Archive for the “News and Reviews” Category

Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

Let’s not rush in to regulate sugar.

I was already a fan of Nina Teicholz because of her book The Big Fat Surprise and her critique of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines that appeared in the British Medical Journal (which upset The Anointed very, very much).  I gained even more respect for her after reading a recent piece in The Atlantic titled The Limits of Sugar Guidelines: Is there a danger in governments offering too-specific advice on sugar consumption?

I’d recommend reading the entire article, but here’s the gist of it: Yes, many of us now believe sugar is the main driver of obesity and other metabolic diseases.  But let’s not jump the gun on imposing new guidelines and regulations.  We’ve made that mistake before.

Here are some quotes:

While the evidence to date shows zero benefit from sugar and a clear signal of harm, there hasn’t been enough time to fund and conduct definitive trials. Meanwhile, governments naturally feel they can’t wait. Facing panic over the continued, relentless climb in obesity and diabetes rates with no solution in sight, they’ve gone ahead and passed sugar guidelines pinned to exact thresholds, of 10 percent or 5 percent of calories. This advice is clearly well-intentioned. Yet if, as the Annals paper concludes, experts are skirting scientific norms by passing guidelines based on weak evidence, the whole process of guideline-making is effectively watered down.

Government officials, of course, are driven by a belief that no problem will ever be solved unless they by gosh DO SOMETHING!  It’s the old problem of when you’re holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  Government’s hammer is regulation.  More government officials should heed the advice Lee Marvin’s first acting teacher gave him: don’t just do something, stand there.

As Americans well know, there have been many reversals in our guidelines in recent years—on dietary cholesterol, on total fat, on whether to eat breakfast to maintain a healthy weight. These were all official guidelines based on weak evidence that, when actually tested in clinical trials, were found to be unjustified. It turned out that people had been avoiding egg yolks, lobster, and fat, generally, to no avail, and that skipping breakfast altogether might actually be the best option for weight loss.

Instances of flip-flopping on nutritional advice not only erode the public trust, but make people think that the basic science itself is flawed—which, for the most part, it’s not. Instead, the central problem has been that experts and policy makers have passed judgment before that good science was done. And once a judgment is codified as policy, it’s hard to repeal. This was the case, for instance, with the low-fat diet, which although adopted as a U.S. guideline in 1980, wasn’t actually studied in trials for another decade-plus. This kind of mistake, at its very worst, is potentially deadly: Indeed, the low-fat advice, by shifting consumption to carbohydrates such as grains and sugar, is now regarded as a probable cause of the obesity and diabetes epidemics.

I’d bet dollars to donuts (and you can keep the donuts) Teicholz believes sugar is driving obesity and diabetes.  So it takes integrity to urge waiting for solid proof before taking action.

Of course, taking action doesn’t always work so well anyway …

Soda Taxes failing to reduce consumption.

Here are some quotes from a Reason magazine online article:

If 15 major cities adopt a sugary drink tax of just 1 cent per ounce, diabetes could be slashed, more than 100,000 cases of obesity prevented and 3,683 deaths averted according to a new report from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The report claims extraordinary health benefits for close to zero cost except that of administering the tax. So just how do the eminent researchers at Harvard find so many health-related benefits from just a 1 cent per ounce tax?

The answer is what Healthy Food America, who asked the researchers to conduct the study, call an “evidence-based, peer-reviewed computer model.” Unfortunately for soda tax advocates, the model collides head-on with the cold hard reality that there is not yet a single real world example of a soda or sugar tax reducing obesity.

Mexico, which was hailed by public health activists and the editorial pages of The New York Times as an example to follow, has so far proved a huge disappointment to anti-obesity campaigners.

Mexico slapped a 1 peso per liter tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in 2013, with health benefits promised to follow. The tax took effect in 2014 and after an initial decline in the average purchases of taxed sugary beverages of six percent, sales are on now on the up again.

The article goes on to cite examples of the same cycle: a tax on sugar is imposed, consumption dips for a bit, then goes back up.  According to classical economic theory, we’d expect a higher price to mean lower sales.  So why doesn’t it work that way with sugar?

Because as books like Predictably Irrational explain, classical economic theory assumes people are rational — and they usually are when making decisions like which insurance policy or TV to buy.  But when it comes to things that tickle our reward centers — sex, drugs, and perhaps rock ‘n’ roll – dopamine overrides rational thinking.  People feed their addictions even when it makes no economic sense.  That means the people who are most likely to overindulge are also the least likely to be discouraged by sin taxes.

Not only did the tax have close to zero impact on calorie consumption, but those homes with an obese head of the household were actually the least likely to cut back on soda.

I suspect many of The Anointed in government know soda taxes don’t actually change behavior.  But I suspect they also know this:

The one area the tax has achieved its goal is in the area of revenue. The Mexican government raked in more than $2 billion in soda taxes from January 2014. But since soda taxes hit those with the lowest incomes hardest, one would think this is hardly something to celebrate.

“There is no real world evidence that they have the slightest effect on calorie consumption, let alone obesity. They are stealth taxes which allow governments to pick the pockets of the poor,” says Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

But sometimes the taxes aren’t so stealthy.  Case in point …

Philly mayor outraged by basic laws of economics.

Some quotes from another Reason magazine article online:

After driving up the cost of soda and other sugary drinks with a new tax, the mayor of Philadelphia is now trying to blame businesses for charging higher prices (and for the outrage those prices have generated).

Mayor Jim Kenney, who proposed the soda tax and championed its passage through city council last year, told reporters on Tuesday it’s not the new 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax that’s making it more expensive to buy a can of Coke in Philly. No, according to the mayor, those higher prices are caused by city businesses price gouging their customers in order to stir up opposition to the tax.

Note to Mayor Kenney: buy a book on basic economics and read it.  Or perhaps just be honest with the public.  I know it’s popular among politicians to promise people goodies and insist those bad old business will pay the bill, but that’s not how it works in the real world.  Businesses pass the bill along to their customers in the form of higher prices.  Here’s why:

Newswork’s Katie Colaneri visited Carbonator Rental Services in Philadelphia to break down the math.

The distributors sells five-gallon boxes of syrup that can be used in soda fountains, and each box costs a retailer about $60. Thanks to the city’s new tax, though, retailers have to pay $57.60 in taxes for each of those boxes of syrup.

“We’re not talking about a couple of bucks on a $60 item,” Andy Pincus, who owns Carbonator Rental Services, told Newsworks. “We’re talking about $57.60 on a $60 item. It’s too big not to pass on.”

Pincus says he can’t absorb the tax because he makes less than $20 in gross profit—the difference between how much he paid for the box of syrup and how much he sells it for—on each box. Out of that money, he has to pay all his employees, buy gas for delivery trucks, and cover all the other costs of doing business. So, he increased the price he charges to retailers buying syrup from his business. Those retailers, who are operating under similarly small margins, are doing the same thing and increasing prices charged to consumers.

This is why I hate observational studies.

Over the years, we’ve been told all kinds of foods might be the key to a longer life. Now chili peppers – yes, chili peppers – might join the list.  Here are some quotes from an article titled Eat hot peppers for a longer life?

Like spicy food? If so, you might live longer, say researchers at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, who found that consumption of hot red chili peppers is associated with a 13 percent reduction in total mortality — primarily in deaths due to heart disease or stroke — in a large prospective study.

If so, you might live longer, say researchersHead. Bang. On. Desk.

Did the researchers conduct a carefully controlled, long-term study in which eating chili peppers was the only variable?  Of course not.

Using National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) III data collected from more than 16,000 Americans who were followed for up to 23 years, medical student Mustafa Chopan ’17 and Professor of Medicine Benjamin Littenberg, M.D., examined the baseline characteristics of the participants according to hot red chili pepper consumption. They found that consumers of hot red chili peppers tended to be “younger, male, white, Mexican-American, married, and to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and consume more vegetables and meats . . . had lower HDL-cholesterol, lower income, and less education,” in comparison to participants who did not consume red chili peppers. They examined data from a median follow-up of 18.9 years and observed the number of deaths and then analyzed specific causes of death.

“Although the mechanism by which peppers could delay mortality is far from certain, Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels, which are primary receptors for pungent agents such as capsaicin (the principal component in chili peppers), may in part be responsible for the observed relationship,” say the study authors.

No, I’ll explain the mechanism:  First, highly unreliable data on what people eat was gathered.  Then it was compared to medical records.  Then, as chance would have it, the researchers found a meaningless association between chili peppers and mortality.  Then they high-fived each other and ran off to write up the study results.  Then they probably proposed doing further research.   In fact, I’m sure they did.

“Because our study adds to the generalizability of previous findings, chili pepper — or even spicy food — consumption may become a dietary recommendation and/or fuel further research in the form of clinical trials,” says Chopan.

I’m reminded of the tongue-in-cheek paper Dr. John Ioannidis wrote in which he demonstrated that 80% of the ingredients in a common recipe book have been linked to higher rates of cancer.  Or lower rates of cancer.  Or both.  It just depends on which observational study you dig up.

And that’s the state of nutrition science.

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Hey Fat Heads,

Happy New Year!

Thought I’d sneak into the Big Chair for a couple of quick items.

The big news is that the Fat Head Kids book is getting close enough that Tom sent a script to The Middle Son and The Youngest Son so they can start prepping to help with voice work for the DVD version. He included a preview copy of the book so they can relate to what they’ll be voice acting.

Naturally, I had to sneak a peek and I can say that it’s more than worth the wait. Just terrific.

In my completely unbiased opinion, of course.

Next, this isn’t in the breaking news category, but I thought my fellow Fat Heads might enjoy it. We’ve got a good-natured banter going with The Youngest Son’s fiancée about what grandson 2 will be eating as he starts the move from formula to people food. (This guy:)

I keep saying he’s going to be eating only eggs, chicken livers and steak (with some lard and bacon fat) before he’s one; future DIL threatens to feed him tofu.

Anyway, after being impressed with Jason Fung’s Obesity Code and his follow up book (with Jimmy Moore) The Complete Guide to Fasting, I got interested in fasting, especially after my annual Thanksgiving through New Year’s gluttony. I’ve done a couple of 24-hour fasts, a 36-hour last week, and am 36 hours into a two-day (maybe 60 hours) fast right now.

So last night, I was putting a coffee mug in the microwave, prompting the following:

DIL:   What’s that – are you having some tea?

Older Brother:   No, I’m having a cup of beef broth.

Youngest Son (to DIL):   See that? – even Dad’s water has meat in it!

Cheers!

The Older Brother

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Actually, it’s two brief progress reports.

After some initial feedback from our local expert on books for kids (our daughter Sara), Chareva and I put the book through another round of edits.  Chareva altered some graphics Sara thought might be a bit confusing, and I rewrote some sections to explain the same concepts in fewer or simpler words.  That’s why I haven’t written a post in nearly two weeks.

I’m pretty sure the book is about 95% ready at this point, but we still have to create the copyright page, the table of contents page, etc.

As I mentioned in my first post of the year, I managed to gain 12 pounds during the holiday season, thanks largely to indulging in too much good booze.  I weighed myself at the gym today (we don’t have a scale at home), and I’m happy to report five of those pounds are now gone.  I just had to get back to doing what I know works for me.

I’ll keep you posted.

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Yup, it’s that time again.  I went to the gym on Wednesday for the first time in three weeks, and it was swamped.  The treadmills are especially popular in January, as people attempt to walk their way towards whatever weight-loss number they chose as a New Year’s resolution.  It happens every January, then by around April or so, the gym population is back to normal.

I’ve also noticed the usual shift in lunch choices around the office.  Several women have been dutifully putting their Weight Watchers Smart Ones into the microwaves, then dutifully pretending to enjoy the pasta with fat-free sauce.   I saw one woman eat a Smart Ones meal, then chase it with a small bag of fat-free popcorn.  Good luck with that.

For the first time in years, I’ll be joining the ranks of people starting the new year with a determination to lose weight.  As to why, I’ll give the short version first:  I gained 12 pounds in three weeks.

Now for the longer version:  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the food.  Yeah, I enjoyed stuffing and potatoes and pumpkin pie on Christmas and the day after, but that’s par for the course.  Same goes for the pizza on New Year’s.

The big difference this year was booze consumption.  I just flat-out overdid it.  After months of being in near-constant work mode (the programming job, the book, the blog, etc.), I gave myself permission to be a slug over the holidays.  I binge-watched some Amazon and Netflix series I’ve wanted to see, often staying up until 2 or 3 AM to do so, and indulging in good beer, good wine, or good single-malt scotch for the entire viewing session.

Alcohol, of course, is remarkably efficient at shutting down fat-burning.  The liver also turns the stuff into fat if it’s not burned away … and I’m pretty sure I didn’t burn it away while sitting in my easy chair and watching four episodes of Mr. Robot in a row.

So I knew I’d gain some weight, but waved the thought away with yeah-yeah-yeah, I’m going to enjoy this holiday break, then worry about that later.  Even so, I have to admit I was a wee bit surprised when I stepped on the gym scale for the first time since mid-December.

Twelve pounds?!  Seriously?!

Yes, seriously.  It’s a reminder of how easily I can gain weight if I don’t watch what goes down the hatch.

But here’s the difference between my resolution now and the resolutions I made in my thirties and forties:  I know what to do, I know it will work, and I know it won’t be unpleasant.  No little bowls of Grape-Nuts with skim milk for breakfast, no Slim-Fast shakes instead of meals, no dry toast, no rice cakes, no Smart Ones low-fat meals, and no trying to ignore gnawing hunger while waiting for the next calorie-restricted, tasteless meal.  I just have to get back to what I was doing before:  regular workouts and high-protein, low-carb meals.  Sausage and eggs, here I come.

I also know not to set an arbitrary goal, such as I’m going to lose 30 pounds by March!  That’s how people set themselves up for failure.  The way to lose weight is to stick to a diet that enables weight loss, then let the number on the scale take care of itself.

While I was binge-watching and scotch-drinking myself into needing to loosen my belt, Chareva was banging away on the book, trying to beat a Christmas deadline for finishing all the drawings and page layouts.  She missed the deadline by a few days, and apologized for being tardy.

I told her I’d briefly considered filing for divorce, but thought better of it.  We set the Christmas deadline as a motivator, and she was clearly motivated.   We’ve gone over the book page-by-page several times, and I have to say, I’m delighted.  Her drawings are the perfect complement to the text.  Now we’ll get preview copies out to a few people and go from there.

There’s plenty more to do – such as the film version — but I’m expecting good things to come of this project, which means I’m already jazzed about 2017, even with the extra pounds to lose.

Happy New Year, everyone.

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Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

Real food in the grocery store

I mentioned recently that Chareva found potato chips with just three ingredients: potatoes, avocado oil and sea salt.  Turns out the same company makes a version with coconut oil as well.

So why am I writing about potato chips?  Because this is Wisdom of Crowds stuff.  According to The Anointed, we should avoid coconut oil.  Those of you my age or older may remember when boxes of food proudly boasted a No Tropical Oils! label.  That’s because the Center For Science in the Public Interest scared people into thinking the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! in coconut oil would kill them.  Mainstream news outlets dutifully passed along the warnings, and coconut oil was replaced with soybean oil and other garbage in many, many products.

That was then, this is now.  Kroger is selling this brand of chips because consumers want chips cooked in coconut oil.  That means consumers have figured out, thanks to the Wisdom of Crowds effect, that coconut oil is a much better choice than the “heart healthy” vegetable oils The Anointed tell us to consume.

I’ve been asked many times in emails and during interviews how we can get the government to change its lousy advice.  I always give the same answer:  my goal isn’t to get the government “experts” to change their advice.  My goal is to convince people to stop listening to them.

I believe the Wisdom of Crowds is accomplishing that goal.

CSPI wants meat cancer warnings

Speaking of The Guy From CSPI, look how he wants government to protect us against our own stupidity now:

A nine-page petition filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest asks the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to begin requiring colorectal cancer warning labels on certain meat and poultry products.

Michael F. Jacobson, CSPI president, and David Plunkett, senior staff attorney, signed the petition. They want USDA to require all meat and poultry products that “are preserved by smoking, curing, salting, and/or the addition of chemical preservatives” to bear the warning label.

The CSPI suggests the label should state: “USDA WARNING: Frequent consumption of processed meat products may increase your risk of developing cancer of the colon and rectum. To protect your health, limit consumption of such products.” The group also wants a similar warning on poultry products.

You’ve got to hand it to The Guy From CSPI.  No matter how often he turns out to be wrong, his confidence in his Grand Plans is never shaken.  He demanded calorie-count labels on food labels, fast-food packages, restaurant menus, etc. – because by gosh, that would cause people to eat less.  Multiple studies then demonstrated that the labels have zero effect.  But now he’s sure warning labels will lead to people cutting back on meat.

The meat causes cancer notion is, of course, complete hogwash.  The observational studies are all over the place.  The Guy From CSPI, as a committed (or should be committed) vegetarian, simply cherry-picks the ones he likes.  We’ve dealt with that nonsense several times, including this post and this post.

In the age of social media and the Wisdom of Crowds, I predict people will listen to CSPI’s warnings about meat just as obediently as they’re listening to those warnings about coconut oil.

New Jersey legalizes raw milk

Okay, it shouldn’t have been outlawed in the first place.  But let’s cheer progress where we see it.  Here are some quotes from an article in NaturalBlaze:

On Monday, a New Jersey Assembly committee unanimously approved a bill that would legalize limited raw milk sales in the state, taking an important step toward effectively nullifying a federal prohibition scheme in effect.

Assemblymen John DiMiao (R-Dist. 23) introduced Assembly Bill 696 (A696) earlier this year. The legislation would allow holders of a raw milk permit “to sell, offer for sale or otherwise make available raw milk directly to consumers but only at the farm or property where the raw milk is produced.”

Current New Jersey law imposes a complete ban on the sale, transport and importation of raw milk or raw milk products.

I don’t have much more information to go on, but once again, I’ll bet pressure from consumers had a lot to do with the bill being passed.  Heck, if this trend keeps up, government officials may decide to let whole milk back into schools.

Canadian doctors give an earful to the health authorities, eh?

Here’s more of that Wisdom of Crowds effect:  a group of 200 Canadian physicians recently sent a letter to Health Canada and other health officials in the Great White North.  The letter urges a change in national dietary guidelines.  Here’s part of what they wrote:

The Canadian Dietary Guidelines should:

1.  Clearly communicate to the public and health-care professionals that the low-fat diet is no longer supported, and can worsen heart-disease risk factors
2.  Be created without influence from the food industry
3.  Eliminate caps on saturated fats
4.  Be nutritionally sufficient, and those nutrients should come from real foods, not from artificially fortified refined grains
5.  Promote low-carb diets as at least one safe and effective intervention for people struggling with obesity, diabetes, and heart disease
6.  Offer a true range of diets that respond to the diverse nutritional needs of our population
7.  De-emphasize the role of aerobic exercise in controlling weight
8.  Recognize the controversy on salt and cease the blanket “lower is better” recommendation
9.  Stop using any language suggesting that sustainable weight control can simply be managed by creating a caloric deficit
10.  Cease its advice to replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated vegetable oils to prevent cardiovascular disease
11.  Stop steering people away from nutritious whole foods, such as whole-fat dairy and regular red meat
12.  Include a cap on added sugar, in accordance with the updated WHO guidelines, ideally no greater than 5% of total calories
13.  Be based on a complete, comprehensive review of the most rigorous (randomized, controlled clinical trial) data available; on subjects for which this more rigorous data is not available, the Guidelines should remain silent.

How awesome is that?  Will Canadian authorities listen?  Maybe, maybe not.  But that letter is making its way around cyberspace and will be seen by lord-only-knows how many people.  Authorities may not listen, but I bet plenty of other people will.

Heck, this might even hurt sales of Canola oil …

Happy Holidays – I’m outta here until 2017

Chareva and I gave ourselves a Christmas deadline to finish the book.  I believe we’re going to make that deadline.  She’s been putting in long days drawing and laying out pages.  Meanwhile, I’ve been converting the book text into a film script for the film version.  I hope to have the script done by Christmas as well.

I spend pretty much every Christmas-to-New Year’s break going through a ton of photos and videos to create the family DVD for the previous year, so I’ll be rather busy for the next couple of weeks.  I’ll check comments, but don’t plan on writing any new posts until January.

I wish you all a fabulous holiday season.  See you in 2017.

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Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

Noakes found guilty! Or not.

As you probably know, Professor Tim Noakes has been on trial in South Africa for a tweet in which he advised a young mother (in response to her question) to wean her baby onto high-fat, real foods. Some idiot dietician was horrified that Noakes would suggest a high-fat diet for a baby (because as we all know, mother’s milk is fat-free!) and threatened to bring him up on charges – which she did. So Noakes was dragged before The Health Professions Council of South Africa on charges of unprofessional conduct. (We can safely assume “professional conduct” therefore means “giving out the lousy, low-fat advice officially sanctioned by governments around the world.”)

Apparently, the HPCSA was a wee bit overly anxious to declare victory:

The Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) released a press release today saying it has found Prof Tim Noakes guilty of unprofessional conduct.

That’s not possible, of course, since the case against him has not concluded. The HPCSA’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) that is hearing the charge against Noakes, hasn’t even heard closing argument from lawyers on both sides yet. And it only intends issuing a ruling after that, on April 21, 2017. PCC chair Pretoria advocate Joan Adams has issued a tightly worded, clearly irate statement saying the HPCSA’s press release is “devoid of all truth”.

Well, I think it’s perfectly fitting for the HPCSA to issue a press release that’s devoid of all truth. After all, so are the changes against Noakes.

Noakes has been fortunate to have some impressive experts testify on his behalf, including Nina Teicholz and Zoe Harcombe. You can read about their testimony and other aspects of the kangaroo-court proceed—er, I mean government hearings here.

It’s an outrage that Noakes is being dragged through all this because of a tweet that annoyed an ignorant dietician, but perhaps this trial will become the South African version of the Annika Dahlqvist hearings in Sweden that led to a LCHF revolution there.

Baseball players are overweight

I’m still hoping and praying for a Cubs miracle. During my 15 years in Chicago, I lived within walking distance of Wrigley Field. I walked to a lot of games and staggered home from a few. Man, I loved watching the Cubs … but I don’t recall the players being overweight. I likewise haven’t noticed an obesity problem while watching the World Series. But according to a recent study, most baseball players are too heavy:

Major League Baseball players have become overwhelmingly overweight and obese during the last quarter century, say health researchers. They found that the athletes’ weight held steady for over 100 years, with the majority of them weighing in at what is considered “normal,” — i.e., with a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9. However, around 1991 the average player’s BMI began to rise, and over the last 25 years nearly 80 percent of players fall into the overweight or obese category with a BMI above 25.

Sure, some power hitters are thick around the middle. But 80 percent of professional baseball players are overweight or obese, seriously? Have these researchers bothered watching any games?

I’m thinking that rise in BMI has a lot more to do with weight-training than with baseball players becoming too fat. Most of these guys are sporting some serious guns under those sleeves.

The USDA’s food-consumption data is nonsense

Back in this post, I wrote about a study of just how reliable those food questionnaires used in observational studies are – or more precisely, are not. Now the same researchers have produced another study pointing that the USDA’s per-capita food-consumption data is highly suspect. Here’s what lead author Edward Archer told me in a recent email:

In the study, we examined the USDA loss-adjusted food availability per-capita caloric consumption data. We found that if the US population actually consumed what the USDA was telling us we consumed, we would have lost ~12-36kg from 1971-1980 and gained ~42-98kg from 1988-2010. The actual changes from 1971-2010 were gains of 10kg and 9 kg in men and women, respectively.

Do you know anyone that lost over 80lbs and then gained well over 200lbs during that time-frame? Nevertheless, the USDA continues to publish these data as fact.

Well, I suppose somewhere in the world we can find a few people who gained 200 pounds from 1988 to 2010 … but they were probably infants in 1988. You can read the abstract of the study here.

NuVal is ByeVille

Back in 2010, I wrote about NuVal, a system for telling grocery-store shoppers which goods are good for them and which foods aren’t. It was the usual low-fat and anti-meat nonsense – such complete nonsense that on a scale of 100, a turkey breast received a “health” score of just 31, while a glass of chocolate soy milk received a score of 68, despite being loaded with sugar.

One of the developers of NuVal, by the way, was Dr. David Katz – who got in hot water after reviewing his own novel under a fake name, comparing his own writing to the works of Charles Dickens and John Milton. After being busted, Katz explained that the fake review was no big deal because he was expressing his honest opinion. Hey, we all love an honest egomaniac.

Anyway, it looks as if sanity is taking hold at some grocery stores that had adopted the NuVal system – meaning they’re dropping it.

Tops Markets is getting rid of a controversial nutrition ratings system it has used to help customers make food purchasing decisions. The system rates brownie mix and ice cream as healthier than some canned fruits and vegetables.

And let’s not forget sugary soy milk being healthier than turkey.

The NuVal Nutrional Scoring System debuted at Tops in 2011. The system scores foods on a scale from 1 to 100–the more nutritious the food, the higher the number. The NuVal score is based on an algorithm developed by a team of scientists from schools such as Yale and Harvard.

The process behind the scoring has never been disclosed but the company has said it calculates a food’s good elements–such as protein, calcium and vitamins–against its bad elements–such as sugar, sodium and cholesterol. NuVal has said it does not share details about how it comes up with its scores because that information is proprietary.

Meaning we just made this @#$% up.

Two other grocery chains have dropped NuVal recently, including California-based Raley’s and Massachusetts-based Big Y, which told the Yale Daily News the system was “out of date.”

No kidding. I think we’re probably seeing the Wisdom of Crowds effect kicking in. Consumers are probably telling grocery-store managers what they think of the ratings, and the store managers are responding.

If this trend continues, perhaps Dr. Katz will retire from handing out lousy nutrition advice and turn his attention to writing more novels. I think he should compare himself to James Joyce next time … under an assumed name, of course.

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