Archive for January, 2016

I’m almost embarrassed by the number of people in cyberspace who refer to Fat Head Pizza.  Yeah, it’s a delicious low-carb pizza crust that tastes like real pizza crust, but I had nothing to do it.  I didn’t even write the post with the recipe.  The Older Brother’s Oldest Son wrote it up after modifying a recipe he found at Cooky’s Creations, then the Older Brother posted it.

That post (which you can view here if you missed it) still draws views and comments — 359 of them at last count.  It may be the most-viewed post on the entire blog … and like I said, I didn’t even write it.

Now Fat Head Pizza has re-purposed as Fat Head Crackers.  My embarrassment continues.  If I keep getting credit for things I didn’t create, I’ll have to start hanging out with Al Gore.

Anyway, the crackers version of the pizza crust appeared here on a recipe (and other stuff) site called Ditch The Carbs.  When I was alerted to the crackers, I went to the site and poked around.  There are lots of excellent no-sugar, no-grain recipes there (not attributed to Fat Head), so I thought I’d mention it.

And now, since it’s 66 degrees outside (a mere week after we were sledding down our back hill), I need to step outside for a round of disc golf.  Enjoy your weekend.

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Around this time last year, I wrote a post titled The Rider And The Elephant, which briefly summarized a concept from the book The Happiness Hypothesis. Here’s a quote from my post:

The author, a psychologist named Jonathan Haidt, presents an explanation of human behavior that I like so much, I’m borrowing it (with attribution) for the book I’m writing for kids.

As Haidt explains it, your body and your unconscious mind are like an elephant. Your conscious mind – the part of you that thinks and makes plans and vows – is like a rider on top of the elephant. We like to think the rider is in control. But he isn’t, at least not if he tries to guide the elephant somewhere the elephant doesn’t want to go – like, say, into a fire.

And later in the post:

If evolution has hard-wired one survival instinct into every living creature on earth, it’s got to be this: don’t starve. Starvation means death. In our conscious minds, we may believe going hungry for weeks on end is a fine idea if we’ll look good in a swimsuit by summer. But the elephant disagrees… If you simply starve yourself, you’re dragging the elephant somewhere he doesn’t want to go.

I followed that post with one titled The Rider And The Elephant And The Biggest Losers. Here’s a quote from that one:

People who go on The Biggest Loser are (as the article makes clear) agreeing to be in lockdown. Same goes for people who participate in metabolic ward studies. And yes, under those circumstances, you can probably demonstrate that all weight-loss diets work as long as the dieter sticks to the diet, as some internet cowboys like to point out. So what? All that tells us is that if you lock the elephant in a cell, he doesn’t run away — because he can’t. But he’ll be miserable the whole time, and when he’s no longer in lockdown, he won’t be hanging around for long – even if the rider thinks he should.

I don’t suppose many of us need more proof that The Biggest Loser is a b.s. show promoting insane ideas about weight loss. But what the heck, an article about the show from the U.K. Guardian landed in my inbox a few weeks ago, and I can’t pass up an opportunity to take another swipe at a show I believe is causing people to harm themselves. Here are some quotes:

The Biggest Loser is back. After more than a 30% drop in ratings last season, some were questioning if the competitive weight loss reality show would be canceled completely. But after considerable delay, its 17th season will premiere on Monday on NBC. The question is, with so much criticism suggesting the show does more harm than good, whether it should return at all?

“It was the biggest mistake of my life,” Kai Hibbard, the winner of season three told the Guardian. As part of the application process Hibbard had to sign a non-disclosure agreement forbidding her from publicly speaking about the show without first getting approval from a public relations representative from NBC. But her experience has prompted her to be an outspoken critic regardless of a possible lawsuit, though she has received several cease and desist letters from the network.

Winner of season three … that means we’re talking about a woman who’s had more than a decade to reflect on what being a contestant did to her. If she’s still mad, I’m thinking there’s a good reason.

In an interview with the Guardian, Hibbard described incessant fat shaming by trainers, “ridiculous” exercise regimens that were done solely for entertainment purposes, dehydration for weigh-ins, and manipulation by producers to pick winners and create “villains”.

Sounds almost as bad as a presidential primary debate.

“In my season there was a woman named Heather who was made to look like a combative, lazy bitch,” Hibbard said. “But in actuality, she had a torn calf muscle and had developed bursitis in both knees. When she refused to run, they edited it to make her look lazy.”

A torn calf muscle and bursitis in both knees. Boy, that exercise program designed by Jillian Michaels must really rock.

According to Hibbard, the show’s producers try to lead viewers to believe contestants have lost weight faster than they have. “Nobody on the show lost 20 pounds in a week,” she said. “Once, ‘a week’ was actually three weeks because of the shooting schedule.”

Folks, trust me on this: if you ever lose 20 pounds in a week, get yourself in to see an oncologist as quickly as possible.

“There is no good reason to pick up a piece of driftwood and sprint down the beach when you weigh 265 pounds, except that it looks good for the camera,” Hibbard said. The contestants are pushed to do daily workouts that are approximately 10 times the amount that is recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine. The fact that vomit buckets are always nearby, and regularly used, is telling.

Sounds like a perfect regimen for sending cortisol levels through the roof.

According to one former contestant, the extreme weight loss tactics used on the show lead to a high relapse rate. Suzanne Mendonca, from season two, explained to the New York Post last year that the reason why The Biggest Loser is reluctant to do a show reunion is “because we’re all fat again”.

Of course. When you finally let the elephant out of that prison cell, he runs from the fire. Or if you prefer a more scientific explanation:

According to one former contestant, the extreme weight loss tactics used on the show lead to a high relapse rate. Suzanne Mendonca, from season two, explained to the New York Post last year that the reason why The Biggest Loser is reluctant to do a show reunion is “because we’re all fat again”.

Eric Ravussin, a professor of human physiology at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, published a study on The Biggest Loser in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. His findings help explain why Biggest Loser contestants put back on the weight they lost so quickly.

Ravussin and his team compared 12 people from The Biggest Loser with 12 people who lost similar amounts of weight via gastric bypass surgery. Because of the former’s extreme exercise regimens, the show’s contestants lost less muscle and more fat than the surgery group, but their drop in resting metabolic rate was double that of the gastric bypass group.

In other words, despite all the exercise, the metabolisms of the “biggest losers” crashed hard – much harder than those who lose weight at a gentler pace.

So these poor saps are starved and worked half to death, then they’re sent out into the world with depressed metabolisms and expected to keep the weight off.  Pure insanity.  Way to go, Biggest Loser!

Of course, the average weight-loss “expert” promotes what we could call Biggest Loser Lite: just semi-starve yourself and then spend hours on a treadmill.  Or if you’re a kid, eat your USDA-approved, low-fat, low-calorie school lunch and then Let’s Move!

Jillian Michaels quit the show after a dozen years. She said at the time it was partly because she was being unfairly portrayed as an abusive person. Well, unless the producers had a gun to her head when these scenes were filmed, she was an abusive person:

If you don’t know enough to stop pushing an obese person when he feels dizzy and nauseated, you shouldn’t be a trainer – for anyone. Another incident should have made that clear to the producers long before Michaels quit:

In 2009, contestant Tracey Yukich collapsed after being made to run a mile and had to be airlifted to hospital. It was sold as being heat exhaustion, but Hibbard said her sources reported Yukich suffered from rhabdomyolysis, a serious and potentially fatal condition that can be caused by overexertion.

That’s one good reason to dislike The Biggest Loser. Here’s another:

A 2012 study published in Obesity found that watching a single episode of The Biggest Loser generated significantly higher levels of dislike for people with obesity.

Shame does not encourage weight loss. In fact, it accomplishes the opposite. In a 2013 paper published in PLoS ONE, researchers from Florida State University asserted that not only does stigmatizing obesity lead to poorer mental health outcomes, but the authors stated: “Rather than motivating individuals to lose weight, weight discrimination increases risk for obesity.”

Ya mean fat-shaming people might raise their cortisol levels and trigger even more weight gain? Has anybody informed MeMe Roth?

The Biggest Loser is technically entertainment. But that entertainment comes at a high social cost. Shaming contestants, encouraging dangerous exercise and regimens, promoting nearly impossible weight loss targets leads Dr Freedhoff to the conclusion that “the Biggest Loser is everything that’s wrong with weight loss in America”.

Yup. And yet it still has fans.

Despite the vast amounts of criticism from physicians, obesity researchers and professional trainers, there are still some who praise the show, and say it’s changed their lives. Even the first lady, Michelle Obama, has appeared on it twice.

Great. She’s probably looking for ideas to incorporate into her Healthy, Hunger Free Kids campaign.

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Man, I just love it when researchers confirm that my lifestyle choices – including sleeping late and then drinking coffee – are good for me.

Well, okay, I might be simplifying a bit. But what the heck am I supposed to think when I receive an email alert with a headline that reads something like sleeping until noon fixes metabolic syndrome?

The real story, which is slightly more complex, was reported in a MedPage Today article:

Two nights of good sleep appeared to reverse the negative metabolic effects that can come with short-term sleep deprivation, according to a new study.

Researchers took 19 participants, all of them “lean” young men, and restricted their sleep to only 4.5 hours in bed for four consecutive nights. The participants were then allowed two consecutive nights of 12 hours in bed on the first night and 10 hours on the second night.

Sounds very much like my sleeping pattern in college … although I wouldn’t have been categorized as a “lean” young man at the time.

Insulin sensitivity was reduced by 23% after sleep restriction compared to normal sleep (at about 8 hours a night), but gained about half of that reduction back after sleep recovery, according to Josiane Broussard, PhD, at the University of Colorado Boulder, and colleagues.

That’s why you don’t want to short yourself on sleep: you reduce your insulin sensitivity, which another way of saying you increase insulin resistance.

Actually, that’s just one of several reasons. Not getting enough sleep also raises your stress hormones and (pay attention, guys) reduces your testosterone production.

“A common question is whether, and how quickly, an individual can recover from the adverse effects of sleep loss on glucose homeostasis. We have demonstrated that 2 nights of recovery sleep averaging nearly 10 hours per night following 4 nights of sleep restriction in healthy young lean men is sufficient to improve insulin sensitivity,” they wrote in Diabetes Care.

“The metabolic response to this extra sleep was very interesting and encouraging,” said co-author, Esra Tasali, MD, of the University of Chicago, in a press release. “It shows that young, healthy people who sporadically fail to get sufficient sleep during the work week can reduce their diabetes risk if they catch up on sleep during the weekend.

Of course, it’s better if you don’t need to catch up on sleep in the first place. But if that morning alarm is yanking you awake all during the workweek, do yourself a favor: don’t schedule anything before noon on weekends and sleep until you wake up naturally.

And if you plan to hit the gym after waking up, perhaps you should drink some coffee first, at least according to a Science Daily article:

For anyone struggling to keep the New Year Resolution to ‘Do More Exercise’ science shows a solution could be found in a simple cup of coffee.

In a paper published this month in the scientific journal Sports Medicine, Professor Samuele Marcora, a University of Kent endurance expert, suggests the use of caffeine could help people stick to their fitness plans.

Responding to the findings that the majority of people give up their resolution to do more exercise within the first 6 months, Professor Marcora, Director of Research at the University’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, said his research could provide a solution.

Professor Marcora suggests that reducing perception of effort during exercise using caffeine (or other psychoactive drugs like methylphenidate and modafinil) could help the many people who find difficult to stick to their fitness plans.

I don’t like the taste of modafinil, so I’m sticking with the coffee. But truth be told, Professor Marcora’s hypothesis sounds just a wee bit speculative.

Professor Marcora points out that perception of effort is one of the main reasons why most people choose sedentary activities for their leisure time. Compared to watching television (zero effort), even moderate-intensity physical activities like walking require considerable effort. He says that the use of caffeine or other psychoactive drugs to reduce perception of effort during exercise can make the healthy choice easier.

First off, I disagree that watching TV requires zero effort, at least in my house. To watch TV, I first have to figure out where the hell the girls hid my remote. This often involves lifting the sofa with one hand while trying to grab the remote off the floor beneath it with the other. There’s both stretching and progressive resistance required.

Or it involves a hike around the house, including running up and down stairs, to see if one of them decided to go the bathroom while holding the remote and then set the thing on the lip of the tub while doing whatever it is girls do after going to the bathroom. (Whatever it is, it’s apparently not possible to continue holding the remote while doing it. It’s also apparently not possible to remember you carried a remote into the bathroom. )

Secondly, I don’t think people give up on the resolution to exercise after six months because they’re genetically lazy and need coffee. I think they give up because they finally realize that all those hours on the treadmill aren’t inducing the weight loss they wanted.

That being said, if I can blame the morning coffee for my recent workout sessions on the bike, I’m good with that.  But I suspect sleeping late figures into it as well.

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I hope all of you in areas affected by the winter storm are staying warm and safe.

We had snow in our part of Tennessee, but nothing like what landed in areas north and east of us.  Our driveway is impassable for now, but we knew that was coming and made plans to stay put.

Here’s a quick look at a snowy weekend on the farm.  Some work, some play.

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Interesting items from my inbox, real life, and elsewhere …

Snake Handler, Part Two

Chareva walked into my office at home yesterday and told me there was a snake in her bedroom closet, and she didn’t feel like being brave about it. (You probably recall what happened last time, when she was brave about it.)

So I strapped on my six-shooters and prepared to go rescue my lady from distress, like a good cowboy. Well, okay, I actually grabbed a snake-catching contraption Chareva’s mom had sent to us after the last incident. Either way, I was ready to demonstrate my manliness by man-handling a huge, slithering snake.

Jeez, what a disappointment:

Chareva handles the big snake and gets on national TV as a result, while I get to toss out a glorified worm.  Sheesh.

FitBit Not Fit

I guess there’s a reason people are upset enough with FitBit to sue.  Mine seemed to work well at first — I checked it against my actual pulse and the reading was accurate.  Then it didn’t work so well.  I’d be working out, and according to my FitBit, my pulse would drop from 119 to 66 in mere seconds.  Or I’d tap the screen for a reading and get nothing at all on the heart monitor.  Then the clock started showing 15 minutes behind real time, even after I synced it to a PC that showed the correct time.

So I sent it back.  I’m now sporting a Garmin Forerunner 225, which appears to be accurate — no sudden drop in pulse rate while riding the bike, and I don’t have to tap the face for a reading.  I also like the larger display.  It costs twice as much as a FitBit, but apparently this is a case of you get what you pay for.

Tom Brady’s “Bizarre” Diet

New England quarterback Tom Brady has played in six Super Bowls and won four of them. He may be on his way to another, although I’m hoping Peyton Manning gets another shot this year instead of Brady.

Anyway, a CBS Sports article appeared recently describing what Brady (still at the top of his game at age 38) eats:

On Monday, Brady’s personal chef, Allen Campbell, gave us all a glimpse into Brady’s healthy lifestyle.

“No white sugar. No white flour. No MSG. I’ll use raw olive oil, but I never cook with olive oil. I only cook with coconut oil. Fats like canola oil turn into trans fats. … I use Himalayan pink salt as the sodium. I never use iodized salt.

[Tom] doesn’t eat nightshades, because they’re not anti-inflammatory. So no tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, or eggplants. Tomatoes trickle in every now and then, but just maybe once a month. I’m very cautious about tomatoes. They cause inflammation.

What else? No coffee. No caffeine. No fungus. No dairy.

The kids eat fruit. Tom, not so much. He will eat bananas in a smoothie. But otherwise, he prefers not to eat fruits.”

A little later in the interview, Campbell also noted that they “stick to gluten free for everything.”

So then, what does Brady eat? The answer appears to be vegetables and lean meat.

“So, 80 percent of what they eat is vegetables. [I buy] the freshest vegetables. If it’s not organic, I don’t use it. And whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, millet, beans. The other 20 percent is lean meats: grass-fed organic steak, duck every now and then, and chicken. As for fish, I mostly cook wild salmon.”

Hmmm … no sugar, no white flour, no diary, no MSG, and the chef only cooks with coconut oil. No canola oil. Easy on the fruit. Gluten free. Lots of organic vegetables, plus grass-fed steak.

Yeah, that’s bizarre, all right. Hasn’t Brady’s chef heard about the newest USDA Dietary Guidelines? They’re “science-based” ya see, so I think Brady should follow them.

Then again, I did mention I want Manning to win the AFC championship game on Sunday.

Glenn Fry is Already Gone

Man, I loved the Eagles when I was a teen. I still listen to them frequently. When I was in a band, we played several of their songs in our set. There were four us, we all enjoyed singing, so we gravitated towards songs with vocal harmonies. Can’t get much better than the Eagles for songs with lovely harmonies.

Along with millions of other fans, I was so sorry to learn that Glenn Fry, one of the band’s founders and songwriters, died this week at age 67. May he rest with a Peaceful Easy Feeling.

I don’t know what Glenn Fry ate, but according to his manager, the drugs he took for rheumatoid arthritis probably contributed to his death:

Eagles singer Glenn Frey’s death is being blamed partly on the drugs he took to combat rheumatoid arthritis: While used to treat thousands of American sufferers, the medicine can leave them vulnerable to serious infections, experts say.

Many of the medications that treat the autoimmune disease, which affects around 1.3 million Americans, come with a slew of possible side effects, from heart failure to tuberculosis.

That’s because some of the most effective treatments, known as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), work to suppress patients’ overactive immune systems, which can make them vulnerable to infection.

Frey died Monday at age 67 from pneumonia and colitis, as well as the long-lasting effects of the arthritis on his body, his manager, Irving Azoff, told the website The Wrap.

Azoff added that the pneumonia he contracted was a side effect “from all the meds.”

Like I said, I don’t know what Glenn Fry ate. But I will mention that Loren Cordain was once quoted in a WebMD article as saying he believes cereal grains may trigger rheumatoid arthritis. Some months ago, Dr. William “Wheat Belly” Davis posted about a woman whose rheumatoid arthritis diminished when she went wheat-free:

Carol is thinner, yes, but has also reversed the autoimmune damage to joints. This happens because she has removed the initial trigger for autoimmunity, the gliadin protein of wheat. She has also removed the abnormally increased intestinal permeability permitted by the gliadin that allows bacterial components such as lipopolysaccharide to enter the bloodstream and trigger inflammation. She has also removed the exceptionally inflammatory protein, wheat germ agglutinin. It all adds up to dramatic reversal of autoimmune inflammation.

Sticking to a wheat-free or paleo or “bizarre” Brady diet isn’t just about avoiding illnesses. It’s also about avoiding the nasty drugs used to treat the illnesses.

And speaking of bizarre diets …

The “Power of the Vegan Voice” goes after a burger restaurant

Q: How many vegans does it take to change a light bulb?
A: That’s NOT FUNNY, you @#$%ing MURDERER!!

In case you need more proof that vegans are by a large a humorless lot, check out this article on a U.K. vegan website:

Our message of compassion goes a long way, especially when heard in large numbers. Gourmet Burger Kitchen found this out the hard way over the weekend, when complaints came flooding in for their latest ad campaign, forcing them to backtrack and pull the ads after just two days.

One of GBK’s three ads seen across London showed a picture of a young cow together with the caption: ‘They eat grass so you don’t have to.’ Another read: ‘You always remember the time you gave up being vegetarian’, with a third depicting one of their burgers, with the caption ‘Vegetarians, resistance is futile’.

Now, if you choose not to eat meat but your body still contains a funny bone, you respond to those ads by chuckling and getting on with your meatless life.  Heck, I laughed out loud at this ad and didn’t feel the last bit insulted or threatened:

I didn’t feel threatened because I have a sense of humor. Not so in the case of our vegan pals:

GBK were inundated with complaints, as were the Advertising Standards Agency. The burger chain was accused, among other things, of picking on a minority group. Indeed, they appeared to be as unaware of the legal status of Veganism as a protected belief under equality laws as they were about the size and strength of the vegan community.

Picking on a minority group … a protected belief under equality laws.

Yeah, because if you poke fun at vegans in an ad, that’s just like refusing to allow African-Americans into the local public school, doncha know.

Good grief, the weenification campaign is apparently world-wide.  Millions of people are now convinced that if they’re offended, Something Very Very Bad has happened to them, and it must be stopped.

We’ve got college students demanding a “safe space” where no one is allowed to disagree with their beliefs (no matter how illogical), students demanding “trigger warnings” about books containing words or passages that may offend them, and there’s even a movement in some loony-leftie circles to repeal the First Amendment because …well, you know, it allows people to say things that other people find offensive!

Time to change the saying we used to teach kids:

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will send me running to a therapist with deep psychological wounds that need healing … because I’m a weenie.

Here’s the problem with all these campaigns to stamp out “offensive” books, ads, speeches, or whatever: who exactly gets to decide what is or isn’t “offensive”? Why, the weenies themselves, of course.

After demanding an ad campaign they found offensive be yanked, the vegans replied with an ad of their own … which I’m sure some people would find offensive:

Since I’m not a weenie and have a sense of humor, I would never demand they take it down from their site. The right to speak must by definition include the right to say things others find offensive — after all, speech that offends no one doesn’t need protecting.  So for a reply, I had the Photoshop wiz I married put together an ad of our own:

Enjoy your weekend. Looks like we’ll be snowed in temporarily in Tennessee, so I expect I may have to remove more snakes looking for a warm place to sleep.

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As you probably know, the USDA released its newest dietary guidelines last week. Here’s what Medscape online had to say:

Watch your sugar, use caution with the salt shaker, and limit those saturated fats.

That’s the advice from the updated U.S. nutritional guidelines, released Thursday by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. The guidelines are published every 5 years and aim to reflect the latest science-based evidence about what we eat.

If the guidelines aim to reflect the latest science-based evidence, then the committee members have a lousy aim. Several recent studies have concluded that saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease, and yet the USDA still tells us to restrict saturated fat. The committee also tells us to restrict salt, even though a study commissioned by the Centers For Disease Control concluded that following those guidelines isn’t necessary and might even be harmful.

“Diet is one of the most powerful tools we have to take control of our own health,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell told reporters at a briefing Thursday. “There are many ways to stay healthy, but nutrition will always be at the foundation of good health.”

That’s true. Too bad we have the USDA telling people what to eat. I seem to recall that Americans were leaner and healthier before the USDA got involved.

While some groups like the American Medical Association praise and support the guidelines, critics say the recommendations don’t go far enough — and they’ve accused the government of playing politics with Americans’ health.

“It really is a betrayal of science to politics,” says David Katz, MD, founding director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, a federally funded program that studies how changes to lifestyle can prevent disease. “Public health, which means the lives of real people, is being thrown under the political bus.”

I agree with Dr. Katz that the USDA guidelines have little to do with real science – but then neither do the guidelines developed by Dr. Katz. As you may or may not recall, Katz is the goofball behind a nutrition-rating system called NuVal.  I wrote about it back in 2010.  You can read that post, but here’s all you really need to know: according to Katz, these are excellent choices:

Shredded Wheat
Chocolate Soy Milk (30 grams of sugar)

And these are lousy choices:

Chicken breast
Turkey breast
Ham
Coconuts

Frankly, I’m amazed media reporters are still running to Dr. Katz for (ahem) “expert” commentary. Once a guy’s proved himself a fraud, that ought to disqualify him – and yes, Katz proved himself a fraud awhile back. He wrote glowing reviews of his own book reVision, which he published under a pseudonym. Here’s a quote from the Yale Daily News:

In February 2014, David Katz MPH ’93, the director of the Yale School of Medicine’s Prevention Research Center, wrote two glowing online reviews of a science-fiction novel called reVision.

In his biweekly column in The Huffington Post, Katz lauded the book’s “lyrically beautiful writing,” comparing it to the work of a veritable “who’s who” of great writers, including Plato, John Milton and Charles Dickens. “I finished with a sense of illumination from a great source,” he concluded. “The most opportune comparison may be to a fine wine.” Katz had used similar language two days earlier in a five-star product review he posted on the book’s page on Amazon.

When a guy 1) writes a review of his own book without explaining that it’s his own book and 2) compares himself to Plato, Milton and Dickens, it’s pretty obvious we’re talking a giant egomaniac.

Katz said the reviews conveyed his honest opinion and that he concealed the true authorship of reVision because he preferred to keep his professional life separate from his fiction writing.

Ahh, I see. It’s your honest opinion that you’re in the same league as Plato, Milton and Dickens. Well, sheeoot, that makes it okay, then … although here’s a alternate suggestion for keeping your professional life separate from your fiction writing: go ahead and write your novels under pseudonym – but then don’t write glowing reviews under your real name. That way, you won’t look like a giant egomaniac (and a bit of a moron).  Either way, I kind of doubt literature majors of the future will be mentioning Plato, Milton, Dickens and Katz in the same sentence.

Anyway, Katz is apparently upset that the guidelines didn’t place specific limits on eating meat.  (Remember, we’re talking about a guy who thinks chocolate soy milk is health food, but turkey and chicken will kill you.)

The guidance does recommend we eat lean meats and poultry, and it notes that eating less meat, including processed meat and processed poultry, has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. But it doesn’t offer specific instructions or limits around red and processed meats. Choices can include processed meats and processed poultry, as long as eating patterns stay within the limits for sodium, saturated fats, added sugar, and calories recommended by the new guidelines.

“The science on the link between cancer and diet is extensive,” says Richard Wender, MD, chief cancer control officer for the American Cancer Society. “By omitting specific diet recommendations, such as eating less red and processed meat, these guidelines miss a critical and significant opportunity to reduce suffering and death from cancer.”

The “science” on the link between cancer and diet may be extensive, but it’s also mostly garbage.  People who want to blame meat (a food humans have been eating forever) for causing cancer (a “disease of civilization” that was exceedingly rare among hunter-gatherers) simply cherry-pick the observational studies where a link exists, no matter how weak it is.  There are plenty of observational studies that don’t show a link.  There are even studies where rates of colon cancer go up as people eat meat, then go down again as they eat even more meat.  I wrote about those here.

Well, never mind those studies.  Katz is still convinced them (ahem) “science” linking meat to cancer was ignored:

“This is a sad day for nutrition policy in America,” he [Katz] writes. “It is a sad day for public health. It is a day of shame.” In a social media post, he calls the guidelines “a national embarrassment.”

As embarrassing as being caught reviewing your own novel and comparing yourself to Plato, Milton and Dickens?

There was one significant change in the USDA guidelines:

For the first time, the 2015 guidelines tackle added sugars, recommending they make up less than 10% of Americans’ diets. Those do not include naturally-occurring sugars, like those in milk or fruit.

Stop for a moment and let that one sink in. The USDA has been producing these guidelines every five years since 1980. And yet this is the first time they’ve ever recommended restricting added sugars. All those years, yammering on and on about cutting back on red meat, fat and cholesterol, but sugar got a pass.  Meanwhile, rates of type diabetes skyrocketed in America … even among kids.

This is also the first time the committee FINALLY admitted they got it wrong about dietary cholesterol, which they now say isn’t a “nutrient of concern.” So at this rate, I suppose they’ll admit they got it wrong about artercloggingsaturatedfat! in the 2050 guidelines. But for now, they still recommend limiting saturated fat to no more than 10% of calories … which happens to be the same limit they put on added sugars. So in the minds of committee, added sugars and naturally occurring saturated fats are equally dangerous.  Yeah, that’s science-based stuff there.

I believe Nina Teicholz, author of the terrific book The Big Fat Surprise, summed up the new guidelines pretty well:

With the exception of a cap on sugar, these DGAs are virtually identical to those of the past 35 years, during which time obesity and diabetes have skyrocketed. Given the same advice, it’s not clear why we should expect different outcomes, especially when consumption data shows that over the past decades, Americans have, in fact, followed USDA advice, cutting back on butter by 14%, whole milk by 73%, and red meat by 17%, while increasing consumption of grains by 41% and oils by more than 90%.

Due to high-level concern about the failure of our nutrition policy to improve health, Congress recently mandated the first-ever peer review of the Guidelines, by the National Academy of Medicine. This is a critical first step towards ensuring that our nation’s policy is indeed based on rigorous science.

I have one minor disagreement with Teicholz: I’m not convinced mandatory peer review will make much of a difference.  A better first step (and last step) would be to get the USDA out of the nutrition-advice business completely.  After all, we’re talking about a federal government that has demonstrated over and over that it possesses something akin to a reverse Midas touch:  nearly everything it touches turns into @#$%.

These guidelines are no exception.

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