Dogmatic Conclusions to Make Your Head Spin

One of the oft repeated concerns about a carbohydrate restricted, high-fat diet is long-term effects. With globalization and a wide-variety of foods available in even remote locations today, it’s increasingly difficult to find traditional populations whom may be ideally suited to assess the long-term effect of such a diet.

One such population does exist – the Masai of Africa – for whom meat, milk and blood are their daily dietary staples, a naturally low-carbohydrate diet that has been traditionally consumed for generations. They offer us a unique opportunity to assess how such a diet impacts the ‘health risk markers’ held dear in modern science and medicine.

Does their diet, high in fat, make them fat?

Does their diet, high in fat, make them hypertensive?

Does their diet, high in fat, lead to high cholesterol levels?

For decades many have assumed that a diet rich with dietary fat leads to obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which then is assumed to lead to heart disease and other chronic health problems.

In the June 3, 2008 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine a study investigating the Masai and their dietary habits and comparing them with rural and urban Bantu consuming different dietary practices is quite enlightening and tells us a story about how consuming dietary fat per se is not the underlying cause of obesity, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

In the study published, Daily Energy Expenditure and Cardiovascular Risk in Masai, Rural and Urban Bantu Tanzanians, we learn that researchers investigated the dietary habits of three distinct populations within the same country – Tanzania – thus limiting confounding variables due to vastly different cultural conditions.

In total, the researchers investigated the health and health risk markers of 985 Tanzanian men and women – 130 Masai, 371 rural Bantu and 484 urban Bantu – with each group reporting very different dietary habits.

The Masai reported a high-fat, low-carbohydrate dietary pattern.

The rural Bantu reported a low-fat, high-carbohydrate dietary pattern.

The urban Bantu reported a high-fat, high-carbohydate dietary pattern, similar to a Western diet.

Which group to do think fared best?

BMI (average)

Masai = 20.7
Rural Bantu = 23.2
Urban Bantu = 27.4 (as a whole, the group was, on average, overweight)

Incidence of Obesity (BMI at or higher than 30)

Masai = 3%
Rural Bantu = 12%
Urban Bantu = 34%

Waist-Hip Ratio (lower is better)

Masai = 0.87
Rural Bantu = 0.89
Urban Bantu = 0.93

Blood Pressure

Masai = 118/71
Rural Bantu = 134/80
Urban Bantu = 134/82

Prevalence of Hypertention

Masai = 4%
Rural Bantu = 16%
Urban Bantu = 21%

Total Cholesterol

Masai = 3.89mmol/L (152mg/dl)
Rural Bantu = 3.60mmol/L (140mg/dl)
Urban Bantu = 4.50mmol/L (176mg/dl)

HDL (higher is better)

Masai = 1.08mmol/L (42mg/dl)
Rural Bantu = 0.91mmol/L (36mg/dl)
Urban Bantu = 1.08mmol/L (42mg/dl)

LDL

Masai = 2.09mmol/L (82mg/dl)
Rural Bantu = 2.13mmol/L (83mg/dl)
Urban Bantu = 2.69mmol/L (105mg/dl)

Triglycerides

Masai = 1.36mmol/L (121mg/dl)
Rural Bantu = 1.45mmol/L (129mg/dl)
Urban Bantu = 1.61mmol/L (143mg/dl)

Total Cholesterol/HDL Ratio (less than 4 is ‘ideal’)

Masai = 3.72
Rural Bantu = 4.38
Urban Bantu = 4.53

LDL/HDL Ratio (the lower the better)

Masai = 2.21
Rural Bantu = 2.46
Urban Bantu = 2.69

ApoB/ApoA-1 Ratio (measure of LDL particle ratios, lower is better)

Masai = 0.74
Rural Bantu = 0.83
Urban Bantu = 0.81

So, there you have the major findings. What did the researchers conclude?

No! It couldn’t possibly be their dietary habits, it must be that the “potentially atherogenic diet among the Masai was not reflected in serum lipids and was offset probably by very high energy expenditure levels and low body weight.”

Now their level of physical activity certainly may be contributing to their overall health, but it’s certainly not independent of their dietary habits. In fact, I would contend that while it’s ideal to be active, that is not the driving force in ‘health’ or lack thereof – it’s dietary habits that dominate our health outcomes, our level of activity may be important too, but activity in and of itself is no solution to a piss-poor diet.

We need, before activity, a proper diet to enable us to perform phyisical activity, not the other way around! So while the researchers here could not bring themselves to even consider that the habitual diet of the Masai – high-fat and low-carbohydrate – was the driving force in their good health and enabled high levels of activity, I’ll say it!

Here we have evidence that a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, consumed habitually does not lead to obesity, high blood pressure and dyslipidemia, and it may, in fact, lead to beneficial long-term health and increased levels of activity in those habitually eating such a diet.

June 5, 2008 at 6:23 pm 10 comments

2010 Dietary Guidelines Committee

From Nutrition & Metabolism Society:

As you probably know, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shapes the contents of the food pyramid. They are currently in the process of developing plans for the 2010 Food Pyramid and selecting experts for the committee.

This panel should reasonably include scientists or nutritionists who have experience with diets low in carbohydrates and, understand their impact on health.

In the past, the USDA has not included such researchers on their panels.

We’re reaching out to you to ask for your help in communicating to the USDA the importance of including viewpoints like Dr.’s Feinman, Volek, Westman and Lustig on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Your encouragement will help ensure that the Committee has a balanced view of diet and nutrition.

Following is a sample template letter to the USDA (Carole.Davis@cnpp.usda.gov). Please customize with your own personal story, (Be sure to cc: NMS info@nmsociety.org and your Congressional Represenative and Senators). The dead line for nominations is May 23 so please take the time to do this now.

Personal stories about results of lowering carbohydrates in your diet will send a powerful message to the USDA. Let them know you have valuable input and a voice that will be heard.

For a list of qualified candidates, please consider NMS Scientific Board Members.

Thank you.

——————–

Sample Letter

Carole.Davis@cnpp.usda.gov

Nutrition Promotion Staff Director
Co-Executive Secretary of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee
Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion
US Department of Agriculture
3101 Park Center Drive, Room 1034
Alexandria, VA 22302

Dear Ms. Davis:

I am writing you about the recent announcement about the establishment of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee for the 2010 Food Pyramid. I understand that the selection process is currently underway to determine what voices will be part of the discussion about the framework for the American diet. Some aspects of the current food pyramid are not a reflection of the needs that most Americans like myself have in order to maintain health. I encourage you to ensure that researchers who have performed extensive studies on the benefits of adjusting variables in the diet, like Dr. ___________ be included on the panel.

I have many reasons for wanting to make sure that the panel includes experts on the science behind different kinds of diets, such as diets low in carbohydrates. [insert your own personal story – 1 or 2 paragraphs – about the results you have achieved by lowering the carbohydrates in your diet. Write about how these results have made you feel. What health effects have you seen?]

Facts about the science of low-carb diets are important to the discussion about the new food pyramid. I urge you to make sure the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee includes scientists who are well-informed about these issues.

Sincerely,
[Your name]

Cc: http://www.NMSociety.org
(your senator)
(your congress person)

May 22, 2008 at 12:31 pm 12 comments

Bragging Rights

Last week, on Friday, my husband was on the front page of our local newspaper, the Columbia Tribune!

In vitro treatment success rate soars at Columbia clinic


In vitro fertilization, once a long shot for couples unable to conceive naturally, is becoming a much better option thanks to new technology, but high costs still prevent some couples from pursuing the treatment.

During a recent interview, Gil Wilshire, endocrinologist at Mid Missouri Reproductive Medicine and Surgery Inc., practically jumped out of his seat when discussing the rate of IVF pregnancies, embryos that were successfully implanted.

“I can’t even believe I’m giving this to you,” he said, sliding a piece of paper with his office’s statistics across the desk. “Last month I did five transfers, and four got pregnant. … That’s incredible.”

Last year, Wilshire said, his office broke all internal records. It saw a 44 percent success rate for patients between the ages of 38 and 40 years old and a 67 percent success rate for patients ages 35 to 37. Patients older than 40 were successful 17 percent of the time. Those numbers are significantly higher than the most recent national rates, which are also on the rise. Mid Missouri Reproductive performed 56 total IVF cycles in 2007.

The Missouri Center for Reproductive Medicine and Fertility at Columbia Regional Hospital, the other large fertility clinic in town, had a slow year, with only two pregnancies out of nine IVF cycles. But the center has just completed a move into a $1.4 million renovated fertility clinic at Columbia Regional Hospital, and doctors say they’re expecting a big 2008 and 2009.

“We’ve been a two-site program for the last five or six years,” said Danny Schust, one of two endocrinologists at the program. Schust said the laboratory was previously housed at University Hospital and the clinic was at Columbia Regional. “It was disjointed. It really makes no sense,” he said. “So we’re excited to have it all together.”

There are other reasons for optimism. In vitro fertilization has switched from a simple numbers game, where doctors tried to overwhelm long odds with large numbers of sperm and eggs, to a more precise science.

“Back in the early ’90s, when I did my fellowship in reproductive medicine and endocrinology, a good success rate was 14 percent,” Wilshire said. “We were groping in the dark as a profession. We’d put a bunch of embryos up there and pray to God, hopefully the embryos would stick and you’d get a pregnancy in there.”

If a couple decides to undergo the costly IVF treatment, doctors first prescribe a drug – gonadotropin – that stimulates ovulation to cause the woman’s body to release multiple eggs. They remove eggs from the woman and place them in a petri dish protected in an incubator. The doctor then has two choices: pour sperm over the egg in hopes that one will make its way in or, in cases of men with low sperm counts, use a “micro manipulator machine” to inject a single healthy sperm into the egg.

Then it’s time for the fertilized egg to grow. One of the most exciting advances of recent years is the “medium” used to replicate the fluid of the womb. This medium – made up of amino acids, sugars and nutrients – has been perfected by scientists to replicate conditions in the womb.

Whereas 10 years ago doctors would have to implant the embryo in the womb after one or two days in the petri dish, they now can wait five days, until the embryo has divided into eight cells and is well on its way to becoming a fetus. “The real advances are in the IVF lab. I wish I could say the doctors are getting better, but I think it’s the embryologists who are getting better,” Schust said.

But the doctor’s skill comes next. After five days, he or she must remove one or two of the fertilized eggs and implant them near the top of the womb. Wilshire said when he began practicing, he would put in four or five embryos just to be sure one would take. Today, he says, he rarely puts in more than two.

Wilshire proudly wielded the “coaxial catheter,” a thin, rotating pipette used to do the implantation.

“I liken it to fly fishing,” he said. “When you’ve got crystal-clear water and you’ve got a big trout in the pool, if you even look in there or drop a stone, it scurries away – it’s very scared and skittish. However, if you’re a good fly fisherman, you’re way away and you cast just right, then the fly goes out and it goes … down real lightly like a natural fly, and the trout comes up and gets hooked.”

None of this is cheap, however. IVF cycles typically cost about $7,000 without medication. Once the medications are included, that figure can rise to $10,000 or more. In Missouri, group health insurance policies are not required to cover IVF, but a bill sponsored by Rep. Steve Hodges, D-East Prairie, would mandate that all policies covering more than 25 employees cover the treatment.

Hodges said he got the idea for legislation after hearing the story of a New Madrid couple who needed help from family members to pay for IVF.

“For people who want a child that badly – and the procedure is fairly taxing, not counting the expense and emotion involved – I just thought, ‘We spend lots of money trying to save lives, why not spend some money trying to create one?’ ” Hodges said. “I have a saying: ‘A good thing is always a good thing,’ and I think this is a good thing.”

May 21, 2008 at 4:24 pm 6 comments

Roman Gladiators: Diet Made Them Fat

An interesting article in News in Science, Ancient Worlds – Roman Gladiators Were Fat Vegetarians – gives insight that their diet, heavy with carbohydrate, made them fat.

“Tests performed on bits of bone taken from the skeletons of some 70 gladiators buried at Ephesus seem to prove that they ate mainly barley, beans and dried fruit,” said Dr Karl Grossschmidt, who took part in the study by the Austrian Archaeological Institute “This diet, which has been mentioned in the oral history, is rather sad but it gave the gladiators a lot of strength even if it made them fat,” said Grossschmidt who is a member of the University of Vienna’s Institute of Histology and Embryology.” [emphasis mine]

May 5, 2008 at 3:28 pm 4 comments

Under-the-Radar Petition at the FDA from American Dietetic Association and Others

Now that the pharmaceutical industry has its first FDA approved weight-loss drug available to the public, over-the-counter (OTC) no prescription needed Orlistat, it’s time to eliminate the competition in the marketplace – dietary supplements – used by many Americans to help with weight loss.

On the Regulations.gov website, an interesting petition exists that has had virtually no attention in the media – Treat Weight Loss Claims for Dietary Supplements as Disease Claims – filed as a citizen petition to the FDA by the American Dietetic Association, the Obesity Society, Shaping America’s Health and GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare.

The full document PDF is available here as well as on the page linked above.

The document is quite interesting and it’s obvious the petitioners do not want input from the public or an open comment period – they just want the FDA to take the action they request, no questions asked, no comments, no looking at anything other than what they’ve provided the FDA. Basically telling the FDA to just trust them!

The petition requests FDA to require manufacturers of weight loss supplements to obtain FDA review of their claims before the products can be sold, asserting such claims are “disease claims” as clearly indicated by the title page of the petition document – “Citizen Petition of the American Dietetic Association, The Obesity Society, Shaping America’s Health, and GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare requesting the Food and Drug Administration to determine that claims that dietary supplements promote, assist, or otherwise help in weight loss are disease claims under Section 403(R)(6) of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.”

We learn more in the section Action Requested, “In support of this action, petitions present extensive scientific evidence and consumer survey data that has been developed during the past decade. This new information conclusively establishes three critical facts. First, the condition of being overweight is a significant risk factor for serveral serious diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Second, many Americans understand the health risks of being overweight and they rely on dietary supplements to lose weight. Third, there is little, if any, evidence, indicating that dietary supplements marketed for weight loss actually work. As a result of these three facts, many Americans are being thwarted in their efforts to lose weight, and reduce the risk of disease, by ineffective weight loss supplements.”

To support their postion, they assert that claims such as the above are “qualified health claims” that require authorization and approval from the FDA and state they believe “there is no credible evidence whatsoever to support any type of qualified health claim for a weight loss supplement…In the case of weight loss supplements, there is no credible evidence to indicate that supplement themselves assist in weight loss or, even if they do so, that there is a commensurate risk reduction of disease from the use of any such supplements.”

A qualified health claim is a claim authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that must be supported by credible scientific evidence regarding a relationship between a substance (specific food or food component) and a disease or health-related condition. Both of these elements — a substance and a disease — must be present in a health claim. An example of a qualified health claim is: “Calcium may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.”

The petitioners even go so far as to strongly suggest public input and comment is not necessary, they carefully take the position that overweight need not be redefined as a disease, but rather a risk factor for disease; thus providing the FDA an opportunity to act in their favor without notice or comment rulemaking.

“Finally, in this context, petitioners must emphasize that FDA is not required to engage in norice and comment rulemaking under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), 5 USC 553, before implementing the actions requested in the petition. That is because the petitioners are not asking FDA to change its earlier interpretation of the way that two of the criteria in the structure/function rule apply to weight loss claims. Rather petitioners are requesting FDA to apply a particular provision in its existing regulations to weight loss claims in light of the substantial body of literature and consumer survey data developed during the past decade. An agency’s application of its regulations to particular factual scenarios certainly does not require notice and comment rulemaking under the APA. Moreover, to the extent that FDA concludes that granting this petion woudl require the agency to modify its earlier statements about weight loss claims in the preamble to the structure/function rule, such statements constitute “advisory opinions” that can be modified at any time following notice in the Federal Register.”

At least we find public comments are open online (even if nothing is found elsewhere online to hint this petition even exists)….the public comment and submission page is here.

Time to get to work!

April 24, 2008 at 6:29 pm 7 comments

The Solar Powered Plate

I feel a rant coming on today – Earth Day – when as if on cue, the media is hot and heavy with the message that the best thing any one of us can do to reduce our carbon footprint is to eat less meat. In newspapers, magazines and blogs we find all sorts of reasons behind the rush to banish meat from our diets:

Toronto Star: “Eat less meat. Raising cattle, sheep and pigs uses up resources.”

Sacramento Bee: “Another thing is, gosh, if you can reduce demand, get people to eat less meat, all those things would be great.”

The Day: “People should eat less meat. You would be healthier and so would the planet,” because of the tremendous resources used in raising and processing meat for consumption.”

The Guardian: “But there is a bigger reason for global hunger, which is attracting less attention only because it has been there for longer. While 100m tonnes of food will be diverted this year to feed cars, 760m tonnes will be snatched from the mouths of humans to feed animals – which could cover the global food deficit 14 times. If you care about hunger, eat less meat.”

The Guardian: “For both environmental and humanitarian reasons, beef is out. Pigs and chickens feed more efficiently, but unless they are free range you encounter another ethical issue: the monstrous conditions in which they are kept. I would like to encourage people to start eating tilapia instead of meat. This is a freshwater fish that can be raised entirely on vegetable matter and has the best conversion efficiency – about 1.6kg of feed for 1kg of meat – of any farmed animal. Until meat can be grown in flasks, this is about as close as we are likely to come to sustainable flesh-eating.”

PETA: “Mr. Gore likes to be thought of as an environmentalist steak-and-potatoes kind of guy, but there’s no such thing as a meat-eating environmentalist,” says PETA Vice President Bruce Friedrich. “He needs to confront the ‘inconvenient truth’ that meat production is the main culprit in global warming.”

I could continue with more quotes, but I think you get the point – we’re being told, repeatedly, we need to eat less meat!

With all the urgency in this message, the question begs – is eating meat really an environmental problem?

The answer really is a “yes” and “no” – meat from livestock is an excellent source of complete protein, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids essential to human health.

The big problem isn’t so much the meat, but the way we in the United States (and more and more countries around the world) raise livestock today – intensive feedlot operations which demand huge amounts of “inputs” to fatten cattle quickly.

The various reports on the global impact of raising livestock are based on factory farming practices which are indeed damaging to the environment. To really understand how, we need to look at how livestock in the US, and in other parts of the world, is now routinely raised for food and how the messages about the “inputs” is virtually ignored by the popular and politically correct message to eat less meat. All of these “inputs,” interestingly, are also required for growing the plant-based vegetarian/vegan diet being promoted as the way for us to save the plant….but those promoting that message don’t bother telling us that in their cries we must eat less meat.

Like I said, the problem isn’t the meat – it’s the method used to produce the meat. You see, cattle, pigs, turkeys and chickens are no longer pastured – that is allowed to graze in fields all day – instead, they’re raised in what has been rightly named “factory farms” [CAFO – Confined Animal Feeding Operations] where they’re raised in huge numbers – apparently the largest operations in the United States have tens of thousands of cattle in one facility at a time.

The practice of CAFO is fairly new, gaining ground in the US since the 1960’s and was/is seen as a way to produce food while controlling cost and a uniform standardized product output.

But to achieve the output desired requires some intense “inputs” – namely fossil fuel based fertilizers, chemical pesticides, diesel and fuel for transportation, energy for manufacturing ferilizers, pesticides and feeds, pharmaceuticals to maintain animal health (somewhat) while feeding a diet they are not designed to eat, supplements to provide vitamins, proteins and such not in the feed, energy and resources to house and maintain the animals from birth to slaughter and managing large volumes of waste that is unsuitable for use as fertilizer since the diet teh animal is raised on renders it toxic.

While the industry calls these practices “efficient” – they’re anything but, and I’d say are part of the problem we’re trying to solve.

The equation looks sort of like this:

Synthetic Fertilizer & GMO Patented Seeds [$] —-> Pesticides [$] —> Feed [$] —> Cows [$] —> Building [$] —> Electricity [$] —> Pharmaceuticals [$] —> Manure Lagoons [$] —> Transportation [$] —> Food

On the other hand, properly raised livestock is solar powered food, it’s equation looks like this:

Sun [free] —> Grass [free] —> Hay & Silage [$] —> Cow [$] —> Food & Organic Fertilizer

Funny, while the politically correct message these days is eat less meat, it truly should be eat more – from livestock raised properly – that is livestock that turns the energy of the sun into high quality food for human consumption rather than requiring intensive energy inputs as the means to an end.

This food – pastured meats – is food that truly is created from the sun to become a solar powered plate of delicious and nutritious quality food for us to enjoy, not only guilt-free, but that also is environmentally friendly too!

You see, what those repeating the message above fail to disclose is that livestock, especially cattle, are not naturally grain consumers – they eat mostly grass, ground covering legumes, and an assortment of weeds and other plants that are indigestible for humans.

These plants grow in abundance in rich soil, turning the energy of the sun into food for the cow – which in turn allows us to consume that same energy that’s not usually available to us when we consume the flesh of the animal.

Not only that, but grazing animals do more than turn the energy of the sun into food for us – they fertilize and replenish the soil upon which they graze, allowing rich soil to accumulate and grow plants rich with nutrients, which in turn squesters carbon in the soil and those plants sucking CO2 out of the air.

Farmers from long ago understood the relationship between their animals and their crops too – livestock did much of the necessary “work” for the health of the total farm – grazing in the fields, depositing manure to provide food to birds that followed along behind them (chickens, turkeys, etc.) and create rich soil deposits to optimize the grass and ground covering plants growth, and consuming silage from crops planted on the farm and hay baled throughout the warm months.

All this in a dynamic that allowed the farmer to not only have quality protein from the meat, but also healthy soil to grow nutrient-dense plant foods to provide for both his animals, his family and his community.

This dynamic is lost in factory farming of animals and in monoculture crop farming of plant-foods, where one crop dominates again and again, requiring the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and now, even patented seeds year after year.

And rather than address this issue, we’re being told to eat less meat to save the planet.

We’re told that’s green and good and that it’s the way of the future; that it’s healthier for us and the environment; that we’ll all benefit if we just eat less meat.

Sorry, no can do – I’m simply not going to be part of growing an industry that will continue to require, in higher and higher quantity, synthetic fertilizers, fossil fuels, chemical pesticides, sterile patented seeds farmers need to buy from the industry year after year since storing seed is either useless or illegal whle still requiring huge amounts of energy to transport and process the resultant crops into foodstuff…!

I’m not going to enhance their profits while they destroy our health and the balance of nature with unnatural and intensive input requirements to grow their self-defined “healthy” food products.

Soyburgers? No thanks!

Soymilk? You’re kidding, right?

Quorn? Oh, don’t even go there!

Tofurky? What’s up with mock “meat” anyway?

This Earth Day my commitment is not to enhance the bottomline of ADM, Cargill or Monsanto, but to:

A) Support my local farmers commited to traditional farming practices that enhance the health of the planet and those eating from its bounty – those who pasture their animals and grow crops using organic methods

B) Grow some of our food this summer – tomatoes, lettuce, beans, cucumbers, carrots and more, in our garden

C) Try my best to create and eat foods that really are on a solar powered plate – local fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and yummy pastured meats, eggs and dairy!

April 22, 2008 at 6:06 pm 61 comments

When Good Intentions Have Unintended Consequences

Unlike adults, children – especially those under five – are quite unique in their requirements for calories and nutrients each day. That is because they’re on a trajectory of growth that requires significant calories, making it is next to impossible to estimate accurately their energy needs by any formula that applies to adults.

Yet this fact doesn’t stop the well-intentioned from taking the standard dietary recommendations for adults and simply downsizing portions, in the assumption that smaller portions of the same foods recommended for adults will translate to adequate nutrition for children.

Back in January 2007, I wrote about a study in Sweden that found children fed a diet low in fat were found to have a higher incidence of insulin resistance, significant nutritional deficiencies, and weighed more with higher BMI’s than children fed a diet higher in fat.

As I noted in that post, “In previous generations the focus was mainly on getting and providing enough food to meet these energy needs; today we’ve modified our view and extrapolated our notions about a “healthy diet” – carbohydrate-rich, low-fat – to our children. Not a day goes by that there isn’t an article or segment in the news that we need to feed our kids less fat and more “good” carbohydrates.”

Also in January of last year, I shared with readers a day in the life of my son by posting pictures of the foods he consumed throughout the day, along with how his menu stacked up for nutrients and calories, along with how his eating differed from the sample menu offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as an example of “healthy eating” for children.

In that post I noted, “the menu [from the AAP] fails to provide adequate intake of Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Copper, Selenium, Potassium and omega-3 fatty acids” for a toddler.

I also wrote, “We seriously need to start re-thinking our dietary recommendations for children; right now our dietary recommendations and policy are failing them because our phobias about dietary fats have seeped into their lives as we’ve modified their diet to limit fat and include an abundance of carbohydrate-rich foods that does not, at the end of the day, have the desired effect.”

The desired effect these days is prevention of childhood obesity and rather than truly look at how children are eating, the experts continue to downsize adult dietary recommendations and assume they’ll meet the requirements of children. The worst of the assumptions is that if parents feed their children a downsized adult diet, with a variety of foods while limiting dietary fats, their children will learn good eating habits and avoid obesity.

While I was away on vacation, I read the disturbing findings reported in the Observer – a survey of nursery preschools in the UK found that 70% are feeding children inadequate calories each day because they’re feeding them too many fruits and vegetables in an attempt to make sure they’re eating enough fiber!

As Sarah Almond, a pediatric dietitian, noted, “We expected the study to show nurseries were serving children food that was too high in calories, fat, saturated fat and salt, and low in vegetables and fruit. Instead, we found that the majority of nurseries had gone to the other extreme and appeared to be providing food that was too low in calories, fat and saturated fat and too high in fruit and vegetables.”

[…]

“Because a significant number of children attend nurseries from 7am until 7pm, the food and nutrition they receive there are key to their health,” said Almond. “Nurseries are applying requirements of healthy eating for school-age children and adults to the one-to-four age group, who have entirely different requirements.”

These findings speak volumes about the unintended consequences of good intentions that are based on dogma and assumptions rather than hard data. And when hard data points to the opposite of the assumptions and dogma, it’s ignored.

In our desire to prevent childhood obesity, we’re missing the forest for the trees and ignoring the critical requirement they have for both energy and nutrients to grow properly. It is easy to assume that a child under five doesn’t need a lot of calories, especially when we think about how many we need as adults. If we believe the average adult needs about 2000-calories a day, then that tiny little kid should only need a fraction of what we need since they are much shorter and weigh a lot less, right?

Wrong.

Check out the Energy Calculator online, created by the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center, designed to help parents and caregivers estimate calorie needs for children.

If you input the numbers for an average three year old boy (38″, 32-pounds and active 1-hour or more a day) you’ll learn he needs 1710-calories a day on average!

What do you feed a three-year old boy to meet his energy requirements and nutritional needs? I can tell you this – it’s not a low-fat diet!

April 21, 2008 at 4:11 pm 4 comments

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