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. Read the rest
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!
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:
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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.
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.
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.
“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.
History of weight cycling does not impede future weight loss or metabolic improvements in postmenopausal women, a study from researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, published in Metabolism, claims to have shown that people who "yo-yo diet" do not suffer any lasting metabolic changes as a result. That is, according to the study, if you diet then gain weight repeatedly, you will not find it more difficult to lose weight on subsequent diets.
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The analysis aimed to determine whether women with a history of moderate or severe weight cycling were at a disadvantage compared to non-weight-cyclers when it came to losing weight. Of the study participants overall, 18 percent (77 women) met the criteria for severe weight cycling (having reported losing 20 or more pounds on three or more occasions) and 24 percent (103 women) met the criteria for moderate weight cycling (having reported losing 10 or more pounds on three or more occasions).
Although severe weight cyclers were, on average, nearly 20 pounds heavier than non-cyclers at the start of the study, at the end of the study the researchers found no significant differences between those who yo-yo dieted and those who didn't with regard to the ability to successfully participate in diet and/or exercise programs. The cyclers also did not differ from the non-cyclers with regard to the impact of diet or diet-plus-exercise on weight loss, percentage of body fat and lean muscle mass gained or lost. Other physiological factors such as blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and blood concentrations of hormones such as leptin (which helps make one feel full) and adiponectin (which helps regulate glucose levels) also did not differ significantly among those whose weight fluctuated and those whose did not.
England's Football Association embodies the nation's most popular sport. To promote fitness and good health, it provides these splendid awards to schools that offer adequate soccer programs. I'd ask if you could spot the mistake, but I think this may be one of those "honor the error as a hidden intention" dealies—a tragic fact echoed by star player Rio Ferdinand's endorsement deal with a tobacco company. [via Ben Goldacre and Huw G] Read the rest
It seems that Burger King must have taken a very long position on pork futures, because they've rolled out a temporary Memphis Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich, Carolina BBQ Whopper, Texas BBQ Whopper and a bacon sundae:
The AP reports that BK will launch the treat — which has fudge, caramel, crumbled bacon and a full piece of bacon — later this week, along with other limited time items.
It has 510 calories, 18 grams of fat and 61 grams of sugar, but we're guessing that these numbers won't discourage the bacon-curious from giving it a try.
At the NYT, Michael M. Grynbaum reports on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to abolish sales of large bottles or cups of soda outside of grocery stores.
The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.
Presumably, refills and the purchase of multiple smaller sodas will also be banned, in order to demonstrate that this isn't empty hot air that just happens to increase the price- and profitability-by-volume of soda. Read the rest