Healthy and overweight?

A doctor and a professor discuss – Are there health benefits to being overweight?

Carl J. Lavie:

The good news for those who may be struggling to lose weight and keep it off is this: As I explored in my book “The Obesity Paradox,” there can be surprising benefits to carrying around a few extra pounds. In fact, being out of physical shape and having low overall fitness is actually a far greater danger to health than fat, especially in people who are only slightly overweight.

Andrew Stokes:

Using information on weight history, it is possible to address this seemingly intractable source of bias. Weight history makes it possible to distinguish people who were slim throughout their lives from those who were formerly overweight or obese but lost weight.

In other words, Stokes is claiming that most studies include weight at the start of the study and throughout the study, but neglect the weight history of the person. The formerly overweight/obese who were ‘normal’ weight at the time of the study may have higher mortality due to issues related to the former excess weight, and therefore skew the results to look like overweight people have lower mortality (as a group). Interesting.

The study by Stokes and Preston goes into further depth on the weight history theory. The conclusions are stark (emphasis mine) :

Our results suggest the burden of overweight and obesity on mortality is likely substantially larger than commonly appreciated. If correct, this may have serious implications for the future of life expectancy in the United States. Although the prevalence of obesity may level off or even decline, the history of rapidly rising obesity in the last 3 decades cannot be readily erased (63). Successive birth cohorts embody heavier and heavier obesity histories, regardless of current levels. Those histories are likely to exert upward pressure on US mortality levels for many years to come.

Consumer Reports on GMO labeling

Consumer Reports on GMO labeling – What you need to know about GMO labeling:

“Safety is not the point. Almost all the labels required on food—such as ingredients and fat content—are informational. So is GMO labeling,” says Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union. “The debate over GMO labeling is about consumers’ right to know what they are eating.”

In a recent nationally representative poll from Consumer Reports, 92 percent of people said they want GMO labeling. Halloran adds, “other polls have had similar findings. The food industry should stop fighting the public’s right to know in court and start listening to what their customers want.”

If it’s not about safety, then what’s the point? The “ingredients and fat content” are for people to make decisions about their health. With GMO labeling is health really the issue? Does the public really know what the issues are with GMOs or is it just fear of the unknown?

Why label GMOs?

Beth Skwarecki at Lifehacker – GMO Labels Won’t Make Your Food Safer:

Concerns like Hirshberg’s about pesticides demonstrate why GMO labeling is useless. It won’t even do what the people campaigning for labels want it to do. As we’ve mentioned before, the things people don’t like about GMOs are not GMO-specific problems. Here are some things labeling won’t help with:

  • It won’t help you avoid pesticides. Both the insecticidal Bt toxin and the herbicidal Roundup chemical, glyphosate, are used in both GMO and non-GMO crops.
  • It won’t eliminate superweeds, since this ecological problem is not GMO-specific either. (Non-GMO sunflower oil is another big creator of superweeds, by the way)
  • It won’t keep unpredictable mutations out of crops’ DNA, because mutation breeding introduces more DNA damage than any “GMO” technology, and nobody’s labeling that.
  • It won’t prevent allergies, or make allergies easier to track down. GMOs are already tested for similarities to common allergens before they can be approved. If you do have an allergic reaction to an unusual protein in a particular crop, a “partially produced with genetic engineering” label doesn’t do anything to help track down which ingredient is at fault.

Well researched.

Sugars in children’s fruit juices and smoothies

A study published in the BMJ by Boulton and Hashem et al – How much sugar is hidden in drinks marketed to children? A survey of fruit juices, juice drinks and smoothies:

The difference between whole fruit and fruit juice:

One key difference between whole fruit and juice is fibre content. Whole fruit slows down consumption and has a satiating effect. Research shows the body metabolises fruit juice in a different way compared to whole fruit. After whole fruit consumption, the body seems to adjust its subsequent energy intake appropriately, whereas after fruit juice consumption, the body does not compensate for the energy intake.

And the conclusion? (formatted for readability)

The sugars content in FJJDS marketed to children in the UK is high. Over 40% of products surveyed contained at least 19 g of sugars—a child’s entire maximum daily amount of free sugars.

-We suggest that FJJDS with high free sugars content should not count as one of the UK government’s ‘5 a Day’ recommendations.
-Ideally, fruit should be consumed in its whole form, not as juice.
-Parents should dilute fruit juice with water, opt for unsweetened juices and only give them during meals. -Portions should be limited to 150 ml a day.
-In order to help combat the growing problem of childhood obesity, manufacturers need to stop adding unnecessary sugars and calories to their FJJDS now; otherwise, it will be essential for the government to introduce legislation to regulate the free sugars content of these products.

Exercise times on food labels?

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health – Food should be labelled with the exercise needed to expend its calories:

The Royal Society for Public Health has called for the introduction of “activity equivalent” calorie labelling, with symbols showing how many minutes of several different physical activities are equivalent in the calories expended to those in the product. The aim is to prompt people to be more mindful of the energy they consume and how these calories relate to activities in their everyday lives, to encourage them to be more physically active.

As reported by the CBC, not everyone is a fan of this approach:

Not everybody is sold on the idea. Dr. Yoni Freedhoff is the medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa.

“People believe that exercise is the ticket to the weight loss express,” he said.

But, in fact, exercise doesn’t burn that many calories.

I believe Dr. Freedhoff is correct. Labelling foods with exercise equivalents is not the right message, and mixes up the idea of weight loss with exercise, when they are not well linked at all.

From what I’ve been reading, exercise is key for reducing your risk of dying early due to cadriovascular disease. With better fitness you also reduce your risk of physical injuries. However, the amount of exercise you do is not well correlated to your weight. Meaning that you cannot realistically exercise enough to reduce your weight if you are consuming the same amount of calories.

Generally:
– More exercise => better fitness and live longer
– Fewer calories => lose weight

See Dr. Freedhoff’s talk on the issue:

Not good seafood

A great investigative series by AP reporters – Seafood from slaves:

Over the course of eighteen months, four journalists with The Associated Press tracked ships, located slaves and stalked refrigerated trucks to expose the abusive practices of the fishing industry in Southeast Asia. The investigation has led to the release of more than 2,000 slaves, and the immediate reaction of major retailers and the Indonesian government.

And listen to the story of how the reporting came to be on the KCRW Good Food show:

Martha Mendoza, a national writer for the AP, takes us back to the moment when she and her colleagues decided to focus their collective investigative reporting lens on the Thai shrimp industry.

Canadian Senate Report on Obesity – on sugars

From page 6 of the report:

Sandra Marsden of the Canadian Sugar Institute testified that sugar consumption has declined in recent years, however, as that organization represent the sucrose industry (the sugar extracted from beet and sugar cane), this decline seems to be only associated with sucrose and not all sugars combined.

(Zing!)

The Canadian Sugar Institute says the estimated added sugars* consumption in Canada is approximately 51 – 53 g per day.

A number of witnesses also told the committee that sugary beverages are the primary source of added sugar in our diet and are the primary driver of obesity. They noted that these beverages have little or no nutrient value while being calorie-rich. Further they indicated that these are ‘invisible’ calories as they do not contribute to satiety and are simply added calories over and above food intake. Some witnesses offered testimony that sugar is addictive and that it promotes overconsumption.

Addictive? Interesting.

From page 12 of the report:

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 bounds annually per person 200 years ago to 151 pounds annually per person today.

151 pounds per person is huge. That’s nearly 1 cup of sugar per day. I’m not sure where they get that figure.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada’s position statement on sugar cites that total sugar intake is 110 g per day, or about 1/2 cup per day.

As mentioned previously, Health Canada’s proposed limit is 100 g per day of total sugars.

Footnotes:
*"Added sugars" is defined as follows:

Sugars and syrups (Statistics Canada Category - Sugar and sugar syrups (from sugar cane or sugar beets), maple sugars, honey. Does not include corn sweeteners.
Corn sweeteners: high fructose corn syrup ("glucose-fructose"), glucose syrup, and dextrose.
Fruit juce/concentrated fruit juice or other ingredients that act as a functional substitute for added sugars.

 

Report on Health in Children in Canada

Public Health Agency of Canada publication, published February 24, 2016 – Health Behaviour in School-aged Children in Canada: Focus on Relationships:

Key Finding #11: Healthy Eating

While some concerning dietary habits were reported, there were also some positive findings with respect to healthy eating.

Almost half (46%) of boys and more than one third (37%) of girls reported eating neither vegetables nor fruits once per day or more, while 34% of boys and 42% of girls reported eating both fruits and vegetables once per day or more. Some of these behaviours may be attributable to the food environments that surround young people and the availability and affordability of fruits and vegetables. More positively, reports of soft drink and candy consumption have decreased over time, and reported daily consumption of potato chips, diet soft drinks, and energy drinks was quite low. This lower frequency of consumption was consistent with the Canada Food Guide recommendations on reducing the intake of foods high in fats, sugar, sodium, or calories.

Boys and girls aren’t eating enough fruits or vegetables, but at least they have reduced their consumption of sugary drinks and snacks.

Key Finding #12: Healthy Weights

The epidemic of overweight and obesity is not declining in young Canadians.

Approximately 1 in 3 boys and approximately 1 in 4 girls were classified as overweight or obese by Body Mass Index (BMI; calculated from self-reported height and weight). Up to 25% of girls and 10% of boys were, or thought they should be, on a diet to lose weight. The percentage of young people who perceived that their body was too fat has increased from 28% in 2002 to 32% in 2014. Despite ongoing public health efforts, the prevalence of youth obesity, and the behaviours and feelings surrounding it, remain high and have increased over time.

We need to teach kids about growing food, cooking food and eating food, healthfully.