Archive for the ‘Food industry’ Category

Dr. David Katz thinks the movie Fed Up missed a couple of things, including that “being hungry is like being horny, but with no rules” and that we need to distinguish “responsibility from blame.” So far, so good!

As far as the CICO vs sugar debate:

The movie made what I consider the misguided decision to argue with Sir Isaac Newton, giving air time to those who contend that calories don’t really count, and energy balance isn’t meaningful. …

Of course calories and energy balance matter, but just as obviously- so do the sources of that energy. Everyone who has ever eaten knows that some foods fill us up more than others, yet we routinely trot out experts to present this as if it refutes laws of thermodynamics. Everyone who has ever filled up a car or lawnmower knows that there is a certain kind of fuel on which the engine is intended to run. A gallon is always a gallon just the same, but of course a gallon ‘of what’ matters.

The fact that we don’t achieve healthy energy balance does not preclude its relevance.

Read the post (see And So What?) for Katz’s take on what we “can and should do.” It’s a longish list that’s pretty much summed up by “eat wholesome foods in sensible combinations.”

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Michael Prager beat me to a blog post on a Twitter exchange from yesterday about skipping the movie Fed Up because “it’s built on the premise that fat bodies are wrong.” Michael’s response:

Some of that is partly true: The movie does come from the perspective that being fat isn’t a desirable, healthful condition. I also come from that perspective, and remain flummoxed that there is a very strong, very spirited movement that maintains otherwise. …

I support the HAES-ish perspective that says that fat-shaming is wrong, that no one deserves mockery or exclusion or worse based on body size. IMO, those tendencies are deeply ingrained in our society, and we’ll all be better off when they’re dialed down, then discarded. I still need a bunch of that excised from me, and I’ve been working on it for 20-30 years!

But also: A significant portion of obesity in the world exists because consumer-food corporations make more money when we eat too much. Also, when we eat the wrong types of food — usually more processed food.

Who could possibly defend that, or boycott those who point it out?

I’m not quite in the same place as Michael (I believe health issues are more directly attributable to things other than body fat). That said, I am definitely in the camp that says that one of those major health factors is diet, and the industrial food system is something that needs to be addressed.

Will Fed Up get it 100% right? Hardly … and especially if this is really going to be about demonizing sugar. Bleh. And I think that Dayna is right to be concerned that, however well-meaning, this movie will perpetuate stigma.

I support folks’ decisions to vote with their dollars. But I plan to see it for myself. Call me a cross-eyed optimist, but in order to get to a better place, I think we need to have these conversations. And if Fed Up can be part of that, then maybe that’s worthwhile.

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Sugar v fat

Across the pond, twin doctors Alexander and Chris Van Tulleken attempted to “answer the hottest question in nutrition” for the BBC documentary Sugar v Fat. In a piece for the Daily Mail, they share their take on the sugar vs fat question:

The most interesting thing we found was that we were asking the wrong question. It’s not which is worse for you, fat or sugar, but rather which foods are making so many of us gain weight and why? …

What we discovered is that the real reason we’re all getting fatter isn’t fat or sugar.

Furthermore, sugar alone isn’t very addictive – only horses snack on sugar cubes and very few people gorge on boiled sweets or dry toast.

And fat isn’t really addictive either: when did you last sneak a spoonful of butter from the fridge late at night?

The modern processed food industry knows this and that’s why you’re rarely sold the two separately – what is addictive is the combination.

As it turns out, the relatively short duration of the experiment — one month — meant that the low-carber had issues with adaptation (ref his comment that ketones aren’t “great brain food” or his performance problems in tests against his twin). OTOH, he had more weight loss thanks to the loss of his stored glycogen.

But it turns out that neither diet was palatable to either twin: “both of these diets were miserable.”

Their conclusion?

If you want to lose weight it will be much easier if you avoid processed foods made with sugar and fat. These foods affect your brain in a completely different way from natural foods and it’s hard for anyone to resist eating too much.

And any diet that eliminates fat or sugar will be unpalatable, hard to sustain and probably be bad for your health, too.

Their experiment has its flaws, but on the other hand, I think it does show that for the average person, either diet is too restrictive for the long term. That said, I suspect that the real truth is that any diet that has you minimizing hyperpalatable foods is a step in the right direction. Here’s hoping this program helps get that message across.

HT Stephan Guyenet

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Claus Meyer, “gastronomical entrepreneur” and founder of Noma (the world’s best restaurant from 2010 to 2012), on his New Nordic cuisine movement:

If our movement is a threat against anything, I believe it is the transnational junk and fast food industry dominated by massive corporations that tend to ruin our health, undermine our independence, and potentially damage the planet.

The quote comes from Meyer’s contribution to week one of Coursera’s The New Nordic Diet – from Gastronomy to Health. I initially thought it was really a course about a specific diet, but it’s actually much more than that: it’s about taste, pleasure, seasonality, sustainability, and more. What’s particularly cool is that they are trying to take the lessons learned in Denmark and reproduce their success in Bolivia.

The class just started, so if you’re into real food, sustainability, and interesting public health experiments, check it out. It’s free!

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Annoyed woman So I’ll bet you heard the news. A professor and some of his students found that Oreos are “just as addictive as cocaine” in rats.

Why is this annoying? For one, it’s not particularly innovative … research like this has been done (and done better) years ago.

For another, it’s misleading. As Emily Deans pointed out yesterday on Twitter:

just because a substance hits the pleasure centers doesn’t mean ‘as addictive as cocaine.’

Or as Yoni Freedhoff pointed out on his blog this morning:

Putting aside any concerns with experimental methodologies, if our pleasures centres didn’t light up like Christmas trees when faced with sugars and fats then I’m pretty sure there wouldn’t be over 7 billion of us walking the planet, because up until only about a millisecond or so in the grand scheme of time, those who were more driven to eat were the only ones who survived.

Understanding our brain’s reward system is important, but it’s also important not to overstate the case and, like some, conflate normal behavior with addiction.


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Harvard’s School of Public Health and the Huffington Post presented a forum last month titled Why We Overeat: The Toxic Food Environment and Obesity. The discussion is a bit long and a bit wonky, but it’s well worth a watch — especially for those who think this issue is primarily about personal responsibility.

I particularly liked the last few minutes where David Kessler pointed out that the panelists in the room (Kessler was on via satellite) are “too fit, too thin” and need to “talk with someone who really struggles with their weight.”

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Quote of the day

Mother Jones talks about food quality, fast food, and those Chipotle ads, concluding that Chipotle’s ads paint a rosier picture than reality suggests. MJ’s suggestion:

So if you’re headed off to lunch after reading this article, and you want to eat organic, avoid GMOs, and get food that’s locally sourced—your best best is to go to a grocery store, read the labels very carefully, and make a sandwich. But if that’s not an option, you’re far better off going to Chipotle than McDonald’s, where if you order a burger—literally just a bun, meat, and Big Mac sauce—you’re eating more than 60 ingredients. Good luck, America.

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