The Australian government has come out with an initiative to make healthy lifestyle choices less overwhelming. It’s called: “Swap It, Don’t Stop It” and provides the message that all foods and activities can be a part of a healthy lifestyle. They provide suggestions for making healthier food choices and physical activity choices as well as resources such as planners, an app, and links.
I already blogged about the first study claiming that celebrity chefs are fuelling the obesity epidemic with their calorie and saturated fat laden cookbooks. Now that another study, supporting these findings, has been published I felt compelled to add a little bit more ranting.
Yes, many recipes in celebrity chefs’ cookbooks are not exactly healthy. Does that mean that they’re driving the obesity epidemic, no. How many people do you think are regularly consuming meals that they’ve prepared using recipes in these cookbooks? Probably not many. And, how many of these people are obese? We don’t know the answer to this question. It’s foolish to extrapolate from the findings to state that celebrity chefs’ cookbooks are making people fat. It’s far more likely that a lack of home-cooked meals is contributing to the obesity epidemic.
I’d also like to point out that people do have the ability, and sometimes the wherewithal, to modify recipes that they prepare from cookbooks. Yes, we are capable of using less oil and butter, of not adding salt, of bumping-up the vegetable content, etc. Go ahead, use Jamie Oliver’s cookbook and just tweak the recipe to optimize its nutrition.
Recent research has indicated that a change in gut microbial flora following gastric surgery may contribute to weight loss in patients. This conclusion was reached following a study on mice. A group of mice underwent gastric-bypass surgery, their gut microbial flora was monitored, and then some of that bacteria was transferred into mice that had not undergone surgery.
There were also two other groups of mice that underwent “sham” surgeries (their intestines were snipped apart and then reconnected). One of these groups continued to be fed a high calorie diet post-surgery while the other was put on a restricted diet.
There are a few things about this study that intrigue me. I think it’s important to note that the mice place on the restricted diet lost the same amount of weight as the mice that underwent the true bypass surgery. To me, this indicates that the level of obesity in these mice may not have been the same as the level required for weight loss surgery in humans.
I also find it curious that the mice that received the gut flora apparently had no pre-existing gut flora of their own. I’m not sure if this is an error in reporting but you would be extremely hard-pressed to find a human without pre-existing gut-flora (perhaps if they’d been on a very high dose course of antibiotics). We also know that gastric bypass surgery can result in nutrient deficiencies and it’s possible that the presence of the bacteria found in these post-surgical mice might also increase the risk of malnourishment.
Finally, and most importantly, even if weight loss in mice can be attributed to the presence of certain bacteria in the gut, mice are not the same as humans. Do mice have the same gastro-intestinal flora as humans? Do they react to surgery in the same way as we do? Do they have the same relationship to food as we do? I would hazard to guess that the answer to all of these questions is no.
While this research is very interesting, and may in the long-term provide us with further insight into obesity and weight management, at this point I would be extremely cautious when interpreting the results.
I have to admit I was pretty disappointed when the news came out the other day that a New York judge had overturned Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on sales of cups of pop larger than 16 oz just hours before it was to come into effect. Reading Jennifer Sygo’s take on the subject was interesting. Even more interesting though, was reading the comments below her article. Sometimes I’m glad that my blog isn’t widely enough read to garner so many comments.
It blows my mind that people think it’s unreasonable to be limited to purchasing pop in increments of 16 oz. How dare the government interfere in our freedom to drink vast quantities of nutritionally void bubbly sugar-water! It seems that (most) everyone agrees that obesity and malnutrition are top contributors to illness and mortality in North America. The solution is not as simple as to “eat less and move more”. If there was a simple solution do you really think that the majority of North Americans would be overweight? The causes and solutions are much deeper than that. Without systematic efforts, from a number of directions, we’re not going to see improvements to our health as a population.
As many have pointed out, many retailers had already started implementing the restrictions on cup sizes. I hope that these retailers will take the initiative to carry on doing this even without the legislation being in effect.
I certainly don’t think that a ban on massive sodas is going to end the obesity “epidemic” but I think that it’s one piece of a complicated puzzle.
I was listening to the radio the other day and they were interviewing a Dr who conducted some research on a physical activity intervention on elementary school children. The segment was introduced as being about obesity. I can’t recall exactly what the intervention was but, naturally, it had no effect on obesity levels in the children.
I know that obesity is the big thing right now (pun totally intended) but I think that we need to stop approaching every study about exercise and nutrition as a weight loss intervention. We already know that diet generally accounts for about 80% of the weight loss equation. Therefore, logically, physical activity interventions are unlikely to have a significant effect on weight.
This focus on obesity causes us to lose focus on other benefits to be had from physical activity. Just because children didn’t lose weight from the intervention doesn’t mean that such interventions aren’t worthwhile. Benefits of physical activity and exercise include: increased healthspan, decreased risk of many chronic diseases (e.g. depression, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some forms of cancer, osteoporosis, dementia), stronger immune system, increased energy, better quality of sleep, etc. I always say that exercise is my drug of choice.