Archive for September, 2012

I finally received a link to the “We Are Hungry” video that I could view. In case you haven’t seen it, here it is:

I love this video not just because it’s funny, but also because ridicule can be an effective political tool.  The overlords don’t like it when the common people start laughing at them.  You can get angry, you can protest in the street, you can call your representatives and complain, etc., but those actions don’t knock the overlords from their mental pedestals.  Being publicly ridiculed is another matter.  When people are laughing at you, they are above you. There’s a reason we refer to ridicule as “looking down” on someone.

Back in the 1990s, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decided the Hooters restaurant chain was being unfair to men by hiring only young, pretty women as waitresses.  Never mind that Hooters employed plenty of men as cooks, dishwashers, managers, etc. … nope, by gosh, if a restaurant whose entire marketing strategy was built around pretty waitresses in skimpy outfits refused to hire men to wait tables, something bad was going on and the overlords needed to fix it.  So the EEOC demanded that Hooters change the very concept that had made it a successful chain and pony up millions of dollars in back pay to men the restaurants never hired.

Hooters could have fought back with high-priced attorneys (which they probably did), but they also understood and employed the power of ridicule.  They placed ads like the one you see below in newspapers and on billboards.

One full-page ad placed in newspapers featured the same guy you see in the billboard.  The text simply read:  What’s wrong with this picture?  Your government.

The EEOC dropped the case and (laughably) accused Hooters of intimidation.  Sure, we all know how easy it is to intimidate a federal agency.  The “intimidation” was the company’s successful strategy of encouraging ordinary citizens to laugh at their government overlords.

Let’s hope the USDA feels equally intimidated soon.

 

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I was interviewed yesterday by holistic nutritionist Beverly Meyer of the On Diet and Health blog on her radio/podcast show, which is titled Primal Diet – Modern Health.

Among other topics, we talked about the USDA imposing its nutrition guidelines on schools, the average media health reporter’s inability to understand what a study actually means, and the ridiculous (in my opinion) animosity between some low-carbers and paleo types.

Beverly will soon be moving her show to another network, but at this point she isn’t sure which network that will be.  She’ll make an announcement on her blog when the show finds a new home.

You can listen to our interview here.

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More students are complaining about the new USDA-mandated lunches:

Statistics that show obesity is a growing problem prompted an overhaul of the nation’s school lunch menus.  The new rules require twice as many fruits and vegetables, more whole grains and less sodium and fat.  And some students aren’t very happy about the changes.

I noticed the reporter doesn’t even ask himself if the overhaul will actually reduce obesity.  In fact, I’ve yet to read a mainstream media article which raises that question.  Reporters all seem to accept that more fruits, vegetables, healthywholegrains and reductions in fat and sodium are good ideas that the kids just don’t happen to like.

On Tuesday, Congresswoman Kristi Noem sat down with students in Pierre to see what they think of the new menu.

It’s nice that a Congresswoman is listening to kids in her district, but once again, somebody in the mainstream media should be asking the Big Question:  Why should school-lunch menus be a federal issue in the first place?  By what strange reasoning do we accept that politicians and bureaucrats in Washington are better qualified than parents and local officials to decide what kids in South Dakota should be eating for lunch?  The issue here shouldn’t be whether or not we (or a Congressperson) can somehow convince the school-lunch overlords to let kids eat more of what they want.  The issue should be the very existence of school-lunch overlords.

With the new federal regulations, kids can’t pass up both the fruits and veggies when going through the lunch line anymore.

Pretty please, take a moment and think about the utter arrogance underlying that rule.

What, you don’t want a fruit or vegetable on your plate?  Too friggin’ bad.  We in the USDA have decided you will put a fruit or vegetable on your plate, period.  We know what’s best for you.

So we’ve got do-gooder officials in Washington telling kids in our district in Tennessee what they can and cannot – and must – put on their plates.  Parents, teachers, local administrators, the kids themselves – their preferences don’t enter into it.

Here’s more of the same arrogance in a reply by a USDA official:

“One thing I think we need to keep in mind as kids say they’re still hungry is that many children aren’t used to eating fruits and vegetables at home, much less at school.  So it’s a change in what they are eating. If they are still hungry, it’s that they are not eating all the food that’s being offered,” USDA Deputy Under Secretary Janey Thornton said.

Got that?  If the kids are hungry, it’s their fault for not eating the fruits and vegetables the overlords at the USDA have insisted must go on their plates.  It couldn’t possibly be that fruits and vegetables – which have little or no protein or fat – just aren’t very filing.  It couldn’t possibly be that the USDA experts are friggin’ clueless about what a growing child or active teenager needs to get through the day without going hungry.  No, by gosh, we’re from the government and we’re here to help.

I hope students all over the country rise up against this nanny-state, paternalistic nonsense.  I hope they coordinate their protests through social media and make it a nationwide revolt.  Come on, kids, take a stand.  Start an Occupy The Cafeteria movement.  When government officials start telling you what you can and cannot eat, it’s time to raise hell.

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A month ago I wrote about the latest school-lunch nonsense and included this quote from a newspaper article:

There will be more whole grains on school lunch menus this year, along with a wider selection of fruits and vegetables and other healthy options.  The challenge is getting children to eat them.

Yup, that’s turning out to be a challenge, all right.  Here’s how kids reacted in a district in Wisconsin:

On Monday, 70% of the 830 Mukwonago High students who normally buy lunch boycotted cafeteria food to protest what they see as an unfair “one size fits all thing.” Middle schoolers in the district also boycotted their school lunches, with counts down nearly half Monday. They’re not alone in their frustration; schools across the country are reporting students who are unhappy with the lunch offerings.

On a positive note, the students are (I hope) learning a valuable lesson:  a “one size fits all thing” is what you get whenever big-government types get involved.  Mayor Bloomberg in New York isn’t telling the small fraction of the population whose blood pressure is affected by sodium to restrict salt.  Nope, he wants to mandate a low-sodium diet for everyone who buys packaged food in his kingdom … er, city.  The USDA doesn’t tell people to eat a high-carbohydrate diet unless they happen to be diabetic.  Nope, a high-carb diet is right for everyone.  One size fits all.

But of course, students aren’t all one size, as the article noted:

“A freshman girl who weighs 100 pounds can eat this lunch and feel completely full, maybe even a little bloated,” said Joey Bougneit, a Mukwonago senior.  But Blohm [mentioned earlier in the article] is a 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound linebacker.

I remember watching the guys on my high school’s football team eat lunch.  They piled food on their plates and went back for seconds or dessert.  Well, go figure.  They lifted weights or practiced in the morning, then had practice again after school.  Those practices were grueling.  They had a tough coach who led them to the state finals, even though they were the underdogs throughout the playoffs.  (They lost in the championship game, dangit.)  If they’d been limited to 850 calories for lunch, as the new federal guidelines dictate, I can imagine the headline in the school paper:

Newly Svelte Football Team Loses Five Straight

Sure, there was a lot of junk on the menu when I was in high school.  I wouldn’t recommend corn dogs and pizza to student athletes or anyone else.  But we’re not going to produce lean, healthy kids by forcing them to eat the low-fat, calorie-restricted meals the nanny-staters have decided is good for them.  They’ll just eat more later, bring their own lunches, or flat-out rebel, as they did in Wisconsin.

Another school in Connecticut has already decided roll back some of the federal guidelines, thanks to complaints by students:

The new school year has barely begun, but there’s already been one “dropout” at Staples High School. No, it’s not a student throwing in the towel just weeks into the academic cycle, but new dietary rules governing how sandwiches are made in the Staples cafeteria that — after a chorus of student objections — have been dropped.

Despite what may have been the federal Department of Agriculture’s best intentions, the guidelines to promote healthier eating implemented at the start of the year were on the menu only a few days.

Well, government officials always have the best of intentions when they institute stupid policies, don’t they?  But despite those fine intentions, here’s what the students wanted:

School officials reassessed the policy and opted to put more meat into it after listening to students’ complaints.

Yup.  The students wanted more meat on their sandwiches.  More meat and more cheese.

“They were charging the same price for a quarter of what we were getting,” said Devon Lowman, 17, a Staples senior who organized a petition among students that called for changes in the sandwich policy.

Last year, he said, for $4 students got “as much meat and as much cheese and other toppings as you wanted on sandwiches,” as well as a choice from eight kinds of bread. “What it had come to was only three choices of bread (and) two slices of meat.”

The two breads that were not verbotten were – you guessed it – healthywholegrain breads.  The purpose of limiting meat and cheese in school lunches is to limit fat.   So we’ve got calorie-limited meals based on grains, fruits and vegetables, with restrictions on meat, cheeses and other foods that provide both fat and protein.   Care to take a wild guess what the geniuses in government named this program?

The new regulations are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was recently enacted.

“Uh … excuse me, could I please have more meat on my sandwich?”

“No.  That would violate the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.”

“But I’m still hungry when I eat these sandwiches.  I really want more meat.”

“I’m sorry, but you’ll just have to be hungry.  Giving you more meat would violate the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.”

The good news is that the principal in Connecticut listened to the students’ complaints and changed school policy.  The bad news is that a lot other principals probably won’t.

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Quite a few readers have lamented in comments or emails that their family and friends think they’re nuts for living on a high-fat/low-carb diet.  Yes, it’s discouraging, but I understand where the family and friends are coming from.  Just look at the kind of health advice they see in the popular media.  Here are some recent examples.

Bacon Will Kill You

You know you’re in for some head-bang-on-desk moments when a registered dietician writes an article titled The Truth About Bacon.

There seems to be an epidemic spreading through America known as Bacon-Gate!

What used to only be served with eggs at the breakfast table has slowly transitioned into more unconventional uses. Bacon is now offered in ice cream, wrapped around hot dogs, shrimp, and even dates.

For the record, I never tried to wrap any of my dates in bacon.  Not even Chareva — although on our first date, she tore into an Italian sausage with such gusto, perhaps I should have at least floated the idea.

You can find it in gourmet chocolate bars, infused in mayonnaise or jams, and countless other concoctions.

So the article starts on a positive note.  But you can guess what’s coming next.

Unfortunately, while its popularity is on the rise, so are concerns regarding the potentially harmful effects this salty staple can have on your health.

I agree … the rise in concern about people eating bacon is unfortunate.

The fact is, bacon is not good for you, especially if you are at risk for certain health conditions such as heart disease or high blood pressure.

Here we go … a reference to arterycloggingsaturatedfat coming in 3-2-1 ..

The high fat content (68 percent of its calories comes from fat, almost half of which is saturated or artery-clogging, and one strip can contain up to 3.5 grams of fat), high sodium (one medium slice contains 150mg), and high cholesterol (30mg per ounce, about 4 slices). Cured bacon contains nitrates, and according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, nitrates in food have been linked with cancer.

The high fat content of bacon is the reason I eat it.  Yes, almost half is saturated, and most of the other half is monounsaturated, which is the kind of fat that’s supposed to make olive oil so wonderful for us.  All the saturated fat will do to you is raise your HDL … and make you happy to be alive in a world where there are pigs.

There are ways you can still enjoy bacon (in moderation, of course) and minimize its potentially unhealthy effects.

Yeah. Don’t eat it with bread.

Keep in mind that traditional pork bacon has some plusses: It is high in protein, vitamins and minerals, including B6, B12, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc, as well as choline, a nutrient which helps improve cognitive performance, memory, mood and mental alertness.

So bacon is jam-packed with all kinds of vitamins and minerals that are good for you, but it’s also bad for you because it’s high in fat.  Here’s a wacky idea:  maybe there’s a reason Mother Nature put all those vitamins and minerals in fatty meats and then made fat taste delicious to humans.

The rest of the article goes on to suggest trying “healthier varieties” such as turkey bacon.  I have.  All it did was make me feel guilty for killing a turkey for no good reason.

Sugar and starch are shockingly good for you

The Eat This Not That guys are often near the top of my list of annoying people.  An online article titled 20 Shockingly Healthy Restaurant Foods left me freshly annoyed.

Good news: Amid the sea of fat-soaked failures that pervade the menus of newer major restaurant and fast-food chains, we uncovered some remarkably smart choices.

Here are just a few samples of the remarkably smart (but not fat-soaked!) choices they recommend.

Arby’s Super Roast Beef sandwich.  Just like a hamburger, this sandwich is piled with lettuce, tomato, and onion. The difference is that Arby’s replaces the beef patty with roast beef, which clears off enough excessive fat to make room for indulgent sides or dessert. If this were a burger, you could expect it to weigh in with at least 600 calories.

This is remarkably smart because it only contains 17 grams of fat and 5 grams of saturated fat, ya see.  They didn’t mention the carbohydrate content, so I looked it up:  40 grams, pretty much all from a white-flour bun.

Ben & Jerry’s frozen yogurt (1/2 cup). Frozen yogurt shops are all the rage right now, but Ben & Jerry’s has been quietly pumping out low-fat fro-yo for close to 2 decades. Skip the restaurant dessert and swing by here instead. Top a cup with chopped nuts and fresh fruit for one of the finest desserts you’ll ever encounter.

Only three grams of fat!  (Why do I feel like I walked into a Seinfeld re-run?)  There are also 23 grams of sugar – in a half-cup.  That almost equals an 8-ounce Coca-Cola.  Yup, remarkably smart.

The article recommends more remarkably smart choices like macaroni and cheese, chicken wraps, burritos, pancakes and even a big ol’ Oreo cookie – but one that’s not too high in fat.  The takeaway message:  as long as you limit your fat and total calories, everything else is remarkably smart.

Junk food and Alzheimer’s

I’m glad researchers are recognizing Alzheimer’s as a form of diabetes, but an article titled The New Junk Food Danger — Dementia? manages to give the exact wrong impression about what causes diabetes.

Not only does junk food make you fat, but it could cause dementia. New research shows that our calorie-laden diet boosts risk for dementia, a memory-robbing disorder some experts now call “type 3 diabetes.”

In fact, a shocking new study reports that teenagers who eat a diet that’s high in fat and calories already show “accelerated cognitive decline.” The researchers blame rising rates of dementia on our increasingly unhealthy eating habits and couch potato lifestyle.

Excuse me, but how many teenagers do you know who eat a diet that’s high in fat and calories but low in sugar and refined starches?  After that opening, you’d wonder if the writer has any clue about the insulin connection.  But lo and behold, the next section of the article is subtitled …

The Insulin Connection

While it’s long been known that type 2 diabetics are at higher risk for memory loss, another new study found that damage to key brain areas involved in memory and cognitive skills starts when blood sugar hits the high end of the “normal” range, even when other risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure, and alcohol consumption are taken into account.

So it’s all that dietary fat pushing blood sugar to the high end of the normal range, is it?  I’d better order another glucose meter.  Mine’s clearly malfunctioning, since it tells me it’s carbohydrates that spike my blood sugar.

“Americans are literally eating a ‘diabetes diet’ that’s very toxic to the brain and other vital organs,” says Dr. Joel Zonszein, medical director of the diabetes clinic at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. “And the one of the most terrible complications — brain damage — is occurring in younger and younger patients.”

Yes, diabetes has been on the rise for 30 years now.  Hmmm … which foods did we start consuming in larger quantities during that span?  Red meat?  Eggs?  Whole milk?  Butter?  Nope, consumption of all those fatty foods went down.

“Most people with insulin resistance graze all day on high-calorie foods,” says Dr. Zonszein. “What they should do is eat three heart-healthy, low-fat meals a day with colorful fruits and vegetables, high-fiber whole grains, and lean protein, such as fish or chicken, on their plate.”

Ahh, yes, let’s put whole grains on our plates.  Nothing keeps your blood sugar down like grains.

Also limit—or better still, avoid—sweet drinks, including fruit juice and sports drinks. A recent study shows that high-fructose sweeteners, in particular, may be driving the development of brain-harming microvessel disease.

Finally, one piece of good advice.

We need bread!

I’m always suspicious of articles written by anonymous reporters.  This article in the U.K. Mail, titled Not a Grain of Truth, sounds as if it were written by someone from the bread industry — which it probably was.

Scientists dismiss 20 years of warnings that bread is responsible for fatigue, stomach pain, bloating and headaches

People are going without vital vitamins and minerals that are contained in each loaf

From hot buttered toast to the simple sandwich, bread was once the staple of the British diet.  But in recent years it has suffered from a serious image crisis and has become something of a health bogeyman, a food to be avoided and resisted.

Now nutrition scientists believe that most of the health alerts about consuming bread are myths.

I don’t care if you’re reading about nutrition, economics or global warming, whenever you see a blanket statement like “experts say” or “scientists believe,” you’re looking at an intentionally biased article.  The factual statement would always be “some experts say” or “some scientists believe.”  Pick any field, and the experts or scientists routinely disagree with each other.  When reporters write “scientists believe,” they’re telling you what to believe, not what is.  It’s just a weak appeal to authority.

Researchers at the British Nutrition Foundation said that people are instead going without vital vitamins and minerals that are contained in each loaf.

So let me get this straight … we should eat bread because we need the vitamins and minerals that government health agencies ordered to be added to bread so people wouldn’t suffer nutrition deficiencies from eating bread. Yeah, that makes sense.

And they have dismissed 20 years of warnings that bread is responsible for a range of symptoms, including fatigue, stomach pain, bloating and headaches.  They also dispute that wheat allergies are on the increase.

Really?  How exactly did those scientists dismiss warnings that bread can cause fatigue, bloating and headaches?  Was there some kind of research involved here?

Lead researcher Dr Aine O’Connor said that despite a massive downturn in bread consumption, Britain’s obesity crisis is the biggest in Europe and continues to worsen.

Yes, consumption of sliced bread has fallen, but consumption of grains certainly hasn’t.  People are eating their grains in the form of donuts, scones, pasta, pancakes, burritos, pizza, and Little Debbie Snack Cakes.

Dr O’Connor said that wheat allergies have not risen, but many people are now incorrectly convinced they suffer from wheat intolerance or an allergy to gluten (the protein found in wheat).

Strange, I seem to recall reading about a study in which scientists compared blood samples from 50 years ago to blood samples today and found that the rate of celiac disease really and truly has gone up – by a factor of four.  How does a blood sample become incorrectly convinced to develop antibodies to celiac disease?  I had no idea blood was so prone to hypochondria.

Since the anonymous bread-pushing reporter is quoting the British Nutrition Foundation as a source of unbiased expertise on the health benefits of bread, I went looking for information on the organization’s funding.  Here’s what I found.

The British Nutrition Foundation, established more than 40 years ago, advises the Government, schools, industry, health professionals and the public. It says on its website that it exists to deliver “authoritative, evidence-based information on food and nutrition” and that it aims to be “world class in the interpretation and translation of complex science.”

However, the organisation’s 39 members, which contribute to its funding, include – beside the Government, the EU – Cadbury, Kellogg’s, Northern Foods, McDonald’s, PizzaExpress, the main supermarket chains except Tesco, and producer bodies such as the Potato Council. The chairman of its board of trustees, Paul Hebblethwaite, is also chairman of the Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate and Confectionery Trade Association.

Sounds like exactly the kind of unbiased organization media health reporters should rely on when they write articles telling us what’s good for us.

This is what we’re up against.

 

p.s. — I’m driving to Illinois tomorrow (Friday) to attend my 35th (holy @#$%!) high school reunion.  I’ll check comments when I can, but I’ll be in the car most of the day.

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I stumbled across this article about a carbohydrate-restriction study while looking for something else.

British researchers took 88 women considered at high risk for breast cancer and divided them into three diet groups. One group adopted a Mediterranean-type diet with a limit of 1500 calories per day.  The second group was told to restrict carbohydrates to below 50 grams two days per week, then eat normally on the other days.  The third group was also told to restrict carbohydrates to below 50 grams two days per week, but also to limit calories to 650 on those two days.

Here were the results, according to the article:

At the end of four weeks women in both of the intermittent dieting groups had lost more weight — about 9 pounds — than the women who ate low calorie meals every day of the week — about 5 pounds.

Women in the intermittent dieting groups also had better improvement than daily dieters in the levels of hormones — insulin and leptin — that have been linked with breast cancer risk.

Notice that the women who restricted calories every day lost the least amount of weight on average.  I couldn’t find a full paper on this study – the article mentions a presentation, so maybe there is no full study published – so we don’t know if they measured changes in metabolism.  We also don’t know if the women who went low-carb twice per week reduced their calorie intake spontaneously.  All we know is that the women who restricted calories every day lost less weight than those who merely restricted carbohydrates two days per week.

I also found it interesting that both groups of women who restricted carbohydrates lost about the same amount of weight, even though one group restricted calories to 650 two days per week and the other group didn’t.  We’ve seen this happen in several studies now:  people who restrict carbohydrates lose as much or more weight than people who restrict calories, even though the low-carbers don’t restrict calories and are told to eat to satiety.

If you restrict calories enough and can endure being perpetually hungry, you will lose weight.  Nobody disputes that.  But there’s a good chance you’ll also end up with a slower metabolism and be miserable much of the time.  No thanks.  Not when can I keep my weight down just by avoiding sugar and limiting starch.  I’m never miserable while eating bacon, steaks, ribs, shrimp, chicken, eggs and butter.

I know what I ate today (scrambled ham and eggs with onions and cheese for breakfast, Italian sausages and mashed cauliflower loaded with butter and sour cream for dinner), but I don’t know how many calories I consumed today … or yesterday, or the day before, or the day before, or on any day in recent memory.  And I like it that way.

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