Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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Low-carb kids?!


I came across this article recently detailing how to raise kids on low-carb diets and I honestly can’t even. It’s one thing for adults to choose to follow low-carb diets. It’s a whole other kettle of fish to inflict them on children.

The post is written by a pharmacist. I’m sorry, when did pharmacists become keepers of nutritional expertise? Has this woman never heard of scope of practice? You don’t see me running around telling people to start popping pills for various ailments. This is because I’m a dietitian, I know about food and nutrition. Medications I leave to doctors, NPs, and pharmacists.

Okay, so why is this pharmacist advocating for a low-carb diet for kiddos? The opening statement reads: “Childhood obesity is a huge problem today. Lots of parents are wondering – how do you raise kids without feeding them excessive carbs?” 

Are they? Parents, can you confirm this? It frightens me to think that this may be true.

The article makes a disingenuous comparison between two packed lunches and essentially equates low-carb to “junk food” free and, as far as I can tell, low/no grain. Trotting out that erronous message that modern wheat is different from ancient wheat and therefore the food of the devil.

Does the author bother to mention that grains contain nutrients that are important for growth and development in children? Nope. No mention of ensuring that alternative sources of B vitamins, fibre, vitamin E, certain proteins, and so on must be found for children to be healthy on such a diet. Certainly no mention that this type of diet may be setting up children for a lifetime of disordered eating.

There are other ways to prevent childhood obesity and to promote healthy eating habits in children. Forced orthorexia and elimination of food groups is not one of them. Instead, focus on providing your children with nutritious options. Involve them in food prep. Allow them to have occasional treats. Model healthy eating habits and a positive relationship with food. Eat together as a family as often as possible. Carbs are not the enemy.

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Does chocolate milk help improve diet quality for children?

I received an email today inviting me to the Dairy Farmers of Canada 2012 Symposium. I decided to check out the link to see what it was all about. No surprise, the website featured a wealth of propaganda. I was especially intrigued by the tab for Scientific Evidence which included such gems as “Healthy Weight” and “Chocolate Milk and Health”. I’m sure that I could find enough stuff on here to fuel a week’s worth of blog posts, maybe more, if I delved into every statement that they made. That might be a little excessive though. I’d like to draw your attention to their section on “chocolate milk, other flavoured milk, health and diet quality”. According to this section drinking chocolate milk improves the health of children because they get more nutrients, particularly calcium, than children who drink no milk or even regular milk. Apparently it’s okay to give kids sugar-sweetened beverages if they include calcium, protein, and vitamin D. Maybe even better than giving them unsweetened milk because they’ll drink more milk if it’s flavoured. Call me old-fashioned but when I was growing up chocolate milk was not on the menu. Ignoring the fact that milk is not necessary for a healthy diet, why do we need to sweeten milk and add other ingredients as emulsifiers in order to get children to drink it? Even if, as the Dairy Farmers allege, these sweetened beverages are not contributing to obesity, I don’t think encouraging the consumption of sweetened beverages by any age group, but especially by children, is appropriate. Their argument is akin to saying that adding flavour and sugar to any food that contains some nutritional value is a good idea if it will get kids to consume more of it. Just because a beverage contains some nutrients doesn’t mean that it’s a healthy choice.

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Can you increase IQ through diet?

Recent research out of Australia has found that childhood IQ is linked to dietary patterns according to an article in Science Daily. The study looked at the eating habits of a group of children at6 months, 15 months, and two years of age and then looked at their IQs at 8 years of age. Apparently the children who consumed healthier diets had higher IQs than the children who consumed more “junk” food. While I think this is great, of course it’s good to see that there are positive benefits to eating a healthy diet, I was also a little curious about how they controlled for other factors which may have contributed to IQ levels. I read the full article and was pleased to see that they controlled for things such as maternal education and socioeconomic factors. The one thing that I had expected them to control for was parental IQ. Surprisingly, to me, they didn’t. Now, it’s been a long time since my psych degree but I’m pretty sure that the strongest predictor of IQ is parental, especially maternal, IQ. Why wouldn’t the researchers have controlled for this factor? I hate to disparage a study that is showing benefits to healthy eating but I also think that it’s important to be objective. Please, continue to feed your children a healthy diet.

Besides the fact that the researchers failed to control for the most important contributing factor to IQ, I don’t really think that IQ is all that meaningful a measurement of intelligence, nor is it a predictor of success. A high IQ doesn’t mean that you’re smarter than other people it just means that you’re better at the type of test they’re administering. It’s kind of like a mental BMI. Most people know that it’s not a great measure but we don’t really have anything better.