Sunday, February 24, 2008

Dietician: No such thing as a healthy pizza

Given her stupid assumptions, she would be right

A BRISBANE dietician claims the Heart Foundation's "red tick" program may be inadvertently contributing to Australia's obesity epidemic. Writing in today's Courier-Mail, accredited dietician Julie Gilbert also claims the credibility of the Heart Foundation's endorsement has been severely damaged after a takeaway pizza chain paid $20,000 to become the latest fast-food company to gain endorsement. Ms Gilbert claims the tick may actually encourage dieters to gorge on foods such as pizza because they mistakenly believe they are low in fat and calories.

The Heart Foundation last week awarded its red tick to a chain of takeaway pizzerias on the grounds they were healthier than the mass-market alternatives. Crust Gourmet Pizza Bars, which has 16 stores in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, created six new pizzas to win the branding icon. It reduced the saturated fat and salt and boosted fibre in its pizzas. Products made by fast-food companies such as McDonald's and Jesters Pies also are among more than 1200 foods currently awarded the tick. Fees range from a minimum $3000 annual licence to 0.25 per cent of sales of ticked foods.

But Ms Gilbert claims pizza remains a high-salt and high-fat meal. "And just because it has the tick does not mean it is OK to park your bum in front of The Biggest Loser and eat the whole damn thing," Ms Gilbert writes.

The foundation says it has responded to public demands for healthier food choices by challenging pizza companies to provide healthier meals.


That lovely "healthy" organic food

Andy Valy had never before purchased Bolthouse Farms carrot juice, but decided to pick some up - it was organic, after all, so he figured it was the "healthier" choice. But the choice was near deadly. He and his wife, Susanna Chen, contracted a severe case of botulism from drinking the contaminated juice in late August and early September 2006. They became violently ill, suffered paralysis, slipped into a coma and required a ventilator to breathe. The Toronto couple never fully recovered and are now planning to sue the California company that manufactured the drink.

"I may be in a wheelchair the rest of my life," Chen said yesterday, her eyes welling with tears as she looked at pictures taped to the wall of her hospital room - painful reminders of a life they once shared. The photos document their love of ballroom dancing and some of the seniors amateur competitions they were featured in - a passion they nurtured despite Valy's busy job as a manager in a packaging company and Chen's hectic schedule as the owner of five boutiques. In the pictures, the pair is beaming, her svelte figure draped in elaborate gowns as he twirls her on the dance floor. "I would rather dance again than have any money," said Chen, hooked up to an oxygen tank at the Lyndhurst Centre rehabilitation hospital, where she's been since her release last month from the critical care unit of another hospital. "I want to dance again and be useful. I've lost my freedom, my health and my future."

Her comments were echoed by the visiting Valy yesterday. "There's no amount of money that could ever make up for this," said Valy, who spent eight months in hospital and still grapples with respiratory problems, chronic pain and dizziness. He can barely lift his arms above his waist. "Our life has changed dramatically. Our plans have been shattered."

Thinking back to the juice, which he unsuspectingly consumed after Chen had already been hospitalized with mysterious symptoms, he says: "The strangest part is there was no taste, no flavour, no indication it was as poisonous as it turned out to be."

A massive recall was issued for three brands of the company's carrot juice when four people in the United States and three in Canada, including one in Quebec, were poisoned in the summer and fall of 2006. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, botulism is a rare paralytic disease caused by a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Symptoms generally appear within 36 hours and include trouble swallowing, blurred vision, difficulty speaking and paralysis. In some cases, respiratory failure can result in death.

When the cases first appeared, officials at Bolthouse Farms said the carrot juice could not have developed botulism if properly stored. Yesterday, company spokesperson Andrea Beard refused to comment on the case.

Following the recall, Toronto Public Health confirmed the juice found in the Toronto home by Valy's daughter - a nurse who finally put two and two together in a case that had baffled doctors - had been properly refrigerated. It was sent for testing and came back positive for botulism. "Doctors at the hospital said it was one of the worst cases (of botulism poisoning) they'd ever seen in the world," said the couple's lawyer, Michael Shannon, who has been in touch with lawyers representing three victims in Georgia. Particularly unsettling, he said, is that doctors can't make a prognosis because such severe cases are so rare.

Although he wouldn't disclose how much the lawsuit demands, Shannon said he is launching it in California because, unlike Canada, there is no legal limit there to damages claimed for pain and suffering. In addition to their physical and emotional difficulties, the couple has faced an enormous financial burden. Neither has returned to work, and Chen's clothing shops are struggling, Shannon said. The couple currently pays for a personal support worker to aid Chen 12 hours a day. They expect they will need round-the-clock help when she is discharged



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].

9). And how odd it is that we never hear of the huge American study which showed that women who eat lots of veggies have an INCREASED risk of stomach cancer? So the official recommendation to eat five lots of veggies every day might just be creating lots of cancer for the future! It's as plausible (i.e. not very) as all the other dietary "wisdom" we read about fat etc.

10). And will "this generation of Western children be the first in history to lead shorter lives than their parents did"? This is another anti-fat scare that emanates from a much-cited editorial in a prominent medical journal that said so. Yet this editorial offered no statistical basis for its opinion -- an opinion that flies directly in the face of the available evidence.

Even statistical correlations far stronger than anything found in medical research may disappear if more data is used. A remarkable example from Sociology:
"The modern literature on hate crimes began with a remarkable 1933 book by Arthur Raper titled The Tragedy of Lynching. Raper assembled data on the number of lynchings each year in the South and on the price of an acre's yield of cotton. He calculated the correlation coefficient between the two series at -0.532. In other words, when the economy was doing well, the number of lynchings was lower.... In 2001, Donald Green, Laurence McFalls, and Jennifer Smith published a paper that demolished the alleged connection between economic conditions and lynchings in Raper's data. Raper had the misfortune of stopping his analysis in 1929. After the Great Depression hit, the price of cotton plummeted and economic conditions deteriorated, yet lynchings continued to fall. The correlation disappeared altogether when more years of data were added."
So we must be sure to base our conclusions on ALL the data. But in medical research, data selectivity and the "overlooking" of discordant research findings is epidemic.

"What we should be doing is monitoring children from birth so we can detect any deviations from the norm at an early stage and action can be taken". Who said that? Joe Stalin? Adolf Hitler? Orwell's "Big Brother"? The Spanish Inquisition? Generalissimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde? None of those. It was Dr Colin Waine, chairman of Britain's National Obesity Forum. What a fine fellow!


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