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November 18, 2008

Alcohol sponsorship increases consumption

As a research interviewer, one of the key guidelines I tell subjects is, “Even if the answer sounds obvious, I still need to hear you say it.? Such is the case with a recent study from researchers in Manchester, England and Newcastle, Australia. According to researchers, sportspeople sponsored by the alcohol industry were more likely to be involved in binge drinking than those without alcohol industry sponsorship.
Despite studies on the relationships between sports, drinking and peer pressure, this was the first study directly related to alcohol industry sponsorship. In nearly half of the sponsorships, alcohol was supplied for free or at a discount.
"While finding that provision of free or discounted alcohol is linked to higher-reported drinking seems common sense, we needed to show clearly that this form of sponsorship occurs, and that it is actually associated with hazardous drinking," said Dr. Kerry O’Brien, the study’s author.

November 17, 2008

Leftovers--the new fast food

The Food Science and Nutrition Club at the University of Minnesota recently asked me to create a cooking class for students who want to cook cheap, nutritionally balanced food in a minimum amount of time. What immediately came to mind was to use one of those pre-roasted chickens right by the checkouts at the supermarket. I made six meals out of one bird.
Imagine the possibilities of this convenient bird. For day one, I picked up the bird and some groceries, went home, boiled a red potato cut into quarters while I changed into something comfortable, then I cooked some frozen vegetables in the microwave. By that time the potato was ready, so I mashed it with a half pat of butter and a quarter cup of reduced fat cheddar cheese (at 45 Calories per serving). Slice 1/3 of the breast, which should be between 4 and 5 ounces.
But as intensely exciting as a roasted chicken dinner sounds, the fun starts the next day. It is never good to hold leftovers for more than four days, according to the Department of Agriculture, so we must hurry to use the rest of the chicken. For lunch the next day, I made a salad with diced chicken, sliced apples, more cheddar cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. Anticipating boredom with chicken for dinner, I went on to chicken enchiladas in whole wheat tortillas with salsa verde, roasted corn with lime and chili, and black beans. The next day, chicken chili with corn muffins made a satisfying lunch. For dinner, I made curried chicken and vegetable over couscous. With one remaining chicken meal left for lunch, I could think of nothing finer than a classic chicken salad sandwich on whole wheat.
The point is that cooking good food for one isn’t very difficult. A little creativity is all that is needed to add some excitement to the menu. Each meal took less than 20 minutes to create, which is probably how much time it takes to drive to the drive-thru window. Plus, at a grand total of a little over $20 in groceries, each meal cost less than $4, and each meal was considerably lower in sodium and fat and higher in fiber than typical fast food.
For more ideas with leftovers, click here.

November 11, 2008

Worst drink in history

The ever-creative editors at Men’s Health magazine have delighted and surprised me with many health-related topics over the years. One of their many books, Eat This Not That published by Rodale Press, outlines a simple strategy to deal with real-world life and death fast food decisions. While it is considered by some nutritionists to be ludicrous to advise someone to eat the Quarter Pounder over the Whopper, many men use this advice in a ‘lesser of two evils’ reasoning.
It is, no doubt, more important to address alternatives to fast food than it is to justify eating an item because it has only a third of the saturated fat as its competitor. However, in the search for food in poor nutritional standing, the editors recently stumbled upon a goldmine.
The 32 ounce Baskin Robbins Heath Shake is a 2300 Calorie, 73 ingredient gut-buster with, according to David Zinczencko, editor in chief of Men’s Health magazine, the equivalent fat of 60 slices of bacon, the equivalent sugar of 13 ice cream bars and the equivalent Calories of 12 Krispy Kreme doughnuts!
Why do they call it common sense if it can be so hard to find? Hold the whipped cream on mine, please.

Got Milk or Not Milk?

Ever get caught in the crossfire? Check out these two sites:
http://www.whymilk.com/
http://www.notmilk.com/
I dare not step in the middle of this one, so you decide for yourselves. However, I tend to put less faith into the one with the spelling and grammatical errors…

November 4, 2008

Opinion—how sexy are whole grains?

Sex sells. If it sells fitness equipment and programs, why can’t it sell whole grains? We see late-night infomercials with sexy, fit models selling the latest ab machine, but they do not tell you that without the proper diet you are unlikely to uncover those hidden abs or lead that healthier lifestyle. So why not use sexy, fit models to sell whole grains?
Now I know that the supplement business is a goldmine, and we see models pushing what many nutrition experts consider unnecessary products on unsuspecting consumers. And meanwhile, the USDA, NIH and the grain industry are pushing millions of dollars into research and promotion of whole grains. We know whole grains are good for us, but what will make us choose them over French fries or white bread?
This is an entertainment-driven society. If you want to make an impact, hit them where it hurts and go up against the fast food ads at dinnertime. If Fred Flintstone can sell Fruity Pebbles and Chuck Norris can sell a book on politics, why can’t Marisa Miller or Giselle Bundchen sell a whole grain product to help you feel fuller, reduce the risk of some diseases and keep you regular? Who doesn’t want to hear her say she loves a regular guy? And could Miranda Kerr get people’s attention telling people about how important whole grains are to an underwear model to stay healthy but trim? I know a lot of people would be concerned about the message we are sending out concerning body image, but that message was already sent during the Victoria’s Secret ad. Besides, we’re talking about encouraging consumption of a healthy product as an important part of a balanced diet, not socially driven deprivation of models. Milk did it. Even if the government considers it unprofessional, why wouldn’t the cereal companies latch on? Check out this ingenious Irish littering video on YouTube—I thought it was going to be a body spray commercial at first. Do you think it would be outrageous or would it increase consumption?

November 1, 2008

Waist Size

A friend recently asked me what waist size has to do with type 2 diabetes risk. Studies have shown a correlation to waist measurement and type 2 diabetes risk. As one’s waist size increases, so does one’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes. That is because waist size is an estimate of the abdominal fat around our organs, known as visceral fat. Therefore, waist size has a statistically significant correlation to the estimate of type 2 diabetes risk. The key words here are estimate and risk. Since neither is an exact figure, they account well for any variations between individuals such as body fat deposition, frame size and genetic makeup. It would have probably been more accurate and statistically significant to correlate a more exact measure of visceral fat size or percentage to diseases such as type 2 diabetes, but we would have a harder time taking those measurements. For example, requiring everyone to undergo a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, or DEXA scan, would be much more invasive to subjects and cost a lot more than using mere tape measures.
So does this mean that someone with a larger waist circumference has a higher risk of type 2 diabetes? In a general sense, yes, but not necessarily. It may be more accurate to state that as waist size increases independently of any other changes in our lifestyle or diet, our risk of type 2 diabetes increases—just another way of saying eat right and exercise.