Sunday, June 03, 2007

When eating "right" goes too far

EXTREME healthy eating is becoming such an obsessive ritual that it is risking young women's health and spawning a new eating disorder - orthorexia. A term coined by international doctors in the past decade, orthorexia is when sufferers - particularly adolescent girls - become hooked on healthy and "pure" eating and put serious and damaging restrictions on their diets.

One leading Sydney expert, who said she was seeing an increasing number of teenage girls with the condition, said orthorexia could have short and long-term effects on bone quality, mood and immunity. The Children's Hospital at Westmead dietician Susie Burrell told The Saturday Daily Telegraph the signs of orthorexia were hallmarks of a serious eating disorder to come. "These are usually girls who only want things very healthy, they are very fat-phobic, they cook the meals themselves, they are very fussy about what they will and won't eat," she said. "There is a focus on keeping lean and thin and looking good and it's often smart girls who are doing well; they get very good grades, they're a good daughter and it goes to the next extreme."

Sufferers of the modern food affliction tend to control their meal portions to the extent where they avoid processed foods entirely and eat very small amounts and sometimes exercise obsessively. Unlike clinically diagnosed eating disorders such as anorexia, orthorexia is characterised by sufferers who have a fixation with food, rather than with weight loss.

Anthea Durrell, 14, said she saw schoolgirls in her year who became fanatical about what they ate and said messages about obesity could be misconstrued. "Lots of celebrities these days are really skinny, like Nicole Richie, and they have such a bad impact on what girls see as beautiful," she said. "It gives them messages that it is really bad to be even on the edge of being chubby.

Eating Disorders Foundation chief executive Amanda Jordan said current messages in regard to childhood obesity and increased weight gain could be wrongly interpreted in young, image-obsessed women. "You get really valuable messages that are getting interpreted in a way that actually works against a person's health," she said. Ms Jordan said orthorexia could become an obsession cycle of self-starvation which then escalated into life-threatening eating disorders. "There is a clear trend in people thinking there is a right way to eat and people going too far in following those guidelines," Ms Jordan said. "It's good to be working against having an obese population, particularly in children but the message over time is getting confused with the message that all fat is bad. "The tendency is sometimes to go overboard and I am really worried it will lead to an increase in eating disorders."


Ex-FDA researcher: Many dietary supplements tainted

The $22 billion dietary supplement industry operates with minimal oversight from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, despite a history of suspect quality and safety. About one in four dietary supplements tested don't meet quality or safety standards, according to former FDA research scientist William Obermeyer, a co- founder of the independent testing firm,, which tests thousands of supplement products.

Some are tainted with pesticides, salmonella, glass, bacteria or heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. Others fail for a variety of reasons, including a lack of ingredients, improper ingredients, failure to break down properly and mislabeling.

Because manufacturers seek low-cost ingredients, Obermeyer said it's a safe bet that some of the tainted products contain ingredients from China, which typically are cheaper.

Under a 1994 federal law, most dietary supplements -- vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids and other substances such as enzymes and metabolites, which are taken orally and intended to augment the diet -- don't need to be registered or approved by the FDA. FDA inspections have found supplement manufacturing plants with pest infestations, defective equipment and pipes that leak liquid onto products. But after more than 10 years of development, the FDA still hasn't set minimum standards for the safe manufacture of dietary supplements. Instead, manufacturers set their own standards.

Because supplements are classified as food, they aren't regulated by the same strict guidelines that govern drugs. Supplement manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that their products are safe and include all the ingredients listed on the package label. And like food manufacturers, supplement makers don't have to record, review or provide the FDA with reported injuries or illnesses that result from their products. Reporting is voluntary.

If safety, health or mislabeling problems develop, the FDA can restrict or remove a supplement from the market. Drugs, on the other hand, must be deemed safe and effective before they can be prescribed or sold.

China's emergence as a leading ingredient supplier for the supplement industry has raised new fears since a recent pet food scare was traced to adulterated Chinese wheat flour. Earlier this year, a shipment of bacteria-contaminated vitamin A from China also was flagged before it could be added to infant formula in Europe. And the FDA will start testing toothpaste imported from China after a poisonous ingredient used in antifreeze was found in Chinese-made toothpaste in Panama. Record requirements allow officials to track ingredients to the country and plant where they were manufactured.

Supplement companies are urged to buy quality ingredients from reputable firms, whatever country they're in, said Judy Blatman, spokeswoman for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, which represents supplement manufacturers and suppliers. "Quality has to be the No. 1 priority for ingredient suppliers and manufacturers," Blatman said. "We need to have high-quality products in order to maintain consumer confidence in them." That confidence was shaken in 2004, when the FDA banned the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedra, which caused tremors and heart palpitations and was cited as a factor in numerous deaths.

In February 1997, the FDA proposed mandatory rules outlining "good manufacturing practices" for the safe production of dietary supplements. But more than 10 years later, those rules still haven't been finalized.



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.


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