bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


6 Comments

The cure for diabetes

url

I was recently informed that there is a cure for type 2 diabetes. Apparently researchers in Newcastle have found a way to reverse type 2 diabetes. According to their website:

Our work has shown that type 2 diabetes is not inevitably progressive and life-long. We have demonstrated that in people who have had type 2 diabetes for 4 years or less, major weight loss returns insulin secretion to normal.

Obviously, we dietitians have been recommending weight loss, diet, and lifestyle changes for many years. However, these changes rarely result in a complete reversal of the condition. The best case scenario is usually that the patient is able to manage their diabetes without the need for medications. More often though, it means that the progress of type 2 diabetes is slowed and less medication is needed to keep blood sugars reasonably stable. Despite this research having been conducted back in 2008 this was the first that I had heard of it.

For those interested, the complete study Reversal of type 2 diabetes: normalisation of beta cell function in association with decreased pancreas and liver triacylglycerol is available here. To summarize, they looked at eleven people whom had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within the previous four years. Yes, that’s correct, eleven people. That’s a pretty small sample size. That means that no matter how astounding the results, it’s impossible to say if they will be applicable to the majority of people with type 2 diabetes.

The results of the study were quite good. All of the participants saw dramatic improvements in both fasting blood sugar and plasma insulin levels after only one week. In fact, after only one week of the eight week program, these levels were indistinguishable from a non-diabetic control group. Because normalization of beta cell function and insulin levels were seen in the participants, they were deemed “cured” of type 2 diabetes upon completion of the study.

What exactly did the researchers do to “cure” these people? They placed them on strict 600 kcal a day diets. Now, I don’t know about you, but that number shocked me. 600 kcal a day is extremely low. Most medically supervised low-calorie liquid diets for obese patients still have them consuming 800 kcal a day. Most weight management programs recommend patients consume at least 1, 200 kcal a day. For most people, 600 kcal is one meal (for many people, it’s less than one meal). In this study, participants consumed 510 kcal worth of Optifast shakes per day and were encouraged to supplement with non-starchy vegetables and drink at least two litres of water (and other calorie-free beverages) each day.

Because there was no follow-up with participants upon completion of the eight week study, there is no way to know for certain if they were actually cured of their diabetes or if it returned after they completed the program. Even supposing the diet is a cure for type 2 diabetes I can’t help but wonder how many people would be able to adhere to 600 kcal a day for eight weeks. As with any medicine, it doesn’t do any good if patients won’t take it. I suspect that the majority of people would forego the cure of such a strict diet.

All issues with this being touted as a “cure” for type 2 diabetes aside, I would like to see further research in this area. Larger, longer studies would be interesting. I’d also like to see a variety of levels of caloric restriction used as well as different sources of nutrition (not just shakes).


Leave a comment

Sticky situation: School food bans

imgres-1

I had mixed feelings as I read the recent CBC coverage of peanut butter substitute bans in PEI schools. Part of me thinks that many children could do with a little more variety than the traditional PBS (peanut butter substitute) and jelly. There are loads of other great lunch ideas out there. Parents have blogs showing school lunches, my friend Dallas (@eatrealbereal) often tweets photos of the amazing school lunches she makes for her daughter, many nutrition websites such as Dietitians of Canada and Eat Right Ontario provide suggestions for school lunches and snacks.

Another part of me argued with that initial part of me. PBS is an affordable non-perishable, quick and easy lunch option for parents. It’s also widely enjoyed by children. In a time and economically strapped world, PBS&J is a handy lunch option to have. Taking that option away limits the possibilities for many parents: both those who don’t have much time and money, and those who have children who are known to bring home uneaten meticulously prepared nutritious lunches.

I get where the schools are coming from. It’s extremely difficult to monitor every lunch and not every parent is going to take the time to label lunches as nut-free. School officials don’t want to be responsible if a child dies on their watch; who can blame them?

Soy is also a common allergen. Is replacing one common allergen with another really the greatest idea? Where do we draw the line though? As allergies become increasingly prevalent in our society we’re going to need a better solution than to outright ban every risky food.


Leave a comment

Follow Friday: The great tomato refrigeration debate

Image by Skånska Matupplevelser used under a Creative Commons licence from Flickr.

Image by Skånska Matupplevelser used under a Creative Commons licence from Flickr.

This blog post on Serious Eats was all over the internets a few weeks ago. According to the author’s self-proclaimed unscientific post, refrigerated tomatoes are perfectly palatable. In fact, the refrigerated tomatoes were actually found to be preferable to unrefrigerated tomatoes by the tasters.

In this “study” tomatoes were either refrigerated overnight, or left at room temperature, and then brought back to room temperature before tasting.

When i read the post, I couldn’t help but wonder if the results would have been any different if the tomatoes had been refrigerated for a longer period of time. After all, the rationale for not refrigerating tomatoes is that refrigeration may affect both the flavour and texture of tomatoes. Surely this would take more than one night to occur, and if you’re going to eat your tomatoes the following day, what’s the sense in refrigerating anyway? The only reason to refrigerate is to prolong the life span of produce. One night is not likely to be long enough to cause the complete degradation of your tomatoes.

The other thing is, the refrigerated tomatoes were brought back up to room temperature before consumption. Quite likely, the results would not have been the same if the tomatoes had been served cold.

Conclusion? Refrigerating tomatoes may extend their life span but it may also negatively affect them in some other way depending on how long you refrigerate them and if you take the time to bring them back to room temperature before you eat them.


1 Comment

Meet the happy couple: Domino’s and Dairy Farmers of Canada

imgres

Domino’s and Dairy Farmers of Canada were the happy new couple yesterday. Domino’s proudly proclaimed their new commitment to use only 100% Canadian cheese on their pizzas. Dairy Farmers of Canada was overjoyed by the marriage. We can only speculate that DFC came with a hefty dowry.

Obviously this is a win-win. Domino’s gets to look good for using only “local” cheese. Hush now, don’t question the fact that Canada is a HUGE country and “local” doesn’t quite encompass all of its cheese products. And don’t even bother to question the fact that Domino’s (an American chain) is hardly a local business. Dairy Farmers of Canada gets the certainty that at least one pizza chain will use only Canadian cheese on their Canadian pizzas. Of course, Domino’s made the same commitment to the US Dairy Association several years ago. Not to mention the publicity that both parties get out of this partnership.

Those more skeptical among us might question the motives behind this union. Although the details are not readily available, I can’t help but to speculate that this relationship is similar to that in the US. For those who haven’t read the second link above, the USDA bailed out a floundering Domino’s in return for promised use of more of their cheese, and only their cheese.

Dairy Farmers of Canada, you know that you don’t have to marry the first corporation that wants to get in bed with you, right? You could have done so much better than this. You could have committed to an initiative that would have garnered positive publicity such as working with schools or food banks to provide milk or yoghurt to those in need. You could have chosen a more nutritious product to attach your name to. Yes, good pizza is delicious but Domino’s is far from good and putting more cheese on it isn’t going to hide that fact (nor, let’s face it, is it going to make it any more nutritious). At the very least you could have joined forces with a Canadian company to promote your Canadian cheese. You know that Domino’s only wants you for your money, right?


6 Comments

Don’t blame Bittman, family meals are important

url-1

I heard a piece on the CBC recently that rubbed me the wrong way. Then my friend sent me a link to this interview with the author of the study being discussed on the CBC. The study looked at the alleged negative effect that proponents of home-cooked meals (such as Mark Bittman, Jamie Oliver, and other celebrity chefs) have on over-worked mums. This bothered me for a number of reasons.

First of all, it’s not just out-of-touch celebrity chefs advocating for eating home-cooked meals together as a family most evenings. Most dietitians are on-board and probably quite a few other health professions. There are so many good reasons to eat together as a family: home-cooked meals tend to be healthier than restaurant, fast food, take-away, and packaged meals; there is also the important social aspect involved with sitting down and sharing a meal with others; also, if you’re sitting eating at a table you’re less likely to overeat and mindlessly eat than you are if you’re eating in front of the tv or in the car.

Apparently these celebrity chefs are making working mums feel badly because they don’t have the time (and sometimes the money) to prepare elaborate home-cooked meals for their families every night. I get it, we’re all busy but home-cooked meals need not take exorbitant quantities of time or money to prepare. We also need to get our priorities straight. Cooking meals should not be taking time away from quality family time. Cooking meals should be quality family time. Kids can help in the kitchen from quite a young age and can become increasingly involved as they get older. Bonus: children are more likely to eat and enjoy food that they had a hand in preparing. Also, what’s with the burden being placed on mums? I know that the bulk of housework and cooking often falls on women (sorry, not sorry anti-feminists). Men, get in the kitchen! Everyone in the family can be involved in cooking.

Finally, just because a home-cooked family meal seven nights a week might be an unattainable goal, doesn’t mean that we should just throw in the kitchen towel and order a pizza. It’s like the watered down physical activity guidelines that were created because most people won’t meet the minimums that we should truly be meeting. Or dumbing down the grade school curriculum because children might not be able to achieve the desired outcomes. This lowering of the bar is doing us a disservice as a society. Maybe nightly home-cooked meals are not realistic immediate goals. Set a smaller goal to start but keep that end goal in sight. A home-cooked meal doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s okay to have grilled cheese and tomato soup. Planning ahead and prepping ingredients in advance can make nightly family meals achievable. There is no problem with home-cooked meals. There is a problem with our society that doesn’t value home-cooked meals.