Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


Bring on the nanny state



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By Marlith (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve written before about my reluctance to jump on the soda (why are we calling it soda in Canada, anyway? It’s pop, people) tax bandwagon. I just don’t think that it’s addressing the true problem and it’s once again placing the onus on individuals. I’d much rather see high-fructose corn syrup become less artificially inexpensive to produce so that pop would cost more to manufacture and therefore be sold for more. Start paying the farmers more for the corn. Anyway… I found myself in a weird situation when I read the un-authored (what the heck MacLean’s? Where’s the byline?) editorial about the ill-conceived soda pop tax.

According to the author, the problem with the Senate’s new report on obesity is that it lumps all overweight and obese people into one category. Thus, implying that anyone who surpasses the magical BMI cut-off is unhealthy. I don’t disagree with the fact that it’s possible to be healthy at many different weights, shapes, and sizes. I do take some exception to the argument that overweight people are actually healthier than those of “normal” weight. The problem with studies that suggest this is that they’re not taking into consideration changes in weight and the fact that many people lose weight when they’re ill. This may give the false impression that weight is protecting people from illness rather than showing that unintended weight loss is a consequence of illness.”Healthy” weight people may die younger than overweight people because illness may be missed until it’s too late to treat in people who appear to be healthy.These studies also tend to only look at mortality, giving “healthspan” no consideration. Just because you’re living a longer life doesn’t mean that you have good health or a good quality of life during those extra years.

Anyway… I’m a little off-track from the topic I really wanted to address. Essentially, the author is saying that it’s not the government’s job to “tell us what to eat or how much we should weigh”. It’s suggested that the senate report should have focused more on health promotion, which they define as getting kids more physically active. Sigh.

Health promotion is actually providing people with the tools they need to control and improve their own health. It’s more of a population health approach than an individual approach. As such, a pop tax would be a method of health promotion. As essential as physical activity and exercise are to good health it’s fairly well established at this point that diet has a far greater bearing on weight than exercise does. This pop tax is certainly not the approach I would take toward decreasing obesity rates and improving the health of Canadians. However, it’s better than nothing and if it gets people to drink less pop then that’s a positive outcome. If the author truly believes that the government is not already affecting the food choices of Canadians through policies and systems then they’re sorely mistaken.

I’ve read some very good criticisms of the senate’s report. This editorial was not one of them. If you’re interested, check out Dr Sharma’s blog and this piece by Michael Orsini in the Globe and Mail.


Who’s afraid of a little PSL?


Last week the “Food Babe” made headlines again. Not about the edible yoga mats; this time she’s discovered the dark caramel truth about Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes. The headline read: You’ll Never Guess What’s In A Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (Hint: You Won’t Be Happy). Ooh, I thought to myself, what could it be? Probably bugs. It had to be something nasty to incur such a sensational headline. I took the bait, I clicked on the link. Even though I don’t even like pumpkin spice lattes the suspense was just too much for me, I had to know. Turns out, it’s caramel colouring and high-fructose corn syrup (probably, as the nutrition information the Babe obtained was conflicting) as well as “Monsanto” milk (Canadians and Europeans you can ignore that part). Ummm… I could have guessed that.

I’m not saying that these are good ingredients to be ingesting, but I’m certainly not surprised that they’re in pumpkin spice syrup. I was even less surprised to learn that pumpkin is not one of the ingredients. Did anyone actually think that Starbucks used pumpkin spice syrup that contained actual pumpkin?? By the name alone, it implies that it’s the spices used in many pumpkin goods, not pumpkin itself. Would anyone be surprised to learn that the apple, blackberry, orange, or any other fruity-flavoured syrup didn’t contain any of those fruits? Frankly, I’d be surprised if they did contain actual fruit.

Yes, Starbucks PSL is not a health beverage. It’s a liquid dessert.