‘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, October 29, 2014

Milking it is Udderly D-lightful

Hate drinking milk? Maybe that's what your poor unsuspecting child, niece, nephew or other young relation tells you. Many parents worry about their children drinking their mandated allotment of daily cow juice. More on that shortly. Research shows we are putting our children at risk when they stray from milk drinking, but maybe, just maybe there's more to the story...

Vitamin D is a very active area of research due to it's role in human health which, we are learning, is more than what we once thought. The sunshine vitamin plays a well known part in bone health: allowing our bodies to absorb calcium. Mounting evidence also shows its importance in the immune system: clearing dangerous proteins from the brain - more on that here.

'Non-cow milk' is increasingly readily available and has become something of a fad. These milks include oat, goat, almond, rice and soy milks. 
A new study investigated a group of over 2,500 children aged 1-6 and found:
  • Over 10% of children regularly consumed non-cow milk beverages
  • Children exclusively consuming non-cow milk were were over twice as likely to be vitamin D deficient (blood levels of vit D <50nmol/L)
  • Children drinking both cow and non-cow milk were at greater risk of low vitamin D: every additional cup of non-cow milk corresponded with a 5% decrease in blood vitamin D levels

In the US and Canada, cows milk must be fortified (40IU/100ml or greater) and research shows cows milk is the predominant dietary source of vitamin D for young children. But why?

America has a somewhat disturbing culture of 'child food'. Since living in the US, I've witness the prescribed, and strictly enforced allotment of cow juice for children at mealtimes. Simultaneously though, children are given a meal of mac and cheese; breaded, battered and deep fried chicken nuggets; or unidentifiable sticks of breaded, battered, deep fried fish; or other meals mostly devoid of nutrients necessary for growth, development and developing healthy habits.

That scenario is akin to an obese person getting a combo meal of a BigMac, large fries and a diet coke. 

I'm yet to see a parent join their child and both drink a cup of milk together (which, I might add, is an excellent source of protein, calcium and vitamin D that is just as important for adults who want healthy bones when they get old). Parental hypocrisy at its best.

Perhaps contrary to popular parental belief, vitamin D is found in other foods including:
  • 3oz/85g of salmon (~450IU of vitamin D)
  • 3oz/85g drained, canned tuna (~150IU of vitamin D)
  • Eggs (yolk)
  • Beef liver
  • Sardines
  • Fortified foods like orange juice, some yoghurts, some cereals, margarine (always look for ones with 0 trans fat and no hydrogenated oils)
A child requires 600IU/day of vitamin D. Eating a combination of fish, eggs and choice fortified foods throughout the week will get them there without forcing milk down their throats. It'll also remove this ridiculous notion of 'child food'. Perhaps children eating weekly meals of fish, omelets, tuna sandwiches, fruit and yoghurt and other such goodies will improve the outlook of health in this glorious country.

Take home messages:
  • Vitamin D is important: For children and adults
  • Don't force your kids to drink milk if they don't like it
  • If you've got an outlier child who loves milk, give it to them as a between-meal snack rather than filling up their little tummies when you want them to eat a meal
  • Ditch the dated and delirious notion that children need 'child food'

For more info on kids, dairy, calcium and snacks, check out:
Udder Confusion: Are Your Kids Having a Cow Over Milk? 
Lunch Boxes For Picky Pie Holes
We Came, We Snacked, We Conquered
We Came, We Snacked, We Conquered: A Big Day Out

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 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