confront and bring attention to this practice, they decided to only consume food and drink that was produced within 100 miles of their apartment in Vancouver, British Columbia.

When the average North American sits down to eat, each ingredient has typically travelled at least 1,500 miles—Alisa & James call it “the SUV diet.” On the first day of spring, 2005, Alisa and James chose to confront this unsettling statistic with a simple experiment. For one year, they would buy or gather their food and drink from within 100 miles of their apartment in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Soon after they began to chronicle their experiment on their blog at thetyee.ca, the blogosphere and ultimately the mainstream media became aware of their 100 Mile Diet. With this unexpected attention, came the creation of a grassroots 100 Mile community.

People all across North America began to look at the food they ate in a new way.

  • What am I eating?
  • Where did it come from?
  • What goes into it?
  • What are the repercussions of consuming this food?

There is also a connection between this diet and the proponents of this diet (known as locavores) to the concept of sustainability. And while the terms, locavore and sustainability may be relatively new, the concept is not.

The connection between food and ethics has been explored in literary form in the books:

Happy reading.

Newsflash! – Junk food advertising is misleading!!!

The BBC has reported that 83% of U.K. consumers “believed irresponsible marketing was making it harder to encourage children to eat well”. The survey was conducted by Which?, the U.K.’s largest independent consumer organization.

The survey also found that “most of the 2,000 questioned want the government to do more to control the marketing of unhealthy food to children”.

Currently, the Brits have banned television commercials promoting junk food programmes aimed at children under 16.

Supporters of this survey are now calling for complete ban on junk food advertising on ALL programmes aired before 9 p.m. Additionally, they are requesting the government impose rules addressing junk food advertising on the internet and on packaging.

The ‘icing on the cake’ argument was offered by Clare Corbett, a food campaigner at Which? Corbett said “With childhood obesity and diet-related health problems on the increase, the government must take serious action and soon.”

health-fitness-obesity

To summarize:

  • Junk food is bad
  • Advertisers brainwash children into wanting junk food
  • Children pester their parents
  • Parents feed their children junk food
  • Children get fat eating junk food while watching television ads about junk food
  • The U.K.’s largest consumer protection group asks parents if the government should be doing more to keep their children safe from obesity
  • Parents overwhelmingly agree, demanding that the government solve childhood obesity by removing the offending advertisements.
  • Advertisers produce another survey indicating that “76% of UK adults believe that introducing a 9pm watershed on food advertising would not reduce the level of childhood obesity”.
  • The government is left to decide if banning all junk food ads on t.v. before 9 p.m. will win them the next election.

Your daily dose of reality

  • Junk food is bad
  • We are genetically disposed to prefer sweet, salty, greasy, calorie dense foods. We crave these things as a mechanism of survival. Genetics. Millions of years.
  • Advertisers know this. Food manufacturers know this. They sell us what we want. If we don’t want it, we won’t buy it. If we don’t buy it, they won’t sell it.
  • Every parent knows that feeding your children junk food while sitting them in front of the t.v. is guaranteed to make them fat.

What to do, what to do

  • Parents set the example for their children.
  • Stop buying junk food. Not just for your children, you too.
  • Stop watching t.v. Get outside and exercise. If it’s too cold, read a book.
  • Stop expecting the government to do everything for you.

The rant endeth.