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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pulling the Rug...

There are no shortages of reasons given for the obesity “epidemic” here in America. Sugar soda consumption, long hours sitting in from of a computer or television and easy access to junk foods are some of the more common reasons given by the experts.

Another reason heralded by the same experts in recent years has been the idea of food desserts. A food dessert is a community where obesity rates are high but access to healthy food is low. These are typically reported to be in poorer neighborhoods among those who have limited access to transportation. Thus with limited financial and travel resources to get healthy foods residents of the community resort to eating readily available unhealthy foods from convenience stores and fast food establishments. This according to experts is the case.

However a couple of recent studies show a much brighter picture. One study by the RAND Corporation a nonprofit research institute found that rather than being food desserts these neighborhoods should be called food swamps because of the many available food options. In other words the very idea of food desserts has been a fabrication of those in the health misinformation industry whose job it is to protect their job.

An article appearing in the New York Times about these findings lamented:

Some experts say these new findings raise questions about the effectiveness of efforts to combat the obesity epidemic simply by improving access to healthy foods. Despite campaigns to get Americans to exercise more and eat healthier foods, obesity rates have not budged over the past decade, according to recently released federal data.

Why is this the case when billions and billions of tax payer dollars are spent annually on healthy promotion and healthy eating campaigns? The truth is what I have been writing about for nearly a decade. That is some people are fat and others are thin. Some people will get diabetes and others will not though they follow a similar diet pattern. More importantly all people regardless of where they live, what their financial status is and whether they have access to transportation will eat what they like.

Incidentally the US Department of Agriculture report on food desserts found that few areas in our nation met the strict qualification of a food dessert. One of those areas that qualifies is the neighborhood where I live just miles from several large grocery stores.

USDA food dessert report

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Confidence Lost

Stop the presses a new study has found that belief in science among conservatives has dropped sharply in the last quarter century. Gordon Gauchat a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill reported in a review of data from the General Social Survey that conservative’s confidence in science has dipped from nearly 50% to 35%. Moreover Dr. Gauchat was trying to support the thesis of Chris Mooney’s’ 2005 book “The Republican War On Science”.

Dr. Gauchat and Mr. Mooney theorize that conservatives have lost confidence in science largely because of the influence of religion in conservative thinking, a general distrust of government regulatory power, overall growth of government and the political nature of science. Each of these theories accurately assesses conservative skepticism of modern science but there is a why behind each reason.

Over the past century scientific dogma has sought to replace faith in God with faith in science. Disciples of Darwinian evolution have taken extreme measures to purge the mention of God from public schools and the public square in general. Faith in God and the Bible still held in high esteem among conservatives has been maligned, impugned and ridiculed as a fairy tale by science. Science has set itself at opposition with faith rather than seek to coexist with it. Is it a wonder then why conservative religiously minded people choose to ignore “science” that seeks to undermine their faith? 

This same anti faith science has been used by an ever growing government to restrict and regulate practically every area of our lives. From the cars we drive, the fuel that powers them, what makes a healthy meal how food is grown, how our homes are built and on and on and on are regulated by government which is “supported” by science.

Of particular interest here is food and nutrition. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the current My Plate began as a child of politics in a Senate subcommittee in the 1970’s that went looking for “science” to back up its desire to insert itself into our lives. Many of those recommendations were based on the scientific idea that saturated fat and cholesterol are the direct causes of heart disease as hypothesized by Ancel Keys in the Seven Countries Study published in the 1950’s. The problem is that the theories postulated by Dr. Keys have been disproven by more recent scientific discovery yet government recommendations and policy still operates under the former paradigm.

Furthermore science or what is called science has become hyper political. For example consider that since the 1970’s science has gone from predicting a coming ice age to declaring an impending global warming apocalypse. What causes conservatives to question the science of global warming is the childlike insistence that global warming is a fact and no opposing opinion or view point can be held on the subject. As open minded as those on the left claim to be they only on rare occasions demonstrate that open mindedness. Therefore since the science of global warming is not subject to debate our government has taken the opportunity to regulate more of our lives including banning incandescent light bulbs to investing in phony green energy companies to subsidizing electric cars and mass transit for everyone to prepare for the global cooking.

Looking at the evidence and drawing conclusions based on that evidence then being able to verify those findings through further investigation is the scientific process. Much of what passes for science falls far short of being verifiable through further study.  It is then entirely plausible to infer that conservatives have lost confidence in science because much of what is called science is biased against the conservative point of view. It appears that anti conservative point of view is all that is needed to be considered sound anymore. Speaking for myself and I think many others conservatives as well I don’t need science to validate my faith, my common sense, my family or my life. Until science gets outside of the fish bowl I suppose they will continue to lose credibility with us conservatives.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Friendly Neighborhood Produce Man

Some time ago I was invited to be a panelist for a men’s health forum. Heart health and nutrition were the main topics and as such weight loss was discussed. Weight loss and a low fat diet have long been regarded as key nutrition interventions for a healthy heart. One man in the audience shared his experience with weight loss while working in an Africa country.

There, he explained, it was easy to eat healthy because readily available fresh fruits and vegetables were and part of every meal. As a result of having worked in that environment for a number of months he pointed out that weight loss was easy. He noted that he lost a considerable amount of weight and felt great as a result. What he said next however was quite curious.

Upon his reassignment to the states and consequently resuming the “American” diet the same fellow noted that all the weight he had lost came back and then some. The reason he gave was that fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods are just not as accessible here as they were to him there. After unfurrowing my brow I asked “Have you been to your local supermarket lately”?

Far too often the sentiments just described are espoused without question. Many in the health establishment like to pontificate on the difficulties of eating a healthy diet in our modern society. When I hear these things I have to wonder if they ever even go out of the house.

Within a few miles of my house there are five or six grocery stores with a produce sections containing hundreds of different varieties of fruits and vegetables. All I have to do is be willing to go there, pay what they are asking then bring those fresh healthy foods home to eat which I do with relative frequency. This is why I have such difficulty going along with what is routinely said regarding the availability of healthy foods in our country.

Furthermore the fruits and vegetables found in these stores is much less expensive per portion that so called “junk foods” or other choices that could be made. For example bananas the last I saw were 69 cents per pound putting one banana at between 25 and 30 cents.

It is always easy to complain about certain circumstances and glamorize how they would be better somewhere else. That is the essence of the saying how green the grass is beyond the fence. In terms of food availability and inexpensive nutrition we have it great right here at home in the good old United States. If you have a doubt about that pay a visit to your friendly neighborhood produce man.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Truth....Can You Handle It?

Truth is somewhat like a vineyard of grapes in that to get the best fruit you must dig. Truth may not always lie on the ground for the taking therefore you must dig to get to it. In terms of science the truth may change as new discoveries are made. For example some in the scientific community once considered the earth to be flat an idea that has been roundly disproven by more modern science.

Nutrition science is much the same in that it too changes as new discoveries are made. For example scurvy once a widespread often fatal disease common among sailors was thought to have been caused by consuming tainted canned meat. Since 1932 however when vitamin C deficiency was shown to be the cause of the disease scurvy has been all but eradicated. Now a case of scurvy could be cured by a glass of orange juice.

Fast forward to today and take note of how much of what we do and the diseases we incur is said to be affected by nutrition. For the last half century is has been commonly assumed that the science behind saturated fats and their link to heart disease were set in stone. In fact most doctors practicing today operate under this paradigm yet the science is not as clear as you might think.

In 2009 a review of studies conducted over the 14 years prior was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In that article researchers found there to be no evidence for the conclusion that saturated fat was associated with an increased risk of heart disease (1).   So after all the years of preaching low fat dieting has the truth finally been uncovered? The evidence seems clear but a generation of health policy is not cast aside in a day.

Next notice the statement published by the American Diabetes Association on its own web site in the diabetes myth section. It declares that most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes and many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight (2). Furthermore the ADA explains that eating too much sugar does not cause diabetes (3). Surely there must be a misprint and the web master needs to correct the mistake most might say but could it be that the truth is not watered by popular belief? Perhaps it is time to heed the truths of nutrition science rather than make assumptions based on tradition.

 Finally another long held belief is hopefully going the way of antiquity. For years we have been conditioned to hold back on the salt shaker because higher sodium intake was linked to hypertension and heart disease. The truth seems to be that the opposite is true. A recent study found that that those who consumed the least amount of sodium had the greatest incidence of heart disease and those who ate the most salt had the least amounts of heart disease(4).

These are only a few of the big nutrition related issues that have changed as science has made its inquiry and discovery. What changes at the slowest rate are the perceptions and attitudes that have been built around the old science over the last generation. What we should expect and even demand from our doctor, nurse or nutritionist is the truth as told by the most recent and credible science available. Our responsibility is to dig for that truth and not just accept what might be lying on the ground.





Saturday, February 18, 2012

They're Here............

In case you missed it in last week’s news a “government official” confiscated the lunch of a four year old preschool student in North Carolina because it did not meet the nutritional requirements as a healthy meal. Yes around January 30th in Raeford North Carolina at West Hoke Elementary School a lunch brought from home consisting of a turkey and cheese sandwich, chips, banana and apple juice did not meet the government guidelines so the child was made to eat a government prepared meal of chicken nuggets. But wait there is more.

Another child in the same school around the same time was told her lunch did not meet the established government requirements and that she would have to eat a lunch from the cafeteria as well as pay for it.

As you might imagine school officials are hiding under their desks waiting for the storm to pass but in the meantime are blaming the students. Bob Barnes an assistant superintendent in the Hoke County Schools said in an interview with the McLatchy news service that the first child just misunderstood her teacher when she thought she was told to put away her homemade lunch and get one from the cafeteria. Barnes went on to say that the cafeteria foods were only meant to supplement items missing from the homemade lunch box.

Why are these things happening in a so called free nation? The first reason is competition. Every child that brings lunch from home is one meal that is not purchased from the school cafeteria. Since government funding of the school foodservice is based on rates of participation then brown baggers are seen as competition for the cafeteria. This is likely the reason that the children at Hoke Elementary were made to purchase foods from the cafeteria. This can be filed under the banner “If you can’t beat them ban them”.

Another reason for this trespass of freedom can be drawn from a memo sent to parents of West Hoke Elementary students dated January 27, 2012. In that memo the principal of the school Jackie Samuels noted that the West Hoke Elementary school received a rating of “good” rather than “excellent” on a recent ECER-S review. One of the glaring deficiencies noted was the nutritional quality of the meals brought from home.

So to protect the status of the pre-K program and no doubt the federal funding this principal has send correspondence to the West Hoke parents on how to assemble meals acceptable to federal USDA nutritional guidelines.

These stories are outrageous in a nation that calls itself free. If these things are going on in North Carolina then they are probably happening in many places. For many years our government has used the avenue of nutrition to drive its controlling talons into our national psyche. For the last few years many of those attempts to gain control have been chronicled here.

This is a tipping point in the race and it is time to let your voice be heard. Will you sit by and be bulldozed while a government cloaked in care and compassion takes away your right to eat the way you want? What next and then what will it be after that.

I have seen this coming for years and have warned of it but now….they’re here…….

Saturday, February 11, 2012

If It Sounds Too Bad To Be True Then It Probably Is

If it sounds too good to be true it probably is the old saying goes but what if it sounds too bad? If something sounds too bad to be believable it likely is as well. That is especially true given most of what is said about health and nutrition! The most recent example is an article by Dr. Robert Lustig in Nature the weekly international scientific journal.

The article titled The Toxic Truth about Sugar attempts to link sugar, the stuff that sweetens your tea with every health issue known to man. Everything from obesity and diabetes to heart and liver disease are linked to the sugar we consume. Dr. Lustig went even further in his assessment putting sugar on the same level as tobacco and alcohol in terms of its negative effects on health. After reading the article I have concluded that it just sounds too bad to be true.

Health warnings through the years such as salt causes high blood pressure and butter leads heart disease have made great fodder for the headlines but have done little to clarify what it really means to eat a healthy diet. As a consequence the ridiculousness escalates until there is a headline calling sugar a toxic substance needing to be regulated by the government. Another and even more egregious consequence is that we begin to question or ignore our own common sense when it comes to what we eat.

Here are a few quotes I have heard that highlight the point “White bread is bad for you and may cause diabetes”, “Refined white flour and sugar are devoid of nutrients and make you fat”, “I really need to stop poisoning myself with all of this sugar”. These comments and others like them may be a reaction to a headline but are in no way related to facts. The next time you read or hear something along these lines ask yourself “Does this sound too bad to be true?”

Although we are constantly old that many of the foods we eat, white bread, sugar, pasta, butter etc., are causing poor health is it true? Is drinking a soda or glass of sweet tea as bad for your health as smoking cigarettes? Is that linguine Alfredo you had for dinner on par with several shots of hard liquor in terms of health?  Is a Twinkie going to send you spiraling into a diabetic coma? The answers are no, no and no to all three.

Rather than writing a dissertation skewering all of these outlandish health claims I encourage you to ignore them and trust your own common sense. Seek out good sound information (i.e. from mother and grandmother) on what is good and healthy for you to eat. Finally if it sounds too bad to be true, it is!