Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Amusing: Australian hospital meals carry more fat 'than fast food'

Most traditional home-cooked dinners would too. They are the source of hospital "cuisine"

Public hospitals serve meals that contain more fat, salt and calories than McDonald's burgers. The Sunday Times obtained a Royal Perth Hospital hot meal and sent it to a laboratory for testing. The analysis revealed that the chicken and vegetable dinner had more fat, sodium and energy than a Big Mac or Quarter Pounder, and nearly as much as a burger and french fries combined.

But this meal is far from the worst that is often on the menu for patients. The Sunday Times is aware that fatty pork chops in sauce and sausages and bacon are also served. "The pork chops are horrible, they must be about 50 per cent fat," one hospital worker said.

Prominent dietitian Margaret Hays said patients should get a selection of food, but the Government also had a responsibility to offer healthy choices in hospitals -- especially considering the obesity epidemic. "With such a huge number of Australians being overweight, or having heart conditions or diabetes, I'd expect that hospitals, of all places, should be paving the way to healthy eating and setting standards," she said.

The lab results showed the hospital meal contained 28.4g of artery-blocking fat, 1208mg of high-blood pressure-friendly sodium and 625 calories. This compared with a Big Mac's 25.5g of fat, 846mg of sodium and 480 calories. A Quarter Pounder has 20g of fat, 690mg of sodium and 460 calories. Grab a McChicken burger and fries, with 944mg of sodium, and you still get more salt in the hospital meal. There's also not much more fat and energy in the burger and fries, at 33.5g and 672 calories respectively.

Hospital workers said there were "boring" healthier choices, such as cold meat and salad, and cereal. But people often opted for "greasy hot stuff", such as roast beef swimming in gravy.

Ms Hays said healthy food did not have to be bland, nor would it cost more for hospitals. Tasty casseroles and soups, using plenty of vegetables and lean meat, were among many cheap and healthy options. Australian Medical Association president Geoff Dobb said unhealthy meal options should eventually be phased out in all hospitals. Opposition health spokesman Kim Hames said with obesity now the major cause of health problems, it was disgraceful that there was still hospital food that was less healthy than burgers. The Health Department refused to comment.



There are plenty of things in Kentucky Fried Chicken that are bad for your health - cholesterol, saturated fat and salt, to name a few. But only one has the potential to get the colonel's recipe banned in New York City. That ingredient is artificial trans fatty acids, which are so common that the average American eats 4.7 pounds a year, according to the Food and Drug Administration. City health officials say these so-called trans fats are so unhealthy they belong in the same category as food spoiled by rodent droppings.

On Monday, the Board of Health will hold its first public hearing on a proposal to make New York the first U.S. city to ban restaurants from serving food containing artificial trans fats. Eateries are scrambling for ways to get trans fats out of their food. KFC Corp. said it was planning a "major announcement" in New York on Monday about a change coming to all 5,500 of its U.S. restaurants. Franchise owners told several newspapers and magazines that KFC would stop using partially hydrogenated vegetable oil - the primary source of artificial trans fats.

Representatives of the company and its parent, Louisville, Ky.-based Yum Brands Inc., declined to comment, but the possible switch was applauded by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which sued KFC in June over the trans fat content of its chicken. "Assuming KFC goes through with it, it would be a tremendous improvement for the nutritional quality of their foods," said the center's executive director, Mike Jacobson.

Invented in the early 1900s, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil was initially believed to be a healthy substitute for natural fats like butter or lard. It was also cheaper, performed better under high heat and had a longer shelf life. Today, it is used for deep frying and as a shortening in baked goods like cookies and crackers.

Ironically, many fast food companies became dependent on hydrogenated oil about 15 years ago when they were pressured by health groups to do something about saturated fat. McDonald's emptied its fryers of beef tallow in 1990 and filled them with what was then thought to be "heart healthy" partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Trans fats significantly raise the level of so-called "bad" cholesterol in the blood, clogging arteries and causing heart disease. Researchers at Harvard's School of Public Health estimated that trans fats contribute to 30,000 U.S. deaths a year. "This is something we'd like to dismiss from our food supply," said Dr. Robert H. Eckel, immediate past president of the American Heart Association.

Wendy's, the national burger chain, has already switched to a zero-trans fat oil. McDonald's announced in 2003 that it intended to do so, but has yet to follow through.

If approved, New York's ban would only affect restaurants, not grocery stores, and wouldn't extend beyond the city limits. But experts said the city's food service industry, with 24,600 establishments, is so large that any rule change is likely to ripple nationwide. "It's going to be the trendsetter for the entire country," said Suzanne Vieira, director of the culinary nutrition program at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I.

Richard Lipsky, a spokesman for the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, said many New York eatery owners rely on ingredients prepared elsewhere, and aren't always aware whether the foods they sell contain trans fats.

Consumer reaction remains to be seen. New Jersey state Sen. Ellen Karcher said her office was flooded with threatening phone calls after she proposed a similar trans fat ban in early October. A proposed ban in Chicago was ridiculed by some as government paternalism run amok.


See point 9 in red below to learn all you need to know about trans-fats


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.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter? It is just about pure fat. Surely it should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

9). For a summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and no lasting harm from them has ever been shown.


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