Archive for October, 2005

Weight Loss Stalled by Low Calorie Diets

Often in my blog I write about the importance of losing weight while eating an adequate calorie intake – that is enough calories to support basal metabolic rate (BMR) to thwart the body’s reduction (conservation) in energy requirements to just function. I also repeatedly warn it is critical while losing weight to do everything possible to ensure an adequate intake of essential nutrients too!

We’re bombarded with advice to restrict calories – too often to starvation levels – and then blame the dieter if they complain about hunger, find it difficult to continue the starvation voluntarily, or – heaven forbid – lose the weight and then resume eating what should be a normal intake of calories and gain weight!

In today’s Statesman Journal, an interesting article is found, “You can’t measure self against TV show dieters,” that discusses the reality of weight loss in the real world versus what we see on television shows like NBC’s The Biggest Loser.

Within the article is the truth – if you reduce calories too much, your “metabolism will slow to a screeching halt!” With the end result being that “…when you try to eat normal again, you will gain more weight than you lose because your metabolism won’t be able to handle it.”

Missed was the opportunity to provide good advice to someone losing weight.

Once the author stated that too few calories spell disaster, no other advice was forthcoming to help someone figure out how many calories they should eat while trying to lose weight!

So, here it is – you have to eat enough calories to support your body’s basic calorie requirements to just function – that is to just “be” before you include any activity in your day, before you do anything as simple as get out of bed.

I recently found a good online calculator – Diet Calculator – that uses a number of criteria to estimate your calorie requirements when losing weight: current weight, height, gender, measurements to neck, waist and hips, along with activity level. The results include BMI, a weight-to-height ratio, ans estimates of body fat percentage and lean body mass percentage. What I really like about this calculator is that it also provides estimates of calorie requirements to include as a MINIMUM when you’re trying to lose weight. The estimate is based on the calculated Basal Metabolic Rate, which is what your body absolutely needs to avoid starvation mode. The other nice thing with this calculator is that it’s free to use and includes an explanation of each result and recommendation provided.

While calories are indeed part of the equation to weight loss, it is also critical to ensure that you are providing your body with the essential nutrients it requires each day too! Without adequate intake of the fundamental vitamins, minerals, trace elements, essential fatty acids and essential amino acids (protein) each day, your body cannot work at an optimal level. Missing key nutrients is like trying to build a house without enough supplies or the right tools. It is for this reason I strongly encourage designing your weight loss diet with whole foods that are nutrient-dense. As a “safety net” a good multi-vitamin and essential oils can be included – but first and foremost must be the quality of foods you eat – whole foods that are rich with nutrients.

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October 31, 2005 at 3:45 pm 1 comment

Lose Weight, Reverse Heart Disease?

That’s a question that researchers at Royal Adelaide Hospital and University of Adelaide in Australia want to know. As reported in The Advertiser, “Weight loss may reverse heart damage” researchers are exploring the theory that losing weight will reverse heart damage in those who have neglected their cardiovascular health.

While I applaude the researchers to consider such a study, I am disappointed that only one dietary approach is under investigation – a very low calorie diet (VLCD) that requires the use of meal replacment shakes, along with exercise…basically, starvation.

The meal replacement shakes are a product called KicStart, manufactured in Australia. A quick review of the ingredients and nutritional content shows that they are highly processed and of, in my opinion, questionable nutrient value. The omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are delivered in the shake by powders, not oils, and thus one must question the true quality of essential fatty acids this product may or may not deliver. There is also no disclosure in the product information about the quality or quantity of essential amino acids in the shakes.

The bigger question though is this – are researchers really unable to design a study that explores different dietary approaches? According to the article, the researchers have 80 men participating – so why only one design protocol? With an opportunity to investigate how diet influences cardiovascular health over two years, why are the researchers only really looking at what a starvation diet will do to cardiovascular health?

If we really want to reverse heart disease we must begin to ask the hard questions! Not only that, but we must demand researchers explore all scientifically supported avenues and not just stick with the same old stale theories that obviously do not work.

In my opinion, this study is an absolute waste of time and resources.

If the researchers really want to know if and how diet can be used to reverse heart disease, they will include a calorie adequate, nutrient-dense dietary approach as one of the groups studied – and they’ll have a group of “controls” to compare the different study groups to also to see if dietary intervention versus doing nothing really does provide a benefit or not.

October 31, 2005 at 3:15 pm Leave a comment

Party Pooper

The education section of the Washington Post today carried an article about the demise of the school party in “At Many Elementary Schools, the Party’s Over.” The reason for limiting, or eliminating, the cupcakes, candies and other junk food is due to the rise in childhood obesity.

Schools, where many children eat two of their day’s meals, are being pushed to the front lines of the battle against kiddie bulge. A federal law requires schools to create wellness policies that encourage students to be more active and eat more healthfully. Some schools in Virginia have started exercise clubs. In Maryland, schools are cracking down on vending-machine junk food.

Now, there is a focus on school parties, said Margo Wootan, a policy director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based nutrition advocacy group. The birthday party, the Halloween party, the Valentine’s Day party, the end-of-the-year party — all are centered on junk food, according to the advocacy group.

The article cites the grave statistics which show that in the period from 1980 through 2002, the incidence of overweight children has skyrocketed from 7% to 16% for kids aged 6 to 11. More alarming is the number of tweens and teens who are classified as obese – up from 5% in 1980 to 16% in 2002.

One really does have to think about what is driving this trend in childhood obesity.

Is it children viewing Cookie Monster eating cookies, pre-schoolers playing Candyland and children indulging in cupcakes at class birthday parties, or something else? Are we, as a nation, over-reacting when we no longer want to allow children to celebrate a birthday or holiday with a treat – especially the 84% who are “normal” weight?

My readers know I am all about good nutrition and eating well. I’m also realistic and understand the value of teaching children how to actually live in this world – a world littered with poor food choices, junk food and outright garbage promoted as “food” for the masses.

Somehow, eliminating cupcakes at the class birthday party, in my mind, seems just a tad hypocritical when the “healthier” option included in the article were apple slices with caramel. A small cupcake (frosted) has about the same calories and sugar – so what’s the point in eliminating the cupcake?

What? Does it make the parents and policy makers somehow feel better? Do they think they’ve done something to reduce the risk of obesity if the kids are eating apple slices and caramel instead of cupcakes? If it’s the same calorie and sugar-load, nothing has changed except the “package” it is delivered to the metabolism – it is still a sugary treat that will have the same result.

And, the real deal is this – it isn’t the cupcakes per se, it’s the health damaging ingredients they’re made with – the trans-fats, the refined white flour, the processed sugar – all adding to the metabolic burden the body, a child’s body, must work to counter after eaten.

Add to that the poor diet too many children are eating daily – packaged, processed foods; fast foods; too few vegetables; too much junk and way too much soda – with much less physicial activity each day…and is it any wonder obesity is a growing problem?

The solution isn’t to eliminate the very things that make childhood so memorable, like your special day at school when it’s your eighth birthday and everyone in your class gets to celebrate with you. The solution simply isn’t that simple – banning cupcakes or other treats will not stop children from eating poorly – not when that’s exactly how their parents allow them to eat each day!

We are fooling ourselves if we think apple slices with caramel are “healthier.” Oh, yes, they do sound better – after all, it is a treat with apples now, isn’t it?

Hey, why not apple-spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting instead? When made using healthful ingredients, such an option can not only reduce the sugar to about 12g per cupcake (down from 24g), but can also deliver fresh apples, nuts, cheese and spices (which are rich in essential nutrients) and eliminate the trans-fats and processed/refined ingredients too! But, ya know what – that takes time – and it’s simply easier to just ban the cupcakes than to invest the time to make a treat that is healthy, isn’t it?

October 30, 2005 at 6:30 pm Leave a comment

PBS: Rx for Survival

This week PBS is airing a series titled “Rx for Survial” which explores numerous health issues around the globe.

Episode Six: Back to Basics looks to be very interesting.

The segement description

Ever since sailors noticed that scurvy could be prevented with citrus fruits, it has been clear that illness could be caused by a lack of certain nutrients. While nutrient-enriched products have reduced diseases caused by vitamin deficiency in the developed countries, the problem continues to plague the developing world. And many in poorer countries suffer from the twin problems of poor nutrition and unsafe water, which create a disease burden that is almost unbearable. Back to the Basics explores the connection between health and the essential requirements that so many people take for granted. It also examines how an overabundance of nutrition — in the form of over-consumption — is causing an epidemic of obesity that is spreading across the globe.

Check your local PBS listing to see when it will air in your area!

October 29, 2005 at 5:10 pm Leave a comment

Cholesterol: The Missing Information

Millions of people rely on various websites for accurate, sound information. One such site is About.com which recently released an online guide, How to Lower Blood Cholesterol. For anyone interested, About.com is a New York Times company. On their main website, New York Times Company: Our Company, they state that the “core purpose is to enhance society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news, information and entertainment.”

The article in question left me wondering, where exactly was the “high-quality” aspect to the information presented? The highly visible banner at the top of the page encouraged readers to “learn more” about Vytorin, a statin drug, while the information itself was scant and offered little options to dietary intervention, with only the AHA Step 2 Diet suggested before starting stain drug therapy.

A review of the evidence shows that other dietary approaches may actually be more effective to not only lower total cholesterol, but to improve cholesterol ratios of HDL, LDL and triglycerides. It is the ratio of these components of total cholesterol that are much more important to weighing risk than total cholesterol alone or any one single component of your cholesterol panel viewed in isolation! Yet, nowhere in the article is such detail provided.

Statins are indeed effective, but they do carry some significant risks – risks that can be avoided if one explores other options and tries these other options before throwing their hands up in the air after just one dietary approach that doesn’t work for them. Specifically – a controlled-carb approach!

A diet that restricts carbohydrate intake has been shown to be highly effective with cholesterol improvements in the majority (70-90%) who can maintain a controlled-carb lifestyle. Such an approach isn’t for everyone – there does exist a small population of people who are “responders” and will see no benefit from carbohydrate restriction. But, if you work with your doctor, it is worth the effort to see if this alternative dietary approach is appropriate for you.

The article should have noted the data that shows controlling carbohydrate is an effective approach – but I can only conclude that such information was missing because the section about cholesterol is sponsored by a pharmaceutical company. Every last page I clicked on throughout the section kept coming up with banners to Vytorin – learn more, learn more, learn more – about Vytorin! Maybe About.com needs to change their name to AboutVytorin.com!

October 29, 2005 at 5:04 pm 1 comment

Where’s the Real Food?

Can you imagine feeding a toddler a full day of only packaged, processed foods? Well, it seems Gerber has no problem making such a recommendation to parents who visit their website seeking information about feeding a toddler!

The graphic heading of the Menu 1 page makes the implicit claim that the menus are designed to be a “Start Healthy Stay Healthy” feeding plan.

So, what’s on the menu for Day 1?

Ready for this?

Breakfast:
Breastmilk, formula or whole milk
1/3 cup Gerber Rice Cereal with Ingredients of Formula

Lunch:
Breastmilk, formula or whole milk
1 Gerber 3rd FOODS™ Lil’ Entrées Macaroni and Cheese Dinner with Apples & Chicken

Dinner:
Breastmilk, formula or whole milk
6 ounces Gerber 3rd FOODS™ Green Beans with Rice

Snacks:
4 ounces Gerber Apple Plum Juice
3 ounces Gerber Blueberry Buckle Dessert

This is a “Stay Healthy” feeding plan?

Good grief, is it any wonder our children are growing fatter each year?

Not only is the above menu ALL processed foods if one is using formula – it’s severely deficient for essential nutrients when analyzed against the Institute of Medicine (IOM) micronutrient RDA’s for a toddler!

It missed the following critical vitamins and minerals:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Fiber (just 3g all day)
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin B-6
  • Folate
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin K
  • Selenium
  • Calories

The above menu (using 32-ounces of formula in the day) also exceeded the upper limit for Vitamin A (added vitamin A) for toddlers with 617mcg – the upper limit is 600mcg, and the upper limit for iron (from added iron) with 21.25mg of iron, and the upper limit from iron is 10mg.

And it only had 11mg of cholesterol – and cholesterol is critical to brain development! Oh, and don’t get me started on how much sugar was in this menu…the total carbohydrate for the day was 158-grams – all of it, with the exception of the 3g of fiber, turning into glucose in the metabolism.

Keep in mind too, this menu provides 41g of total fat – 34% of calories which is actually a bit low for fat for a toddler, but that isn’t my concern really….my concern is how much of that is trans-fats? According to the FitDay analysis, of those 41g of fat, 13g were saturated fat, 7g were polyunsaturated fat, and 13g were monounsaturated fat. If you add those up, that accounts for 33g of the fat grams – leaving potentially 8g of trans-fats! Eight grams of trans-fats potentially in a menu designed to feed a toddler?

How in the world does Gerber get away with claiming such a nutritionally bankrupt and potentially “health damaging” (from the level of trans-fats) menu is “healthy”?

If you’re a parent, I urge you to start reading labels carefully and stop looking to food manufacturer’s on guidance about what is “healthy” for your children’s diet. Feed your children real, whole foods – not this packaged, processed food that leaves them starving for critical, essential nutrients!

October 27, 2005 at 6:00 pm 1 comment

Get Smart about Food Labels!

Today the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) called for the FDA to enforce labeling guideline rules on manufacturers that label foods in a misleading way.

In a letter to acting FDA commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach, CSPI said that FDA’s Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements (ONPLDS), does not have any plan to identify and remedy misleading labeling.

In their press release, Crackdown on Fraudulent Food Labels Urged, CSPI highlighted how many food manufacturers create labels that “exaggerate the presence of healthful ingredients” and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t have “the will to stop deceptive labeling and typically does nothing even when flagrantly fraudulent labels are brought to its attention.”

This is an issue I myself have written about here at Weight of the Evidence when I’ve found labels that are misleading or deceptive. Many may recall my disgust at the finger-food, Gerber Veggie Wagon Wheels Carrot, that I pointed out in Infant Feeding Myths that are mostly refined corn, contain trans-fats from partially hydrogenated oils, and have no carrots listed in the ingredients! Yet this is a product touted by Gerber, on their website, as “puffed grains made with real fruits or vegetables,” and a “good source of iron and zinc” along with “no artificial colors.” And take a look at that picture…Yup, real carrots are included in the graphic marketing online!

Here are the ingredients:
Corn Flour, Sunflower Oil, Cheese Seasoning (Whey, Nonfat Milk, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Cheddar Cheese {Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes}, Buttermilk, Maltodextrin, Salt, Lactose, Sodium Caseinate, Sodium Phosphates, Butterfat, Dipotassium Phosphate, Natural Flavor, Lactic Acid, Sunflower Oil), Carrot Powder, Dicalcium Phosphate, Salt, Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Sulfate and Electrolytic Iron.

So, “carrot powder” counts as “real vegetables”?

You couldn’t pay me to feed these to my child….he can have some real carrots instead.

CSPI points to a number of products to illustrate how pervasive the problem with labeling really is:

  • Gerber Graduates for Toddlers Fruit Juice Snacks — the package is decorated with pictures of oranges, cherries, and strawberries, but the leading ingredients are corn syrup and sugar. “You can guess why Gerber doesn’t call these things Corn Syrup Snacks-no parent would buy them,” says Silverglade. “This is candy, not fruit juice.”
  • Betty Crocker Super Moist Carrot Cake Mix — the box depicts what appear to be pieces of carrot, but the only carrot ingredient is “carrot powder,” which is the 19th ingredient listed, behind artificial color, salt, and dicalcium phosphate.
  • Smucker’s Simply 100% Fruit — the strawberry version of this “100% fruit” spread contains 30 percent strawberries; the blueberry version contains only 43 percent blueberries. Both have more fruit syrup than fruit-syrup that comes not from berries but from less-expensive apple, pineapple, or pear juice concentrate.
  • Kellogg’s Eggo Nutri-Grain Pancakes — the label boasts that these pancakes are “Made with Whole Wheat and Whole Grain,” but the pancakes are made primarily with white flour and have more high-fructose corn syrup than whole wheat or other whole grain. CSPI says that foods labeled “whole grain” should have whole grain flour as their flour constituent, as is the requirement for whole wheat bread.
  • General Mills’ Yoplait Light Fat Free Yogurt — the label claims to “burn more fat” and help dieters lose weight if they consume three servings of milk, cheese, or yogurt daily. However, the U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has called the evidence on dairy products and weight loss inconclusive.
  • Quaker Oats Pasta Roni — the label boasts White Cheddar & Broccoli in large letters and displays a picture of pasta with pieces of broccoli. Although broccoli appears on the fourth line of a 14-line ingredient list, there are only small specks of broccoli in the actual package.

Each of these products are highly processed and things you really don’t need in your diet. Your best defense is to be vigilant in reading labels – not just the package claims on the front, but the back of the package where you’ll find the ingredients and nutrition facts panel. In both the nutrition facts panel and the ingredients, manufactures are strictly regulated by law to be straight forward and without claims.

A good rule of thumb if you are looking at packaged foods is this – if it contains ingredients you cannot readily purchase yourself, or ingredients that you do not use to prepare your food, skip it and make it yourself with real, whole ingredients instead.

Think about it – do you want to eat or give your children “carrot powder” or carrots?

October 27, 2005 at 4:45 pm Leave a comment

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