Bonnie Modugno, MS, RD
An email from my husband first hinted at the problem. Millions of eggs recalled, and his business is food distribution. Another very difficult day at the office.
He has lived in parallel universes for awhile now. Most of the food he sells is conventional, directed to the restaurant, hotel and institutional market. Price point is the paramount concern. Quality is a close second, but often price trumps quality. How food is raised and how the crops, animals and the workers are treated isn’t even on the table (pun intended).
I’m vacationing in Carpinteria this week, a second home for most of my life. My family started visiting Carpinteria when I was a baby and by my 16th birthday we were lucky enough to visit often, staying at one of the units my dad built just two blocks from the beach.
Last Thursday evening I listened to three farmers and an executive chef share their views and experiences working close to the earth. KCRW’s Good Food host, Evan Kleiman, moderated the Santa Monica Farmers Market quarterly panel about meat and sustainability. Panelists featured farmers Marcie Jimenez (Jimenez Farm), Greg Nauta (Rocky Canyon Farm) and Mark McAffee (Organic Pastures Dairy) and Rustic Canyon’s executive chef, Evan Funke.
I am encouraged and reinforced. It is good to commune with those of like mind. There is much to gain from eating close to the earth, including meat and animal products raised by people who are committed to working with animals in the most humane and responsible way. We all benefit.
Finally some sanity in the research linking weight and body mass index (BMI) to increased risk of morbidity and mortality (research speak for disease and death). A recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine has identified waist circumference as far more predictive of health risk, including death. For decades the public and professional masses have been bombarded with a distorted perception of risk from the scale. Too many experts insist that weight alone or BMI is the best predictor of risk for both disease and death. Hogwash.
I have said for years that the scale is a very crude tool, and BMI is a simple ratio of weight and height. Many studies confirm that fitness trumps weight. Studies of active people and fit athletes bear this out. The heavier body mass from hypertrophied muscles increases both weight and one’s BMI, but doesn’t necessarily increase risk of disease or death. Most often a healthier active lifestyle actually decreases risk of morbidity and mortality because fitness is a huge factor decreasing health risks.
Randy Dotinga of Business Week glosses over the details and fails to ask the more penetrating questions. In an article published on August 2, 2010, “Low-Carb, Low-Fat Diets Tied For Long-Term Weight Loss” there is so little “news” that I wonder why it was published.
That is, except for the fact that many people–and scientists– want the issue of weight loss to be all about calories. We will be “treated” to these poorly investigated findings as long as there are scientists who insist that weight is primarily determined by the balance of calories in versus calories out.
New research underwritten by The Calorie Control Council asserts that using artificial sweeteners helps decrease intake of calories without overeating or hunger. The recent study states that study participants consumed a “pre-meal” dose containing sucrose (table sugar), stevia or aspartame and successfully consumed fewer calories without greater hunger or over eating at other times. From the details revealed in the report, I still have questions. But, I think the study design has a lot to do with reported outcomes.
When artificially sweetened products are consumed and what they are consumed with makes a difference. This study looks at sweetened products consumed before a meal. The emphasis of the study’s findings is to underscore fewer calories consumed. But the majority of criticism I read focuses on what happens to those calories, something scientists call nutrient partitioning.
July 18, 2010
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines are available for public comment and controversy has reached a new high. The USDA website has registered 1891 comments so far. Comments come from the usual commercial interest groups, nutrition and medical experts, journalists as well as the lay public. Most agree there are some noted and celebrated shifts in the report, and other recommendations just haven’t kept up with current research.
July 12, 2010
The LA Times Health section features two articles regarding milk in the diet and both of the articles explain my ongoing tolerate/hate relationship with this section. I like the idea of disseminating science via the daily newspaper. It is a resource many people look to for reliable information, whether reading it at the breakfast table or looking it up online. But the lack of journalistic rigor make these articles more saccharine than science.
July 1, 2010
So the political pundits are all over Elena Kagan’s response to a rhetorical question by Sen. Tom Coburn (R- Okla.) I probably would have taken the question quite literally, too. This discussion deserves far more attention. While health authorities bemoan the lack of “nutrient dense” whole foods in the American diet, government policy actually entices people to eat fewer fruits and vegetables.
A new study out of Northwestern University recommends lower target heart rates during exercise stress tests for women. www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2010/06/heartrate.html This is a stark reminder that previous targets were established for men–and used for women just the same.
So what happens when a target heart rate is set too high? The increased level of stress during an exercise test distorts the patient’s health status, and medical treatment is likely to be inappropriate as well. But there is more to this. Heart rate is an indicator of how the body is burning fuel.