Roca Labs sues unhappy customer who agreed to testify against it


This is the "non-surgical gastric bypass" company whose terms of service forbid complaining, and require you to let them use any kind of success you experience to publicly endorse the company, who are suing pissedconsumer.com for having a message board where its customers are complaining about its product.

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Roca Labs threatens suit against customers who helped website it is also suing


Roca makes a dubious weight-loss product whose fine-print makes you promise not to complain, and the customers were cited by Pissedconsumer.com, whom Roca is suing for providing a place where dissatisfied customers could air their grievances.

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Sportsfans offered toilet-seat made of mystery meat & beer-cheese


The Horse Collar is a $20 monster kielbasa sold at the Green Bay Packers' Lambeau Field, intended for consumption by two persons ("If you can tackle this one alone, you're a champ" -Lambeau Field executive chef Heath Barbato).

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Long-term weight loss considered nearly impossible


Here's a CBC science piece quoting several obesity experts argues that long-term weight loss is almost impossible, saying that (uncited) meta-analyses of weight-loss intervention found that in the 5- to 10-year range, most weight-loss was reversed. According to Tim Caulfield, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, this is an open secret in scholarly and scientific weight-loss circles, but no one wants to talk about it for fear that it will scare people off of healthier eating and exercise regimes, which have benefits independent of weight-loss.

I found the article frustrating. While I am willing to stipulate that the data on long-term weight-loss suggests extreme difficulty, I wish the journalist had found biologists or doctors to discuss the issue, and had cited actual, specific research to support the claims made, which would make it easier to parse the nuances in the piece. It's not that I think that interdisciplinary lawyers with an undergraduate science background have something to say on this (I am 100 percent for interdisciplinary researchers, especially on complex questions like obesity), and while I think that psychologists like Traci Mann have a lot to say about some dimensions of weight-loss, it would have been great to find out what endocrinologists and other bioscience-types had to say about the phenomenon.

For my part, I went from about 250 lbs to about 170 in 2002/3, by eating a very low-carb diet. This morning, I weighed in at 176 lbs. I attribute my sustained weight loss to daily swimming (which I do for physiotherapy for chronic back pain) and a moderate-carb diet, as well as a two-day-a-week 600 calorie fasting regime.

Which is to say, it's a ton of work to stay where I am, and I know from past experience that if I skip swimming for a few days, or let myself go nuts on carbs for more than a day or two, or skip fasting-days (which aren't really fasting -- just very low-calorie days) that my weight creeps up. I pretty much never eat without making a complex (and tediously unwelcome) calculation about what I'm about to consume, and I often experience guilt while eating "bad" food and shame afterwards.

Clearly, this is less than optimal!

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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.

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Obesity driven by overconsumption of protein-mimicking carbs and fats


In an editorial for Nature, Stephen J. Simpson (academic director of University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre) and David Raubenheimer (Leonard P. Ullman chair in nutritional ecology and nutrition theme leader at the Charles Perkins Centre) argue that the obesity epidemic isn't caused by sedentary lifestyles, but by overconsumption, because our appetite control systems are "fooled or subverted" by carbohydrates and fats that mimic proteins.

The ersatz proteins are much cheaper than the real thing, and have also made their way into the feed of livestock and pets. The authors state that "the range of processed food becoming available is evolving faster than our appetite control systems," and argue that the historic shortage of sugars caused us to evolve appetite systems that are bad at judging when we've had enough of them.

These arguments echo many of those raised in The End of Overeating (recently featured in a This Day in Blogging History post), in which former FDA commissioner and MD David A Kessler tries to understand how industrial food science has produced food that is exquisitely engineered to cause overeating and constant cravings.

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1.2kg Mega Pizza Burger hits Kyoto

A significant addition to Kyoto's justly famed cuisine: the 1.2 kg mega pizza-burger:

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Heart attack on a hook

On Long John Silver's "Big Catch" meal: "This company is taking perfectly healthy fish and entombing it in a thick crust of batter and partially hydrogenated oil." -Center for Science in the Public Interest executive director Michael F. Jacobson. The dish has 16 days' recommended allowance of transfats. Cory 16

Obesity isn't solved yet -- so why do we legislate like it is?

We know that people have gotten fatter over the course of the last 60 years. We don't yet know exactly why, writes David Berreby in a fascinating long read at Aeon Magazine. Yes, we know that diet and exercise have something to do with it — but they don't explain all the changes we've seen. Yes, you can find plenty of people who will proselytize to you about how they've found the One True Obesogen — but in order to do that they have to ignore contradictory studies and studies that suggest there's more than one thing going on.

Long story short, if we know anything about obesity its that it's complicated — and that's true for both the factors that create an obesity epidemic, and the factors that allow people to reliably and permanently lose weight. The problem, writes Berreby, is that legislation on the subject has been focused pretty much entirely on diet and exercise, alone. That suggests that laziness and gluttony are the primary reasons people get fat. But we don't know that that's true.

Berreby's piece is a really fun read, mainly because it can serve as an introduction to the plethora of far-reaching and often contradictory data on obesity. There are lots and lots and lots of different things that might be behind the obesity epidemic, from industrial chemicals, to sugary high-fat diets, to epigenetic factors that pass the environmental impacts of one generation on to their descendants. There are even social factors that influence how exposed you are to other risks and affect your ability to make the healthy choices when it comes to diet and exercise. His point: If we want to tackle this as a society, then our legislative response shouldn't begin and end with programs that punish people for being fat, reward them for losing weight, or limit portion sizes at restaurants. We also need to try out programs that put some of the other legitimate ideas to the test.

Thanks for the link, Xeni!

American cuisine

Planning a weekend brunch? You're in luck! The new Mountain Dew Kickstart is a crowdfunded highly caffeinated pseudo-juice that PepsiCo is marketing as a great breakfast drink. Then, swing round to your local county fair and get Chicken Charlie to sell you a nice takeaway package of his deep-fried cereal to accompany things, and well, you've got yourself a(n insulin) party!

(via Techdirt)

Sailing is hard work

Rome Kirby is an extreme sailor. When they tried putting him on a heart-rate monitor, they found he was burning 9,000 calories a day. (via Super Punch) Cory

Wondrous Oreo icing-removing machine uses an axe to de-cremify

Make has the story of physicist David Neevel's Oreo-creme-removing device, which is rather a wonder:

His OSM (Oreo Separator Machine) was conceived and shown at Portland’s Mad Dog Garage, and the process goes something like this: The Oreo is placed on a tray, flipped vertically and cleaved in half by a motorized, ridiculously over-engineered hatchet. Aluminum arms then receive the halves and transfer them to a Dremel-based CNC machine, which obliterates the cream and presents it to the user for consumption.

David made a lot of sacrifices in making this, such as “try[ing] to find a good sandwich in this part of the city and stuff.” Regarding his robot, David also adds, “I don’t have a catchphrase, but if I had one, it’d be something like ‘Let’s get that cream out of there.’”

Machine Scrapes Oreos Clean of Cream [Michael Colombo/Make]

Junk food


Scene from a Houston grocery store, courtesy of a touring author's life. I did not buy any of these things.

Junk food, grocery store, Houston, TX, USA

Tortured junk-food pushers bare all


A long, investigative feature on junk food, health and the processed food industry in yesterday's NYT consists primarily of interviews with tortured and semi-tortured junk food scientists and execs who have perfected the art of getting you to eat food that makes you sick. It's quite a read:

Eventually, a line of the trays, appropriately called Maxed Out, was released that had as many as nine grams of saturated fat, or nearly an entire day’s recommended maximum for kids, with up to two-thirds of the max for sodium and 13 teaspoons of sugar.

When I asked Geoffrey Bible, former C.E.O. of Philip Morris, about this shift toward more salt, sugar and fat in meals for kids, he smiled and noted that even in its earliest incarnation, Lunchables was held up for criticism. “One article said something like, ‘If you take Lunchables apart, the most healthy item in it is the napkin.’ ”

Well, they did have a good bit of fat, I offered. “You bet,” he said. “Plus cookies.”

The prevailing attitude among the company’s food managers — through the 1990s, at least, before obesity became a more pressing concern — was one of supply and demand. “People could point to these things and say, ‘They’ve got too much sugar, they’ve got too much salt,’ ” Bible said. “Well, that’s what the consumer wants, and we’re not putting a gun to their head to eat it. That’s what they want. If we give them less, they’ll buy less, and the competitor will get our market. So you’re sort of trapped.” (Bible would later press Kraft to reconsider its reliance on salt, sugar and fat.)

Here's another good bit:

To get a better feel for their work, I called on Steven Witherly, a food scientist who wrote a fascinating guide for industry insiders titled, “Why Humans Like Junk Food.” I brought him two shopping bags filled with a variety of chips to taste. He zeroed right in on the Cheetos. “This,” Witherly said, “is one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.” He ticked off a dozen attributes of the Cheetos that make the brain say more. But the one he focused on most was the puff’s uncanny ability to melt in the mouth. “It’s called vanishing caloric density,” Witherly said. “If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there’s no calories in it . . . you can just keep eating it forever.”

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food [NYT/Michael Moss]

(Image: Snakes?, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from reallynuts's photostream)

Cheesecake Factory has 3,120 calorie dish

The Center for Science in the Public Interest's annual list of "food porn"--items that have more calories in them than one might expect--identifies Cheesecake Factory's Bistro Shrimp Pasta as a particularly bad offender.

"It's like eating three orders of Olive Garden's Lasagna Classico plus an order of tiramisu for dinner," CSPI said. Some in the food and beverage industries have dubbed the Washington-based group the "food police". More than one-third of Americans are obese.

One of my first memorable experiences in the U.S. was visiting a Cheesecake Factory, ordering a salad, and receiving 8lb of shredded lettuce suspended in a curiously solid hillock of oil and ranch dressing.

Cheesecake Factory pasta on annual list of caloric "food porn" [Reuters]