Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Scientific illiteracy will be the death of us

Maybe it’s nothing new but it seems to me that there’s an ever increasing lack of scientific literacy in government and I worry about the impact that this will have on all of us. Just a few recent examples of this illiteracy include a relatively innocuous twitter post by the Ministry of Health in Ontario touting the supposed benefits of consuming dark chocolate. This despite the fact that research does not support this assertion, nor did the article that the post was linked to.

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Another more worrisome example was a recent op ed by Thomas Mulcair (former leader of the federal NDP) in support of naturopaths because:

In today’s world, people are more informed than ever and you need a compelling reason to remove their right to make decisions for themselves. There are many alternative medical practices, old and new, that are providing treatment, comfort and relief to patients but that cannot be fully explained by science. They now need to be regulated in the public interest, not prosecuted on the pretense of protecting the public.

*Major cringe*. Sorry, but protecting the public is not a pretence. Given the misleading use of the title “doctor” among professions such as naturopathy and chiropractice (is that a word?) it is increasingly important that the public be protected from charlatans offering pseudoscience disguised as medical treatments. Yes, there are certainly problems with modern medicine but that doesn’t mean that the government (who is to blame for most of these problems through lack of doctors, short appointments, and long wait times) should ease the way for Canadians to access unproven treatments.

Democratic candidate Andrew Yang tweeted out his excitement about appearing on the Doctor Oz Show saying that he had “made a lot of people smarter about their health”. Even though Oz has done more harm than good at this point with his enthusiastic promotion of countless “miracle cures” and other quackery.

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The most alarming example I can think of is the recent bill in the States forcing women to have ectopic pregnancies reimplanted in the uterus. Something that is impossible. Rep John Becker who was responsible for the anti-abortion bill, upon facing huge backlash from the public and the medical community, admitted that he hadn’t consulted with doctors on the matter and “how was he supposed to know” that such a procedure was impossible. Which I think pretty much sums up the whole problem. How are our government officials, representatives, departments, etc supposed to have knowledge about topics on which they have no education or experience? Well, this is why they have staff who they should be using to do research before they go drafting harmful and impossible laws, writing dangerous op eds, and shooting off inaccurate social media posts. If somehow by some miracle anyone working at any level of government is reading this post, I implore you, have your staff (or even reach out yourself) consult with experts in whatever field you are hoping to legislate or promote before you do anything public. And please know that registered dietitians are the professionals you want to consult when you are doing anything related to nutrition. Federally in Canada you have access to dietitians through Health Canada or Dietitians of Canada. In Ontario you have public health dietitians who would be more than happy to be consulted through ODPH (Ontario Dietitians in Public Health).

 


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Hollywood juice bar owner’s diet analyzed

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Photo of Green Juice by Marten Persson on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence.

In case you missed it last week, the Internets got their collective panties in a twist about this article sharing a typical day of food for the founder of Moon Juice.

Moon Juice, for those such as myself who are not in the know, is ostensibly the most popular juice bar in LA.

Pardon me for not being surprised that her diet includes ridiculous things that I’ve never heard of before and am not entirely convinced are actually food. Things like Brain Dust and quinton shots. Ugh.

People immediately began decrying her diet. Just for fun, I decided to do a completely unscientific analysis of the nutrient content of her food to see just how her food stacks up when compared to a diet of recognizable food items. I used the nutritional info listed for the products on the Moon Juice website where I could. For everything else I just googled for nutrition information. I only looked at macronutrients, so it remains to be told how nutritious her diet is in terms of micronutrients.

Breakfast: 307 kcal, 13g CHO, 17.5g fat, 27g protein, 7g fibre, 3g sugar

Snack: 284 kcal, 31.1g CHO, 12g fat, 2.5g fibre, 8g sugar, 9g protein

Lunch: 265 kcal, 20g fat, 10.7g CHO, 4g fibre, 5.9g sugar, 6.3g protein

Snack: 353 kcal, 36.9g CHO, 8.5g fibre, 21.7g sugar, 22.5g fat, 7g protein

Snack: 280 kcal, 30g CHO, 6g fibre, 6g sugar, 4g fat, 26g protein

Supper: 50 kcal, 9g CHO, 0.5g fibre, 0.7g sugar, 0.6g fat, 5g protein – Potentially an entire day’s worth of sodium in this meal alone!

Snack: (Nutrition info for Heart Tonic is unknown, estimating the nutrient values for the chocolate based on single servings of all the ingredients mentioned) 174 kcal, 5g CHO, 3g fibre, 4.5g fat, 21g protein – I find it hard to believe that this chocolate is remotely palatable without any added sugar but maybe that’s just me.

Totals for the day: 1713 kcal, 135.7g CHO, 81.1g fat, 101.3g protein, 31.5g fibre, 45.3g sugar

I must confess, I’m a little disappointed that her diet didn’t show any glaring imbalances. Overall, it’s maybe a little low in carbs, and a little high in protein and fat and sugar. But essentially, it’s actually fairly well balanced.

I would be a little concerned about calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 consumption for someone following this diet. Also, the sodium is quite high. Not knowing her energy requirements it’s hard to say whether or not 1700 kcal is adequate. That would depend on her height, weight, level of activity, and resting metabolic rate.

Even though this diet is not horribly balanced I still wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Why? Well, variety is very important in a balanced diet. Based on the fact that she seems to eat essentially the same things every day she’s quite likely not getting all of the micronutrients that she needs. She may also be getting excessive amounts of others through her supplements.

Speaking of the supplements, there’s quite a few ingredients in there that are questionable at best. I don’t think that anyone can say with any degree of certainty that they’re safe to consume on a regular basis. Although one can say with a fair degree of certainty that they won’t live up to the claims. They’re definitely not worth the hefty price tags. Although if you’re willing to spend $55 for a 25 serving jar of Brain Dust then you probably need all the help you can get maintaining “healthy systems for superior states of cognitive flow”.

 

 


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Follow Friday: Julia vs Gwyneth

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Lots of talk on the twitterverse about Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook It’s All Good. While I haven’t seen it myself, and the recipes therein may be perfectly tasty and nutritious, she’s been slammed for including quackery in her forward. Julia Belluz has an article in MacLean’s detailing what aspects of Gwynnie’s advice are pseudoscience and why these statements are potentially damaging to readers. As I’ve mentioned before, I find it exceedingly frustrating that nearly everyone thinks they’re a nutrition expert and people readily latch on to ideas extolled by celebs. Just because you eat (and seemingly in Gwyneth’s case, this may be an overstatement) does not make you a dietitian.


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Eggs: Get quacking

A friend sent me a link to an article entitled “10 Reasons to Eat Your Yolks” looking for my opinion. In my opinion, yolks are great. They’re where much of the nutrition in the egg is stored. One egg yolk provides about 60 calories, 22 mg calcium, 0.75 mg of iron, 2.7 g protein, 0.8 mcg of vitamin D, among other nutrients. Of course, the white is a great source of protein with very few calories. One large egg white has about 3.3 g protein and only 16 calories.

As great as egg yolks are, as with pretty much any food, you can have too much of a good thing. The fat (5.56 g) and cholesterol (203 mg) in the yolk may be of concern to people with high cholesterol. Yes, dietary cholesterol contributes very little to blood cholesterol levels but it’s still prudent to reduce all controllable risk factors.

Okay, so what’s my problem with the article? It makes a lot of relatively unsubstantiated claims. I say relatively because there are references sited for most of them but all of the references have the same author. This author, Michael Murray is a naturopathic doctor. Two major red flags there. If you can only find one researcher to support your claims there may be a reason for that. Additionally, while I believe that there can be medicinal benefits to traditional medicines I still like there to be actual proof that they work. The blend of legitimate science and pseudoscience that naturopaths sell makes me extremely uncomfortable. And speaking of selling, I don’t think that you should trust a “doctor” that will sell you a “cure”. There is a distinct conflict of interest there. Anyway… Back to the egg article. Murray is cited on QuackWatch for making a number of nutrition-related claims lacking scientific validity. I would add the following claims to that list: that eggs will lower cholesterol and that eggs will reduce risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Along with Murray, the article cites research on WHFoods. This “research” included a study in which participants lost more weight eating two eggs for breakfast than participants eating a bagel for breakfast. File that under “duh”. Of course you’re going to lose more weight if you eat 180 calories for breakfast than if you eat 400 calories for breakfast given all other variables are the same over both groups. I wouldn’t trust much of the so-called research found on whfoods. This site is run by the George Mateljan Foundation and their website states that they’re a non-profit organization with no commercial interests or advertising. Supposedly Mateljan is a “nutritionist” but I can’t find anything to show any credentials beyond cooking school and an interest in nutrition. In addition, a number of the contributors to the site appear to be quacks (e.g. Joseph E. Pizzorno and Kerry Evans). Many of these contributors are connected to SaluGenecists (which is a “natural health” organization which states that it founded WHFoods on its website) and Bastyr University (a natural health university which appears to be a legitimate educational institute upon first glance, but a light scratch at the surface shows that they are just peddling naturopathic pseudoscience – was that redundant?).

After a little digging through the layers, it seems that WHFoods, and all of the claims in the article which prompted this post, are based on unsubstantiated pseudoscience.