February 27, 2009

Early death for obese teenagers

From WebMD.com it is reported obesity in teens is as unhealthy as smoking.

Teen Obesity as Deadly as Smoking
Study Shows Obese Teens Have Similar Risk for Early Death as Teen Smokers
By Salynn Boyles
WebMD Health News Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
Feb. 25, 2009 -- Obese teens are just as likely to die before they reach old age as teens who are heavy smokers, while those who are overweight, but not obese, have the same risk for early death as lighter smokers, a new study shows.

Researchers followed 45,000 Swedish men from the time they were drafted into the military at the age of 18 until most were in their mid-50s.

They found that those who were obese in their late teens had nearly double the risk of dying during the almost four decades of follow-up, compared to those whose weight was normal at age 18.

This was a similar increase in risk as seen in men who smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day in their late teens.

Men who were overweight, but not obese, in their teens and did not smoke had a similar risk for early death as normal-weight teens who smoked one to 10 cigarettes a day.

The study appears in the latest issue of the journal BMJ Online.

"Most parents would warn their child about the dangers of even moderate smoking, but most probably wouldn't associate being overweight with the same level of risk," study researcher Martin Neovius, PhD, of Sweden's Karolinska Institute tells WebMD.

February 26, 2009

Why do our taxes pay for unhealthy fast food in schools?

One of the worst lunches our children eat is at school. The government through the National School Lunch Program promotes extremely poor food choices.

Our taxes pay for $9 billion worth of processed cheese, high-fat, meats, chicken nuggets and pizza, ready to be thawed and reheated. How good can these foods be? The value is 20 cents a meal.

This is shameful in America. This is wasteful in America. And this is terribly unhealthy in America.

You must read the Op-Ed section of the NY Times to understand this problem.

THIS new era of government bailouts and widespread concern over wasteful spending offers an opportunity to take a hard look at the National School Lunch Program. Launched in 1946 as a public safety net, it has turned out to be a poor investment.

When school districts allow fast-food snacks in the lunchroom they provoke widespread ire, and rightfully so. But food distributed by the National School Lunch Program contains some of the same ingredients found in fast food, and the resulting meals routinely fail to meet basic nutritional standards. Yet this is how the government continues to “help” feed millions of American schoolchildren, a great many of them from low-income households.

Many nutrition experts believe that it is possible to fix the National School Lunch Program by throwing a little more money at it. But without healthy food (and cooks and kitchens to prepare it), increased financing will only create a larger junk-food distribution system. We need to scrap the current system and start from scratch. More...

February 25, 2009

Everyone agrees this diet works

There is only one kind of diet that works, says the latest 2-year federal study.

And it's exactly what I have been telling you in this blog for more than 2 years.

Reduce the calories and you reduce your weight. It doesn't matter whether you listen to Atkins, Zone or Ornish. It doesn't matter if you visit Weight Watchers, Medifast or Jenny Craig. It doesn't matter if you eat only grapefruit, cabbage or red meat.

There's only one way: eat less calories than you burn. For most Americans you need to eat about 1,200-1,500 calories a day to lose weight.

Take it from me. I stopped eating 1,000 and 2,000 calorie meals, and in six months I lost more than 90 pounds. I did it through Nutrisystem, but any type of food would have worked in the right portions. And this is what this blog is all about. Let's get all of America eating the RightSized portions. Let's get all the restaurants to serve smaller portions at smaller prices. 

The study was published in this week's New England Journal of Medicine.

MSNBC.com reports: LOS ANGELES - Low-fat, low-carb or high-protein? The kind of diet doesn’t matter, scientists say. All that really counts is cutting calories and sticking with it, according to a federal study that followed people for two years.

However, participants had trouble staying with a single approach that long and the weight loss was modest for most.

As the world grapples with rising obesity, millions have turned to popular diets like Atkins, Zone and Ornish that tout the benefits of one nutrient over another.
Some previous studies have found that low carbohydrate diets like Atkins work better than a traditional low-fat diet. But the new research found that the key to losing weight boiled down to a basic rule — calories in, calories out.

“The hidden secret is it doesn’t matter if you focus on low-fat or low-carb,” said Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which funded the research.

Limiting the calories you consume and burning off more calories with exercise is key, she said.

The study, which appears in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine, was led by Harvard School of Public Health and Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana.

February 24, 2009

When is health.com not healthy

On the web there is a lot of good being done -- informing and motivating people towards the RightSizing of America. I have tried to highlight those websites and let you know where you can get good healthy information.

On the other hand, there are many, many websites that look like good information, but they are not. These sites have names that sound like they are healthy, but look again. Sometimes the articles just don't make sense. Last year I told you about HealthyDiningFinder.com. Sounds like a great idea. It's not. Burger King, Domino's, Hooters, and Chili's support it. Type in your city and all you get -- for healthy eating -- is the worst fast food restaurants in your area. You can guess who pays for the site. Not your locally produced, locally owned eatery.

Yesterday, I visited Health.com. Wow, you'd really expect good healthy ideas on this site. Wrong! I was curious about its article: "America's Top 10 Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants". Immediately I got sick to my stomach. This pretend health web site proceeded to tell me McDonald's and Chipotle are two of the MOST healthiest fast food restaurants in America.

(It shouldn't have surprised me to discover that Health.com's research is supported by Coke AND Pepsi.)

Luckily, I'm not the only person in America that can see fraud. Below are comments from Health.com's own website:
healthy? really? It’s articles like this that perpetuate the myth that “eating fast food can be healthy.” And perpetuating such myths is one of the many reasons why our country’s citizens are generally obese or overweight.

A lot of these places have many food choices that end up in the ‘Not That’ category (of the ‘Eat This, Not Fat’ website).
When Chipotle and McDonalds (SNACK WRAPS HEALTHY?!?!) make this list… makes me think that there wa$ $ome in$entive to get the$e companie$ on thi$ li$t…..

February 19, 2009

Italians love Pizza Hut! Huh?

My wife and I laugh every time, I see the Pizza Hut commercial on its new lasagna. If you haven't seen it, the commercial shows Italians in Rome eating Pizza Hut's new menu-item, lasagna, and of course, lauding its praises. Hard to believe, because that lasagna bears no relationship to any kind of food I have ever seen or ate in Italy.

In fact, I have never seen a 3-pound entreé with 2.5 pounds of cheese ever in Rome. Meals are simple, cheese is sparse, and the tastes are layered with fresh ingredients. I don't need to tell you that this commercial has no basis with reality.

What is real is the number of calories and grams of sugar (yes, sugar) in Pizza Hut lasagna (which comes with bread sticks)? How about 710 calories in 12 oz. of lasagna and one breadstick, and don't forget the 13 grams of sugar (more sugar than two of Pizza Hut's desserts). And don't forget the 1 gram of trans fat thrown in for flavor.

I'm not sure I believe Pizza Hut's website on how many calories are in its lasagna. At other restaurants lasagna can really put you over the scale:

Pizza Hut -- 570 calories.
Olive Garden -- 858 calories.
Macaroni Grill -- 1048 calories.
Sbarro's -- 650 calories.
Old Spaghetti Factory -- 850 calories.

February 18, 2009

Here's a sweet tax

There's two things you can't avoid: death and taxes. But now a tax might delay the first.

In New York they are considering a tax on sugar drinks, the scourge of all healthy life. Gov. Paterson is thinking of lumping soda pop with tobacco and liquor, as something "sinful" and thus, needing for his citizens to limit their intake.

I applaud his actions, though, good luck against the Pepsi, Coke and corn lobbyists. Sugary drinks have ZERO nutritional value...at least a Big Mac provides a few nibbles of protein. And it's not like any of these drinks have real plantation-grown sugar. They are just made up of some chemical-lab-born corn syrup.

(A quick story: My aunt in the early 60s would always complain to me about how Coke in the 12-oz. cans tasted different than her supply of the 6.5 oz. real-glass bottles. I thought she was a little nuts, because I couldn't taste the difference, nor could there be a difference. It was all Coke, wasn't it? Later I found out that the little bottles of coke had real sugar, while the new-fangled cans had corn syrup. My aunt knew those laboratory boys were fooling around with her coke.)

If we want to win the war on childhood obesity, one way to start is to tax Mountain Dew, Coke and all the rest.

Here is why. Americans now consume 200 to 300 more calories each day than we did 30 years ago - and a great deal of these extra calories come from sugar-sweetened drinks. A fast-food burger, for all its shortcomings, does have some nutritional value. A 20-ounce soda provides none. And sugar-sweetened beverages now supply 10% to 15% of total daily calories, both in children and adults.

It gets worse. Rigorous scientific studies have shown that consumption of sugared beverages is associated with poor diet, increased rates of obesity and an increased risk of diabetes. In studies where the same people are followed over time, and other studies where people are assigned randomly to reduce sugared beverage consumption, diets improve and subjects lose weight.
Obesity rates in New York State are staggering - 58% of adults are overweight or obese, and the current prevalence of diabetes represents a 50% increase since 1993. When a harmful product is legal, cheap and readily available, a modest tax is the single best way to change behavior.

Yes, we've all heard the complaints from the soft drink industry. I've been an advocate for soda taxes for 15 years - and have heard the special interests cry foul at every turn. Soft drink companies bombarded Maine with money and consultants to successfully overturn a smaller tax there last year.

In fact, in jurisdictions around the country, this debate has unfolded with neatly scripted predictability. In scene one, the industry claims it's just standing up for hardworking taxpayers. To counteract the credible scientific evidence linking sugar sodas to obesity, the industry pays a stable of scientists to write papers saying the evidence is weak, just as the tobacco industry paid scientists who claimed for years that smoking does not cause lung cancer and nicotine is not addictive.

February 17, 2009

There's no Joy of Cooking at home

Most excess calories are consumed away from the home. That's why I created this blog. To alert Americans -- and especially parents -- of the dangers of eating away from your own kitchen table. That includes fast-food restaurants, office cafeterias, 5-star hotels and, even, hospitals. Every time you eat away from your house, you are in danger. In danger of "mindlessly" overeating because of the portions and cues you receive when dining.

Now I find out, that the portions are clearly creeping up even at home, and you don't even know it. Why? Because the bible of cookbooks, "The Joy of Cooking", has been pumping up the calories in its recipes. I don't know about you, but I frequently consult the "The Joy" when I am cooking. I use it exclusively for my Cincinnati (turkey) chili, and banana nut bread. But Brian Wansink has taken the time to review all the recipes from all the "The Joy of Cooking" books, and has discovered some startling information, but not surprising data.
Though restaurants often take the blame for portion distortion - the trend of serving up ever larger helpings - cookbook recipes have done some Supersizing of their own, a study published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine found.

"There's so much attention that's been given to away-from-home eating and so much attention that's been focused on restaurants and the packaged food industry, it makes me wonder whether it's actually deflecting attention from the one place where we can make the most immediate change," says Cornell University marketing professor Brian Wansink, who directed the study.

The study, which looked at how classic recipes have changed during the past 70 years, found a nearly 40 percent increase in calories per serving for nearly every recipe reviewed, about an extra 77 calories.

The study identified the trend in numerous cookbooks, but it focused on American kitchen icon "Joy of Cooking," first published during the '30s and regularly updated with new editions since then, most recently in 2006.

Of the 18 recipes published in all seven editions, 17 increased in calories per serving. That can be attributed partly to a jump in total calories per recipe (about 567 calories), but also to larger portion sizes.

Only the chili con carne recipe remained unchanged through the years. The chicken gumbo, however, went from making 14 servings at 228 calories each in the 1936 edition, to making 10 servings at 576 calories each in the 2006 version. Read more...

February 11, 2009

Restaurant critics are part of the problem

Today I read that one of the restaurant trends for 2009 will be smaller plates with a smaller price point.

That makes a lot of sense in this economy depression, and it makes a lot of sense for your waistline. This is a fantastic trend for our health, as are some of the other trends. See all of Joseph Baum & Michael Whiteman Co.'s predictions

However, most restaurant critics don't get it. They continue to revel in the larger portions, telling you to take home part of your food for later on. Now I know most of us have taken home a doggie-bag. But I also know that most of us have thrown out leftovers which have spoiled after forgetting about them for two weeks. 

Larger portions in the long run are not healthy and contribute to wasting food. (And -- I don't know about you, but -- leftovers are never as good as the food at the restaurant.) Most of the times you ruin the food with the microwave, toughen the meat, destroy the pasta, kill the vegetables, and mostly make the food mush.

RightSizing portions also means RightSizing the price for those smaller portions. And restaurant critics need to look at portions from the RightPerspective, and not fall into the 1950s cliche that bigger is better.

February 9, 2009

Queen business: Let them eat peanut butter!

Many, many times on this blog, critics have suggested Americans don't need big government to protect them from obesity. The argument is we don't need government to tell business what to do. Let the consumer decide. Let the individual decide. Let the company decide.

So these so-called individual rights advocates want government out of our lives when it comes to gun control, and when it comes to tobacco use and when it comes to unhealthy fast foods.

However, if the Wall Street (and Main Street) crisises have taught us anything: it's business only care about making money and mostly making money and bonuses for themselves. To the point that businesses will kill people to make money.  Witness the salmonella outbreak in peanut butter.

The company tried to keep the salmonella outbreak secret. But they are not the only company keeping salmonella poisoning secret. ConAgra Foods -- maker of Peter Pan peanut butter -- hid salmonella in its products from the public for THREE years.

All you "individual rights" advocates, all you caveat emptor people, all you fat-cat executives: Are you ready for your PB&J sandwich from Peanut Corporation of America?

If you want to get sick (or not get sick), read today's article in the NY Times:

Problems emerged in southwest Georgia’s peanut country in 2004, when a whistleblower reported that the food-product giant ConAgra Foods had found salmonella in peanut butter at its plant in Sylvester, Ga., 75 miles from Blakely. But when plant officials declined to release their laboratory tests, the Food and Drug Administration did not pursue the records and was unable to confirm the report of salmonella.

The government finally demanded the records three years later, and verified the whistleblower’s claims, after hundreds of people were sickened by salmonella-tainted peanut butter produced at the plant in 2007. Even then, ConAgra insisted that the government not make those records public, according to documents obtained last week by The New York Times. Calling its testing proprietary, ConAgra told the food agency in a Feb. 27, 2007, letter: “Once F.D.A. has completed its review of the documents, please return them to ConAgra Foods or shred.”

February 6, 2009

Papa John's founder warns against eating too much pizza

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that eating too much pizza is not good for you. Now the founder of Papa John's is taking the courageous step of pointing out the obvious: "Eat pizza, not too much".

It seems even pizza millionaires are starting to worry about 30, 40 and 50 percent obesity rates in the U.S. and even in the U.K.

Let's thank Papa, and all the Mamas telling their children to eat the RightSize.

CNN.com reports:

The founder of one of America's latest pizza chains has offered unexpected advice to his customers to limit themselves to only one or two slices.

During an interview on BBC's Radio Four program in the United Kingdom, John Schnatter, said, "you can't eat five or six slices."

He was responding to a question from presenter Adam Shaw about whether he was concerned about the impact of the British government's anti-obesity drive on pizza sales.

"No. Pizza's actually healthy for you if you don't eat too much of it," Schnatter replied, adding, "You can't eat five or six slices but if you eat one or two slices it's very nutritious."

February 5, 2009

Biggest losers must stop going to fast foods

The "Biggest Loser" reality show on NBC never shows the contestants heading off to McDonald's or Wendy's. And of course they never mention the cravings the people must get for food. In fact, the show barely mentions food at all. It's all about 10 hours a day of exercise.

But the NY Times reveals the contestants must make huge changes to their diets -- along with the unrealistic amount of exercise -- in order to lose weight. That's the real story the producers and trainers don't tell you. And that's the story all Americans can participate in. Very few of us can exercise with a dedicated trainer for 10 hours a day for eight weeks. But all of us can stop eating fast foods.

Some experts say it's nearly impossible to become morbidly obese eating home cooked food. But it's fairly easy to become obese stopping at Burger King several times a week, and even easier if you stop for breakfast and lunch.

Even if home cooking is of the fried-chicken-and-mashed-potatoes variety, it rarely produces extreme obesity, said Barry Popkin, a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Almost any kind of cooking you can produce in a kitchen is healthier than fast food.” The decline of home cooking worldwide, he said, is an underlying cause of obesity.

“People are eating more, and more often,” Dr. Popkin said. “And the foods that they are consuming almost always replace meals cooked in a kitchen and eaten at a table.” It is difficult to quantify a decline in cooking skills, but many studies show that time in the kitchen has declined steeply since 1965, when American women spent a weekly average of 13 hours cooking. Last month the government of Britain, where obesity is spreading rapidly, passed a law requiring all secondary-school students to attend cooking classes.

“Twenty minutes in the kitchen will save you three hours on the StairMaster” said Devin Alexander, a chef in Los Angeles who developed the recipes for the cookbooks. “You can’t trust restaurant food to be low fat.”

There you have it. If you don't want to be the biggest loser, lose the fast food.

February 3, 2009

Denny's: it's not free of calories

If you wedge yourself into a booth at Denny's today for that "free" breakfast, just remember you are eating more than half of all your calories for the day. At more than 1,100 calories, the Grand Slam breakfast rates a "F" nutritional grade.

Now "free" is my favorite four-letter word, but remember, nothing is free. You'll have to pay for this breakfast by walking for 8 hours, or skipping dinner tonight.

Good luck, but don't allow the economy make you obese.