‘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.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

So You Think Healthy is More Expensive?

We're kicking off a new year, and since so many people make resolutions like "get healthy", "eat 'clean'" (whatever that means), and "lose weight", I thought a healthy food article with some monetary incentive might just make your mouth water. 

What if everything you thought about healthy food costing more was in your head? So before you slurp down your $10 juice, or pound your $8 protein bar... Read on.

People believe healthy food is more expensive, and that expensive food is healthier. These are "lay theories" - philosophies people use to make sense of their social environment. However, these lay theories aren't supported by science. On a side note, if you're interested in some "cheap eats" hacks, check out 10+ Ways to Eat Healthy for Cheap.

Spoiler alert: A series of new experiments show that people not only believe the lay theories that expensive=healthy and healthy=expensive, but they make purchasing decisions based on them.

Here's an outline of the experiments and their findings.

Experiment 1:
  • Participants were told about a new product called "granola bites"
  • Some participants were told the bites scored an A- on a health scale, others told they scored a C
  • Outcome: The participants told the bites scored an A- thought they would be more expensive than those told the bites scored a C
Experiment 2:
  • Participants were asked to rate a breakfast cracker on its healthfulness
  • Outcome: Participants rated the more expensive cracker as healthier than the cheaper (identical) cracker
Interpretation: People believe the lay theory operates in both directions: Healthy equals expensive and expensive equals healthy.

Next, the researchers wanted to see if people would act on this belief.

Experiment 3:
  • Participants were to imagine their coworker asked them to buy them lunch
  • Half the group was told the coworker requested a healthy lunch, the other half weren't given such instruction
  • Participants were shown two chicken wraps and their ingredients (chicken balsamic or roasted chicken wrap)
  • Some participants saw the chicken balsamic wrap was more expensive, where others saw the roasted chicken wrap was more expensive
  • Outcome: The participants shopping for the healthy lunch were more likely to pick the higher priced wrap (regardless which one it was)
Interpretation: People are making purchasing decisions based on the lay theory.
Experiment 4:
  • Participants were to imagine themselves at a supermarket looking at 4 different trail mixes, each at different price points
  • "Perfect Vision Trailmix" was the product the researchers asked about, some participants were shown the mix was "high in vitamin A for eye health", others saw "high in DHA for eye health" (both ingredients are good for eye health, but DHA is not a well known ingredient)
  • Some participants saw "Perfect Vision Trailmix" at an average price point, others at a high price point (more expensive than the other 3 mixes), they were then asked about their perceptions of the key ingredient (vitamin A or DHA)
  • Outcome: When vitamin A was the key ingredient, people thought it was part of a healthy diet at either price point
    • Interpretation: Most likely because people are familiar with vitamin A and feel they can judge its value without price cues
  • Outcome: When the key ingredient was DHA, people thought it was part of a healthy diet at the high price point, not as much at the average price point
    • Interpretation: Most likely because people aren't familiar with DHA, they go back to the lay theory that expensive=healthier
Experiment 5:
  • Participants imagined a new protein bar called "Healthiest Protein Bar on the Planet"
  • They were told this bar would compete against other bars averaging $2
  • Some participants were told this bar would cost $0.99, others were told it would cost $4
  • Participants were offered to read reviews of the bar before offering their opinions
  • Outcome: Significantly more reviews were read by participants told the bar would only cost $0.99
    • Interpretation: People needed to convince themselves that the "Healthiest Protein Bar on the Planet" could be cheaper than an average priced bar
The all important breakdown and take home messages:
  • These results collectively show that people are biased towards lay theories
  • People are acting on these beliefs when buying and assessing food products
  • Marketers are taking advantage of consumer's bias
  • Buyer beware
  • Buyer be smart
  • Buyer do your research - read the nutrition label and ingredient list to make your decision
  • Buyer be aware of your bias and overcome it

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Pour Some Sugar on Me

If you can't put down your favourite chocolate bar, you may not have to... Or at least, maybe... In a few years... Maybe. Here's what Nestle wants to do about sugar, and what the research says about sugar. Without further ado, let's pour some sugar on this sweet as topic.

When it comes to sugar, there's controversy. Does sugar make you fat, sick, slow your metabolism? Is it all sugar, some sugar, added sugar, no sugar?

One recent review study found that high fructose intakes (150g/day or more) increased insulin resistance and blood lipid levels. These indicators increase the risk of several chronic diseases. The study also found many "side effects" of consuming high sugar/fructose diets, like weight gain and obesity, are a result of energy (calorie) overconsumption, often caused when people consume lots of sugary foods.

Another large review study found fructose-containing sugars do lead to weight gain and increased disease risk if the overall diet provides excessive calories. Wait, déjà vu?

Both articles stress that excessive sugar intake (fructose or otherwise) from sugar sweetened beverages like soda, are associated with weight gain, obesity, and increased risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular, diabetes, etc.

Both studies also note that people consuming these beverages often consume too many calories, exercise too little, smoke more, and have poorer dietary patterns than people who don't.
Enter Nestle: Touting its new patent-pending sugar structure. The manufacturer compared regular sugar to a shoebox, where the outside and inside are sugar. The new structure is spherical like globe rather than a box, contains sugar on the outside but less sugar inside. Meaning the new sugar should taste as sweet as the regular stuff but contain less sugar, and therefore less calories. Nestle says it will use the new structure to reduce the amount of sugar by up to 40% in its confectionary... In 2018.

What, then, are the take home messages?
  • Even if confectionary has less sugar, that doesn't make it healthy
    • Like when Coke switched from high-fructose corn syrup to sugar... Coke went from being "unhealthy" to "still unhealthy"
  • It pays to play (exercise)
  • Visualise the value of veggies (add more to your meals)
  • Scrap the soda (as much as possible)
  • Curtail the candy (and read the nutrition labels)
Tis the season to make "resolutions". This year why not resolve to eat everything you like in moderation? Here's some fun holiday reading!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

6 Things to know about FODMAPs

The term "FODMAP" has cropped up several times in recent posts. Today, rather than adding a link where you can read about it yourself, here's a dedicated post about it. So, without further ado, for all the your FODMAP needs, let's get going!

1. WTF is a FODMAP?
Answer: The acronym means: Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides And Polyols.

2. So again, WTF is a FODMAP?
Answer: They are specific types of carbohydrates: A monosaccharide is a one-sugar unit, disaccharide is a two-sugar unit, polyols are sugar alcohols. These carbohydrates are poorly absorbed by the small intestine, small and osmotically active, and rapidly fermented - see point 4 below.

3. What is a low-FODMAP diet and who's on it?
Answer: This diet isn't a catchy, trendy one, like say... Gluten-free, but there's evidence that a diet low in FODMAPs improves the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS sufferers (about 1 in 7 people!) exhibit recurring GI symptoms including gas, bloating, bowel pain and discomfort, diarrhoea, and/or constipation. A new U.S. study of patients with IBS and diarrhea found greater improvements for those on a low-FODMAP diet. FODMAP research and diet development took place at Monash University in Australia.
4. What do FODMAP foods do?
Answer: People can't absorb FODMAPs, so they move from the small intestine to the large intestine, taking water with them (they are osmotically active). In the large intestine, these carbohydrates meet the resident large intestine bacteria. The bacteria "eat" the carbohydrates, this is called fermentation. A byproduct of fermentation is, you guessed it, gas! People with IBS are very sensitive to the feeling of distention caused by fermentation and gas production.

5. What foods are high in FODMAPs?
Answer: Pretty much every food group has foods within them that are both high and low in FODMAPs. See table below.

High and low-FODMAP foods. http://www.med.monash.edu/cecs/gastro/fodmap/low-high.html

6. Do low-FODMAP diets help people other than those with IBS?
Answer: There is some research suggesting people who think they have a gluten or wheat "sensitivity" may actually have IBS or similar symptoms to those suffering from IBS. Research shows people with these "sensitivities" would actually benefit from a low-FODMAP diet rather than the trendier "gluten-free" diet (1, 2, 3).

So, there you have it. What FODMAPs are, what a low-FODMAP diet is, and who benefits from being on such a diet.

Should you want to try a low-FODMAP diet, I strongly advise seeking an accredited dietitian who specialises in such diets (see links below.) These dietitians will ensure your diet continues to provide you with sufficient nutrients, vitamin, and minerals, monitor your progress, and guide you through adding back potential FODMAP foods.

In Australia, find an accredited dietitian here: http://daa.asn.au/for-the-public/find-an-apd/
In the USA, find a registered dietitian here: http://www.eatright.org/find-an-expert