Tuesday, January 23, 2007


They are some of Australia's most trusted household brands. But as part of a campaign against childhood obesity, the independent consumer watchdog is naming and shaming the food manufacturers who are making children fat. "All natural", "low GI" and "real fruit" are just some of the descriptors used on 10 market-leading snack foods and beverages targeted at children and analysed by Choice. But even a single serve of these products can pack in as many kilojoules as a Big Mac and a middy of beer - without satisfying the tummy rumbles.

Arnott's, Uncle Tobys, Nestle and Ribena are among those named in the report, to be made public today, with two cereal-based products, hailed by the manufacturers for their energy-building qualities, leading the pack in excessive fat and sugar content.

Health-conscious parents are likely to feel dismay when they learn that one of Australia's best-loved brands - Milo, albeit in cereal form - contains almost as much sugar as and even more fat than the much-maligned Kellogg's Coco Pops. And while the childhood lunchbox staple of Arnott's Tiny Teddy biscuits may have been credited with single-handedly resurrecting the local biscuit industry more than a decade ago, a single 27-gram pack with accompanying pink dipping goo takes out top honours for cramming the most kilojoules into the least amount of food. Another lunchbox stalwart which has long been promoted by its manufacturer as a healthy children's drink, Ribena, consists of little more than sugar and water, while its essential ingredient - blackcurrants - makes up just 5 per cent of content.

Choice's spokeswoman, Indira Naidoo, said the association was exposing the market leaders because advertising and labelling led many parents to believe they were buying healthier alternatives to more overtly marketed junk foods. One product singled out by Choice, Go Natural's berry pieces in yoghurt, was even located in the health food section of a big supermarket, despite being laden with trans fatty acids. "Part of these foods' popularity is due to the misleading claims made, leading parents to believe they are not as unhealthy as they really are," she said. "But even a small serve can be as dense in kilojoules as a small meal."

Nestle's director of corporate and external relations, Peter Kelly, said Choice was confusing consumers and making "an unhelpful contribution to the debate over what constitutes a healthy diet". The kilojoules per 100 gram serve criteria used in the analysis meant that a child would have to eat three and a half bowls of Milo cereal to reach the 100-gram serving, he said, while almost seven bars of Uncle Tobys fruit roll-ups - also made by Nestle and singled out by Choice - would have to be consumed to reach the 100-gram target. "As we all know that simply doesn't make sense," Mr Kelly said. "It's a pity Choice has not taken the opportunity to provide consumers with some useful education on what is a very important subject."

But a spokeswoman for Arnott's told the Herald that choc-chip Tiny Teddy biscuits with strawberry dip were already marked for culling. The decision had more to do with low sales than their 80 per cent sugar and fat content, she said.


Speaking two languages may help stave off dementia

A dubious finding. Are speakers of two languages otherwise the same as monolinguals? Unlikely

Speaking two languages delays the onset of dementia by four years, a study found. Researchers in Canada, where the official languages are English and French, examined 132 patients with a diagnosis of probable Alzheimer's disease. Those who spoke two languages experienced the onset of dementia 4.1 years later than those who didn't, the researchers wrote in a study published in the February issue of the journal Neuropsychologia. The patients spoke a total of 25 different languages, including Polish, Yiddish, German, Romanian and Hungarian.

Previous studies have shown that lifestyle factors such as physical activity, social involvement and education may improve overall brain health. Bilingualism may help the brain build what is called a cognitive reserve, which may provide protection against the onset of dementia, the Canadian researchers said. ``There are no pharmacological interventions that are this dramatic,'' Morris Freedman, director of the Memory Clinic at Baycrest Research Centre for Aging and the Brain in Toronto, said in a statement today.

The difference in dementia onset remained even after the researchers factored in the possible influence of culture, immigration, formal education, employment and gender on the results, the study said. [IQ?] ``The data show a huge protective effect,'' co-investigator Fergus Craik said in the statement.

The finding, while in line with earlier research on lifestyle and dementia onset, is preliminary and needs to be studied further, he said. The researchers are working on a follow-up study to further examine the protective effects of bilingualism on the brain.



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 and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


No comments: