The Love Diet

sugar-and-spoons
The High Intensity Health podcast #150 touches on quite a number of points that reflect the interests of Childhood Obesity News. In this episode, host Mike Mutzel interviews Drs. Mark Dedomenico and Connie Guttersen on the topic of “Cultivating Weight Loss Habits and Mindset.”

After developing coronary bypass surgery (with fellow cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Lester Sauvage), Dr. Dedomenico segued into a career whose aim is to prevent anyone from ever needing coronary bypass surgery. The next step was founding the 20/20 Lifestyle Program, which can actually reverse heart disease.

The staff includes not only physicians but registered dieticians, certified exercise professionals, and licensed counselors. The program can add 15 years to a patient’s life, just like bypass surgery — but without scalpel or sutures. The patient meets with a psychologist once a week for the first six weeks and attends group therapy 10 times while in the program.

Full-scale staff meetings discuss each patient individually, and success is measured by more parameters than just the scale. People stay with the program for various lengths of time to learn new ways of living, and their average weight loss is 1% to 2% per week. Dr. Dedomenico says:

We used to run insulin levels here on every patient coming in. They were all elevated, which means insulin-resistant. By the time they were finished with the program, there were no elevated insulins, so I quit doing them…

We get our diabetics totally off their medication 73% of the time. We get our hypertensives off of all their medications, normal blood pressure, 79% of the time.

As in Dr. Pretlow’s W8Loss2Go program, patients identify their trigger foods. An important step is to eliminate sugar, because once it finds its way into the body, sugar calls out for more sugar. Since carbohydrates turn into sugar, they are frowned upon. But an emotional eater will eat anything, and with most people, it all comes down to emotional eating.

The need for psychological tweaking was obvious from the start, because the problem is mainly in people’s heads, and originates from their lack of self-love. (In fact, Drs. Guttersen and Dedomenico recently published The Love Diet, a book that was 20 years in the making.)

The people in the patient’s environment are very important, which is why the program recruits them as allies. Childhood Obesity News has noted how parents can be enablers and saboteurs, and unfortunately this is also true of spouses and children, who may have some unconscious vested interest in keeping a relative overweight.

Stress and sleep deprivation are to be avoided, as are large dinner plates. Both doctors emphasized that standard plates used to be 9” in diameter, but now are more likely to be 12” or 14”. Eating from a plate, rather than directly from a processed food package, is important because it ties into the need for mindfulness. Putting food on a plate is a signal to be aware: “I am eating.” When a person grazes and nibbles from packages, this is all too easily forgotten.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Cultivating Weight Loss Habits and Mindset,” HighIntensityHealth.com, 08/04/16
Sugar (red handles)
Photo credit: Lisa Risager via Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

Propaganda Wars — Coke and Advertising

coca-cola-holiday-truck
Yesterday, Childhood Obesity News related how Coca Cola issued a two-minute propaganda video titled “Coming Together,” that was perceived by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (among others) as being full of untruths. For instance, Coke talked about how the beverage industry “voluntarily” changed the products it makes available in schools. In the CSPI’s eyes, this happened because parents, school boards and states got active and succeeded in getting the sugary drinks kicked out.

To add to the general backlash against the industry, someone calling himself “John Pemberton” remixed the “Coming Together” video using its original visuals but substituting a voice-over narration that states the ugly truth about sugar-sweetened beverages. The name is presumed to be fake because the historical John Pemberton was the pharmacist (and morphine-addicted wounded veteran) who invented the original Coca-Cola formula.

Coke kicked it up a notch by creating more propaganda, described by Stephanie Strom for The New York Times as follows:

A second ad, to be broadcast Wednesday during the first episode of the new season for “American Idol,” will focus on consumers, emphasizing the calories in a can of soda and offering ideas about how to work them off, like walking the dog for 25 minutes, doing a victory dance or even laughing.

The corporation positioned this new video masterpiece as “information” because, as a spokesperson assured the press, “We’ve learned that consumers love more information from us.” Coke also suffers from some bizarre variety of messianic delusion, believing that “Coke has the power to connect people in a way that can help solve issues.”

Public Health attorney Michele R. Simon commented:

They are downplaying the serious health effects of drinking too much soda and making it sound like balancing soda consumption with exercise is the only issue, when there are plenty of other reasons not to consume too much of these kinds of products.

Of course, there is more to propaganda TV commercial spots. Advertising and public relations overlap, sometimes into the realm of extreme excess. We have mentioned Coke’s “Holidays Are Coming” truck, which last year rolled up to more than 40 United Kingdom locations. A member of Parliament issued a public statement making it clear that the traveling pop stand was not welcome in the city of Leicester.

This year, in a different part of England, politician Richard Kemp is equally appalled (his word) by the gaudy promotion, and has already begun a campaign to keep the truck out of his city this Christmas. He says:

In Liverpool, sugar is the new tobacco. At 11 years of age, 30 percent of the children in our city are obese, one in 10 of those are clinically obese. Almost all of them will become obese adults with a cost to the NHS of 5.1 billion pounds a year (6.72 billion US dollars). This takes no account of the personal misery… the shortened lives… the cost to businesses they work for…

Meanwhile, New Zealand contemplates a measure that would eliminate one of the most obvious sources of advertising, the product container itself. Next year, plain packaging for tobacco is supposed to go into effect, and anti-soda activists would like to see beverages treated the same way. On the “pro” side, research has shown that warning labels get more attention on plain packaging. On the “con” side, the ability of plain package to reduce smoking behavior has not yet been convincingly demonstrated.

Thanks are due to New Zealand Herald reporter Nicholas Jones for capturing a quotation from Olly Munro, president of the New Zealand Beverage Council, that is the epitome of tiresome elitist whining:

I think it is very unfair to try and compare tobacco and sugar-sweetened beverages to each other. They are completely different products, and there’s no way that you can compare the two of them.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Coca-Cola Obesity Ad Translated from Cokespeak to English,” CSPInet.org, 01/25/13
Source: “In Ads, Coke Confronts Soda’s Link to Obesity,” NYTimes.com, 01/14/13
Source: “Liverpool Politician Wants to Ban Coca Cola Christmas Truck Over Obesity Worries,” SputnikNews.com, 08/20/16
Source: “Plain packaging and warning labels on soft drinks could reduce obesity,” NZHerald.co.nz, 09/01/16
Photo credit: W_Minshull via Visualhunt/CC BY

Coke, CSPI, Truth, and Lies

coca-cola-mural
In the autumn of 2012, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) created a 3:48 video (watchable from this page) whose medium is animation interspersed with information bytes, accompanied by a bouncy love song to sugar. (A transcript of the complete soundtrack is available but it may not be accurate.)

A polar bear family suffers the consequences of drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, including the surgical removal of a foot, and a placard informs us that diabetes is the cause of more than 60,000 amputations every year. Ultimately, the bears go to the edge of the ice floe and pour their remaining supply of soda into the ocean.

Musically, the lyrics change from satirical to inspirational:

Oh, the power’s in your hands
You can have it all
You can live a long long time
The power’s in your paw.

But then, confusingly, the song reprises a former verse, snuggling up to sugar, a fact that seems to have escaped general notice. Or maybe it didn’t, and the confusing aural message explains why the video didn’t seem to gain much traction as a cultural artifact.

The Real Bears website quotes several statements from Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association, and calls out those institutions by unabashedly labeling the statements as LIES. Dedicated truth-seekers may follow a link to another page where the scientific studies refuting those lies are cited.

Shots fired

Coke responded that “Real Bears” was irresponsible and would not help the public understand “energy balance,” which is beverage industry code for “Consumers don’t exercise enough, and any weight gain is totally their own fault.”

Early in 2013, Coke produced a two-minute propaganda video, “Coming Together,” which the formidable Marion Nestle described as an act of chutzpah and desperation. In the ad, the Coke corporation explained about what a good guy it is, for putting the calorie count on bottles and cans, including the new, smaller ones. Oh, and for introducing even more zero-calorie and low-calorie beverage choices.

A lot of brain programming can take place within 120 seconds, and the underlying message of the work was recognized by critics as a soft-pedaled but confident reprimand delivered to fizzy beverage consumers, who really ought to exercise more. CSPI retaliated by calling the Coke ad “disingenuous corporate gobbledygook” worthy only of “guffaws, incredulity, and general ridicule,” about which Childhood Obesity News will have more to say.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Unhappy Truth about Soda,” TheRealBears.org, undated
Source: “Read The Real Bears Transcription,” Lybio.net, undated
Source: “Coca-Cola fights obesity? Oh, please,” FoodPolitics.com, 01/16/13
Source: “Coca-Cola Obesity Ad Translated from Cokespeak to English,” CSPInet.org, 01/25/13
Enjoy coca-cola
Photo credit: B. Rosen via Visualhunt/CC BY-ND

Painful and Funny Things About McDonald’s

mcdonalds-placque
The lovely former town of Woolwich (now part of London) has the distinction of being sort of a reverse Plymouth Rock. The first McDonald’s store in the United Kingdom opened there 42 years ago. The McDonald’s Blue Plaque is also said to be in Woolwich, “behind the delivery gates adjacent to Garrett House,” whatever that is.

The text on this classy piece of folk art reads:

Food and nutrition: To McDonald’s Restaurants for their contribution to child obesity in Britain since 1974.

The U.K. is famous for its anti-McDonald’s activists. As an example, Lee Miles of Hereford became frustrated, cross, and enraged by the obesity-promoting corporate brainwashing techniques aimed at his children and their peers. He fitted out a 47-second McDonald’s commercial (better seen than described) with a new soundtrack expressing what he believes the corporation actually means. The phrase “wrong message” is repeated several times.

Remember how McDonald’s public relations score suffered after someone leaked the employees’ manual? The Daily Mail summed it up like this:

McDonald’s website advises staff NOT to eat fast food

• The same website that told employees to apply for food stamps, pawn their things and find second jobs is at it again
• McResource Line advises employees to not eat deep fried food
• The Golden Arches wants employees to eat salad and vegetables — minus the bacon, cheese and mayonnaise

In one way, it’s hard to see where the problem lies. The corporation gives its workers solid advice, and what could be wrong with that? Employees do have health issues.

One reason may be the ubiquity of corn in the product. UC Berkeley’s Michael Pollan wrote:

If you take a McDonald’s meal, you don’t realize it when you eat it, but you’re eating corn. Beef has been corn-fed. Soda is corn. Even the French fries. Half the calories in the French fries come from the fat they’re fried in, which is liable to be either corn oil or soy oil… Everything on your plate is corn.

But this goes beyond employees. While it is unlikely that any children are employed by the corporation, the kids who are customers are undoubtedly affected. A report from King George’s Medical University indicates that children are getting crazy numbers of kidney stones.

Urology Department head Dr. S.N. Shankhwar told a journalist:

Fast food contains high levels of sodium which affects calcium metabolism in the body, causing a condition called hypercalciurea, which leads to the formation of stones. Aerated drinks also decrease the ph level of urine, which does not allow complete dissolution of waste products generated in the body, leading to crystal formation and strengthening of previously existing crystals.

The catalogue of misery generated by kidney stones is impressive. Grown women compare it to childbirth-level pain. Do kids have to suffer this way? As if that weren’t enough, fast food is also accused of lowering the nation’s intelligence quotient (IQ). A study of almost 12,000 children pointed to “a direct connection between fast food intake and lower marks in school.”

But which way does the arrow of causality point? Or is it all just coincidence?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “McDonald’s is given its own heritage plaque — but it’s not quite what you think,” Mirror.co.uk, 08/12/15
Source: “Dad becomes viral hit after he makes parody video explaining about McDonald’s and child obesity,” Mirror.co.uk, 08/21/15
Source: “McDonald’s website advises staff NOT to eat fast food,” DailyMail.co.uk, 12/24/13
Source: “King Corn,” HealthyRepublic.com, 08/10/10
Source: “New Study Shows That Children Who Eat More Fast-Food Score Lower Grades,” FoodWorldNews.com, 12/23/14
Image by Ian Reed

McDonald’s Follies

mcdonalds-exit-sign
A decade ago, Disney terminated the brand collaboration it had shared with McDonald’s, and some say that was the beginning of the end. Unwilling to be identified as childhood obesity villains, other allies have also abandoned ship since then.

Last year, McDonald’s suffered its first full-year sales decline in 30 years, and also lost the title it had held for 25 years of fast-food chain with the most “kid appeal.” As the investing website Fool.com put it, the golden-arched behemoth “lost its grip on the most important customer base — kids.”

This sad fate serves the corporation right for being so explicit about its desire to turn every child into a fast-food addict. The present-day spokespeople proudly quote founder Ray Kroc, who said, “If you have one dollar to spend on marketing, spend it on kids.”

That it occurred to anyone to give children toys as a reward for eating low-quality food, is a sad commentary on human decadence. School administrators had tried to unlock the magic formula that would persuade kids to eat more healthful cafeteria items, but not until McDonald’s demonstrated the effectiveness of the Happy Meal, did the education system taste victory.

The story is:

A new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found that children were more than 300 percent more likely to choose healthy meals in the school lunch line when they were offered with toys and prizes.

“A two-tiered approach of emoticons followed by small prizes as an incentive for healthful food selections is very effective in increasing plain white milk, fruit and vegetable selection,” reported the study.

This discovery had been foreshadowed by a 2012 experiment designed to encourage apple consumption. Cornell University manipulated the fare in a children’s lunch room by applying stickers of the cartoon character Elmo to apples, which caused twice as many children to choose them.

Mere weeks ago, McDonald’s bought 29 million gaudy plastic wristband fitness trackers intending to include them, instead of toys, with Happy Meals until the supply ran out. They were almost immediately recalled, after more than 70 reports were filed with the Consumer Product Safety Commission on behalf of kids who experienced skin irritations. The corporation encouraged anyone who had one of the gadgets to return it in exchange for “a yogurt tube or a bag of apple slices.”

As the world’s largest toy distributor, McDonald’s has made bad decisions before about what to include in a Happy Meal. James Joiner writing for The Daily Beast reminded readers of 2010’s cartoon-character-themed drinking glasses that contained carcinogenic cadmium. In 2014, Hello Kitty toys presented a choking hazard, and a Minions toy distributed last year reportedly said cuss words.

Regarding the wristband debacle, journalist Rod Chester expressed compassion mixed with tough love:

Perhaps McDonald’s should be praised for linking fast food to the need for exercise with a free activity tracker.

But if they really want to take a step forward, it’s time to make a change.

Ditch the toy and drop the Happy Meal. Unlike a rash on the arm, that’s one way that will irritate kids but will be good for them in the long run.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “How McDonald’s Lost Its Most Important Customer,” Fool.com, 02/02/15
Source: “Want your kids to eat healthy? Make their meals like McDonald’s,” DeseretNews.com, 04/28/15
Source: “McDonald’s attempt to make Happy Meals seem healthy just massively backfired,” BusinessInsider.com, 08/23/16
Source: “McDonalds Is Using Your Kids To Survive,” TheDailyBeast.com, 08/19/16
Source: “Maccas, just get rid of your crappy Happy Meals,” CourierMail.com, 08/22/16
Photo credit (exit sign): JeepersMedia via Visualhunt/CC BY
Photo credit: See-ming Lee via Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day!

Holidays are tough for the nutrition-conscious. Drive carefully and eat sanely. Forget the soda, drink lots of water. Have fun being healthy!

Image by nataliahubbert/123RF Stock Photo.

McDonald’s and Resistance, Kind Of

Chris-Woods
Want to know an easy way to burn a million calories in less than an hour? Set a McDonald’s on fire. That street joke expresses the collective malaise felt in a society that lives with a heavy load of cognitive dissonance.

The unholy mixture of fast food retail centers with hospitals has been recognized as a jarring misfit, and objected to in some places. Yet the cozy coexistence of the two institutions is pervasive, with almost one-third of children’s hospitals embracing fast-food outlets on their premises.

What’s in it for the kids? Plenty of research dollars and, up close and personal, the comfort of being in a familiar place even when far from home and under terrible stress. Children who lose their appetite from chemotherapy will at least eat a couple of fries and take a bite of burger.

When Dr. Rahul Parikh researched the topic, a McDonald’s store was the only 24-hour food source at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. At the time, 27 children’s hospitals in America had a McDonald’s on site, with of course other fast-food corporations in others. Parikh’s research was hindered by the fact that hospitals would not return calls or otherwise cooperate in discussing their fast-food partners.

Only McDonald’s itself would talk, and naturally had only positive things to say about itself. The company’s senior director of nutrition, appropriately named Dr. Cindy Goody, reminded the reporter that hospitals always need money, and McDonald’s leases space and pays rent. The fast-food companies don’t have to go begging, or do anything coercive. Hospitals come to them.

On the other hand, the doctor/journalist noted:

Several years ago, the Cleveland Clinic, one of the nation’s most respected centers, made the decision to remove McDonald’s from its premises. McDonald’s fought back, refusing to terminate its lease early. It remains open today.

But that was in 2011. Finally, four years later, the momentous news was announced that the Cleveland Clinic would be cutting its ties with the fast food giant. In the previous few years, seven hospitals had ended their relationships with Micky D — and not without complaints, because many visitors need a low-budget option. At the time, Cleveland Clinic’s spokesperson said they were considering more healthful replacements — a rather tardy effort, it seems, since the hospital had known for years that it did not intend to renew the McDonald’s lease.

In 2014, Watsonville, California, had a childhood obesity rate of 49.3 percent. Almost half of its kids, in contrast to the normal one-third in the whole county, were obese. There were two McDonald’s franchises in town, and when a third one was proposed, group of activist high school students protested. But the corporation promised almost 80 new jobs and enormous contributions to the property tax and sales tax funds, and currently there are three McDonald’s stores in the city.

The previously mentioned article by Dr. Parikh ends like this:

So we close our eyes, sign the contract, hand Ronald McDonald our soul, and let our patients eat their french fries with packets of fancy ketchup.

Visual artist Chris Woods has created a collection of paintings called McTopia, which addresses the effects of fast-food culture on society. The artist’s statement distributed at the show said:

I hope to give the figures a saintly air to emphasize the way our society worships consumer culture.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Why children’s hospitals tolerate McDonald’s,” Salon.com, 09/19/11
Source: “So Long, Big Mac: Cleveland Clinic Ousts McDonald’s From Cafeteria,” NPR.org, 08/19/15
Source: “Watsonville spends hours debating third McDonalds proposal,” kionrightnow.com, 10/15/14
Source: “Artist Chris Woods,” freeyork.org, undated
Image by Chris Woods, used with permission

Comedians Take On Fat-Shaming

comedians-on-fat-shaming
Bert Kreischer became known partly for starring in TV shows that challenged him to complete arduous or insanely risky stunts. Equal only to Lena Dunham in his (overweight) body positivity, when performing standup comedy, he prefers to be shirtless on stage, and in other settings is often pants-less as well. Holding unconventional notions about fitness he will, for instance, drink a bottle of wine while running on a treadmill.

Kreischer’s longtime friend is the equally hefty comedian Tom Segura. Both produce their own podcasts and often appear as guests on other people’s downloadable talk shows. Somewhere in all the banter, what started as a throwaway joke became A Thing, as the friends strove to outdo each other in mutual fat-shaming.

Spurred on by discussion of the mock feud on Joe Rogan’s podcast, which has millions of listeners, the good-natured rivalry has grown. The in-group prank has even prompted other aspiring comedians and podcasters to hold mock debates over which of the two is fatter.

The contest pervades their social media exchanges, and fans eagerly join in, using graphics editing programs to create “memes” that impose Kreischer’s or Segura’s head onto enormous bodies, or extending the joke in other ways. Kreischer’s web store sells a shirt that says “Fat Shaming is Real,” with a picture of a merman. (No doubt this is an inside joke best appreciated by hardcore fans.)

Segura’s merch page sells both #tomisfat and #bertisfat shirts. Identically priced, they are available in sizes up to XXXXL (yes, those are 4 Xs).

Kreisher took it to the next level by writing and recording a folk song, “The Ballad of Big Tommy Buns,” in which he generously advises listeners to support one side or the other by going to Segura’s site to purchase a t-shirt. A line from the song goes:

This is fat-shaming,
It’s supposed to hurt.
Buy the one that says “hashtag Tom Is Fat”
Let’s drag his name through the dirt.

In another verse, Kreischer invites fans to remix the sound track, which someone obligingly did. Another fan posted on YouTube the original version of the song, with the addition of helpful visuals.

The balladeer sings of Segura that “he never met a pizza he couldn’t outrun” and croons, “If you ask him which food he dislikes, the answer is ‘none.'” He states that Segura attended a “spin” class under the mistaken impression that cotton candy was made there, and accuses his friend of spreading out Skittles on the bed and giving them all individual pet names.

Both comedians appeared on a podcast episode hosted by AJ Hawk (visitors should be warned of the explicit language). Predictably shirtless for the video conference call, Kreischer admits that the actions his lyrics attribute to Segura, like dipping pizza in ranch dressing, are actually his own deplorable habits. They talk about how the strange controversy has changed their lives and their public deportment. Both are fascinated by the reactions of their fans, and what is revealed about society in general.

Before moving on to alcohol and other subjects, they engage in some serious discussion of the political correctness of fat-shaming, from the professional comedians’ perspective. Although they consider each other fair game, they agree that it would be uncool to call out a fellow comic who is truly morbidly obese.

Although it may not change history, the humorous debate has certainly impacted pop culture and stimulated a fair amount of thoughtful and conscientious discussion.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Ballad of Big Tommy Buns,” YouTube.com, 07/22/16
Source: “Bert Kreischer and Tom Segura: Who is Fatter,” YouTube.com, 08/07/16
Image (composite): The Hawk CastBert Kreischer on Twitter

Parents and Soda

soda-bottle-closeup
Dr. Claire McCarthy named four habits that parents would do well to cultivate. One of them is:

Don’t give your children any sugar-sweetened beverages. None. Zero. Zilch. Well, I suppose once in a blue moon, like at a special restaurant outing, is okay. But don’t have any soda or sugared juices in the house. They are calories your kid just doesn’t need (actually, nobody in your house needs them).

We have seen how some parents are irresponsible enough to give sugar-sweetened beverages to babies (and then blame the babies!)

Other parents are willing to try anything to keep their kids off sugar-sweetened beverages, including an appeal to the medial orbital frontal cortex, where the brain generates the ability to imagine a future reward and the stamina to hold out for delayed gratification. MedicalDaily.com published the story of the Sarisky family of Montana, in which the parents offered their two boys the “no-pop challenge” — a year without fizzy sodas or sports drinks, not even fruit juice.

The deal was, each boy could either have $100 on the spot and ignore the challenge, or accept it and win $500 when the year ended. Andrew went for the immediate gratification, but 10-year-old Jon opted for the fivefold reward. Just to make it official, the parents wrote up a fancy contract full of legalese, including a clause stating it was a zero-tolerance agreement with no recourse to a second chance.

Before officially starting his year of abstinence, Jon enjoyed one last orange soda. He then spent the year on water and milk only, and duly received his $500.

In “Addiction Model Intervention for Obesity in Young People” which Dr. Pretlow wrote with Carol M. Stock, we find this paragraph:

Here are problem food trigger examples:

— Whenever you have money in your pocket, you end up going to the store on the corner to buy candy.

— When you pass by the donut store on the way home from school, you can never resist getting a donut.

— Whenever your brother puts his soda pop in the fridge, you always drink it.

Money in your pocket, the donut store, and your brother’s soda pop in the fridge are your problem food triggers.

Between them, McDonald’s and Coke have all these triggers covered. Any kid cruising around with money in his or her pocket is likely to roll into a convenience store for a sugar-sweetened beverage, or a fast-food joint for fizzy drink and a couple thousand calories worth of pseudo-food full of mystery ingredients. The best solution, of course, would be not to carry money or a credit card, but in today’s world that is unlikely to happen.

The second trigger is even less avoidable. They are everywhere — the donut stores, the fast-food restaurants, the food trucks, the mini-marts, the vending machines — and cannot be dodged. The only solution is to make yourself a promise and keep it.

The third example, the brother who keeps his soda in the fridge, is emblematic of all unhelpful family members who leave tempting goodies accessible, especially within visual range. The constant cruel reminders are so hard to resist. If someone you know is battling obesity, try hard not to be that troll.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The four habits that can keep your child at a healthy weight,” Boston.com, 08/23/12
Source: “Soda Pop Challenge Success: Sixth Grader Gets $500 After Quitting Soda For A Year,” MedicalDaily.com, 01/04/15
Source: “Addiction Model Intervention for Obesity in Young People,” Weigh2Rock.com, 11/10/14
Photo credit: Andy Melton via Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

Fizzy Drink Peddlers at Their Worst

soda-can-tabs
For anyone interested in health, and especially in obesity prevention, there is truly no end of amazement and amusement in the preposterous nonsense spewed by the sugar-sweetened beverage industry.

Last fall, Prof. Peter J. Rogers of the University of Bristol was interviewed by MedicalResearch.com about the astonishing assertion that diet soda has no connection with excess weight. His study was published by the International Journal of Obesity, and the Medical Research interviewer asked about its background. Apparently, low-calorie sweeteners had received a bum rap.

The bad reputation came, allegedly, from “selective reporting of studies and outright speculation,” and this team of researchers set out to clean up diet soda’s besmirched name. “Our aim,” Prof. Rogers told the interviewer, “was to review the totality of evidence on this subject.”

His other statements included the idea that “Indeed, in some contexts low-calorie sweeteners may be better than water perhaps…” and while a scientist may get away with using an honest qualifier when the results are not crystal clear, the use of two of them — “may” and “perhaps” — in the same sentence, reminded critics of what are commonly called “weasel words.”

When asked what recommendations the findings might suggest, Prof. Rogers said that having a low-calorie sweetened drink might reduce a person’s desire for dessert.

The original article can be seen here and the most interesting part is the Conflict of Interest section, in which several of the study authors declare grants from Sugar Nutrition, UK; from the Dutch Sugar Bureau, and from Canderel (manufacturer of aspartame artificial sweetener), as well as other connections that might be considered improper.

After the year-end holiday clamor had passed, several interested media outlets commented on the study, some with a rather shrill tone. This excerpt is from a mild-mannered one:

Scientific research claiming that diet drinks could be better than water at helping people lose weight was funded by an industry body which includes Coca-Cola and PepsiCo among its members…

That “industry body” is ILSI Europe, which paid fees of around £750 ($1,000 USD) to some of the co-authors. Journalist Jonathan Owen went on to say:

Although more than 5,500 papers were reviewed, the comparison of diet drinks with water was based on just three. Two did not find any significant statistical difference in weight loss, and only one paper, funded by the American Beverage Association, found that those drinking diet drinks were more likely to lose weight.

Wow, talk about “selective reporting”! Perhaps the study authors should be congratulated for their persistence in plowing through 5,500 scientific reports to find one that supported the result they were looking for. But the Alliance for Natural Health noted that…

[…] women who drink diet sodas are much more likely develop heart disease and even die than other women. Women who consumed two or more diet drinks a day were 30% more likely to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular “event,” and were 50% more likely to die than women who rarely drink diet sodas.

They also called the Rogers study “bizarre” and scolded, “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” before finishing up with:

Shame on those involved in this for thinking that their manufactured, aspartame-filled beverages can improve upon water — the essence of life!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Low Calorie Sweeteners Not Linked To Weight Gain,” MedicalResearch.com, 11/12/15
Source: “A recent study that said Diet Coke can help you lose weight was quietly funded by Coca-Cola,” independent.co.uk, 01/17/16
Source: “‘Diet Coke Is Healthier than Water!’,” anh-usa.org, 02/02/16
Photo credit: Allison Matherly via Visualhunt/CC BY

Childhood Obesity News | OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say | Dr. Robert A. Pretlow
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