Archive for the “Bad Diets” Category

I saw a debate on Facebook recently in which a woman warning about the horrors of arterycloggingsaturatedfat! replied to someone disputing her advice with You do realize you’re arguing with a registered dietitian, don’t you?

A registered dietitian?!  Oh, goodness.  The infallible have spoken.

An appeal to authority is a weak argument, especially when the authority you’re appealing to is yourself. And of course, whenever I read I’m a registered dietitian, I can’t help but interpret it as I earned a degree by parroting what I was taught in a curriculum designed and funded by the makers of industrial foods.

There are some good dietitians out there. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of nincompoops with the awe-inspiring title of registered dietitian. I was reminded of that today when a reader sent a link to an article titled A Month Without Sugar—One Dietician’s Day-by-Day Tell-All. Let’s look at some quotes.

As a dietitian, I’ve heard of every crazy diet. No dairy, no carbs, no sugar, no tomatoes, no gluten, no fat—you name it, I’ve heard of it (and have probably rolled my eyes at it).

No dairy is a crazy diet? No sugar is a crazy diet? No gluten is a crazy diet? Amazing … humans somehow managed to thrive for 99% of their time on earth living on nothing but crazy diets. And now that the craziness ended, we sure are healthier, aren’t we?

The problem with these restrictive diets is they aren’t sustainable and often cause you to crave whatever you gave up. But no matter how many times I tell my clients this, I’m met with resistance.

So the dietitian is against restrictive diets. Just keep that in mind for later.

So I decided to try it for myself, and I stopped (correction: I tried to stop) eating all added sugar for 30 days. Spoiler alert—it sucked!

Aw, shucks, I was hoping you’d keep me in suspense. Oh, well.

First, added sugar refers to sugar that is added to a food, not sugar naturally found in fruits, vegetables, grains, or dairy. Cutting out all those food groups would just be cray cray. Regardless of my lack of desire for sugar, I still add a bit of brown sugar to my oatmeal, enjoy a pre-workout granola bar, and top my spoonful of peanut butter with mini chocolate chips. But that’s the extent of my sugar habit, so I figured I would be fine. Reality hurts.

The registered dietitian regularly adds brown sugar to her oatmeal, eats granola bars with sugar before working out, and adds chocolate chips to her peanut butter. But she lacks the desire for sugar.

Day 1

While eating whole-wheat crackers with my super-healthy salad (feeling great about my food choices), I check out the crackers’ ingredients label. WTF? Cane sugar! Day 1=fail.

Oh, no! Those otherwise healthy wheat crackers contain sugar! If only she’d checked the label before buying, she could have bought wheat crackers without sugar and been super-healthy.

Day 2

My oatmeal definitely tastes a little bland without a scoop of brown sugar, so I head to the store and pick up some naturally sweet foods, such as dates, bananas, red grapes, and papaya. Problem solved.

The dietitian lacks a desire for sugar, but couldn’t get through her oatmeal until she added dates and bananas.  Problem solved.

Or so I thought… until lunchtime, when I add Sriracha to my rainbow grain bowl. Surprise—Sriracha has sugar. I guess I need to read EVERY single food label.

Dang! Two days in, and she still hasn’t managed to avoid added sugar.

Day 5

I’m getting the hang of this no-sugar thing, but I have a dilemma. Today I’m running the Brooklyn Half. Since this is my 10th half-marathon, I have a pretty standard fueling routine that consists of water for the first six to seven miles, followed by a sports drink for the second half of the race and a CLIF Shot Blok around mile eight or nine.

I’d never heard of CLIF Shot Blok, so I had to look it up. Here are the ingredients: Organic Tapioca Syrup, Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Organic Maltodextrin, Pectin, Citric Acid, Watermelon Extract with Other Natural Flavors, Sea Salt, Potassium Citrate, Colored with Organic Black Carrot Juice Concentrate, Organic Sunflower Oil, Carnauba Wax.

So to get through a half-marathon, the registered dietitian normally needs a sports drink (if it’s a 16-oz. Gatorade, that’s 21 grams of sugar) plus an energy bar with another 24 grams of carbohydrate, 12 of them in the form of sugar.

In other words, my usual fueling plan is loaded with sugar because sugar (a.k.a. glucose) powers muscles during endurance activity.

Actually, sugar is not a.k.a. glucose. Sugar is half glucose and half fructose. And we don’t need either for endurance activities.  I’ve somehow managed to spend five hours pushing a mower up and down the hill in our back pasture several times without consuming sugar (a.k.a. glucose) beforehand.

Luckily, another dietitian (and marathoner) told me to try dates, stuffed with peanut butter and sprinkled with sea salt, for the right mix of sugar and sodium.

Thank goodness another registered dietitian was able to suggest an alternate source of sugar to replace the sugar from a sports drink. Disaster averted.

The only problem was I got an annoying cramp around mile seven that wouldn’t go away, so I gave in and reached for a sports drink.

So that would be yet another day in the “sugar free” month when the dietitian failed to go without added sugar.

Day 7

All in all, I feel like the first week was much harder than I anticipated. #fail. Between the added sugar in my crackers and Sriracha and my sports drink during the half-marathon, I’m beginning to understand how incredibly difficult it is to omit an entire ingredient from your diet.

Yeah, you wouldn’t want to omit an entire ingredient from your diet. That would be just plain crazy – especially if it’s added sugar, which of course humans have been eating forever.

Day 15

Halfway there, and it’s finally starting to feel easier. I’ve become accustomed to sweetening my morning oatmeal with bananas and eating pre-workout snacks with natural sugar (dates and peanut butter, anyone?). I can definitely do this for two more weeks.

Wow, I’m impressed with your ferocious discipline. You can actually avoid added sugar (most days, anyway) if you eat enough bananas and dates to replace the added sugar with natural sugar.

Days 17-22

Status quo. Omitting added sugar from my diet has made my already healthy diet even healthier. I have no choice but to eat plenty of fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains.

Glad to know that already healthy diet full of grains and added sugars has become even healthier because you substituted natural sugar for the added sugar.

Day 23

All self-control goes out the window when I’m tired. We arrived in California last night, and I’m super jet-lagged. I need an afternoon cookie to make me feel better. And let me tell you… it worked.

Yet another day in the “sugar free” month when the registered dietitian couldn’t get by without eating added sugar. Glad to know that sugary cookie helped you get over an exhausting day of sitting in an airplane seat.

Day 26

I’ve done this long enough, and I give up! Being on vacation and trying to “diet” isn’t fun. It’s actually really terrible. So I cut this little experiment short and ordered an espresso shot in a chocolate-rimmed ice cream cone. And I’m not sad about it.

Well, dang. The registered dietitian just couldn’t continue the “month without sugar” experiment, even though she broke down and ate sugar several times. I wonder what conclusions she’ll draw from the experience.

The Big Takeaways

This confirmed my right to roll my eyes at diets that eliminate entire food groups, because it’s nearly impossible to sustain that change for the long term. I’m a dietitian, and I wasn’t able to do it for longer than a week without a slipup.

Impeccable logic. The registered dietitian is a sugar addict who couldn’t go a month without added sugar, and that confirms her right to roll her eyes at diets that eliminate entire food groups.

And now for the punchline … curious about who this woman is, I looked her up. Here are some quotes from another of her articles:

As a vegetarian, I pretty much hate barbecues. While the meat-lovers pile on burgers, hot dogs, and steak, I’m usually stuck with a plateful of potato salad.

… You can almost always count on one thing at a barbecue: burgers. And with burgers come mustard, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and pickles. Although it’s not the most creative sandwich ever, combining these ingredients on a bun will definitely equal a sandwich that will probably keep you full for a few hours.

A meatless burger will definitely probably keep you full until your next dose of sugar a few hours later.

… Take a creative dish to the barbecue, and you may pique the interest of vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. How about some carrot hot dogs or cauliflower steaks with chimichurri sauce?

… When all else fails, throw your own party! … Let them know what you’re serving is all veg-head friendly. Encourage them to step out of their meat-eating comfort zone and get creative with plants.

Hmmm, let’s combine quotes from the two articles:

This confirmed my right to roll my eyes at diets that eliminate entire food groups.

As a vegetarian, I pretty much hate barbecues.

The problem with these restrictive diets is they aren’t sustainable and often cause you to crave whatever you gave up.

Let them know what you’re serving is all veg-head friendly.

So there you have it. You shouldn’t give up added sugar — even if you substitute with the sugars in dates and bananas — because it’s just crazy to eliminate an entire food group — added sugar, of course, being a food group.  But giving up meat is fine and dandy and good for you, and you should encourage your friends to try a meatless diet by throwing a vegetarian dinner party.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t try to survive the rigors of a cross-country flight without a cookie.  If a registered dietitian can’t handle it, neither can you.

That’s the kind of dietary wisdom we so often get from registered dietitians.

My apologies to the good dietitians out there.

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Back in June, I wrote a post titled This Pretty Much Explains What Went Wrong.  The post featured a Wall Street Journal report about how the FDA is still considering whether to change its definitions of healthy and unhealthy foods.  Under the current definitions, an avocado is an unhealthy food, while Frosted Flakes are good for you because they’re low in fat.  That’s the kind of advice that turned us into a nation of fat diabetics.

I recently found another example of what went wrong on one of our bookshelves.  When we bought this place, we told the previous owner to just leave anything she didn’t want to move and we’d deal with it.  We’ve since re-purposed a lot of old farm gear she left behind.

She also left behind quite a few books.  Don’t know why I didn’t spot it before, but one of the books is titled Great Health Hints & Handy Tips, published by Reader’s Digest in 1994. It’s full of the usual drivel — and I don’t mean that as a knock against Reader’s Digest.  I wrote for a small health magazine in 1980s, and we offered the same kind of advice.  Back in those days, anti-fat hysteria was in full swing, and diet and health information passed through a small number of gatekeepers.  Fortunately, the internet enabled the Wisdom of Crowds to crowd out such nonsense.

Anyway, here are some quotes from the chapter on nutrition:

Does it ever seem like everything you thought you knew about food has been disproved?  Information we learned in school on avoiding starches and eating plenty of red meat has been reversed.  We’ve found that other old favorites, like whole milk and cheese, should be limited.

Ugh.  If only that information we used to learn in school hadn’t been reversed.  Look at what’s happened since we decided we knew better than all those previous generations about what constitutes a healthy diet.

We now know that carbohydrates should form the largest part of your diet, approximately 55 to 60 percent, and that you should hold the quantity of protein to about 15 percent of calories.

And that’s how pasta-makers became a must-have in fashionable kitchens.  Load up on those healthy carbs, people, and cut way back on meat!

To avoid raising their blood cholesterol, most people have to follow two dietary rules: limit both high-cholesterol foods and those containing saturated fat.

Can you say Egg Beaters and margarine?

There is, of course, a color picture of the Food Pyramid, with this text on the opposite page:

The Food Guide Pyramid was created to illustrate not just food categories, but the correct proportions for a healthy diet.  Bread and cereals form the large base, followed by fruits and vegetables.

And a lot of us ended up with a large base by following the Food Pyramid.

Limit the amount of fat in your breakfast.  When eating pancakes, waffles or toast, restrict the butter or margarine to one teaspoon or skip it entirely.  For a topping, try a fruit spread or apple butter.

Right.  Because when you’re loading up on grains for breakfast, nothing enhances the metabolic effects quite like putting sugar on top.

Rather than a doughnut or sweet roll, eat an English muffin or a bagel.

That reminds of a commercial from back in the day:  the announcer says something like Now that we’ve learned a bowl of grains in the morning is good for your health, why not try this?  Then a bagel drops into a cereal bowl.  The book would apparently agree:

Bagels, which are low in fat, aren’t just for breakfast.  Top them with low-fat cottage cheese or salmon or tuna salad.

Bagels in the morning, bagels in the evening, bagels at suppertime.  Yup, that will help you eat the 6-11 servings of grains per day the USDA assured us was the key to good health.

Here are some tips for lunch on the go:

Sandwiches made at delis, diners and other eateries are often overstuffed with meat.  Ask for yours to be prepared with less mean than usual, or else remove some of the meat.

Think twice before ordering a diet platter if it includes a hamburger patty, hard-boiled egg and cottage cheese made from whole milk.  This high-fat meal is no calorie bargain.

And here’s some advice for packing your kid’s lunch:

If your son or daughter won’t eat vegetables for lunch, send extra fruit.

Pack 1 percent chocolate milk mixed at home instead of having your child buy 2 percent chocolate milk (which contains more fat) at school.

Obviously, this was written before the USDA decided to ban anything other than skim or 1% milk in schools.

Offer grains rather than white bread.  Quick breads, such as banana-oatmeal bread, pita wedges and low-fat crackers may also be good alternatives.

So there you have it.  Eat your grains – with fruit topping! – and cut way back on meat, eggs, whole milk, and anything containing cholesterol or saturated fat.

That’s what we were all told, and that’s the advice most of us tried to follow.  That’s how I ended up eating bowls of pasta with low-fat sauce as the main course for dinner.

And that’s how we became a nation of fat diabetics.

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I hadn’t planned to write another post about the American Heart Association’s “presidential advisory” report, but I came across a couple of items that speak volumes about why the report is nonsense.

Zoe Harcombe tweeted a link to a press release by the crop science division of Bayer. It was titled Bayer and LibertyLink Soybeans Help Protect Hearts in America’s Heartland. Here are some quotes:

In an effort to support heart health and improve the wellness of rural Americans nationwide, Bayer is proud to announce its support of the American Heart Association (AHA). The effort, which runs through 2017, supports the AHA’s Healthy for Good™ movement to inspire all Americans to live healthier lives and create lasting change by taking small, simple steps today to create a difference for generations to come.

For each bag of LibertyLink soybean seed sold for the 2017 season, Bayer will contribute 5 cents to the AHA’s Healthy for Good movement for a total maximum donation of $500,000.

A donation of up to half a million dollars. Pretty good payday for the American Heart Association – which of course recommends soybean oil as a “heart-healthy” replacement for butter and lard.

In the same tweet, Harcombe points out that the AHA’s report gives soybean oil a positive mention 12 times. Not bad. That’s $41,667 per mention. If only I could cut the same deal with the producers of bacon.

So at the risk of repeating myself, it’s important for people who believe the AHA is a neutral reporter of cardiovascular science to understand this: if the Diet-Heart Hypothesis ever goes away, so does the American Heart Association. The “presidential advisory” report was little more than financial self-defense against the growing (and correct) belief that arterycloggingsaturatedfat! hysteria was based on bogus science.

Dr. Frank Sucks … er, Sacks, the author of the report, was quoted in several media articles as wondering why the heck anyone would think coconut oil is a healthy fat. It raises cholesterol just like any other saturated fat, ya see, so it’s got to be bad. And there are no long-term clinical studies proving any benefits.

Several bloggers pointed out that both the Kitavans and the natives of Tokelau people have a high intake of coconut fat – 50% of total calories in the case of the Tokelau people. And yet they have very low rates of heart disease. If saturated coconut fat causes heart disease, why aren’t the people who eat the most of it clutching their chests and dropping dead?

Of course, we’re just making observations here, and observational studies don’t prove anything, right? Well, it depends.  If we find a correlation between A and B, it doesn’t prove A is causing B to happen. But a lack of a correlation between A and B is pretty strong evidence that A doesn’t cause B to happen.

In the Fat Head Kids book, I wanted to give youngsters a very brief science lesson on observational studies. After all, if they’re interested in health, they’re going to be seeing a lot of Some Food Linked To Some Disease headlines as they grow up. So in a chapter on how bad science led to the current dietary advice, we explained observational studies like this:

——————————————————-

Let’s suppose Dr. Fishbones visits a tiny world called The Planet of Tragic Fashions and gathers a bunch of data on all the residents. When he runs that data through a computer, he notices a surprising connection.

Captain! I’ve discovered that residents who get just-above-the-butt tattoos are more likely to develop cancer! We’ve got to put a stop to those tattoos, Captain!

Is Dr. Fishbones correct? Do his findings prove that the tattoos are causing cancer?

That would be incorrect, Captain. Dr. Fishbones conducted what’s called an observational study. In an observational study, we look for traits and behaviors that seem to occur in the same people. We may notice for example, that people who play basketball are often very tall. So we could say playing basketball is linked to being tall. We might also say basketball is correlated or associated with being tall.

But it would be illogical to conclude that playing basketball makes people taller. As Dr. Fishbones should know, just because a behavior and a result are linked, it doesn’t mean the behavior causes the result. Just-above-the-butt tattoos may be “linked” to cancer, but it could simply be that people who get tattoos are more likely to smoke. Or drink large sodas. Or play with toxic chemicals. These other factors are what we scientists call confounding variables.

——————————————————-

Here’s what we didn’t explain in the book: if people who get tramp stamps have higher rates of cancer, it doesn’t mean the tramp stamps cause cancer … but if tramp stamps DO cause cancer, people who get them will have higher rates of cancer.

So if we observe that people with tramp stamps DON’T have higher rates of cancer, we can be pretty certain the tattoos don’t cause cancer. (A researcher who didn’t want to let go of the tattoos cause cancer hypothesis would, of course, speculate that perhaps there’s a “protective factor” in some brands of tattoo ink.)

Anyway, the point is that Dr. Sucks has no actual evidence that coconut oil causes heart disease. All he could do is say it raises LDL, and therefore it must cause heart disease. But the evidence from populations who eat a lot of coconut fat (which wasn’t considered in the “totality of the evidence”) suggests rather strongly that coconut oil doesn’t cause heart disease.

But since the coconut-oil makers aren’t finding ways to funnel a half-million dollars into the AHA’s coffers, we’re told the stuff will kill us and we should switch to soybean oil instead. That’s why advice from the American Heart Association is irrelevant, if not dangerous.

Speaking of which, here’s a photo someone tweeted. It’s from back before the AHA added a low-sugar requirement for its heart-check logo. This pretty much says it all.

Bacon and eggs will kill you, but low-fat Pop Tarts full of sugar, processed flour and other bits of industrial garbage are good for your heart. That’s the kind of advice we’ve received from the AHA over the years.

Like I said, the AHA has a low-sugar requirement now. But while producing Fat Head, I bought a box of Cocoa Puffs with the AHA’s seal of approval on the box. That was in 2008. So I was curious when Dr. Frank Sacks became chairman of the AHA’s nutrition committee. Was it during the time “healthy” low-fat food like Cocoa Puffs and Pop-Tarts sported the heart-check logo?

I couldn’t find online exactly when he was chairman. But a 2008 article from the Washington Post described him as the vice-chairman at the time. I also found papers listing him as a member of the committee as far back as 2001. So yes, he was on the AHA’s nutrition committee back when they were telling us Pop-Tarts and Cocoa Puffs were heart-healthy foods.

The irony here is that in the latest report, Sacks claims the reason cutting back on saturated fat failed to reduce heart disease in many studies is that people made the mistake of replacing saturated fats with sugars and processed carbs.  Gee, I wonder what inspired them to do that?

‘Nuff said.

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Greetings Fat Heads!

Well, still here. Hope you had a great Memorial Day weekend. Special thanks to all vets and their families. Tom and family are back from the 2017 Low Carb Cruise, happily exhausted. I’m looking forward to getting the full report. I told him if he wanted to wait until next week, I’d fill in Thursday with an “evidence-based” rant.

Anyway, when I left off at the last post, Jimmy Kimmel’s son was doing great and I was in a bad mood. Not about Mr. Kimmel’s son of course. That was the wonderful part. The level of care we have available in this time and in this country is beyond the imagination of what was available to the richest people and kings even a few decades ago.

I wasn’t even particularly stirred up over Mr. Kimmel’s making the availability of the miraculous procedure that saved his son somehow tied in with keeping Obamacare intact. Between being a dad just past a major health scare and living in La La Land among the economically illiterate (seldom right, but never in doubt) I’m okay with him calling it any way he wants. I put it in there with the “all brides and babies are beautiful” protocol. It accomplishes nothing to argue, and it’s just plain rude.

The rest of the Idiocracy, however, deserves no so respect. Instead of politely giving Jimmy’s emotional description props and then moving on, they treated his completely sincere and completely uninformed comments on insurance and Obamacare as the Magnum Opus of the health care debate.

At any rate, I stated toward the end “It’s not like we don’t have major issues with the health care system in the good old U.S. of A. But the issues are with the availability of dollars, not doctors, …”

There are issues with dollars. As I mentioned, I was aware of Kimmel’s son’s condition because The Oldest Grandson had the same thing – and the same miraculous treatment – when he was born just about ten years ago (yes—before Obamacare).

His mom, my daughter-in-law, pointed out that back then just his hospital tab was over $300,000, which would break anyone without insurance, not to mention that he’s facing at least two more surgeries. Under insurance as it mostly existed prior to the current debacle, there could be real issues with lifetime spending caps and him trying to get health insurance as an adult with that type of pre-existing condition.

To paraphrase an old politician, $300,000 here, $300,000 there – pretty soon you’re talking real money! Definitely a dollars issue.

So what’s a libertarian to do? Is there a solution other than “I’m sorry, Mr. Kimmel, there’s nothing we can do?” That’s what you would hear in most of those countries where it’s “free.” Don’t we want to save babies in this country? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to do that and not go broke? How can we do that today, and still be able for that kid to afford reasonable health care later?

Fortuitously, Dr. William Davis’ new book – “Undoctored” came out just recently, and Tom did a book review.

[Confession time – I don’t read Tom’s book reviews any more. When I see he’s written one, I just save myself the time and buy the damned book.]

Now, if you want a great book on the disastrous macro-economics of our health care system, and policy proposals to address insurance and health system availability at a national level, don’t buy this book. That’s totally not what it’s about.

What it is about is you getting control of your health, which Dr. Davis reiterates throughout is not particularly connected to medical care. In fact, unless you get yourself informed and proactive, medical care can often be inversely related to your health. Although he doesn’t do a deep dive on the economic history of the health care system, he does do a great job illuminating how the money and incentives in the current system don’t line up with attaining real health as an individual. Then you’re off on a terrific primer in how to evaluate, improve, and monitor your health, in conjunction with health care professionals who will work with you and at your direction when needed.

Seriously, buy the book.

Okay, so how’s that tie in with the subject at hand? Well, the idea that the medical industry is more responsive to money than patient outcomes was nothing new to me – or probably any Fat Head, really. “Have a $tatin with that hearthealthywholegrain muffin” vs. “have the bacon and eggs and take a walk,” right? So, I was already on board with the concept.

Right in the introduction to “Undoctored,” Dr. Davis noted that we spend (endlessly pointed out with delight by the single-payer cheerleaders) over $3 trillion dollars a year – 17% of our GDP — on health care. Which I also already knew.  But this time when I read it I’d been thinking about Kimmel’s performance, and my daughter-in-law’s point, and then pretty close in to the beginning of the book Davis points out that:

“The system is ready and willing to commit you to a life of taking drugs and injectable insulin for diabetes, … providing “education” designed by people who put commercial interests first, while no one provides the handful of inexpensive health strategies that have been shown to reduce, even fully reverse, type 2 diabetes.”

Once again, nothing I didn’t already know, but it kind of all came together at that point and I thought, “well, just how the hell much do we spend on all of this crap?!?”

So I looked it up.

I tend to do that. I just stopped reading and went Googling for info on how much money we spend on the various medical substitutes for good habits. I’d like to think it’s due to my insatiable inquisitiveness when I’ve got an intellectual conundrum, but it’s probably just ADD.

I struck gold fairly quickly when I found a JAMA paper from 2016 titled “US Spending on Personal Health Care and Public Health, 1996-2013.” They collected seven years of data from 183 sources and sorted them into 155 conditions. The numbers, which, once again, we’ve probably all heard at different times, are stunning when you look at the whole picture.

The total spending for 2013 – the last year in the study – was $2.1 trillion. The estimate for 2014 was $2.9 trillion, so Dr. Davis’ $3 trillion seems to line up well with the reports info, and it would be safe to assume that the numbers I’ve got increased proportionately.  So, pretty much every number I’ve got has likely gone up by 50%. But here are some of the things we see:

Right off the bat, “diabetes had the highest health care spending in 2013, with an estimated $101.4 billion in spending, including 57.6% spent on pharmaceuticals…”

Keep in mind, that’s more like $150 billion today. One hundred and fifty billion dollars. A year. For a “disease” that’s easily 90% treatable by just stepping away from carbs.

Heart disease – the one that Dr. Davis put himself out of business from treating by getting people to change their lifestyles vs. post factum medical treatment — was $88.1 billion, so I’m calling it $130 billion.  I’m not saying no one would ever have a heart attack if we all stopped cooking with vegetable oil and started taking an evening walk, but it wouldn’t be an industry that by itself would rank in the top quarter of the rest of the world’s GDP’s.

Plus, that $130 billion does NOT include treatment for hyperlipidemia (i.e., statins) which earns itself $52 billion ($75B?) all by itself, or high blood pressure.

Here’s some other big ticket items, almost all of which the case studies of folks in “Undoctored” either completely reversed or substantially improved – often within weeks – of making the simple changes that Dr. Davis promotes:

Blood Pressure:  $84 Billion

Back & neck pain (think largely obesity and sedentary lifestyle related, so I’m counting it): $88 Billion

Depression (think mood disorders and gut biome dysbiosis. Not considered are other “mental” health issues – ADD, bipolar, etc): $70 Billion

Dental (tooth decay, inflammation): $66 Billion

Skin conditions: $55 Billion

Alzheimers and other dementias (i.e., Type III diabetes): $36.7 Billion

The 2013 numbers for all of those come up to about $469 Billion, which scales up to over $700 Billion in today’s spending. Mostly avoidable by straightforward, understandable lifestyle modification.

Like I said, some people will still have heart attacks, or pull a back muscle, or get depressed and need some help so you don’t have a 100% savings on the table; but the largest part of these diseases are self-inflicted and self-treatable.

I also left out other categories (Osteoarthritis – $47.9B; Asthma – $32.5B; Endocrine, metabolic, and immune disorders – $19.6B; and cancers, which were disaggregated into 29 separate conditions); so there’s some pickup available from the same lifestyle changes in areas I’m not counting. The point is that nearly one quarter of our health care spending is going to conditions that we have the capability of exerting a large degree of control over. Quickly.

Preterm birth complications, BTW, ranked 73rd at just under $5 Billion, so it seems like if we could get a handle on our grain and industrial foods habit, Jimmy Kimmel’s son and my grandson shouldn’t cause too much financial discomfort to the system.

After thinking about this, I had an epiphany.

I know Tom and many others, including myself, have compared the various and sundry mandatory coverages — dictated via Obamacare and other legislated and regulatory bodies — to requiring your auto insurance provider to include free oil changes, tire rotation, tune-ups, etc.  in your policy. The point being that these are known conditions that are a routine part of automobile ownership. Inclusion in a policy would only increase overhead and incentivize over-utilization, resulting in inevitable, recurring premium increases.

We completely misrepresented the argument. It’s correct as far as it goes, but it stops so short of reality that I count it as a huge error.

Our entire medical cost reimbursement system, as currently comprised, is like requiring that all auto insurance companies include DUI coverage in your policy.

It was stupid that my health insurance covered the two or three doctor office visits for the ear infections we knew The Sons were each going to get each year when they were toddlers. Same for the bottle of pick stuff we’d pick up at the pharmacy after each visit.

But it’s insane that insurance would pay for insulin for the 90% of people who could avoid the pharmacy if they’d stop blasting their system with sugar in all its forms. Same with all those other diseases of civilization driving a quarter of our spending. We’re making it convenient and cheaper for people to engage in behavior that’s harming them.

Add in the USDA budget with its massive grain subsidies and the SNAP (food stamp) program, and it’s like after adding the DUI coverage, we then pass out free booze to the people with the worst driving records.

So what about this — I say we should remove mandated coverage of all of those lifestyle diseases – Type II diabetes, blood pressure, non-emergency heart disease treatment, etc.

Companies would be free to make them available, but they’d be add-on items to a base policy and they’d also be rateable. I’m not interested in preventing someone from purchasing diabetes “treatment” coverage with their insurance, but I don’t want to be forced to “chip in.”

Rateable means they could adjust the premium, for example, based on a periodic A1C, fasting insulin, or some other marker to account for the risk and behavior of the policy owner. Behavior instantly gets coupled to economic consequences.

So people could pay higher premiums for diabetes treatment coverage, pay out of their own pocket for drugs and medical attention, or eat more veggies and fat and cut back on the sugar. I predict immediate, dramatic changes.

I don’t see why we couldn’t reduce medical spending by half a trillion dollars, plus another $100 billion a year by driving a stake through the USDA’s heart.  Putting money aside for just a moment, can you begin to imagine the quality of life improvements people would get?

Of course, I do see why we can’t. Politics. Money. Bureaucracy. Power. The usual suspects. But that doesn’t mean it’s not technically possible or the right thing to do.

It also doesn’t mean that you can’t get started, or step up your game so that you can limit your interaction with the medical system as much as possible. Just because you have to sacrifice them your money doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your health, too!

Cheers,

The Older Brother

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Millions of people swear every January they’re going to improve their health. I’ve assumed for years that achieving that goal requires paying careful attention to what we eat.

Apparently I was wrong about that. Turns out countless processed foods are actually good for you. I learned that glancing at a bunch of labels and packages recently in the cafeteria at the building where I work.

I usually bring lunch from home or skip eating lunch entirely, so it’s been years since I took a good look at what’s on the shelves.  Imagine my surprise when I saw healthy offerings like this:

Whodathunkit? Swiss Miss hot chocolate is actually good for you! After all, it provides as much calcium as an 8-ounce glass milk! And if we turn that package over …

… we see the calcium comes with sugar, corn syrup (in case the sugar isn’t sweet enough), and hydrogenated coconut oil. Small price to pay for the health benefits of all that calcium.

Moving along, I found chips that contain 30% Less Fat or even 65% Less Fat than the leading Potato Chips – and as we know, anything lower in fat will make you healthy.

Here are the healthy ingredients in those Oven-Baked Lays:

Awesome. Corn oil, corn starch, sugar and soybean oil. Good thing they contain 65% less fat than regular potato chips, or I’d almost wonder if they’re good for us after all.

Of course, as the overlords at the USDA have been reminding us for years, one of the keys to better health is to eat more whole grains. I found several foods that fit that bill, such as these Veggie Wheat Thins that provide 100% WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT.

And here are the ingredients:

Wheat flour, canola oil, sugar and cornstarch. So they’re not just low in fat; the bit of fat they do contain comes from heart-healthy canola oil! Man, if we all could develop the discipline to live on foods like this, the nation’s health bill would plummet.

If you prefer breakfast foods while eating more whole grains to improve your health, Raisin Bran is a Good Source of FIBER & Made with WHOLE GRAIN.

Best of all, there are only 68 carbs in that little serving of whole-grain goodness.

Froot Loops are also good for you because, as you can see, they provide WHOLE GRAIN 14 g or more per serving.

With all that whole-grain goodness, it probably doesn’t matter that the primary ingredient is sugar. Grab the skim milk, pour it on that whole-grain cereal, and let’s get healthy!

But wait .. what if we don’t have any skim milk? No problem. Kellogg’s makes a healthy cereal bar. I know it’s healthy because Nutri and Grain are both in the name.

And as you can see, there are only 12 grams of sugar and a whopping two grams of protein in one of these nutrition-packed powerhouses.

There’s also a wee bit of fruit. And since fruit in any form is good for us, I was totally jazzed to find these Fruit Medleys, which are Made With REAL FRUIT JUICE and have Colors From Natural Sources. Boy, that’s got to be good for you.

I even found the REAL FRUIT JUICE in the list of ingredients, right after corn syrup and sugar.

Fruit juice is great, but if you want to get really healthy, you need some whole fruit. Luckily, I found these Pop-Tarts, which are Baked with Real Fruit!

Along with the real fruit that’s baked in, you can power up with some wheat flour, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, sugar, and modified food starch. The real fruit that’s baked in is listed down there in the contains less than 10% or less section … but it’s real fruit, so it’s got to be good for you.

So there you have it. Accomplishing your New Year’s goal of becoming healthier has never been easier. Just grab some Froot Loops or Pop-Tarts for breakfast, and you’ll put some real fruit or those all-important whole grains into your body. If you feel like a snack a few hours later (a near-certainty if you eat cereal or pasty for breakfast), you can grab some Wheat Thins for a dose of 100% Whole Grain Wheat. Then wash ‘em down with a yummy cup of Swiss Miss hot chocolate, and you’ll strengthen your bones with as much calcium as an 8-ouce glass of milk.

With all these healthy choices sitting on the shelves in grocery stores and cafeterias all over America, I predict the nation’s diabetes crisis will soon be nothing but a bad memory.

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Hey there, Fat Heads!

Long time. Tom asked last week if I’d like to man The Big Chair while he and Jimmy have their Thanksgiving Disc Golf Death Match, to which I replied “About time! …um, I mean, sure, I could probably do that.”

It just so happened that last Friday, The Wife and I got to do our annual “Grandparents’ Breakfast” at The Granddaughters’ school.

[Previously known as The Grandkids, they’ve been assigned a new moniker as The Wife and I have been blessed with THREE grandsons since the last time I filled in here.

Grandson number one came as part of a package deal when The Middle Son got married on Dauphin Island this last May.

Yeah, I ended up back on Dauphin Island again. I’ve stopped saying I’m never going back, because Karma just loves a good practical joke. A co-worker suggested I just go ahead and buy a burial plot down there since that seems to be where I‘m going to end up!

Grandson number two was born in August to The Youngest Son and his fiancée, and numero tres showed up in September a week ahead of schedule for The Middle Son and his new bride.]

We were down to one grandkid as the older sister was home sick, but it was still a good time. Despite all of the changes we’re seeing as the Wisdom of Crowds starts to seep in to the culture regarding nutrition, I’m sorry to report that not much seems to have changed on the school menu front compared to the first time we did this a couple of years ago (see here). Bottom line is carbs are still cheap when you’re feeding a village.

I didn’t see the MyPlate poster this year, but this one was still on the wall:

Yep, remember when we were kids and constantly had to be watching out for our schoolmates keeling over from hypoglycemia?

Yeah, me neither. We didn’t really have to deal with it back in the day because one of the main causes, as stated on the poster, is from “too much insulin or diabetes medicine,” and kids didn’t have really have Type II diabetes back in the day. It was called “Adult Onset” because that’s when you got it.

So the Granddaughter picked out her breakfast, and we sat down to visit. We passed on the food offerings and just went for the coffee. Here she is with her plate:

So, a donut (obviously known not to be health food), a healthy box of orange juice, a healthy zero fat carton of chocolate milk, and a healthy wrapper of apple slices.

After leaving (and getting a McMuffin sans muffin top for breakfast), I went ahead and did a little research on the nutritional breakdown of our darling’s meal (sorry about the spacing!):

Calories            Carbs (g)             Fat (g)          Protein (g)
Donut                          260                       31                     14                          3
Choc Milk                    110                       20                      0                          8
OJ                                  60                       14                       0                          1
Apple Slices                  35                         9                       0                         0
TOTAL                         465                       74                     14                        12
est calories                                             296                    126                       48
% of total cal                                         64%                      27%                    11%

So WOW. Two things — the donut could just be the healthiest thing on The Granddaughter’s plate(!) as it’s at least got some fat for her brain. But not the good kind, I’m guessing. The other thing is that the composition of carbs, fat, and protein are pretty much right in line with the SAD nutritional guidelines. WINNING! Or, to put it in perspective, the public schools think this much sugar is about the right amount for a grade school kid’s breakfast:

(74 grams of sugar)

Sure, she could’ve skipped the donut, but the alternative would’ve been a bowl of cereal. No bacon and eggs on the menu.

I’m hoping maybe with the seismic political upheaval we’ve had that maybe we can start getting the Michelle Obama/The Anointed effect out of school menus. I don’t expect the kids are going to start getting meals like the Obama’s kids did at Sidwell, but it’s kind of sad to think that if we went back to when the Reagan administration got blasted for counting ketchup as a vegetable, it would be a yuuge improvement! I’m not hopeful, but after November 9th, who knows what the heck can happen, no?

Good to be back — see you in the comments.

Cheers,

The Older Brother

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