Archive for October, 2011

The girls seemed unusually excited to see me when I arrived home from work tonight.  Before I had a chance to get feeling all warm and fuzzy about their enthusiastic greeting, I learned that they’d been waiting anxiously for me to get home so they could go trick-or-treating with their mom.  I’m in the apartment, in charge of handing out little sugar-bombs to any other kids in the complex who show up at our door.

Alana decided weeks ago she was going trick-or-treating as a Cheetah.  Sara planned to go as Medusa, but reconsidered early this evening when she realized she didn’t want to wear snakes on her head.  Her explanation of her costume then changed faster and more often than politician’s answer to “Who was that young woman with you in this picture?”  Over the course of 15 minutes, her official identity went from Witch Who Wears Bright Clothes to Just Some Weird Person to the final choice, Fortune Teller.

To prove my own prowess as a fortune teller, I examined her palm and announced her future:  You are going to collect a bucketful of candy.  But in two days, the bucket will be empty and the candy will be all gone.

That’s how we handle the sugar-fest of Halloween.  We want the girls to enjoy the occasion, but we don’t want them stuffing their little faces with sugar for days on end.  So a couple of years ago, we established a rule:  You have free rein to enjoy the fruits of your trick-or-treating for two days.  After that, the candy goes away.

Yes, this prompts them to make the most of the two days.  On the other hand, even kids hit their physical limit when indulging in sugar.  Last year, Sara tried to down all the remaining candy as the second-day window was closing, made herself sick, and gave up.

“When you eat a bunch of candy and you get sick, what does that tell you about candy?” I asked.

“It tells me that candy isn’t good for me,” she replied.

“Have you ever gotten sick from eating too much bacon?”

“No, Daddy, of course not.”

Yeah, she gets it.

Yesterday was Sugar Addiction Awareness Day. The organizers created some posters to promote a sugar-free Halloween.  Interesting idea, but I don’t think it’s sugar on Halloween that causes kids problems.  It’s sugar year-round (you know, like that low-fat chocolate milk the USDA thinks is fine for schoolkids, while whole milk was ordered off the menu) with sugar-fests like Halloween piled on top.

I read recently that around 50% of kids have at least one cavity by the age of 10.  Sara turns 8 next week and hasn’t had one yet.  Neither has Alana.  Both girls have been informed that if they make it to age 16 without a cavity, Daddy will contribute $1,000 towards their “I want my own car” funds.  (They both have savings accounts with that goal in mind.)

I fully expect to pony up the $1,000.  They eat candy for two days after Halloween, they get to indulge in cake and ice cream when they go to birthday parties, and they can have cookies on Christmas.  But for most days of the year, their diets are sugar-free.

That’s what makes the difference.

 

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When we bought the farm in July, I hoped we’d be living there in time to enjoy the autumn colors. Close, but not quite. It looks like we’ll be moving in about three more weeks. We did, however, take a trip out there today. Look at how dramatically the trees have changed in the past several weeks:

It was perfect autumn weather when we visited today:  mostly sunny, right around 60 degrees.  Great day for a stroll around the property with a camera.

The picture below shows what it looks like directly across the road from us.  We’re pretty much surrounded by big hills covered with trees, and they’re stunning this time time of year.

The house is finally starting to look close to being finished as well.  The first series of pictures below shows the progress on the basement, which will be the girls’ playroom.

The previous owner was fond of aqua blue paint.  I’m not.  Almost every wall has been painted recently and new molding has gone in.  Refinishing the floors will be the final task before we move in.

A county inspector decided early on that we needed a new septic tank (not even the guy who replaced it agreed with that analysis), which meant tearing up the front yard.  I’m pleased to report that Mother Nature (with a little help from Chareva and the girls, who spread lots of grass seed around) has already begun turning the yard green again.

I’d originally planned to throw a birthday bash shortly after moving in to celebrate.  Since my birthday is in two weeks, that won’t happen.  But we’ll be in the house in time for Thanksgiving.  And I will have much to be thankful for.

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This is an amusing blues song created by James Winningham, available on his site.

Enjoy.

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As part of an ongoing effort to convince doctors and policymakers to (imagine this!) consider the real-life experiences of diabetics when giving out dietary advice to diabetics, a group of researchers including Dr. Richard Feinman have created The Patient’s Voice Project.  My good buddy Jimmy Moore is involved as well.  Here’s an announcement they’d like to share:

The Patient’s Voice Project is an effort to collect first hand accounts of the experience of people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2) with different diets.  If you would be willing to share your experiences with diet as a therapy for diabetes, please send information to Michael Turchiano (mturchiano.pvp@gmail.com) and a copy to Jimmy Moore (livinlowcarbman@charter.net). Please include details of your diets and duration.

Indicate if you saw a physician or other health provider, what their attitudes were and whether you be willing to share medical records.  We are particularly interested in people who have switched diets and had different outcomes.

Finally, please indicate which factors influenced your choices (physician or nutritionist recommendations, information on popular or scientific publications, etc.)

Thanks for your help.  The Patient’s Voice Project will analyze and publish conclusions in popular and scientific journals.

Michael Turchiano
Scientific Coordinator

I know from the comments section that many of you have managed to control diabetes by ignoring the lousy recommendations of organizations such as the American Diabetes Association.  Send in your story and make your voice heard.

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My inbox of news articles and other interesting items sent by readers is filling up again, so it’s time for another odds and ends post.

Illinois School Fights Obesity!

I put the exclamation point in the headline above because the news media was so very excited about this story:

In the middle of America’s heartland, a small public school, Northeast Elementary Magnet School, has taken on a hefty task — reversing obesity.

And it’s won a gold medal for it, becoming the first elementary school in the country to receive that award from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. The Alliance was founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation to reduce childhood obesity.

Well, if Bill Clinton is involved, the program must be fabulous.  We are, after all, talking about a guy who developed heart disease while following the Ornish diet.

The cafeteria here serves fresh fruit and veggies, low-fat or no-fat milk, no sodas or fried foods and no gooey desserts. There are no sweets on kids’ birthdays and food is never used as a reward. Teachers wear pedometers and parents have to sign a contract committing to the school’s healthy approach.

No desserts and no sodas is a good idea.  But low-fat milk?  All that means is that the kids will be going hungry and starving their brains of the saturated fat a growing brain needs.

During a recent nutrition lesson, first-graders sat raptly on the hallway floor as a teacher read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” a classic kids’ story about a caterpillar that can’t seem to stop eating — all kinds of fruit at first. But when the bug moved on to chocolate cake and ice cream, the youngsters gasped and said in hushed tones, “junk food,” as if it were poison.

I think the moral of the story is that it’s not a good idea to base your diet on all kinds of fruit.  First thing you know, you’re craving chocolate cake.

Physical education teacher Becky Burgoyne said it’s sometimes tough to get kids of “all different shapes and sizes” to be physically active.

Maybe that’s because they’re hungry and lethargic.  Try putting some real fat in their diets and cut back on the stupid grains.  Then see what happens.

The percentage of overweight kids at Northeast increased in 2009, the program’s third year, but dropped slightly last year, to 32 percent; 17 percent are obese.

Hmmm … three years into the program, the kids got fatter.  Sounds like a smashing success.  So the medal is for following guidelines, not for results.

Those are similar to national figures, Principal Cheryl McIntire said. With only three years of data, it’s too soon to call the slight dip in the percentage of overweight children a trend. But she considers it a promising sign, and there’s no question that the children are learning healthy habits.

I’d say it’s still a very big question as to whether or not the kids are learning healthy habits.

A recent lunch menu featured whole-grain, reduced-fat cheese pizza, broccoli and cauliflower buds, sweet corn, chilled pears, low-fat pudding, and 1 percent low-fat milk.

Head. Bang. On.  Desk.

The Guy From CSPI is at it again

The Guy From CSPI is suing General Mills for selling fruit rollups that don’t contain any real fruit:

General Mills “Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups,” for instance, do not actually contain strawberries. They are, however, loaded with questionable additives like corn syrup, dried corn syrup, refined sugar, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, and various other chemicals and petroleum-based dyes. The only fruit-related ingredient in “Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups” is a form of pear concentrate that represents only a small fraction of the overall product’s content.

Similarly, General Mills “Fruit by the Foot Strawberry” snacks, which bear a label claiming they are “fruit flavored,” are packed with the same refined sugar, corn syrup, artificial food coloring, and partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil as Fruit Roll-Ups — and they also contain no strawberries.

You mean there’s no fruit in fruit-flavored candy?  Holy crap, I’d better run to fridge to see if my strawberry-flavored soda has any strawberries in it.  I’ll be right back …

… Nope, no strawberries.  And here I thought by downing a sixpack of the stuff, I was getting my five daily servings of fruit, plus one bonus serving.

“General Mills is basically dressing up a very cheap candy as if it were fruit and charging a premium for it,” says Steve Gardner, litigation director at CSPI. “General Mills is giving consumers the false impression that these products are somehow more wholesome, and charging more. It’s an elaborate hoax on parents who are trying to do right by their kids.”

Only a terminally stupid parent would think a rolled-up piece of fruit-flavored candy is good for a kid’s health.  If you want to sue on behalf of parents who are trying to do right but are being misled into serving kids a food that isn’t actually good for them, start suing the makers of healthywholegrain cereals.  No wait … CSPI recommends those.

The Guy From CSPI is at it again … again

CSPI also recently came out with a 10 Worst and 10 Best list for aspects of the American diet:

Terrible 10:
Coca-Cola
McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, a Coke, and fries
Salt
Feedlot beef
Kellogg’s Froot Loops
Jack DeCoster’s egg farms
Powerful lobbying groups
Subsidies to companies that blend corn ethanol into gasoline
White flour
Vending machines dispensing soft drinks and candy

Terrific 10:
Water
Traditional Mediterranean and Asian diets
New York City Health Department
Sustainably and organically grown foods
Farmers’ markets
Federal food programs
First Lady Michelle Obama
Coalition of Immokalee Workers
Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Breastfeeding

I guess The Guy From CSPI isn’t a stickler for consistency.  White flour is on his Terrible 10 list, but the USDA Guidelines are on his Terrific 10.  That would be the same USDA that tells us we should base on diets on grains, and half of those grains should be whole grains.  That means the other half would be white flour.

Packed with calories, salt, saturated fat, added sugars, and white flour, a typical McDonald’s meal of a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Coke, and fries was another no-brainer for this rundown of nefarious noshes. A diet packed with high-calorie, high-fat meals like these can increase the risks of obesity, hypertension, and other diet-related disease.

Coca-Cola, french fries, a burger with a white-flour bun … yes, it’s got to be the fat in that meal that causes all the problems.  That explains why I lost 12 pounds in 28 days by loading up on fatty cheeseburgers while skipping the sodas, fries, and half the buns.

The pasta people dish on other carbohydrates

This is a label from a package of pasta.  Nice to see them acknowledging that spiking your glucose isn’t a good idea.  Unfortunately, pasta spikes my glucose as high or higher than most other starchy foods.  I once experimented with about a half-cup of cooked pasta.  An hour later, my glucose level was over 170 mg/dl.  I don’t care what the glycemic index says about the stuff, pasta is a sugar spike waiting to happen for many of us.

You may recall that Dreamfield’s made a bit of a splash by offering a pasta that supposedly didn’t spike blood sugar like ordinary pasta. Then some lab went and spoiled the party by running tests that showed the Dreamfield’s pasta had pretty much the same effect as other pastas … that is, it raised blood sugar pretty high.  Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt and Jimmy Moore both ran their own tests and got the same result:  high blood sugar, just as high was with regular pasta.

Tonight for dinner I had pork with a fairly low-carb barbeque sauce, broccoli with butter, and a medium-sized serving of squash Chareva spiced up rather nicely.  An hour later, my glucose peaked at 116.  I’ll take that meal over a half-cup of pasta any ol’ day.

The nutrition experts in Congress debate the health virtues of french fries

If you have any doubts that our government determines what kids should eat based on politics instead of science, this article should put them to rest:

The Senate threw its support behind the potato Tuesday, voting to block an Obama administration proposal to limit the vegetable on school lunch lines.

Agriculture Department rules proposed earlier this year aimed to reduce the amount of french fries in schools, limiting lunchrooms to two servings a week of potatoes and other starchy vegetables. That angered the potato industry, some school districts and members of Congress from potato-growing states, who say USDA should focus on the preparation instead and that potatoes can be a good source of fiber and potassium.

Following a bipartisan agreement on the issue, the Senate by voice vote accepted an amendment by Republican Sen. Susan Collins that would block the USDA from putting any limits on serving potatoes or other vegetables in school lunches.

We could debate endlessly about whether or not potatoes are good for kids, but that avoids the real question:  why the @#$% are a bunch of politicians in Washington taking it upon themselves to determine what foods will show up on the menu at my girls’ grade school in Tennessee?

An answer to the question above …

Maybe the desire of politicians has something to do with this.  Take a look at some of the figures for how much was spent lobbying Congress by various food-related industries:

Monsanto Co    $3,150,000
American Farm Bureau    $2,804,087
CropLife America    $1,055,162
Archer Daniels Midland    $930,00
Kraft Foods    $1,450,000
Nestle SA    $1,423,400
Tyson Foods    $1,398,094
US Beet Sugar Assn    $900,000
American Crystal Sugar    $808,491
American Sugar Alliance    $790,000
Cargill Inc    $720,000
Flo-Sun Inc    $345,000
Western Growers Assn    $320,000
Bunge Limited    $315,000
Florida Sugar Cane League    $305,900
Florida Citrus Mutual    $276,666
American Sugarbeet Growers Assn    $260,000

Don’t get me wrong:  I’m not against corporations lobbying Congress.  I’m against Congress having so much power that it attracts lobbyists like American Crystal Sugar attracts flies.

If only this were true

Recently a study concluded that vitamins may not be good for older people.  A doctor wrote an article in the Huffington Post explaining why we shouldn’t make much of the study.  He made several good points, but he was wrong about one thing:

This type of study is called an observational study or epidemiological study. It is designed to look for or “observe” correlations. Studies like these look for clues that should then lead to further research. They are not designed to be used to guide clinical medicine or public health recommendations. All doctors and scientists know that this type of study does not prove cause and effect.

All doctors and scientists know that, eh?  I hardly think so.  The same publication ran an opinion piece some months back in which Dean Ornish declared we had proof that a meaty diet will kill you – based on a lousy observational study.  Ancel Keys ignited the anti-fat hysteria that’s still with us today based on an even lousier observational study.  And I’ve had doctors and scientists leave comments on the blog in which they try to prove cause and effect by linking to observational studies.

Yes, all doctors and scientists should know observational studies don’t prove cause and effect.  But it’s disturbing how many don’t.

A rose by any other name …

I thought it was laughable when the Corn Refiners decided to get around high-fructose corn syrup’s increasingly bad reputation by renaming their product corn sugar. But apparently the move really angered one group in particular:  the sugar industry.

A federal judge ruled Friday that a lawsuit can go forward as the sugar industry seeks to stop the use of the term “corn sugar” for high fructose corn syrup.

Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association, accused sugar makers of “attempting to shut down free speech.” Erickson praised the judge for granting a defense motion to drop individual corn companies as defendants, leaving only the trade association, and dismissing a part of the lawsuit claiming that the corn industry violated California law in addition to federal regulations.

So they’re fighting over whether or not the corn people can call their product sugar, or if that term is reserved for the sugar people.  Sounds like a great use of the nation’s courts.

Corn refiners have been using “corn sugar” in an attempt to rebrand high fructose corn syrup, the sweetening agent found in most sodas and many processed foods.

The sugar industry says the campaign amounts to false advertising, and there are numerous differences between the white, granular product and the sticky liquid that is high fructose corn syrup.

Kind of like the numerous differences between rat poison and cockroach poison.

Adam Fox, a sugar industry lawyer who brought the suit, said the judge’s decision was “very encouraging to us.”

I suggest you celebrate by going out and eating a bag of sugar.

How to be the big man in your social group

Turns out Morgan Spurlock got it all wrong:  those super-size meals were really just a status symbol, according to a new (and truly goofy) study:

According to recent research, those who order grande lattes or super-size their food portions don’t necessarily have bigger appetites, but could be trying to improve their social status.

Researchers from the HEC Paris business school carried out tests to establish whether bigger portion sizes are associated with high social status.
The majority of participants assumed that people who ordered an extra large food portion were of a higher social status than someone who ordered a small or medium.

The study found that ordering large was common among the less wealthy and could partly explain the obesity rates being higher in lower-earning communities.

Well, I’ll be dipped.  And here I thought people were ordering large meals because their carb-laden diets were increasing their appetites.

“An ongoing trend in food consumption is consumers’ tendency to eat more and more,” says researcher David Dubois.

“Understanding and monitoring the size-to-status relationship of food options within an assortment is an important tool at the disposal of policy makers to effectively fight against over-consumption,” professor Dubois added.

All right, you policy-makers in Washington!  Grab those monitors that help you determine the size-to-status relationship of food options within an assortment, then put that tool to work!  (Then vote for unlimited potatoes in school lunches because you represent a potato-growing state.)

Sugar may soon give you a special glow

Let’s face it, pricking your finger to see if your blood sugar is elevated isn’t any fun.  But this possible alternative could be:

Hoping to ease the lifestyle of diabetics, scientists at the Institute of Industrial Science at the University of Tokyo are currently researching a new way to monitor blood glucose levels that may help diabetics get back to their normal lives. The researchers have begun testing on glowing glucose monitors that are implanted under a thin layer of skin.

When implanted into the skin, the monitors will become sensitive to changes in glucose levels and immediately glow when blood sugar spikes to dangerous levels.

Awesome.  I wish everyone at P.F. Chang’s had one of those implants installed when we ate there on Sunday.  One of my girls probably would have exclaimed, “Look, Mommy!  It’s Christmas!”

They didn’t say where the glow-sticks would be implanted, but I can hear the punchlines already:  “Honey, have you been eating cookies again, or are you just happy to see me?”

Barley-Aged Wine:

I must confess, I don’t know what barley-aged wine is.  But if I ever try it, I’ll probably choose this brand:

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Chareva’s birthday was Sunday, so her parents came down for the weekend to celebrate with us and get their first look at the farm.  Her dad is one of those “Tim the Toolman” types who can build pretty much anything he puts his mind to, so he had some good suggestions on ways to fix up the house without spending a fortune.  (He even built a riding train around his property near Chicago — the girls love it.  You can read about his train here. )

Sunday evening we all went to P.F. Chang’s for the big birthday dinner.  I tend to let my hair down (so to speak) when we go to ethnic restaurants, so I had two egg rolls, one fried crab wonton, and about half of the little cup of white rice the waitress brought with my sesame chicken.  It didn’t appear to be a major carb load, but an hour after dinner, I felt that buzz that I’ve come to recognize as the result of high blood sugar.

So I got out my meter and tested … 219 mg/dl.  Yikes.  I waited an hour and then tested again to get a two-hour postprandial reading … still pretty high at 169.

I know some people would see those results and immediately declare that my blood sugar went high and stayed high because my low-carb diet has made me intolerant to carbs, but I’m not so sure.  When I tested my one-hour reaction, both girls decided they wanted to know what their blood sugars were as well.  So after they successfully talked themselves out of the fear of having their fingers pricked, I tested their blood-sugar levels.  Sara’s was 189 mg/dl.  Alana’s was 176.

We don’t feed them sugar or flour at home, but their diets are nowhere near as low-carb as mine.  They like berries and full-fat yogurt for breakfast.  They usually take an apple or a banana in their lunches.  Chareva often serves sweet potatoes or squash with dinner, which they eat even when I don’t.  I don’t think it’s likely we’ve induced an intolerance to carbohydrates in them.  I think it’s more likely some people just don’t handle refined carbohydrates very well, period.

I also suspect intolerance to carbohydrates is largely genetic. When I first started testing my blood sugar a couple of years ago, Chareva’s sister Susan happened to be visiting.  When I grumbled about a small serving of pasta pushing my glucose up to 174 mg/dl an hour after eating it, Susan wanted to see what her glucose level was.  She’d eaten a bigger serving of pasta than I had plus a potato, but her one-hour glucose reading was only 112 mg/dl.  No wonder she (like Chareva) is naturally lean.  Those foods don’t spike her blood sugar.

But they definitely spike mine … and that’s why I rarely eat them anymore.

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