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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Old School

Harry S Truman signed the National School Lunch Program into law in 1946. That law was spit shined this past week with a number of new standards including a mandate to provide more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The new standards some experts contend will make America’s kids healthier through better nutrition.

The program which now offers breakfast, snacks and even dinner in some schools is touted as a low cost or free meal to our most vulnerable. Many who work in the school lunch program have stated that it is the only decent meals many school children get and without it they would go hungry. Therefore more and more dollars have been poured into this program as an anti-poverty measure as much as anything else.

The real question should be does more government spending and program expansion lead to less poverty? Statistics show that poverty levels are largely unchanged in the last fifty years despite billions spent in government attempts to eradicate the problem. If these anti-poverty programs were private sector businesses they would have been out of business long ago. If throwing money at the problem is not the solution then what is?

The solution to poverty, the health of America’s children and a host of other maladies lies in an institution that dates back to the beginning. The solution is marriage. The Heritage Foundation in a recent report shows that children who are born into two parent households where those parents are married are 82% less likely to live in poverty. The sad truth is that since 1946 the percentage of children born out of wedlock has increased by nearly 40%.

A society whose fabric is stability in the family structure is a part of the spiritual foundation that once undergirded our nation. A commitment to marriage in today’s vernacular is quickly becoming passé. Yet one thing we have is history as our instructor.

Many of those health elitists who champion government supervision of our lives and decry the unhealthy diet and lifestyles we live now always use as a contrast the simpler days gone by. Those good old days they tell us are when children were more active, ate less junk food, families ate dinner together and our world was a healthier and better place.  Those days were when the family unit was intact with moms and dads raising children not settling for the latest revision of a government program.  

The stability of any nation and the health of her children are in the home. Therefore the best “program” for us to pursue to make things right is called mom and dad.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Paula Deen and the Trapped Nutritionists

Television chef and personality Paula Deen revealed recently that she has type 2 diabetes. Taking advantage of the situation to demonstrate first rate condescension and everyone who has ever even seen a white lab coat derided the way she cooks on television citing it as the reason for the disease. All of that sugar and butter just is not good for a person some health pundits pontificated so Ms Deen should have seen the writing on the wall. Her freewheeling culinary message that if a little is good then a lot is better is going to lead to many people with getting diabetes as “she is a role model for a lot of people”.

 Jumping at Ms. Deen with such vitriol demonstrates that the health elitists are trapped in their own shortsighted ideology. Trapped is the appropriate description because they are unwilling to listen to any differing ideas on the topic. They assume this equation poor diet + Paula Deen = diabetes. What is missing in their analysis are the many other possible contributing factors to the onset of diabetes such as age and family history.

Age and family history are largely ignored because it is difficult if not unseemly to look down on someone due to age or genetically predisposed health issues. The way someone eats, their weight and their assumed lack of physical activity however is fair game to the nutrition know it alls. These after all are the golden keys to health and longevity.

The fact of the matter is that we are not meant to live forever and no amount of exercise and diet will thwart the natural processes of aging which usually includes the development of certain illnesses. This is true statistically because apart from accidental deaths the main cause of death is old age and the diseases associated with aging.

I don’t mean to say that we shouldn’t make every effort to be healthy including a good diet and regular physical activity. What I want to point out is that we shouldn’t be surprised to hear that a person in their mid sixties gets a condition such as diabetes.

Ultimately it is wrong for health elitists to tell anyone how to live their lives. To offer advice is one thing but arrogant condescension is beyond the pail. Last I checked we had certain inalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Within the bounds of these rights lies the right to eat what I like and even refuse to exercise.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Facts Are Stubborn Things

Keeping pace with nutrition literature and current trends is often puzzling. The ideas that are postulated rage from the possibly credible to the incredible. By incredible I mean arguments and ideas without credibility or substance. As has been quoted before “Facts are stubborn things” and such is the case with many nutrition ideas.

The most recent is the idea that we in the United States and especially our children are becoming more and more malnourished. This conjecture is often based on the notion that we don’t eat as many nourishing foods such as fruits and vegetables as we used to. Instead of these good foods many times people consume too much sugar and starch which in the minds of those who are willing to put forth ideas without the benefit of the facts are leaving us malnourished. Furthermore even those who are obese are regarded as malnourished because they are not eating the right types of foods.

All of these ideas sound good and make headlines that tug at the heart strings leaving many to angrily ask “How can this happen in our prosperous country?” To be sure it can happen and probably in some places for specific reasons it is happening and there are citizens of the United States who are malnourished. Yet on the whole such is not the case.

Clinical malnourishment is a condition brought on by a lack of nutrients that support normal body function. Deficiencies in vitamin C, D, though rare, lead to diseases such as scurvy and rickets. A lack of sufficient energy or calories in the diet leads to diseases known as kwashiorkor and marasmus. In the United States these diseases have not been heard of for decades if ever. If these diseases of malnutrition are diagnosed clinically today they are usually the result of another underlying disease such as cancer or HIV not the result of too much soda or too many French fries.

What is at play here is a little nutrition sleight of hand. While our collective attention is drawn toward the helpless, malnourished, obese children the facts say otherwise. The nutrition magicians who turn these tricks have learned how to sell their ideas on an emotional level. They know that no one wants to see our children hurt so they cleverly intertwine their point of view with our collective desire to protect the innocent. And alacazam we are persuaded to believe something that is contrary to common sense. We live in a land of plenty and have left over to spare. This may contribute to our national girth but malnourishment?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012 Predictions

Here at the close of 2011 and the beginning of a New Year I will continue to occupy my space in the puzzle that is nutrition. From that small but hopefully ever increasing niche that I carve here are a few predictions for 2012 in the sphere of diets and nutrition.

The diet industry will be more concerned in a fat wallet for them than a thin waste line for you. I don’t make this prediction as a pessimist but rather as an observer of the world. If there was a pill or an elixir that would make you thin virtually overnight you wouldn’t you have taken it in 2011 and have had no need for it in 2012. Yet as I have already seen this New Year there are pills and potions on store shelves both actual and virtual that promise big but deliver thin. These are the same products with a shiny new label that were promoted last year and the year before that and the year before that. If they truly worked as advertised they would be out of business. So save your money and skip the pills.

Every diet that promotes weight loss through eating fewer calories will work as well in 2012 as it did in 2011. Such will only work if they are adhered to with diligence. On again off again dieting rarely works at all so a little stick-to-itiveness will be the key to success this year. Diet programs such as Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and a host of other plans whose success is based on cutting calories is a testament to just how well this avenue to weight loss works. Only this year if you are trying to lose a little and save a little money then skip the membership fee and push yourself away from the table a little sooner than normal and you should get the same outcome.

Common sense will still the reining king of health in 2012. Despite the cries from the health Gestapo to ban sugary beverages, limit salt and fat through onerous government regulation thereby making your choices for you, you are in the driver’s seat of your own health.            Adults are defines as those with the ability to make a plan and follow it therefore rational adults ought to be able to understand that making healthy food choices is a simple matter of planning and follow through.

For example most would agree that a diet made up exclusively of cupcakes is not the best health choice. This is why most people choose not to do this type of thing. Rather most choose a variety of foods that include fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy and the like. This constitutes a healthy diet when a helping of moderation is added in to the mix.

So in 2012 the diet and nutrition parade really resembles a carousel since what is old comes around again and again. Only this go round will have new looks and labels to catch the unsuspecting in a marketing scheme rather than sell them a sensible plan of how to eat healthy which by the way you can have for free with the input of a little gray matter. Happy New Year!!!     

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Mantra For A New Year

“I am what I am and that’s all that I am” –Popeye the Sailor man

This quote from one of the most endearing characters in America History tells us a lot about ourselves. This sentiment reflects the rugged individualism that defines us as Americans. What it says is what you see is what you get like it or leave it.

Having been a fan of the spinach eating sailor since I was little I always appreciated that streak of independence. Lately it strikes me that we may need to rekindle that spirit of his “I am what I am” mantra and even apply it in other areas of life. For example instead of listening to every Tom, Dick and Harry with a lab coat tell us what our BMI should be and what our ideal weight ideally is why not decide I am what I am.

Working inside the beast called healthcare I very often see the frustration of those who feel that what the doctor says is just out of reach. Too often this frustration coupled with guilt for even looking at something sweet or fried leads to more guilt and poor self image. After the persistent message is that overweight and obese people simply lack the self control and will power to get healthy? Maybe the doughnut is in the other hand so to speak.

Rather than always lambaste the unwashed masses for their supposed inability to get with the program why not scrutinize the program for its relation to reality.  In his book The Obesity Myth: Why America’s Obsession with Weight is Hazardous to your Health author Paul Campos exposes the “witch-hunt masquerading as a public health initiative”. In the book he points out how those with the reins of power in public health have “distorted available evidence” and “severely exaggerated” the risk association between weight and health.

What Mr. Campos, a lawyer by trade, has stumbled upon I have seen and written about for years. People come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are big and some are small, some are short and others are tall. To try and force everyone in the country into a one size fits all health model is ludicrous. Not only is it a bad idea is it is a serious waste of taxpayer money as untold millions are spent annually to help us get fit and healthy with no observable benefit.

So on your next visit to the doctor they give you that mindless prescription “you would be a lot healthier if you just lost 10 pounds” be prepared to say “I am what I am and that’s all that I am. Do not allow anyone to push a line of guilt on you. Remember that most of us with a little extra around the middle are just as healthy and fit as everyone else. Do not be defined by the size of your pants or the number on the scale be happy with who you naturally are!