Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fury over $500 KFC gift cards as nation battles obesity crisis

The headline above is as it appears in the original article. It is worthy of Dr. Goebbels. Australia is NOT battling anything. Australians are enjoying their food and plenty of it. And it's not Australia that is furious. It is a few fanatics. KFC products ARE fatty but the best medical research shows that a low-fat diet has NO health benefits. And it's not a crisis. It is people of middling weight who live longest. Where's the crisis in that?

FAST-food giant KFC has sparked outrage from health experts by offering Christmas gift cards worth up to $500 as the nation battles an obesity crisis. KFC outlets have been promoting the cards, ranging in value from $10 to $500 and to be used within 12 months, as a "thoughtful gift idea for any occasion".

A $500 card could purchase a fat banquet of 14 buckets of "Original Recipe" chicken pieces, containing 4.5kg of fat and 1.8kg of saturated fat; 63 maxi serves of "Popcorn Chicken" (2.8kg of fat and 1.25kg saturated fat) or 78 "Original Works Burgers" (1.6kg fat, 592g saturated fat).

The "tasty new gift idea" has attracted outrage and disbelief from health experts in Queensland struggling to combat a growing obesity epidemic. About 55 per cent of adult Queenslanders, and about a quarter of children aged five to 17, are considered obese or overweight. An average of 60 people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes every day around the state.

Preventative Health Taskforce chair Professor Rob Moodie said he was shocked when he learned about KFC's latest marketing ploy. "It's marketing gone berserk," he said. "This stuff is fine if it's just once a month. But if it's twice a week, or $500 a year, it's completely different."

Prof Moodie said aggressive fast-food marketing was the last thing parents needed as they struggled to teach children proper eating habits. "We know that advertising for fast food just works. Never before in the history of man has so much food been made so available for so many. We're shoving more calories down our throats than ever before."

Brisbane-based nutritionist and dietitian Trudy Williams said the gift cards were "worrying". "There are much healthier choices that parents could be guiding their kids with, like a voucher to go indoor rock-climbing or sports gear. Clearly, we're eating far too much food as it is."

Ms Williams, who wrote the award-winning nutrition guide This=That Child Size, said parents should think twice about fast-food Christmas treats. "Certainly, the rates of obesity in kids appear to be increasing," she said. "Parents are really bad judgers of whether their child is overweight or not. They're too close to the coalface, particularly if they are overweight themselves."

Diabetes Australia Queensland CEO Michelle Trute said gift cards made poor eating choices easy. "I would still remind people that food like KFC is occasional food," she said. "Having a gift certificate that you know you can redeem at any time just makes it easy to make bad choices."


Limited reassurance about the safety of folic acid fortification of foods

The study rules out one source of concern fairly decisively but does not address others -- such as increased risk of coleorectal cancer in men

Supplements containing folic acid, a key recommendation for women of child-bearing age, do not produce an accumulation of un-metabolized folic acid in the fetus, says a new study from Germany.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, support the safety of folic acid, with no accumulation of folic acid measured in 87 pregnant women, 29 cord blood samples, and 24 mother-infant pairs.

“Our findings in this non-fortified population imply that most of the folic acid in the region of 400 micrograms folic acid given to pregnant women was converted to active folates in most individuals,” wrote researchers led by Rima Obeid from the University Hospital of Saarland.

In an accompanying editorial by Arthur Beaudet and Robin Goin-Kochel from Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, the study was described as “relatively reassuring with regard to the possibility of harm through accumulation of un-metabolized folic acid”.

An overwhelming body of evidence links folate deficiency in early pregnancy to increased risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) - most commonly spina bifida and anencephaly - in infants.

This connection led to the 1998 introduction of public health measures in the US and Canada, where all grain products are fortified with folic acid - the synthetic, bioavailable form of folate.

Preliminary evidence indicates that the measure is having an effect with a reported 15 to 50 per cent reduction in NTD incidence. A total of 51 countries now have some degree of mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid.

However, similar measures in other countries have been opposed by concerns that the folate/folic acid may mask vitamin B12 deficiency, which leads to a form of neurological problems.

Concerns had also been raised for a potential build up of folic acid in the fetus, and the effects of this are unknown.

“The question of whether folic acid supplementation during pregnancy might cause the accumulation of un-metabolized vitamin in maternal or fetal circulation is a very important issue,” explained the researchers.

The new study was located in Germany – a population that does not have mandatory fortification with folic acid, and that relies on recommendations for folic acid supplementation to increase intake levels.

Study details

The German researchers investigated levels of total folate, folic acid, tetrahydrofolate (THF), 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), formyl-THF, and 5,10-methenylTHF in the blood of 87 pregnant women, 29 umbilical cords, and 24 mother-infant pairs.

Results showed that “concentrations of folic acid were non-significantly higher in cord blood from supplemented women than in cord blood from non-supplemented women”, while “proportions of folic acid to total folate in cord serum did not differ according to maternal supplement usage”.

The researchers noted that, while folic acid is “not likely” to accumulate in the fetus, 5-MTHF and THF are likely to accumulate in the fetus.

“Our results show that concentrations of 5-MTHF and THF, but not of folic acid, were higher in cord than in maternal serum,” wrote the researchers. “Maternal folic acid supplement use did not explain the detection of un-metabolized folic acid in maternal blood or cord blood.”


In the editorial, Beaudet and Goin-Kochel said that the German study “provides reassuring information that suggests that unmetabolized folic acid does not accumulate substantially in the cord blood of newborns; this reduces concern regarding the possible toxicity of unmetabolized folic acid”.

“The likelihood that increased intake of folic acid has harmful effects is low but perhaps not zero,” they added. “Most important, increased intake of folic acid definitely reduces the incidence of NTDs and therefore has a major, well-documented benefit.

“Thus, there should be no argument for decreasing intake of folic acid, but perhaps more research is needed regarding the small possibilities of harm or of additional benefits,” they concluded.


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