Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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Too much of a good thing: 5 fats that will make you fat


Oh those Hungry for Change people. I signed-up for their email notifications so that I could stay abreast of the latest stuff they’re peddling. One of the more recent messages came with this headline: 5 Fats That Don’t Make You Fat.

I visited their website so see what these magical fats are. They are: coconut oil, nuts, avocados, seeds, and olive oil. I’m not even going to bother quibbling with the fact that the items included in this list are not all fats because they do contain fat and I think that’s what they were getting at. Yes, these are all healthy foods and we know that eating fat is not going to automatically make you fat. However, eating too many calories (i.e. more than you expend) most certainly will “make you fat” and eating too much of any of these five “fats” is no exception to this rule.


Popping the bubble: Are diet sodas making us fat?

A fellow dietitian recently sent me a link to the latest release from Hungry for Change in the hopes that I would be prompted to rant as a result. Fortunately, she was correct. This release features Dr. Mercola criticizing diet sodas and blaming them for making us fat, among other things. To begin with I’d just like to say that I’m no big fan of sodas, diet or not, and I’m always going to be a proponent of whole, natural foods. However, I know that many people are lovers of pop and for those who are trying to lose weight or reduce sugar consumption, diet sodas can be a reasonable replacement or tool to assist in weaning them from pop entirely.

The first thing that I did after receiving the above link was to look-up Dr. Mercola on QuackWatch. Not only is he making huge profits from a line of supplements, he has also been ordered by the FDA to stop illegal claims. What were these claims? They were unsubstantiated claims regarding the benefits of some of the products he sells. In addition to this issue, he has made other unfounded claims such as: opposing immunization, fluoridation, and mammography. Not to mention that he’s received a boost in sales and popularity from being repeatedly featured on the Dr. Oz Show, and we all know how credible that doc is.

So, we know that the guy making all the claims is a quack, but it’s still possible that there’s some validity to the claims about diet soda (I’m trying to give the benefit of the doubt!). The basic argument is that because diet soda drinkers waistlines are rapidly expanding this must be due to the diet soda. The problem with this assertion is that there are many confounding variables that could be causing this increase in waist size. For instance, diet soda drinkers are likely consuming diet soda because they are struggling with weight issues to begin with. There is no way that cause and effect can be determined from observation. It was thought that the consumption of non-nutritive sweeteners caused our bodies to crave true caloric sweets, and this is the argument made by Mercola. However, more recent research (1, 2) has disputed this finding and shown that there is no link between diet soda and increased appetite.

While I am not a fan of pop and artificial sweeteners I am even less of a fan of unsubstantiated health claims. Curbing the obesity epidemic is not going to be achieved through the elimination of diet sodas. No one simple change to our diets is going to “cure” obesity, even if diet soda was the culprit Hungry for Change and Dr. Mercola would have you believe. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: obesity is not a result of individual choices it’s a result of our current environment.


Hungry for Change film review

After my not so glowing review of the documentary film Food Matters I thought it would only be fair to give their latest effort Hungry for Change a chance. I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Although it may have been largely due to my low expectations. I thought that Hungry for Change was the film that Food Matters should have been. As I did with the previous film I’ll break it down into the good and the bad…

What was bad about this film?

  • As with the last film there were a number of dubiously credentialed so-called experts. For example, a “Traditional and Wild Foods Expert” and a “Cleansing and Detoxification Expert”. Maybe it’s just me but I’m pretty sure anyone could claim to be such “experts”. Also, there were a whole lot of authors. Sorry people but just because you wrote a book doesn’t mean you are a credible source.
  • This one, I’m not 100% sure about but the film claims that to study obesity in mice researchers inject them with MSG. To me, MSG might make sense to promote weight gain when added to food as it’s a flavour enhancer, but as an injection I’m not sure. As I don’t do obesity research in mice myself it’s hard for me to flat-out reject this claim. However, a scan of journal articles appears to show that a high-fat diet is the most popular approach to inducing obesity in mice.
  • Another bizarre claim they make is that dietary aspartame and caffeine kill brain cells. Really? Can someone share the research to back this up because I am hugely skeptical and can find nothing to support this myself.
  • One of the “experts” Dr. Northrup states that it’s “Not fat that’s making us fat. It’s sugar” and then goes on to suggest that sugar is an addictive drug, comparing sugar in kids cereal to injecting them with heroin. Yes, we consume far too much sugar but vilifying any one nutrient is foolish and placing sugar on-par with heroin is ludicrous.
  • At one point the film shows a promo for itself. Who does that?? Obviously the viewer is already watching the film, you don’t need to advertise it. That’s just lame (and boring).
  • Oh detoxification. These holistic nutritionists just love their detoxification diets. Listen up: DETOXIFICATION IS BULL****! Sorry, had to get that one out. And stop pushing the juicing on us already.
  • The main actress in the film is waging a constant battle with her weight. Yet, to me, she appears to be at a healthy weight. I don’t think it’s promoting the right message to show an attractive healthy woman trying to lose weight.

Hmm… Now that I’ve written all that I’m wondering if I should have been so quick to say that this film was an improvement on Food Matters.

There were some good points to this film:

  • Not once did they try to push supplements!
  • The overarching messages about eating a healthy balanced diet and learning to love yourself were good.
  • They basically state that pop is evil. I’m okay with that assertion.
  • It’s pointed out that North America decided that fat was the enemy and started loading food with sugar to replace the fat. They state that low-fat diets are bad as we need good fats (e.g. avocados, nuts, seeds, and salmon).
  • The dieting paradigm is flawed because diets are only temporary.
  • The best “diet” strategy is to add-in the “good” stuff (e.g. veg) and you’ll come to want the “bad” stuff less. Diets shouldn’t be about deprivation.
  • Stress hormones can contribute to weight gain. The best ways to reduce stress hormones are through sleep, exercise, and laughter.
  • “Obesity is not the problem. It’s the solution to a problem.” I thought this was a great way to make the point that obesity is often a manifestation of psychological issues.
  • I’m going to repeat this one: LOVE YOURSELF. No matter what your size, you deserve love and the most important person to get it from is yourself. Cheesy maybe but true.

While this film didn’t contain any new revelations, the overall message was good and the misinformation was relatively benign.