‘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, July 29, 2015

Label Warfare

When I started this blog over two years ago, I wanted to write an article discussing (well... scrutinising) the American food label compared with the Australian one. With all the coverage the new proposed FDA label regulations are getting, I'd say it's the perfect opportunity!

Let's not beat around the bush. The take home message:
  1. The US needs a standardized column (eg: per 100g) in addition to the "per serve" column
    • See label comparison below
The end. That's it. We're done. Go home.
 
Ok, we can talk about the proposed changes too. They include:
  1. Make the number of calories per serve larger and bold
  2. Make a serve more realistic
  3. Put the %DV (daily value) on the left, rather than the bottom. Eg: so the %DV for fat is next to the grams of fat
  4. Add an "added sugars" section under sugars
  5. Remove "calories from fat"
** View the changes here, scroll about half way down.
You're dying to hear my thoughts, I know...
  1. Making the total calories larger and bold
    • Won't help someone who doesn't know what a calorie is
    • Won't help if they don't know how many calories should be in something like a granola bar
  2. Make the serves more realistic
    • An inspired idea! Who ever sat down and only ate 11 potato chips?
  3. The %DV
    • It may be useful to have this right next to the corresponding nutrient
    • BUT the %DV in and of itself is actually pretty useless
    • BECAUSE most people don't need 2,000kcal/day (this is an average, meaning 50% of people need more and 50% need less)
    • Most ladies need less, most people over 70 need less, children need less, most men need more, teens need more, very active people need more
    • Bottom line - %DV is not applicable to the majority of the population, why is it there?!
  4. Added sugars
    • I'm on the fence about this... Something like a granola bar tends to have a lot of added sugar, but people think they're healthy... So if people look at the added sugars and realise it isn't a good choice, maybe they won't buy it...?
  5. Remove calories from fat
    • I think this is a good thing, it's the type of fat that is important
    • In case you forgot: Minimise saturated/trans fat, increase poly/monounsaturated fat
Health professionals want you not to feel like this in the supermarket!
What's still missing? The standardised per 100g column. Why?
  • It gives consumers a quick and easy way to compare brands of similar products
  • It's much easier to say "when buying yoghurt, look for a product that has <10g of sugar per 100g"
  • It means manufactures can't hide things like trans fat
    • Currently, trans fat only need appear on the label if there's more than 0.5g per serve
    • If you have a tiny serve, you would see trans fat as 0... when in reality, there is trans fat
    • If you have spray oil, the "serve" is something ridiculous like 0.5 seconds of a spray = 0 calories... Sure, but it's oil! You bet your bottom dollar there are calories there. This is deliberately misleading consumers

Now, compare that to two Australian labels side by side:


Giving consumers the tools to choose healthier products and provide faster, easier, simpler label reading education... If that's not enough to convince you, maybe a slap in the face with a bag of beans would help?

Public comment is open on these proposed changes now through till October 13 2015. Click here and scroll to "comment now on the supplemental proposed rule". Do it!!

Below are some links that give some more info on the Aussie food label and some examples.
http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Food_labels_explained

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Get Hooked on Fish Food pt II

In pt I we filleted the fishy facts about fish being down right fantastic for your health. Along with that were the benefits of omega-3s during pregnancy, oh and that feeding your face fresh fish during pregnancy was a great thing too.

No more should we flounder over the benefits of fish, they're freakin' fantastic and that's a school of thought to high five your flippers over.

Only over and over do we hear of the outright obvious and overt benefits of omega-3s. So what about the pill-popping, supplement-happy crowd? Let's discuss...

The fishy facts of fish oil supplements
Yes, you can get your omega-3s in pill form, and for people who are allergic to seafood, this is a good option. But for the rest of us, a "fish first" philosophy is far more fitting.

Why? Here's the science:
  • One meta analysis reviewed 13 studies and found no benefit of supplemental omega-3s with relation to human brain development
  • Another meta analysis reviewed 18 studies and found the same results
What we're saying is, there's more to fish than omega-3s. If you want to know what's tipping the scales (so to speak) it's that friendly fishy fish-flesh is more complex than just omega-3s.

Allow me to introduce a great term: "Synergistic effect of food":
  • Food has so much more to offer than a pill
  • Fish, the food contains iodine, vitamin D, a range of amino acids and other health-promoting antioxidant compounds
  • Fish is an excellent source of lean protein
These points are a perfect example of "food synergy".

Ok, ok, ok... Let's get back to mercury, the mean side of marine meat. I'm just going to give you the take home points pertaining to mercury...
  • Large fatty fish are high in mercury
  • Small fatty fish and small lean fish are the best choices (see below)
  • Even during pregnancy, low mercury fish is encouraged and are a better choice than omega-3 supplements
Lowest mercury fish (top left), low mercury fish (bottom left), and fish to avoid (right). Adapted from: http://pressroom.consumerreports.org/.a/6a00e551f37027883301b8d061be78970c-popup
Lastly, farmed fish... It's fairly controversial. So here are a five facts to consider:
  1. They are low in methyl-mercury
  2. Feeds are strictly monitored
  3. Farmed salmon isn't injected with pink dye
    • Wild salmon eat shellfish that contain carotenoids (a natural pigment, antioxidant, and vitamin A precursor)
    • These carotenoids give salmon their colouring, farmed fish feed contain these carotenoids, hence farmed fish get their colouring
  4. As with any meat product, there are environmental concerns, you can read more about that here and here
  5. Farmed salmon is safe and actually great during pregnancy
    • Research shows farmed salmon increases antioxidant defenses during pregnancy
Hopefully this fish tail has shed some light on the benefits of fish and inspired you to try a few new varieties. Maybe a fish dish like fish head stew is on the cards soon?

Here are a bunch more great resources:

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Get Hooked on Fish Food pt I

Gather 'round as we talk o' a fish tail... Here's diving into why fish are both friends and food.

Fish flesh is not just a great source of lean protein, omega 3 fatty acids and a slew of other food-for-you stuff... It also appears to possess antioxidant qualities.

Research showed people who ate more than 175g of fatty fish each week had significantly higher levels of healthy fats (DHA and EPA) and significantly lower levels of oxidative stress/free radicals (explanation here.) This might explain why mermen are so buff.

Translation? 
Eating at least the recommended amount of fatty fish is not a scientific fish tale... Current American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 2-3 serves/wk, which equals 200g/wk (~7 oz) minimum.

Ok, you say, but what about all the things you've heard about mercury, and tuna, and eating fish during pregnancy? What about farmed vs wild fish? What about omega-3 supplements?

In order to adequately address these important issues, we're gonna have to split this filet-o-fish. Pt I will discuss the benefits/recommendations for fish during pregnancy. Pt II will discuss supplements, farmed vs wild, mercury and a few other fishy features.

Catch of the day is A-Ok during Pregnancy 
Recommendations are still 2-3 serves of fish for pregnancy women. However, the type of fish is important!

Madaam Mercury... or is that Methylmercury?
Mercury is found both naturally and as a contaminant in the environment. When this mercury finds its way into water, it ends up in fish tissues and is called methylmercury. Larger fish tend to have higher amounts of methylmercury because they eat many smaller fish, this is the principle of 'bioaccumulation'.
So, not all fish are created equal... Keep that hook in mind for pt II.

Benefits of fish during pregnancy
There are many, let me aggregate them for you:

  • Omega-3s are linked with preventing low birth weight babies
  • Omega-3s are linked with preventing pre-term labor
  • Omega-3s are linked with preventing pre-eclampsia (layman's: high blood pressure during pregnancy)
  • Omega-3s improve placental blood flow, dilation of tissues and promote growth factors important for fetal growth and development
  • Omega-3s are linked to higher levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids in breastmilk
  • More than 1 serve of seafood/wk improves fetal brain development 
  • Omega-3s during pregnancy are hypothesised to decrease allergic disease in children (more research needed)
  • Omega-3s during pregnancy are linked to healthier BMI scores in older children
So, eating fish during pregnancy improves baby health... But does low or no fish have a negative effect?
There's still more so much more to net. Next article, we'll take stock in supplemental fish oil, sink our teeth into different kinds of fish, trawl farmed vs wild fish, and further find fantastic reasons for fish fanaticism.