I always worry that when it comes to preventing childhood obesity, food companies that make junk foods for kids are stuck. They must continue to increase sales every quarter in order to please stockholders. This requirement forces them to engage in contradictory activities. Take a look at what Parke Wilde, a professor at Tufts, has to say on his blog about Kellogg’s new Froot Loops cereal straws and decide for yourself.
A reader asks what might be the ideal percentage of protein, fat, and carbohydrate in diets. It’s not an easy question to answer because the percentages could vary a lot, depending on the amounts of good fats (monounsaturated, for example) and good carbohydrates (whole grains). In any case, it’s too hard to have to look up the nutrient composition of every food you eat. But I sometimes have fun using the USDA’s food composition tables. They do require interpretation though as the numbers may or may not reflect what you are actually eating. Carrots grown in California may or may not have the same nutrient composition as those grown in upstate New York. I consider these tables a national treasure and wish the USDA would put more resources into making them even more comprehensive.
I was recently interviewed for a story on “10 things your grocery store doesn’t want you to know” (see it at msn health and fitness). The writer had some fun with What to Eat and honed in on the take home lessons and then some. She also quotes Brian Wansink, whose book, Mindless Eating, is one I assign to students to explain how something as simple as a large plate encourages people to eat more calories. Enjoy!
I participated in a panel with Charlie Rose last night on the science of obesity. With five people around the table, it was hard to get a word in edgewise, but I did the best I could (take a look and judge for yourself). The central issue for the conversation was whether obesity is the result of genes or the environment. If it’s genes, let’s find a drug and solve the problem. If it’s environment, things get much more complicated because no drug can fix a society that makes food available everywhere, at rock bottom cost, in enormous portions. Genes matter, of course; not everyone who overeats gains weight. But rates of overweight started to zoom up just in the past 25 years or so, too recently for genetics to have changed. While the science types are working hard to find a magic–and highly profitable–bullet, people need to find ways to handle a food environment that encourages overeating. I’m in favor of policies to make it easier to eat more healthfully, ranging from restrictions on marketing junk food to children to elimination of farm subsidies. I’m sure you can think of more. I’m collecting a list. Send suggestions.
In the meantime, I have a bit more to say about these issues at Eating Liberally.
A reporter wrote me yesterday to ask about the first weight loss drug approved by the FDA for over-the-counter use–Alli (a version of Xenical, which prevents absorption of fat). Glaxo, he says, “has mounted a large campaign ($150m) to tell people to exercise and eat low fat if they use Alli. They are touting Alli as safe and more proven than the herbal diet concoctions out there. The…drug, Alli, promises to have a modest weight loss (6-10 pounds) and it causes some uncomfortable side effects. (You my soil yourself if you eat too much fat). [Glaxo is] very upfront about the side effects if you use Alli and eat too much fat. For ex, the drug’s marketing effort makes an impression by telling users to wear dark pants and carry extra clothes in case they soil themselves. I’m wondering if it is worth it…. Do you think people will buy it? Should they?”
I’m wondering exactly the same thing. Do you know anyone who has tried it? What do they say about it?
The FDA announced today that manufacturers of dietary supplements will be required to follow Good Manufacturing Practices, meaning that supplements will have to contain precisely what the labels say they contain. What a concept! The supplement industry, concerned about the decline in sales resulting from loss of consumer confidence, has been lobbying for FDA regulation. This could not be more ironic since the supplement industry essentially wrote the legislation that deregulated supplements in the first place, an issue I had a lot of fun discussing in my book, Food Politics.
I am an occasional contributor to Huffington Post where I recently commented on the need to take action–now–on childhood obesity and school lunches.
Is it really better for health to eat foods that are low on the food chain–grassfed beef, for example? I tackled the subject briefly over at Eating Liberally, where I will be answering questions about healthy and sustainable eating on a regular basis from now on. I cover the grassfed issue in more detail in What to Eat, of course.