Friday, September 29, 2006

"Healthy" food turns out to be pretty ordinary

Children would be better off sitting down to a big fry-up for breakfast than eating some commercially produced muesli bars, so loaded are they with fats and sugars. A test found seven were so laden with kilojoules that a Mars Bar presented a healthier breakfast alternative.

The analysis of more than 150 different cereal bars by Choice magazine found that seven - including three types of Kellogg's K-time muffin bars - contained more kilojoules than the much-maligned Mars Bar. Two varieties of muesli slices produced by Sunibrite contained more saturated fat than a breakfast of two bacon rashers. Many others, including a range of Uncle Toby's muesli bars and a collection of cereal bars with the words healthy, fit or natural featuring prominently in their names, were at least 20 per cent sugar.

Of the bars tested, only 13 met all the analysts' healthy nutrition requirements, based on kilojoules, sugar, saturated fat, dietary fibre and wholegrain content. On the other end of the scale, the Nice & Natural yoghurt natural nut bar met none of the requirements.

While the healthy connotations associated with the words cereal and muesli were dubious in many of the bars, the definition of fruit in others was also suspect. "The fruit often found in some bars was more likely to have come from a laboratory than an orchard," said Choice's media spokeswoman, Indira Naidoo. She said parents should think again if they thought their children were getting part of their daily serving of fruit by unwrapping a bar containing what appeared to be dried strawberries, apples, pears or plums. The chances are that they are snacking instead on maltodextrin, glucose, fructose, humectant, vegetable fat, modified maize starch, flavours, colours, vegetable gum, food acid, firming agent and emulsifier.

The findings led Choice's analysts to conclude that despite often being labelled with "healthy" names, many of the bars really belonged in the supermarket confectionery aisle. Ms Naidoo said that rather than snacking on cereal bars, children would be better off eating an apple, which gave plenty of fibre, less sugar, and no fat.



Here come the health police. First they came for the cigarettes. Then they came for the sodas. Now it's the tanning salons. The cigarette war is winding down, as one country after another bans public smoking. A week ago, the top three soft-drink makers surrendered the first big battle of the junk-food war, agreeing to remove sodas from elementary and middle schools. A few days later, spooked by the outcry against fast food and childhood obesity, Disney fled an advertising deal with McDonald's. Nobody wants to be the new Joe Camel. But somebody will be. Look out your window: Summer is coming. Teens are getting ready for their proms. It's tanning season-time to stretch out on the beach, or under an ultraviolet lamp, and soak up a nice, warm dose of lethal radiation.

If you've had trouble seeing Cokes or cheeseburgers as the moral equivalent of cigarettes, brace yourself for the next public health menace: the sun. You thought it was our smiley-faced friend? Think again. Skin cancer rates are soaring. We're basking outside too long and with too little protection. The health cops want us to stop, but regulating a ball of fire 1 million times the size of Earth is somewhat more difficult than regulating corn chips. So, they're going after the radiation source they can get their hands on: tanning salons. A bill in Congress would stiffen health warnings on tanning machines. The American Medical Association is asking lawmakers to put these machines off-limits to anyone under 18, and the American Academy of Dermatology wants to outlaw them altogether.

About 30 million Americans use tanning salons. At least one of every four teenage girls, and nearly one of every two girls aged 18 or 19, has tanned indoors at least three times. Why? According to this month's Archives of Dermatology, "[ultraviolet] radiation, a classified carcinogen, is commonly and specifically marketed to adolescents through high school newspaper advertising" by salons. Why do kids keep coming back? A study in the current Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology suggests "frequent tanning is driven by an opioid-dependent mechanism." In other words, it's a physical addiction. It even has a street name: tanorexia. Harmful, addictive, marketed to kids-that's the three-count indictment that brought down tobacco and soft drinks.

Like the tobacco companies, the salons live in a bubble of denial that cries out for oversight. Last year, in a survey by Consumer Reports, one of every three salons denied that tanning could cause skin cancer or would age a client's skin. Their lobbying arm, the Indoor Tanning Association, asserts that "your body is designed to repair any damage to the skin caused by ultraviolet light exposure"-as though nobody ever died of melanoma-and hilariously suggests that exposing adolescents to the summer sun for two or three more hours per day would eliminate most cases of multiple sclerosis.

Still, there's something misguided about the crusade against tanning salons. Actually, two things: liberal bias against industry, and conservative bias against sensuality. Liberal bias puts too much scrutiny on indoor rather than outdoor tanning. Seeing nature as good and industry as evil, we treat salons as though they've perverted sunshine into a carcinogen. Politicians and medical associations say indoor tanning is worse because it cooks you faster and its risks are harder to recognize. That's exactly wrong. Outdoors, you have no clue how much radiation you're getting. Your estimate, based on the season or hour, is pure guesswork. You probably never think about altitude. You mistakenly assume that clouds, your white T-shirt, or being underwater are shielding you from more than a fraction of ultraviolet rays. You have no idea that the "SPF" factor advertised on your sunscreen tells you nothing about whether it blocks the rays that cause melanoma.

Yes, an indoor lamp can cook you faster. But you can choose the cooking rate, and knowing that rate, you can control the dose and customize it to your skin type. You can even regulate the composition of the light, avoiding rays that cause sunburns. A salon operator can program her machines to shut off after 20 minutes. Try shutting off the sun.

Conservative bias, meanwhile, puts too much emphasis on abstinence rather than moderation. Health advocates, determined to convince the public that tanning isn't risk-free, have simplified their message to the point of untruth. Even Cosmopolitan has suddenly gone prude. "A suntan is actually just as destructive to your skin as a raw, pink sunburn," the magazine warns in its May issue. Wrong again. The most thorough review of data, issued five months ago by a European Commission science panel, found clear correlations between sunburns and skin cancer, but no such clarity in studies of tanning salons and skin cancer. That's because a sunburn conveys how much radiation you got; a salon doesn't. The less often you tan, the softer the light, and the shorter your exposure, the lower your risk. It isn't the degree of risk that drives doctors crazy. It's that people are taking that risk, as the AAD puts it, "solely for cosmetic reasons." Pleasure! Superficiality! Yuck!

Listen to the arguments against tanning, and you'll hear echoes of the arguments against premarital sex. "Just one time in a tanning bed has the potential to cause harm," warns Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., co-author of the federal bill to regulate salons. The AAD says you should wear a broad-brimmed hat and long pants, apply sunscreen half an hour before you go out and again every two hours, and stay out of the sun until 4 p.m. You might as well be in a chador. As for the idea of getting a "base tan" to prevent sunburn, dermatologists protest that this flimsy shield will only embolden you to persist in risky activity. Sounds like the case against condoms, doesn't it?

Part these clouds of bias, and the truth shines through. You can't stop tanning; the best you can do is help people control it. Toward that end, the industrialization of ultraviolet light is a blessing. It gives us the power to clarify, modulate, and customize dosage. Salons need oversight to make sure they help clients understand and manage this power. But if you shut them down or lock out teenagers, be prepared to enforce a dawn-to-dusk curfew or face an epidemic of skin cancer. If you liked back-alley abortions, you'll love backyard tanning.

Technology without guidance can be dangerous. The emerging peril in the tanning world isn't staffed salons; it's coin-operated, unsupervised machines, already proliferating in Europe, in which kids can toast themselves for lunch money. But with guidance, technology often solves its own problems. It won't be Congress that stops teens from cooking their skin. It'll be tanning sprays and lotions, which continue to improve in appearance, durability, and popularity. And guess who's going to lead the way? Salons.


Hay fever cure? "Allergies could soon be treated using new drugs that trick the immune system into thinking that it is under attack, according to scientists. Allergic reactions occur when the body's defences react to harmless substances, such as pollen, and research suggests that diverting the immune system could be a successful way of preventing them. Cytos Biotechnology, a company based in Zurich, Switzerland, has developed an experimental drug that fools the immune system into thinking that it is under attack from a germ called mycobacteria, found in dirt, and early results suggest a benefit for hay fever. When 10 people suffering from hay fever were injected with the drug, CYT 003-QbG10, their sensitivity to grass pollen was reduced by a factor of 100, New Scientist magazine reports. Cytos said that the patients remained symptom-free for up to eight months, but it is not yet known whether the results are permanent. A previous study indicated similar benefits for patients allergic to dust mites. They are symptom-free a year on. Cytos has begun a study on more than 100 people with hay fever, dust mite allergy and atopic dematitis. Mycobacteria, also found in soil, are pathogens to which people are exposed at much lower levels than in the past. Artificial exposure may "reboot" the immune system."


Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

problems with your "problems with the obesity war"

1. yeah of course they're going to target everyone:
-people who are overweight and need to lose weight
-people who are not overweight, and need to stay like that

2. just because their BMI is high doesn't mean they're overweight. Muscle is denser than fat and therefore a person may look obese and be quite heavy, but at the same time be perfectly healthy- helping them live longer.

3.the "attack" on junk food is NOT to show that junk food is the only source of calories. It is there to promote more nutritional food- because most junk food does not contain essential vitamins and minerals that help the body function (duh).
It is also there to promote eating less processed, trans-fat-filled food, because you simply shouldn't eat them all the time and shouldn't NEED to eat them all the time. I know that if you ate just healthy food (which isn't laden with oils, fats and salts) for a month you'd feel a LOT better than if you got KFC or Mcdonalds for a month.
Finally, it is not just calories that they're worried about, it's things like diabetes and blocked up arteries.

4. Yes, you ARE all in trouble because that IS bad. Do you really think you can have a healthy diet with that processed, oily food?

hmmmm, maybe you should watch Food, inc.

5. really? obviously you don't understand the word 'moderation', because the "food warriors" are not asking everyone to cut salt out of their life altogether- that would be practically impossible. They are making a big deal about salt and fats etc, so that people will take in mind the recommended amount the next time they go out for food. They are informing the world about the harmful effects of an unhealthy diet, so that they can help people who are critically overweight and people who don't know the effects of too much salt.

6. where's your evidence that the foods they are restricting are just as bad as milk or fruit juice?

7. exactly, it's genetic. This means if the "food warriors" spread out the word, people may realize that they shouldn't eat too much, get to a healthy weight, and pass those healthy genetics down to their children.
And are you saying that just because someone got certain 'obese' genetics, that they wouldn't WANT to lose weight?

All in all, would you really want to tell everyone that junk food is good, and bring up a generation of kids addicted to sugar, salt and fat?

with your thinking, the whole world with start eating like americans- which does not only mean that the world will turn out looking like those people on "WALL-E", but entire forest will have to be destroyed to grow enough food for the ever-growing population.