‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: shut your pie hole or, in this case: put less in your pie hole.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Walmart Pledges Healthy Plates: Serves Up Heart Attack Ad

On October 8, Walmart CEO pledged himself and his company to health and healthy food. That same week I receive a piece of promotional material completely invalidating the pledge. The ad promises to dish up simple, easy, heart attack-inducing, obesity-causing family meals.

Without further ado, here's the ad in question:

Here's Walmart's CEO talking about promoting healthy foods and health for children.
Here's Walmart's "pledge to you" that details their plan for 2015 to improve the healthfulness of the Walmart brand.

Don't get me wrong, Walmart has pledged some admirable changes, but backflipped in a matter of days.

So here's me calling you out, Mr Doug McMillon, Walmart CEO, would you feed your family these 14 meals for 14 days?

Several of these meals feature zero vegetables. They all, however, are chock full of highly processed, fat-filled, sodium saturated, fiber-failing foods.

Mr Doug McMillon, which of this smattering of 'Texas Toast', 'Pillsbury Biscuits', 'Ultimate Chicken Helper', 'Velveeta Mac and Cheese', 'Original Manwich', 'Mozzarella Sticks', 'Curly Fries' and 'Dinner Yeast Rolls' are healthy options for the families and children you care about? Which of these meals "allow millions of families to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, instead of relying on foods high in fat, sodium, and preservatives"?

As a dietitian and educator, I would not recommend my clients or students feed any of your meals to their families, and I certainly would not feed them to my own.

Let's get a closer look at that front page and the quote on it:
Allow me to point out the quote featured on the front page.

Let me simply draw your attention to the so-called 'Mom blogger' who states "simple meals make my life easier and my family happy". Hmm, here's a link to her page on the interwebs.

Mr Doug McMillon, CEO, can you explain why such a quote is being used to promote meals that are neither healthy, nor health promoting?

Mr CEO, could you please explain why your company is linking highly processed, unhealthy meal ideas with the notion of 'simplicity' and 'happiness'?

Mr CEO, there are lots of simple meals that are easy and happy. How about two 20 cent eggs scrambled with a slice of whole grain toast, a sprinkle of cheese, and side of lightly microwaved zucchini or peas? Is this an expensive or complex culinary concoction? Let me answer that... No.

If President Obama pledged today that he would bring 1,000 soldiers home from war, and then tomorrow coyly deployed 1,000 more and sent out a memo to every home in the US stating this... Would we call him a liar? Allow me to answer that... Yes we would.

So, Mr Doug McMillon, Walmart CEO, what does it make you if you pledge yourself and your company to health and healthy food, then send out the ad I received?

Simply, I am outraged and disgusted. Allow me to adapt your marketing quote to: "Walmart's simple meals do not make my client's lives easier and they don't make their families happy".

Mr CEO, I challenge you to restore my faith and trust in Walmart's quest to improve the health of Americans. Based on this ad, "Save Money, Live with Diabetes" is a more truthful catchphrase than "Save Money, Live better".

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Artificial Sweeteners: Not So Sweet After All

The FDA has come under much scrutiny in the last few months regarding their lax requirements for accepting food additives by manufacturers. One such food additive, non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) has been around for a while, but research is showing it's neither sugar, spice, nor 'all things nice'.

The FDA lists 5 approved NAS, sometimes called non-nutritive sweeteners, the most common ones are:
  • Aspartame (Nurtasweet or Equal)
  • Saccharin (Sweet'n'Low)
  • Sucralose (Splenda)
There are a few theories about NAS causing weight gain, from "you're tricking your body with fake sugar so it will eventually crave real sugar" to "I had a diet Coke with my burger, I'm ok to have a piece of chocolate cake". Before we determine if these NAS are truly 'Splendid' or 'Equal' to sugar, let's look at a some real science that's also real interesting.
Animal studies found a curious link to NAS causing altered metabolism - in specific that NAS were causing glucose intolerance, meaning the body isn't able to restore/maintain blood glucose levels within a normal healthy range.

They compared blood glucose levels (BGLs) of mice who were consuming diets containing regular sugar vs NAS. Amazingly, they found the NAS mice had significantly higher BGLs.

Enter: your gut bacteria. It is quite well established that different kinds of diets (eating patterns) result in different kinds of bacteria present in your gut. Here's what the scientists did next:
  • Wiped the gut bacteria from the mice using antibiotics
  • What did they find? It eliminated the higher BGLs seen in the NAS mice
Next, a fecal transplant (yep, exactly what it sounds like)
  • From the NAS-fed mice to mice that had never consumed NAS
  • What did they find? The mice who received the transplant, developed glucose intolerance
 Next, the scientists rounded up 400 willing human participants and found:
  • The bacteria in human guts differed significantly between those who consumed NAS and those who didn't
  • NAS consumers exhibited certain biological markers linked to obesity and disease (like increased BGLs)
  • When non-NAS consumers were put on a 7 day controlled high NAS-containing diet, they found that after 4 days, 50% had elevated BGLs and altered gut bacteria
The conclusion: NAS may contribute to, rather than alleviate metabolic conditions associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes by altering the function and composition of gut bacteria. You can fool your taste buds, but your gut bacteria know the truth.

Take home points:
  • When you eat tofu turkey (tofurkey), a few misguided souls may proclaim it tastes like turkey, but your body is still digesting tofu... not turkey
  • Substituting sugar for NAS, doesn't make cake a healthy meal
  • Be thankful you can alter your gut bacteria without a fecal transplant

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Prevent Brain Decay with Vitamin D

Low levels of vitamin D, often called the sunshine vitamin, was recently implicated in the development of Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia. So here's an article about how a sunny day (and some diet adjustments) can help keep dementia away.

First off, in case you're asking 'who cares', here's why you should give two hoots about vitamin D:
  • It helps your gut absorb calcium
  • Calcium and vitamin D are your body's Batman and Robin superhero tag-team that keep your bones strong, healthy and osteoporosis-free
  • Vitamin D is involved in cell growth, reducing inflammation and has important immune functions (more on this shortly)
Your body makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Factors like season, time of day, length of day, cloud cover, smog, skin melanin content, and sunscreen affect the body's ability to synthesise vitamin D.
Because vitamin D is fat soluble and stored in both the liver and fat tissue, the amount accumulated in sunny times is often enough to see us through the dark months...when the sun don't shine.

A new study looked at 1,5000 adults and found those who were moderately vitamin V deficient were 53% more likely to develop dementia. This risk increased to 125% in those who were severely deficient. I hear your internal struggle: Vitamin D... Dementia, I don't get it.

Vitamin D is well known for it's part in bone health, but most people don't know just how important it is in the immune system. Vitamin D is involved with clearing a class of proteins called beta-amyloid from the brain. When these are not eliminated, amyloid plaques form between neurons in the brain, and are a hallmark in people with dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.

Before you self-diagnose and stock up on a mega dose supplement of vitamin D, too much is problematic too, unless you like heart arrhythmias. Excess vitamin D also increases the calcium in your blood, which results in the calcification of blood vessels, the heart and kidneys... About as fun as walking into an electrocution chamber.

Instead, here are some foods that are good sources of vitamin D:
  • Cod liver oil (wait, it gets better)
  • Certain seafood like salmon, swordfish, tuna and sardines
  • Vitamin D-fortified foods like milk, OJ and yoghurt
  • Eggs (specifically the yolk)
It is difficult to give general recommendations for time spent in the sun due to variables like skin colour, time of year, cloud cover, air pollution, etc. It is also prudent to limit sun exposure, unless you're into skin cancers or looking like a leather bag.

In the end, the best offense is a good D (defense). Think: smart sun exposure and a side of vitamin D-rich foods.