October 2010 Archives

Dieting may not be so hard after all

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The article I came across this week on Yahoo!News discussed the 6 diet "rules" you CAN break. Sometimes very overweight people do not want to diet, or can't stick to one because they think it is too hard. This all-or-nothing approach doesn't work in the long run. The article talked about these six diet misconceptions: exercise is necessary to lose weight, only weigh yourself once per week, desert is a no-no, portion control everything you eat, never skip breakfast, and salads are your best bet for losing weight.

I think this was a very informative article because people usually assume that in order to lose weight, they must never even look at chocolate, eating only salads and working out constantly. These misconceptions scare a lot of people off from trying to diet, when really they could make some small life changes and be healthier. Some obese people feel like because they are so overweight, and often can't exercise, that they are unable to lose weight but this isn't true. In order to lose weight, your body must take in less calories than it burns. As long as they keep a low-calorie diet they can effectively lose weight.

This article was also personally helpful because it is the first time I've actually heard that it is okay to skip breakfast. I like how the authors realized that some people just can't eat in the mornings, and that it is possible to have a healthy diet without eating something right away in the morning.

Corn-ucopia of Fast Food


Researcher's traveled across the U.S., purchasing fast food from various Wendy's, McDonald's, and Burger Kings in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, Denver, Boston, and Baltimore. Studies were conducted to analyze the types and amounts of corn-based products (not to make corn appear as a type of "poison") present in chicken sandwiches, burgers, and french fries.

Researchers analyzed for levels of isotopes in the different food samples, watching especially for carbon-13, which is an isotope unique to corn products, and nitrogen-15, which is an isotope found in crop fertilizers and animal waste. High levels of both the nitrogen and carbon isotopes in the chicken and beef products revealed that the animals lived on a mostly corn diet and in densely populated quarters. All but 12 (which came from West Coast Burger Kings) of 160 hamburgers tested were produced from only corn-fed cattle and all of the chicken patties were produced from only corn-fed poultry. Wendy's fries were even found to be cooked in corn oil, unlike in vegetable oil like most other fast food restaurants use. Michael Pollen takes a similar approach in identifying corn in his fast food meal. The idea that corn, due to it's cheap and high-caloric nature,is omnipresent in foods most of us wouldn't even think of is also highlighted in Food, Inc.

A Guide To Organic Foods

Organic foods can be thought of as different things. This article explained the differences in labeling on food. It also explained the differences in regulations between organic and non-organic foods.

Organic foods can be labeled in many different ways. Some of them can be misleading, like saying simply "organic", which could meant that only 95% of the food is organic ingredients. However there are some regulations on this, because if the food has less than 70% organic ingredients, it can't be labeled organic at all. Also, as we read about "free-range" chickens in class, it reinforces that not all free range is organic, and that can be a misleading term to persuade a customer to buy the produce. This article also goes into the health view of organic foods. It states that organic foods do not have more nutrients than non organic foods, because each food has the same nutrients as another form of itself. It explains that the pull for organic foods is that they are safer. This is because farmers are not allowed to use the chemicals, hormones, and pesticides that other farmers use to keep their animals and plants safe. People believe that those chemicals can, in turn, affect humans through the foods they eat. Therefore, some people are willing to pay more because they believe that organic foods contains more nutrients, or because they know the health benefits are better. http://health.abcnews.go.com/sw/wl-a-guide-to-organic-foods

This article was about how school lunches in America are unhealthy, but how there are more and more alternatives being offered. It offers examples of these alternatives, and tells where each one is located.

While schools have began to make improvements in their school lunch programs, there is still many more they could make, and in the meantime there are other options for parents to use to ensure a healthy lunch for their child. Firstly, it relates because it talks about organic alternatives, and how some schools are switching to use farms near by, which can be cheaper. Also, we learned that locally grown foods compared to mass produced foods are more likely to be organic, meaning healthier. This article states that, along with the foods being organic, they will help lower the obesity rates linked with school lunches. Other options this article gives to parents is more expensive, because it is out of the school district programs, but it is where a company makes the lunches outside of the school and delivers it to your child's foods. Also, it tells a story about how a chef goes to a few schools and holds classes on learning to cook healthier, and that compares to the TV show we talked about in class. This article explained how its not just in the schools hands to provide every child a healthy lunch.

Organic Farming on the Rise in Minnesota

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Article from MN Daily: http://www.mndaily.com/2010/10/21/u-and-partners-help-organic-farmers

An article in the Minnesota Daily was recently posted about the U and other partners helping organic farmers change their standard farm to organic farms. The article discusses that a new grant will be given to help farmers with the transition to organic farming. They have decided that $1.2 million dollars will be sufficient to provide farmers with the right resources to begin the change. This is a positive change and a step in the right direction for Minnesota.
This grant is something that raises a large awareness for the positive effects of organic faming. Many farmers wish to be organic farmers but are unsure how to and what all the restrictions are. Farms are also required to wait three years after pesticides have been used on the land to consider it an organic farm. These restrictions make it difficult for many farmers to get started. The grant and public representation will make it easier for farmers to get started. This will also make generating a profit more successful.
There are some negatives to switching to organic farming as well. When farmers switch they are faced with new challenges that they have never had to deal with before. Many farmers are required to plant new types of crops to be considered an organic farm. When planting these many farmers need to buy new machinery to accommodate them. Also many farmers do not know how to deal with getting rid of weeds. Hiring more help for hand picking of weeds is expensive and takes more time.
Overall organic farming has its positive and negative side effects. Once the farms are in place though there is an increase in overall health for the farms. Organic farming has proved to improve the health of the animals, families and soil of the farm. A new change to organic farming will not only improve the health of Minnesota but it will also hopefully spark a new trend across the United States.

Eating Your Ugly Fruits and Vegetables


The sustainability of fresh fruit and vegetables does not solely depend on the pesticides or preservatives farmers use on their crops. Rather, it is a combination of effects incorporating the chain of distribution. Fruits and vegetables are sold according to how they look and not how they taste, providing a false quality about them. Consumers are much more apt to buy a perfectly round bright red apple than a small lopsided dull colored apple.
Grocery stores then, take this in to consideration when picking what apples to sell in their produce sections. However, many of the apples that fail to meet the "cosmetic standards", are those that have excellent flavor and nutritional quality. These apples then go on to be mashed up for fruit juices, sauces, fillings, or sweeteners--some of which destroy the fruit's nutritional value. More sustainable ways to make use of these "ugly" fruits all begins with the demand for them.
Consumers must value nutrition over appeal and practice that when purchasing their fruits and vegetables. Grocery stores could set out sampling trays of various fruits and vegetables for customers to try before they purchase them. Having the fruits and vegetables cut up into small pieces would help make the overall image of the produce not be a deciding factor in consumption.

CDC Revises Estimates of Increase in Diabetes

In the Star Tribune last Friday, there was an article about the increase in Americans with diabetes, which seems to rise hand in hand with the "obesity epidemic."


The article reports that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes now, but that could grow to 1 in 5 or even 1 in 3 Americans by 2050 if the current trends continue. That's 100 million Americans, or the populations of California, Texas, and New York combined. The article notes that there are multiple factors for the increase, including the fact that diabetics are living longer thanks to modern medical care, so naturally there will be more living diabetics at a time. They also note that "Not all of the increase in prevalence is a bad thing." Type I diabetes is included in this study, which is unrelated to obesity. However, type II diabetes now accounts for 95% of cases. It's most common in people who are overweight and obese, in people 60 and older, and in African-Americans and other minority groups.

This states that people who are overweight and obese, along with the groups of people who are most at risk to becoming obese (the elderly and minorities) are also at high risk for type 2 diabetes. In our discussions of whether or not disease causes obesity or obesity causes disease, we could recognize that many people who are obese or are at risk to become obese already have type 2 diabetes. Could that mean that type 2 diabetes causes some cases of obesity? If people who aren't obese, but are at risk, get type 2 diabetes, could that mean that some obesity is a result of type 2 diabetes that has progressed farther? Then again not all obese people have type 2 diabetes. Or is it simply the lifestyle of drive-thru meals, processed food, and limited exercise that is the cause for both obesity and type 2 diabetes?

The article states that "the growth in U.S. diabetes cases has been closely tied to escalating obesity rates. Recent CDC data suggests obesity rates may have recently leveled off. But the new estimates should hold up even if obesity rates remain static, CDC officials said....'The magnitude is a bit surprising. But the trend is not.'" This article, like most of the research we've studied, never says what is the cause for the rise in diabetes cases.

The ever-lingering question of how all of these symptoms, diseases, or whatever we call them are intertwined is not answered in this article.

Supermarket Secrets


In class we discussed that one reason people are obese is because they have limited or no access to a grocery store. The article I read on Yahoo!News suggests that even though people have access to fresh food at grocery stores, it is still easy for them to make poor nutritional choices because healthy food is so much more expensive than unhealthy food. The authors of the article (also the writers of the Eat This! Not That! books) say,"Researchers recently estimated that, on a junk-food diet, you could eat for $3.52 a day. But a healthy diet would cost a whopping $36.32 a day". This healthy diet estimate seems very high, but I agree with the fact that eating healthier can be more expensive than eating cheap, processed food high in fat and calories. This article provided 25 tips intending to help people save money and calories while grocery shopping. I felt some of the most helpful ones were:

3. Work the edges: The center aisles of the grocery store hold all of the processed junk foods that don't need to be refrigerated, and are almost always loaded with preservatives and calories. Sticking to the outside edges will only give you access to fresh produce, dairy, meats and seafood. This type of real food will fill you up better and provide more nutrients.

6. Buy frozen fruit in cold weather: One reason people don't like to eat healthy is because it is expensive to buy fresh fruits out of season. By buying frozen fruits, you're still getting most of the benefits for sometimes half the cost.

10. "Natural" doesn't mean squat: Companies try to encourage you to buy their products by hyping that they are "all natural". The term "natural" is unregulated, so companies can use it however they want to. "Natural" fat and sugar is just as bad for you as the "unnatural" kind.

Who Cares About Calories

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Monday's edition of the Minnesota Daily caught many people's attention with a picture of former head coach, Tim Brewster, plastered over the front page. Although this was what initially caught my eye it was what I found below the fold that really got my attention.
The article, "Students push UDS to make caloric info more visible", describes the University's Student Health Advisory Committee's mission to make people aware of what they are eating. Their main goal right now is to get the University Dining Service to post nutrition information on all of their menu boards at all campus locations, in addition to the already available nutrition brochures.
Mary Story, a professor in the School of Public Health states, " Nobody reads brochures. People need to see it right there when they're ready to order." I agree with this statement; I care about calorie and fat content of the food I consume, but I don't have time to search for a brochure and read exactly how many calories I will take in depending on what I choose before each meal. If the calories were posted in a place where I couldn't miss them, I would probably make the healthier choice more often than not.
By posting nutrition information, many people would eat the healthier food. Like a junior here at the "U" states when talking about Panda Express, "Two entrees is like 1,200 calories. If caloric information were posted on the menus people would read it while standing in line, and it might convince them to make a different choice."
Personally, I hope they chose to post the information, especially at places like Panda Express where the food isn't exactly nutritious. Even if it only changes a small percentage of their customers mindsets, at least it will be helping some make the healthier choice.

Drive-Thru Diet?



CNN recently released an article detailing the "Drive-Thru Diet," Taco Bells new initiative to jump on the healthy eating bandwagon. This diet consists of eating off the Fresco menu, which is seven burritos or tacos with lowered calorie values. But here's the issue.

The items are not cooked any differently than the regular items on the Taco Bell menu. In fact, the only differences in the products at all are that those on the Fresco Menu have a tomato, onion and cilantro salsa instead of cheese and sauce. While replacing these high fat toppings is undoubtedly healthier, CNN reports that there is only a 20-100 calorie difference per item when eating off the Fresco Menu. Given that the average person consumes roughly 2000 calories in a day, this difference hardly seems significant. Additionally, Items on the Fresco Menu are still very high in sodium. Many nutritionists throughout the article are cited in debunking this "Drive-Thru Diet" with their Jared-like spokeswoman, as she lost the weight over a period of years and increased her exercise, as well as the fact that this diet required her to eat Taco Bell approximately 5-8 times per week.

Now, it seems to me that this is just another attempt by the fast food industry to make themselves still seem like a viable option to our society as trends continue to favor diets and extreme weight loss. When one makes a serious attempt to lose weight, they eat more home-prepared and fresh food, in addition to increasing exercise, not eating fast food nearly every day of the week. The calorie difference in these products is minimal, certainly not enough to base a diet on these products. It seems clear that all that matters, to Taco Bell at least, is making use that they keep their profits up with continuing trends, even if they use misleading advertising to do so.

Here is Taco Bell's Drive-Thru Diet website

Weight Loss Surgery Best Option For Overweight Teens?

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After searching on Google for a couple of minutes, I came across an article that was related to what we talked about in class earlier today. This article also contained a short five minute video that I also watched. The video discusses a study done in Australia that compared weight loss results for teens that had the surgery vs those that stuck to the lifestyle change of healthy eating and exercising. 50 patients were observed in the study. 25 had gastric band surgery and the other 25 did the lifestyle change. The patients were observed over a 2 year time period and it was found that those teens that under went surgery lost an average of 67 pounds in two year, while those who were on the lifestyle change plan lost an average of 6-7 pounds. The video than also started to briefly discuss how the FDA is looking to make the surgery available to kids. Currently bariatric surgery is only available to those who are 18 and older and have a BMI over 40. The only exception would be if the person has a BMI over 35 with a special condition such as high blood pressure. The scientist talking in the video believes that surgery is a great tool to lose weight, and says the study proves it. In the article that is also located on this site, talks more in depth about the FDA considering on broadening the gastric band surgery. There are both pros and cons to the issue being discussed. Some pros of the surgery are that it has a high success rate of losing weight (hence "eliminating the obesity epidemic") and that it may give teens the physical advantage they need. The cons to the surgery are that it doesn't change the fact that you need to watch what you eat, and also may be jumping the gun before by operating before patients have any real serious medical problem. Both sides of the issues have great arguments and so it should be interesting on what the FDA will decide.

Both the article and the video relate to what we are talking about in class. Earlier today we discussed the different types of bariatric surgeries and how affective they are. We discussed the pros, such as its high weight loss success rate, and the cons such as how it may deprive people of their nutritional needs. Because of its high success rate it convinces me that it should be available for teens ages 14-17, but yet at the same time I'm hesitant about surgery because it is something that is costly and it can have huge effects later in life, especially if it deprives people from receiving some of the nutrients they need. I can't wait to see what the FDA will finally decide on the matter.

Invincible Happy Meal

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I was scanning yahoo today and came across this article about a little experiment a woman named Sally Davies conducted. She brought home a Happy Meal from McDonalds and let it sit out to prove to a friend that it would last for longer than three days without growing mold... It did. The meal, which was brought home on April 10th, 2010, is still in the same position today. The picture taken then, and the picture taken now, is virtually identical.

Just the idea of something like that sitting in my stomach makes me cringe. Granted, I'll still probably eat McDonalds, it most definitely makes me think twice. It's truly an incredible feat for the human stomach to be able to break down something that after sitting out for 6 months virtually turns into plastic. Luckily, according to the sign, billions of these indestructable treats have been sold.

And Oliver thinks fast food has nothing to do with our fat nation...

Light Exposure May Cause Weight Gain-CNN

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I may not know much about mice, but I do know how they are different from humans. Being that they are the scratchy feet that run across the ceiling and floor boards at night tells me that they can work well under any conditions of light. This article suggests a correlation with the levels of light mice are given and weight gain. By being exposed to more light, the mice are said to have "gained more fat than the mice that lived in standard light conditions", being dimmed light, and dark conditions.

The article's reasoning for the weight gain, described that the mice were eating during their normal resting periods under conditions of exposed light. After the mice were put back on restricted food times, or when they normally ate, researchers didn't see the weight gain. Well, no way! Common sense sometimes makes all the difference! If mice are going to be exposed or able to see their food for a longer period of time, chances are they will eat for a longer period of time and, therefore, gain more weight. Now, the study would like to further research how this affects humans? Maybe the researchers should find more probable experiments and explanations first.

Banning Soda Purchases

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no coke.jpg

The state of New York and New York City have requested from the USDA permission to ban the purchase of sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages by people who are using SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program, aka "food stamps) benefit.  How to do you feel about the government dictating some people's food choices?  Good idea or too paternalistic?  What kind of response should we expect from the beverage industry?  From consumers that will be affected by the proposed ban?

In our class on Monday, we were shown a clip from Jamie Oliver's new television program, in which he attempts to revolutionize the food industry here in America. In the excerpt we were shown, Jamie travelled to an elementary school in West Virginia in an attempt to redo their lunch menu. The reactions of the students to the new menu was not at all surprising. Most of the students chose to stick to the greasy foods when given the choice between the old lunches and the new ones. Today, as I reading the Chicago Tribune health section, I came across an artile about Chicago chefs travelling to local schools, trying to spice up the school lunch menus. According to the article, this year Chicago public schools made it an action to modify school lunches to include more whole grains, less frequent nachos, fewer sugary cereals, no more doughnuts or Pop Tarts and more vegetables. Bob Bloomer, a regional vice president of CPS caterer Chartwells-Thompson, says this year the company introduced "less processed" entrees including Santa Fe quesadillas, fish tacos, Korean barbecue ribs and chicken fajitas to the lunch menus of the public schools. According to the schools, there were some clear hits and several misses with this new lunch plan. The biggest complaint among the students was that their nachos now included real cheese as opposed to the traditional nacho cheese. However, there are also a lot of students with mixed feelings about the new menu, and some students have decided to boycot lunch altogether. As you can see, Jamie Oliver is not the only one out there that has the idea to revolutionize the way schools serve school lunches,

Jordan Halvorsen

Soda linked to pancreatic cancer

An article in the MN Daily, "Soda linked to pancreatic cancer" by Tara Bannow explores that drinking more than 5 sodas a week you are 87% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer. The study did not asses diet sodas, though 90% of participants drank regular soda. The main point of the study was to put it back in peoples head's that they have to watch what they put in their body. Such a large sugar intake (from drinking soda) can do serious harm to your body. The study did not find a significant relationship with juice consumption because the sugars from juice are mostly naturally occurring. This study was done on specifically Asians, because two previous studies found a connection between soda drinking and pancreatic cancer and two did not. The researcher wanted to see if the connection could be applied all over the world.

The Overweight American vs. The Overweight Government


How much does the government really blow out of proportion this "Obesity Epidemic?" The cartoon shown above illustrates how the government is really the one overweighing Americans in their "struggle" against weight. If the government would take a minute to look at the cartoon presented above, and all the information they are feeding to Americans about obesity, they might realize their "weight" over the people.

Being an American means we have the right to be free, but how free are we when the government has ideal weights to go by? Notice in the cartoon, the government is not making eye contact with the American, but instead he is using the figures on the notepad in front of him to calculate that the American is overweight. The US government uses Body Mass Index (BMI) to calculate which Americans truly are overweight. I believe that if the government sees this as an actual issue in America, they should be turning to more accurate measures of body fat rather than simple measure of how tall you are divided by how much you weigh. This would make the governments statistics of overweight Americans not only much more accurate, but much more believable.

Laura Leibfried

Baby Carrots, The New French Fry

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In the article "Told to Eat Its Vegetables, America Orders Fries" published in the New York Times last week. The article looks at the decrease of vegetable consumption in past decades and how the vegetable industry as well as public health officials are trying to change this. The baby-carrot industry has recently implemented a 25 million dollar advertising campaign in order to promote their product.

Part of this campaign included putting vending machines that distribute carrots into schools. As much as I think promoting the the consumption of vegetables is important, I just can't see how having a vending machine with carrots is going to influence teens to make better choices at school when they still have the option of a candy bar in a vending machine next to the carrots. People are not going to change their eating habits just because it is available. As Marcia Mogelonsly, an analyst for a global food company stated, " Eating vegetables is a lot less fun than eating flavor-blasted Doritos, you will always have to fight that."

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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