Nutritionists' professional events catered by McD's, sponsored by High Fructose Corn Syrup


An alarming report from the California Dietetic Association describes a kind of corporatist apocalyptic nightmare where junk-food companies pony up fat sponsorships in order to pervert the agenda and distort the science. Nutritionists, like other medical professionals, have to attend educational meetings in order to keep up their credentials.

Their professional bodies have seemingly been totally co-opted through corporate sponsorships, and nutritionists who try to document this are thwarted by "no photography" policies. But even without pictures, it's obvious that a panel on corn sweeteners that's paid for by the corn growers and only sports employees of high-fructose corn syrup is not going to produce a rounded picture of the science of obesity and HFCS.

The situation for nutritionists is a microcosm for the whole health industry. As Ben Goldacre details in his essential book Bad Pharma, doctors' continuing education is almost entirely funded by pharmaceutical companies that present multi-hour adverts for their products -- including dodgy studies that they funded -- in place of genuine, impartial scientific training.

Read the rest

What to eat? Health and our confusion over food

Gary Taubes on why nutrition is so confusing: the "research community has failed to establish reliable, unambiguous knowledge about the environmental triggers of obesity and diabetes."

Vitamins are medicine, not magic

Just a reminder: Vitamins aren't inert. They actually do things in your body and we don't totally understand yet what all they do, how they do it, and how much extra vitamin supplementation is too much. Meanwhile, the vitamin and supplement industry remains largely unregulated. Most doctors probably wouldn't tell you to stop taking vitamins, but the concerns voiced by Dr. Paul Offit in a story at CNN aren't ridiculous and should help convince you to make sure that you're talking with your doctor about the supplements and vitamins you take, and to be leery of megadosing on any vitamin.

First vatburger is ready to eat

After spending $250,000 worth of anonymously donated money, Mark Post from Maastricht University is ready to go public with his first vat-grown hamburger, which will be cooked and eaten at an event in London this week. Though they claim that it's healthier than regular meat, one question not answered in the article is the Omega 3/6 balance -- crappy, corn-fed, factory-farmed meet is full of Omega 6s and avoided by many eaters; the grass-fed, free-range stuff is higher in Omega 3s.

Yet growing meat in the laboratory has proved difficult and devilishly expensive. Dr. Post, who knows as much about the subject as anybody, has repeatedly postponed the hamburger cook-off, which was originally expected to take place in November. His burger consists of about 20,000 thin strips of cultured muscle tissue. Dr. Post, who has conducted some informal taste tests, said that even without any fat, the tissue “tastes reasonably good.” For the London event he plans to add only salt and pepper.

But the meat is produced with materials — including fetal calf serum, used as a medium in which to grow the cells — that eventually would have to be replaced by similar materials of non-animal origin. And the burger was created at phenomenal cost — 250,000 euros, or about $325,000, provided by a donor who so far has remained anonymous. Large-scale manufacturing of cultured meat that could sit side-by-side with conventional meat in a supermarket and compete with it in price is at the very least a long way off.“This is still an early-stage technology,” said Neil Stephens, a social scientist at Cardiff University in Wales who has long studied the development of what is also sometimes referred to as “shmeat.” “There’s still a huge number of things they need to learn.”

There are also questions of safety — though Dr. Post and others say cultured meat should be as safe as, or safer than, conventional meat, and might even be made to be healthier — and of the consumer appeal of a product that may bear little resemblance to a thick, juicy steak.

Engineering the $325,000 Burger [Henry Fountain/New York Times]

(via /.)

Everything you eat is associated with cancer, but don't worry about it

Image: Shutterstock. Fried chicken gave the model in this stock photo cancer of the double chin.

Sarah Kliff at the Washington Post digs into new research out today from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. She writes about correlation and causality, and how to read statistics more intelligently.

Snip:

“I was constantly amazed at how often claims about associations of specific foods with cancer were made, so I wanted to examine systematically the phenomenon,” e-mails study author John Ioannidis ”I suspected that much of this literature must be wrong. What we see is that almost everything is claimed to be associated with cancer, and a large portion of these claims seem to be wrong indeed.”

Among the ingredients in question for their purported relation to cancer risk: veal, salt, pepper spice, flour, egg, bread, pork, butter, tomato, lemon, duck, onion, celery, carrot, parsley, mace, sherry, olive, mushroom, tripe, milk, cheese, coffee, bacon, sugar, lobster, potato, beef, lamb, mustard, nuts, wine, peas, corn, cinnamon, cayenne, orange, tea, rum, and raisin.

Now: combine all of them into one recipe and do the study again, I say.

Sugar ad: your diet is depriving your kids of vital sugar!


Here's an undated ad from "Sugar Information, Inc" (our old friends), warning mothers that if they include their kids in their sugar-free, dieting lifestyles, they will be depriving the poor kiddlees of vital sugar and exposing them to "exhaustion." Obviously, this was before the cancer scares and other stuff about artificial sweeteners, because surely that's the major reason to keep your kids away from artificial sweeteners. I love the fact that they recommend sugar for dieters, too: "gives you the va-va-voom you need for all those exercises!"

Sugar!

Weighthacker: weight-loss for geeks


Former Boing Boing guestblogger and all-round* happy mutant Craig Engler sez,

Weighthacker.com is a new site for geeks who want to lose weight and get fit. It takes the latest science and research about nutrition and weight loss and translates it into practical, daily advice that geeks can incorporate into their existing lifestyles.

Things like playing games, a love of gadgets and surfing the Web are often seen as contributing to a sedentary, unhealthy existence. But with Weighthacker, those geeky passions can be used as the foundation of a healthy life. Weighthacks aren’t short cuts, they’re smart cuts. They’re the smartest, most optimal things people can do to lose weight.

I’m also crowdfunding a how-to book called “Weight Hacking: A Guide For Geeks Who Want To Lose Weight And Get Fit.” The book will be a complete operating system for nerds who want to lose weight and get healthier. It will include stories of celebrity geeks who’ve lost weight, like beloved author Neil Gaiman and BoingBoing editor Cory Doctorow. And Bonnie Burton, who wrote the Star Wars Craft Book, will be creating new healthy “Food Crafts” for Weight Hacking.

Weighthacker

*Actually, a lot less round, these days

Congress: pizza is a vegetable when it is fed to children


After intense lobbying from frozen pizza makers, and the potato and salt industry, Congress is poised to pass a spending bill whose riders establish that pizza is a vegetable and can be served in school cafeterias in substitute for actual vegetables.

We’re now facing a policy decision that has replaced science-backed common sense with the assertion that pizza ought to count as a vegetable when it’s served to schoolchildren.

(Side note: we’re not even talking about whole-grain pizza loaded with veggie toppings! We’re talking about frozen cheese pizza with tomato paste.)

If you want to take a look at the bill’s language, go for it, but the main takeaway is this: our Congressional leaders are on a fast track to overrule nutrition science in favor of political expediency. This is a dangerous precedent to set and not good public policy.

Pizza Counts as a Vegetable? How the Spending Bill in Congress Could Unravel Progress on School Nutrition (via Reddit)

(Image: Gryfes frozen pizzas - cooked, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from grongar's photostream)