Archive for October, 2015

Yes, I know … I’ve been a bit of an absent landlord lately when it comes to the blog. As someone who’s written a film, speeches, roasts, a few stage shows back in the day, etc., I know that you have to commit to a deadline at some point, or the project will never be finished.

So I set a deadline for a complete first draft of the book project: my birthday, which is a mere 16 days away. We’d like to have this thing available by May, and Chareva needs plenty of lead time to produce a ton of drawings and lay out the pages. The way holiday seasons seem to zip past, I also know that if I don’t have a draft finished by my birthday, it won’t be finished until the new year.

Trying to explain how diet affects health in a fun and kid-friendly way turned out to be a bigger challenge than I expected – and I expected it to be challenge. I rewrote the toughest chapter (on why the calories-in/calories-out theory is true but also useless) a dozen times last winter.  I finally came up with an analogy that worked, and presented that chapter as a speech on the cruise last May.

But when I began writing subsequent chapters, I decided I didn’t like that analogy so much after all. It worked well as a solo act, but when I moved on to related subjects, I found myself jumping from one analogy to another to explain the concepts. Yee-uck.  I like casseroles as food, but not as a writing style.

I shared my writer’s woes with Chareva, and she offered an idea. That took my brain to a another idea and BANG! – I had the AHA! moment writers live for.  We spent an hour or so kicking it around, talking about she could illustrate it, how we could use it to explain every topic we want to cover. It all made sense.

That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that I had to re-imagine everything I’d already written and start again. A whole shootload of Chareva’s drawings will go out the window as well. Totally worth it, mind you. Once we knew this was it, the big idea, the right way to tell the story, the words started flowing. But it’s a lot of words, and I have plenty more to write.

So that’s what I’ve been doing instead of blogging.

I’ve been reading comments, of course, and answering emails. A few days ago, I let myself get dragged into an email debate with an ignoramus who thinks I don’t understand calories, then realized I was violating my rule about not arguing with idiots – especially illogical idiots who seem to love endless arguments. So I invited him to go away and blocked his email address.

Several of you have written to ask if I read Denise Minger’s book-length post on high-carb, very-low-fat diets that successfully treated obesity and diabetes. Yes, I did, and it’s fascinating. If you haven’t read her outstanding book Death by Food Pyramid, she floated some similar ideas there. Ancel Keys insisted fat does the damage, John Yudkin insisted sugar does the damage, they sniped at each other for years. But as Minger wrote in the book, it could be that they were both right and both wrong … perhaps it’s the combination of fat and sugar that does the real damage. Cut either to an extreme, and the damage doesn’t occur. A 15-year-old book I recently read about diet and hormones makes similar points.

Anyway, I’ll probably write more about her post soon … if after my birthday qualifies as “soon.”

Several people also wrote to ask for a reaction to the World Health Organization’s announcement that meat causes cancer. So here’s my reaction:

Head. Bang. On. Desk.

Actually, we shouldn’t be surprised. This wasn’t a scientific decision. It was a political decision. WHO is an idiot step-child of the U.N. – a political organization run by political hacks for the purpose of promoting political agendas. The (ahem) “climate experts” at the U.N. have also declared that raising livestock contributes to global warming – er, “climate change,” now that record-cold winters have put the kibosh on “warming.” They don’t want us to eat meat, period. I certainly don’t put it past the political hacks to cherry-pick observational studies that link meat to cancer as a scare tactic.

As part of the scare campaign, one of the WHO hacks apparently declared that when it comes to cancer risk, sausage is in the same category as plutonium. The always-brilliant Dr. Malcolm Kendrick replied, “OK, I’ll eat the sausages, you eat the plutonium, let’s see who lives longest.”

Zoe Harcombe wrote a nice post about the WHO announcement, complete with analysis of the numbers.

I don’t plan to write a full post about it, because it’s the same old garbage based on the same crappy observational studies, and I’ve already written about those studies here, here, here and here.

I will, however, quote from one study. Remember that in good science, we don’t accept a hypothesis unless the evidence supporting it is consistent. WHO says red meat and processed meats cause bowel cancer. So we’d certainly expect vegetarians to have the lowest rates of bowel cancer, wouldn’t we?

Take a look at the conclusion from this observational study, which I’ve quoted before:

The overall cancer incidence rates of both the vegetarians and the nonvegetarians in this study are low compared with national rates. Within the study, the incidence of all cancers combined was lower among vegetarians than among meat eaters, but the incidence of colorectal cancer was higher in vegetarians than in meat eaters.

No consistency, no scientific validity. If meat causes bowel cancer, vegetarians would have lower rates of bowel cancer, period, no glaring exceptions. WHO doesn’t get to pick and choose. Well, they do, but we get to use our brains and refuse be swayed by cherry-picked garbage.

Another analysis of data from the same study included this conclusion:

Within the study, mortality from circulatory diseases and all causes is not significantly different between vegetarians and meat eaters

“All causes” would include cancer.

Go enjoy your sausage (hold the plutonium), and I’ll get back to working on the book.

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If you’re trying to eat right, then following the diet of a nutritionist is probably a good start.

That may be the scariest first sentence I’ve ever read in a health and fitness article. It ranks up there with we’re from the government, and we’re here to help.

After seeing countless nutritionists quoted in online health articles over the years, I’ve reached the conclusion that every time a nutritionist leaves a room, the average IQ goes up by several points. (To be fair to nutritionists, that’s not always true. Sometimes the room is full of stupid people.  Or government officials who are there to help.)

Anyway, that scary first sentence is from a Business Insider online article titled A nutritionist shares pictures of everything she eats in a day.  I suppose the pictures would be useful for people who want to follow the nutritionist’s advice but are intimidated by reading. For those who don’t mind reading, the nutritionist provided commentary to go along with the pictures. Let’s take a look at what she has to say.

I am thirsty when I wake up, so I start the day with a combo juice of calcium-fortified orange juice and 100% cranberry juice.

I’ve found water helps with that thirst problem.

I dilute it with water, otherwise it’s too sweet. I love the sweet/sour taste, besides all the vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, calcium, and diuretic benefits from the cranberry juice.

Personally, I’ve never had problems peeing in the morning, so the diuretic benefit doesn’t appeal to me. The sweet portion of that sweet/sour taste, of course, comes from the sugar in the orange juice.

On the way to work, around 8:30 a.m., almost every day I eat oatmeal with unsalted peanuts and cinnamon in the car.

Um … uh …. you eat your oatmeal in the car? Almost every day?

Well, that’s just a fabulous idea. The world needs more distracted drivers. While you’re eating your oatmeal (and feeling like you have to pee from those diuretic benefits), perhaps you could send a few texts and apply some eyeliner.

When I get to the office, I make a big mug of decaf mocha-latte coffee and go over my emails. I love them! I use instant decaffeinated coffee with a teaspoon of 100% cacao (natural unsweetened cocoa) topped with a generous amount of 1% milk. The non-alkalized cocoa powder provides heart-healthy flavanols, which may be otherwise processed out in dark chocolate. I drink three to four of these big mugs throughout the day and night to stay hydrated and get a source of calcium.

Again, I’m reasonably sure water would help with the hydration.

I need a mid-morning snack, so around 11 a.m. I eat one-third to one-half of a bar of my favorite chocolate-chip cookie-dough Quest bar.

You need a mid-morning snack? After that power breakfast of orange juice, cranberry juice, oatmeal, a few peanuts and some 1% milk? Well, I am shocked.

I get hungry between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. and eat lunch consisting of plain Greek yogurt with fruit, nuts, and Fiber One cereal for added fiber.

You get hungry again an hour after your mid-morning snack? I must be doing something wrong. I ate breakfast around 8:30 this morning and wasn’t hungry again until dinner.

I was hungry again at 2 p.m. and made my own microwave popcorn with olive oil.

You were hungry again two hours after lunch?!  Let’s see … fruit, cereal, non-fat yogurt … aren’t those the kinds of foods promoted by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act? I’m starting to think these (ahem) healthy foods aren’t so effective at quelling hunger.

I love popcorn and have to measure it out or I eat too much.

Yeah, that’s why I have to measure out my bacon in the morning. You know how it is: you start eating bacon, next thing you know you’ve finished the whole package.  Then you go see a therapist to ask why.

Around 4 p.m. I was feeling stressed but not hungry, so I chewed my favorite peppermint gum. The more stressed I am, the more pieces of gum I chew at a time. Up to four pieces!

Geez, I don’t know how anyone could feel stressed after fueling up on orange juice, cranberry juice, oatmeal, a few peanuts, half a protein bar, non-fat yogurt, fruit and Fiber One cereal. Those sound like perfect brain-calming foods to me. Congratulations on going two hours without feeling hungry, though.

I got home early around 5 p.m. and was tired and hungry, so I ate a handful of peanut M&Ms for a chocolate, sugar energy boost. Since I am sensitive to caffeine, chocolate is the only caffeine I need and is usually included in my daily diet.

I don’t know how anyone could feel tired and hungry after fueling up on orange juice, cranberry juice, oatmeal, a few peanuts, half a protein bar, non-fat yogurt, fruit, Fiber One cereal, and some carefully-measured microwave popcorn. Must be something genetic. Good thing chocolate is included in your daily diet. That sugar energy boost sounds like a godsend.

My husband wasn’t around, so I had leftover Indian food for dinner around 6:30 p.m. I love Indian food and created this dish the night before: curry chicken, onions, apples, raisins, and coconut with garlic naan.

Careful there, lady. If you accidentally skip the raisins and garlic flat-bread, you’ll end up eating something resembling a decent meal.

On the way to my 8:30 p.m. yoga class, I bring a big bottle of iced water. When I get home, I like to drink flavored sparkling water around 9:45 p.m. to 10 p.m. while watching TV.

I drink sparkling water at night too … although I pee it out in the morning without the diuretic benefits of cranberry juice.

The nutritionist didn’t list her portion sizes, but I can make a pretty good guess from the pictures. So entered her day’s dietary choices into Excel and added calories, carbs, protein, etc., by looking them up in online databases. If I’m in the ballpark (and I’m pretty sure I am), the nutritionist consumed right around 2,000 calories, including 100 grams of protein and 250 carbohydrates. Half the carbs – 125 – were from sugar.

As a point of reference, if you drank three 12-ounce cans of Coca-Cola, you’d ingest 117 grams of sugar.

If you’re trying to eat right, then following the diet of a nutritionist is probably a good start.

I may yell that at any trick-or-treaters who show up on my doorstep. If they’re smart, they’ll scream and run away.

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Since I’m in the middle of writing a book for kids, articles about kids and health that land in my inbox receive special attention. Two recent articles illustrate what’s wrong with the prevailing advice on how to reduce rates of childhood obesity.

That advice, of course, is to cajole, harass, or possibly shame kids into eating less and exercising more. (Strangely, there were few fat kids in my grade school despite a lack of cajoling and harassing.) The USDA-approved lunches are lower in fat and calories than in previous years, and we’ve got federal campaigns like Let’s Move! to promote exercise.

Again, nobody had to cajole kids into moving when I was growing up. Playing outside with friends is what we lived for. If anything, our moms had to yell out the back door and demand we stop playing and come inside for dinner. I’m pretty sure once kids reach the point where they don’t naturally want to move, cajoling won’t make much of a difference.

A recent study supports that point. Here are some quotes from a Science Daily article titled Guilting teens into exercise won’t increase activity:

Just like attempts at influencing hairstyles or clothing can backfire, adults who try to guilt middle-schoolers into exercising won’t get them to be any more active, according to a new study by University of Georgia researchers.

The study, which appears in the September issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found students who don’t feel in control of their exercise choices or who feel pressured by adults to be more active typically aren’t. Middle-schoolers who feel they can make their own decisions about exercising are more likely to see themselves as a person who exercises, which in turn makes them more likely to exercise.

Hmmm … it would be easy to read that and conclude that if you put pressure on kids, they don’t want to exercise, but if you don’t put pressure on them, they do want to exercise.  Defiant little tykes, eh?

I think the more likely explanation is that kids who don’t enjoy being active end up being pressured to exercise (because people think they’re lazy), while kids who naturally want to move aren’t pressured.  So the associations show up as pressured = less active, not pressured = active.

This age is a critical juncture in a child’s life, as kids typically decrease their activity levels by 50 percent between fifth and sixth grades, said Rod Dishman, the study’s lead author and a professor of kinesiology in the UGA College of Education.

“Our results confirm that the beliefs these kids hold are related to physical activity levels,” Dishman said. “But can we put these children in situations where they come to value and enjoy the act of being physically active?”

Dishman and colleagues at the University of South Carolina are now looking at ways to help kids identify with exercise at a younger age, so that by the time they reach middle school they are more likely to identify as someone who exercises.

I seriously doubt kids exercise because they identify themselves as someone who exercises. I think it’s likely the other way around: they identify themselves as someone who exercises because they enjoy being active.  I identify myself as a disc golfer because I enjoy the game, so I play it.  I didn’t take up disc golf because I identified myself as a disc golfer.

What parents and teachers don’t want to create, Dishman cautioned, is a sense of guilt for not exercising. The research overwhelmingly found that students who felt obligated to be more active were less likely to embrace activity overall.

“The best thing is to do it because it’s fun,” Dishman said. “It’s the kids who say they are intrinsically motivated who are more active than the kids who aren’t.”

BINGO. The kids who are intrinsically motivated are feeling what Gary Taubes calls the compulsion to move. Their bodies would rather burn calories than store them, so they feel full of energy. They want to be active.

The kids whose bodies are in calorie-storage mode, on the other hand, don’t feel like moving. They don’t have the energy. Exercise feels like a chore. The research is clear on the chicken-or-the-egg question: kids don’t get fat because they stop moving. They start getting fat first, then stop moving.

That means the problem is diet, which brings us to the other interesting article to land in my inbox. Here are some quotes from an article published by the University of Missouri School of Medicine:

Although health experts recommend breakfast as a strategy to reduce an individual’s chance of obesity, little research has examined if the actual type of breakfast consumed plays a significant role in one’s health and weight management.

Of course the type of breakfast plays a significant role. Does anyone think Pop-Tarts and eggs produce the same hormonal effects?

University of Missouri researchers compared the benefits of consuming a normal-protein breakfast to a high-protein breakfast and found the high-protein breakfast — which contained 35 grams of protein — prevented gains of body fat, reduced daily food intake and feelings of hunger, and stabilized glucose levels among overweight teens who would normally skip breakfast.

Heather Leidy, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the MU School of Medicine and lead author of the study, said the key to eating 35 grams of protein is to consume a combination of high-quality proteins including milk, eggs, lean meats and Greek yogurt.

I don’t think the meat necessarily has to be lean, but a big YES on the protein. Protein intake has a strong effect on appetite.

Leidy and her colleagues fed two groups of overweight teens ,who reported skipping breakfast between five and seven times a week, either normal-protein breakfast meals or high-protein breakfast meals. A third group of teens continued to skip breakfast for 12 weeks.

“The group of teens who ate high-protein breakfasts reduced their daily food intake by 400 calories and lost body fat mass, while the groups who ate normal-protein breakfast or continued to skip breakfast gained additional body fat,” Leidy said. “These results show that when individuals eat a high-protein breakfast, they voluntarily consume less food the rest of the day. In addition, teens who ate high-protein breakfast had more stable glucose levels than the other groups.”

Give kids more protein, and they spontaneously eat less. No cajoling or harassing required. They eat less because they’re not as hungry, period. Same goes for adults, by the way. That shows up in the research over and over.

So let’s take a look at what the geniuses behind the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (championed by The First Lady, as the USDA site informs us right at the top) require for federally-approved school breakfasts.

A cup of fruit per day is required. Grains are required. A cup of milk is required, but of course that would be skim milk – although it can be “flavored,” according to a different document.  That means chocolate or strawberry milk with sugar.  There’s no meat or even a meat alternative required – although in the footnotes, you can find this gem:

Beginning July 1, 2013 (SY 2013-2014), schools may substitute 1 oz. eq. of meat/meat alternate for 1 oz. eq. of grains after the minimum daily grains requirement is met.

Well, that is just damned generous of the feds to allow schools to swap an ounce of meat for an ounce of grains … after the minimum daily grains requirement is met.  Kids just can’t be healthy without those grains, ya know.

So according to the USDA, this is the breakfast that will give us healthy, hunger-free kids: fruit, grains, and fat-free milk with sugar. No meat or eggs required.

And that’s why people think kids need to be pressured into eating less and moving more: they’re put on diets that make them want to eat more and move less. Then people blame the kids.

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Take statins to protect your heart and you’ll live a long time!

No, wait … you’ll just feel like you’ve been living a long time.

Here are some quotes from an article in the UK Express titled Statins: Heart disease drug speeds up ageing process, warns new research.

Statins make regular users become older faster, leaving them open to long-term mental and physical decline, according to disturbing new research.

Scientists have found the heart disease drug badly affects our stem cells, the internal medical system which repairs damage to our bodies and protects us from muscle and joint pain as well as memory loss.

You mean artificially beating down your cholesterol — one of the primary structural components of your brain — can affect your memory? I’d forgotten that. No, wait … I didn’t forget that. Good thing I don’t take statins.

Last night experts warned patients to “think very carefully” before taking statins as a preventative medicine.

And if they’re not on statins yet, they may actually be able to think very carefully.

The new research by scientists at Tulane University in New Orleans has reignited the debate about statin side effects which many doctors say have been played down.

Those are the good doctors. The bad doctors help play down the side effects, often by ignoring them or attributing them to old age. Hey, wait a minute … maybe that aging thing is fooling the doctors.

“Doctor, I think this statin might not be so good for me. I ache all the time, I’m tired, and I’m getting forgetful.”

“Well, that’s not unusual for an 80-year-old man.”

“I’m 62, Doctor.”

“Oh. Well, you seem 80 to me, so my point stands.”

Professor Reza Izadpanah, a stem cell biologist and lead author of the research published in the American Journal of Physiology, said: “Our study shows statins may speed up the ageing process.

“People who use statins as a preventative medicine for health should think again as our research shows they may have general unwanted effects on the body which could include muscle pain, nerve problems and joint problems.”

The scientists who treated stem cells with statins under laboratory conditions found that after a few weeks the cholesterol-busting treatment had a dramatic effect.

Statins prevented stem cells from performing their main functions, to reproduce and replicate other cells in the body to carry out repairs. The researchers found the statins prevented stem cells from generating new bone and cartilage.

Wow, awesome drug. When the patents finally run out, maybe the manufacturers can drop the price and sell high doses of the stuff as rat poison.

Dr Malcolm Kendrick, a GP in Macclesfield, Cheshire, who has studied heart health and statins, said: “Statins just make many patients feel years older. This research reinforces what has long been suspected. The side effects of statins mimic the ageing process.

“I observe patients on statins slowing down. Some are not affected, for some it is a relatively subtle process, but for many it is a serious side effect and one which disturbingly helps us confirm what we have long suspected.”

Kendrick is so honest about the state of modern medicine, I’m surprised he still has a medical license.

Professor Izadpanah said: “People at high risk of heart disease can reduce this risk by taking statins. However, considering the adverse effects of these drugs and their association with so many side effects, it is crucial people are fully aware of the risks before they take the treatment.”

Making people fully aware of the risks isn’t in the interest of the statin-makers or the doctors who prescribe them. That’s why you and I have to keep shouting this stuff from the hilltops.

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