November 19, 2008

CEOs agree obesity should be Job #1 for Surgeon General

When American's health care CEOs got together recently to try and make sense of the health care issues, their top concerns were not universal health coverage, medical mistakes or even Medicare and Medicaid.  The #1 topic was obesity!

That makes sense. Because without addressing obesity, all the facts and figures on health are meaningless.

Obesity, of course, is a giant driver of rising health-care costs. Novartis Chief Executive Daniel Vasella explained that two-thirds of Americans over 20 years old are obese, “and their children are becoming obese now.” The long-term impact on heart disease, joint disease and numerous other health problems is immense, Dr. Vasella said.
The executives said obesity should be the top priority of the nation's surgeon general.

Now is the time to let your President, Congress and local elected officials that we need to stop obesity in the United States.

November 17, 2008

Philly -- maybe -- to follow NYC's lead

Philadelphia is considering passing a law that mandates chain restaurants must post the number of calories in their meals in plain sight.

Very soon - possibly as early as today - City Council is going to vote on a bill that asks big chains like Wendy's or Applebee's to level with their customers: to post the number of calories in their meals in plain sight.

It will require other nutritional data to be available. But calorie counts - the quickest way to judge what items will make you fat - will have to be posted on menu boards, or on the menu at your table.

Just like the prices.

Not cringing on the back of a tray-liner or the side of a bag. Or on a Web site - like you're going to go online standing in line.

Here are the top 10 reasons why it should be passed:

1. How else do you know what's in what you're eating? What you see isn't what you think you get: An innocent-sounding Ruby Tuesday turkey burger with fries? That's 1,171 calories, folks, half what you need for the entire day.

And that's just lunch.

Think that's tricky? How about this: Burger King's Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich weighs in at 100 calories more than the all-beef Whopper. When did beef get lower-cal than bird?

2. Not to worry. It won't apply to Tony Luke's or Geno's or Pat's. It's only for big chains (over 15 outlets) and for their standard menus. You can still eat your home-grown cheesesteak in blissful ignorance.


November 15, 2008

In this recession, don't go to McDonald's

Poor people have poor eating habits.

In these recessional times, don't make your health poor as you try to save money.

Already McDonald's has seen a jump in revenues as we ditched the $8 seared tuna for the $2 scorched hamburger.

But you can fatten your wallet without fattening your waistline.

Here's some tips:

Making coffee at home instead of buying it every day.
Brown-bagging it can cut your daily lunch tab in half.
Eat everything in your pantry before going shopping.
Visit your farmer's market or roadside stand. (Many are still open in the fall and winter).
Switch to tap water.
Reduce your meat portion size.
Buy popcorn instead of chips.

And here's a lot more from the Casual Kitchen blog:

November 14, 2008

Is Food Network making us fat?

The Lynchburg News Advance is asking: Is food television making you fat?

I love watching the Food Network. Since I advocate eating healthy meals at home and at restaurants, I'm always trying to learn more about food and cooking.

But until I read this article, I really haven't stopped to think about how bad a lot of the meals they make on TV are.

Paula Deen and Rachael Ray seem to be the worst. I'm sure their food tastes great and is filling...because it has so many calories. As we all know Paula uses butter -- lots of butter -- in all her recipes. Rachael seems to put cheese -- lots of cheese -- on every plate. Neither Paula nor Rachael could you call skinny.

Maybe the Food Network should put up nutritional information for each of the meals (just like the menu boards at NYC restaurants).

I think people might think twice about Paula's cooking if they knew one meal has nearly 3,000 calories (the same as 4 Whoppers!).

"Paula Deen shook her hips and said, “I feel like I’m being bad, y’all.”

And in one sense, she was. The Food Network’s Doyenne of Butter had just made a breakfast for her “Paula’s Home Cooking” show: Bananas Foster French toast, one-eyed sailor with cheese sauce, hash brown casserole and a hot mocha float for dessert.

Total calories: 2,881 per person. That’s more than most men need to eat all day to maintain their weight, and far more than most women need.

If you look at some of the scale-tipping chefs on the Food Network and cooking shows on other networks, and then you look at the expanding waistlines of Americans everywhere, you have to ask: Is food television making us fat?" more...

November 13, 2008

US companies spend $1 billion to make kids fat

Park Wilde in the US Food Policy blog tells us how the beverage and fast food restaurants spent nearly a billion dollars marketing sugary drinks and "happy meals" to our children. Even the Bush Administration's Federal Trade Commission is getting heartburn over these practices.  But don't expect action from the FTC or the companies themselves.

Wilde points out that the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, a Better Business Bureau project to forestall government action, can't get many of the top fast food chains to participate. 

Unfortunately, my opinion is we need government regulation. Because as we have seen for the past eight years, unregulated businesses will fleece Americans everytime.  Even if it means their own destruction. 

In July, based on information collected through federal subpoena, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) produced a detailed report on the massive extent of children's food and beverage advertising (see earlier post).

concurring statement (.pdf) by Commissioner Jon Leibowitz most strongly criticized two industries whose practices "leave a tinge of heartburn": the beverage and fast food restaurant industries.
First, the disproportionate amount ($474 million) to market sugary carbonated beverages to adolescents is striking – that’s nearly $20 per American teenager in 2006. The marketing efforts must be working; on average, adolescents get eleven percent of their calories from soft drinks. Studies show that those who drink more soda are more likely to become overweight. To their credit, the major carbonated beverage marketers entered an agreement with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and have committed to phase out the sale of full-calorie sodas in schools, shifting to lower calorie and more nutritious beverages. Wouldn’t a responsible next step be to extend this effort beyond the schoolhouse door, and curtail at least some marketing of full-calorie soft drinks to school-age youth – including teens – whether on television, via the Internet, in stores, or elsewhere?

Second, the big dollars to promote fast food restaurants to children are also somewhat hard to stomach: the $520 million for advertising and the toys included with fast food children’s meals was more than twice the amount spent by any other food category to target children under twelve in 2006. Some inner city low-income neighborhoods have numerous quick service restaurants but few grocery stores or markets that sell nutritious foods, so many of the children most at risk for obesity rely on fast food as a mainstay of their diets. Studies show that over-consumption of fast food likely contributes to overweight and obesity. I recognize that McDonald’s and Burger King are working to develop new, lower calorie menu items for children. But surely more can be done to add options to fast food menus and improve families’ incentives to order healthier choices.

November 12, 2008

Obese children are really 45-year-olds

Being young and obese cannot be good for you. The evidence of how bad is growing.

The Boston Globe reports obese children have the arteries of 45-year-olds.

NEW ORLEANS - Obese children as young as 10 had the arteries of 45-year-olds and other heart abnormalities that greatly raise their risk of heart disease, say doctors who used ultrasound tests to take a peek inside.

"As the old saying goes, you're as old as your arteries are," said Dr. Geetha Raghuveer of Children's Hospital in Kansas City, who led one of the studies. "This is a wake-up call."

The studies were reported yesterday at an American Heart Association conference.

About a third of American children are overweight and one-fifth are obese. Many parents think that 'baby fat' will melt away as kids get older. But research increasingly shows that fat children become fat adults.

November 11, 2008

As economy slows, people reach for the least nutritious food

McDonald's Sales Up 8.2% in October
McDonald’s October comparable sales increases by segment were as follows:

  • U.S. up 5.3%

  • Europe up 9.8%

  • Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa up 11.5%

OAK BROOK, IL – McDonald’s Corporation announced today that global comparable sales rose 8.2% in October. Systemwide sales for McDonald’s worldwide restaurants increased 5.4% for the month, or 9.9% in constant currencies. 

McDonald’s Chief Executive Officer Jim Skinner said, “McDonald’s strong October sales show that we are delivering what customers count on from McDonald's – choice, variety and high-quality food and beverages at affordable prices."

U.S. comparable sales increased 5.3% in October due to the enduring appeal of McDonald’s breakfast, recent product introductions such as Southern Style Chicken, compelling value throughout the menu and the continued popularity of McDonald’s Monopoly game.

In Europe, strong performance in the U.K., France and Russia and positive results in nearly all other markets drove a comparable sales increase of 9.8%. Unique menu items and promotions as well as everyday value options continue to resonate with customers and drive results.

Comparable sales were up 11.5% in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa, driven by robust sales growth in Australia and broad-based strength throughout the segment. Locally-relevant menu choices, branded affordability, and extended hours fueled the segment’s October sales.

South is now the fattest and sickest reports the rate of new diabetes has doubled in the last 10 years. Why? The obesity epidemic.

I'm really afraid that with all the nation's other issues, obesity will get very little attention. And millions more Americans will suffer.

I'm not in favor of increased health care coverage if it doesn't include obesity prevention as well. And that's both a health and business issue.

The nation's obesity epidemic is exacting a heavy toll: The rate of new diabetes cases nearly doubled in the United States in the past 10 years, the government said Thursday. The highest rates were in the South, according to the first state-by-state review of new diagnoses. The worst was in West Virginia, where about 13 in 1,000 adults were diagnosed with the disease in 2005-07. The lowest was in Minnesota, where the rate was 5 in 1,000.
Nationally, the rate of new cases climbed from about 5 per 1,000 in the mid-1990s to 9 per 1,000 in the middle of this decade.

Roughly 90% of cases are Type 2 diabetes, the form linked to obesity.

The findings dovetail with trends seen in obesity and lack of exercise — two health measures where Southern states also rank at the bottom.

"It isn't surprising the problem is heaviest in the South — no pun intended," agreed Matt Petersen, who oversees data and statistics for the American Diabetes Association. more...

November 8, 2008

War is Peace AND Fast Food is Healthy

When are fast food places going to get it?

With obesity rates in children raising throughout the world (as KFC and McDonald's globalize), it's only a matter of time before other-than-US governments take the lead and stop the American-based fast food chains from poisoning the children.

I know that's harsh. But we know for a fact that eating these meals will cause a variety of health issues. 

This new story tells it all. Today George Orwell would write: 

War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength
Fast Food is Healthy

Burger King's New 'Healthy' Meal for Kids Is Mostly Hype: "(NaturalNews) The media is applauding a recent announcement by Burger King introducing new healthy menu items designed to appeal to kids. Apparently the term 'healthy' is relative. While it may be a baby step in the right direction, one is left thinking, 'Gee, Burger King, is this really the best you can do?'

The new menu items are part of a pledge to take more action in promoting children's nutrition. In making the pledge to the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Burger King joins 11 other food and beverage companies claiming to be committed to advertising that promotes healthy dietary choices and lifestyles to children 12 and under."