Monthly Archives: April 2008

Newsflash! – Junk food advertising is misleading!!!

The BBC has reported that 83% of U.K. consumers “believed irresponsible marketing was making it harder to encourage children to eat well”.

The survey was conducted by Which?, the U.K.’s largest independent consumer organization.

The survey also found that “most of the 2,000 questioned want the government to do more to control the marketing of unhealthy food to children”.

Currently, the Brits have banned television commercials promoting junk food programmes aimed at children under 16.

Supporters of this survey are now calling for complete ban on junk food advertising on ALL programmes aired before 9 p.m. Additionally, they are requesting the government impose rules addressing junk food advertising on the internet and on packaging.

The ‘icing on the cake’ argument was offered by Clare Corbett, a food campaigner at Which?.

Corbett said “With childhood obesity and diet-related health problems on the increase, the government must take serious action and soon.”

To summarize:

  • Junk food is bad
  • Advertisers brainwash children into wanting junk food
  • Children pester their parents
  • Parents feed their children junk food
  • Children get fat eating junk food while watching television ads about junk food
  • The U.K.’s largest consumer protection group asks parents if the government should be doing more to keep their children safe from obesity
  • Parents overwhelmingly agree, demanding that the government solve childhood obesity by removing the offending advertisements.
  • Advertisers produce another survey indicating that “76% of UK adults believe that introducing a 9pm watershed on food advertising would not reduce the level of childhood obesity”.
  • The government is left to decide if banning all junk food ads on t.v. before 9 p.m. will win them the next election.

Your daily dose of reality

  • Junk food is bad
  • We are genetically disposed to prefer sweet, salty, greasy, calorie dense foods. We crave these things as a mechanism of survival. Genetics. Millions of years.
  • Advertisers know this. Food manufacturers know this. They sell us what we want. If we don’t want it, we won’t buy it. If we don’t buy it, they won’t sell it.
  • Every parent knows that feeding your children junk food while sitting them in front of the t.v. is guaranteed to make them fat.

What to do, what to do

  • Parents set the example for their children.
  • Stop buying junk food. Not just for your children, you too.
  • Stop watching t.v. Get outside and exercise. If it’s too cold, read a book.
  • Stop expecting the government to do everything for you.

The rant endeth.

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Anti-Obesity Pill for the U.K.?

The Daily Mail reports that “GlaxoSmithKline has applied for a licence to sell Alli in Britain and it could be available next year”.

For those that don’t know, Alli is the over the counter (OTC) version of Xenical.

Xenical (generic name – Orlistat) is a prescription only drug produced by GSK designed to prevent obesity by blocking the absorption of dietary fat.

As reported in USA Today, Caroline Apovian, director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston University Medical Center and a consultant for GlaxoSmithKline, has patients on Alli and Xenical. She tells them the drugs will block about 100 to 200 fat calories a day. At that rate, they would lose an extra pound every 2½ to 5 weeks.

A 2007 study printed in the Lancet showed that Orlistat reduces weight by around 3 kg on average and decreases progression to diabetes in high-risk patients; adverse gastrointestinal effects are common.

And what are the adverse gastrointestinal side effects?

Note – This is taken directly from the Xenical website.

“Because XENICAL works by blocking the absorption of dietary fat, it is likely that you will experience some changes in bowel habits. These bowel changes are a natural effect of blocking the fat from being absorbed. They generally occur during the first weeks of treatment; however, for some people they may continue for 6 months or longer while on XENICAL”.

These changes may include gas with oily discharge, an increased number of bowel movements, an urgent need to have them, and an inability to control them, particularly after meals containing higher amounts of fat than are recommended.

An inability to control your bowel movements.


Like the great Neil Peart once said “You don’t get something for nothing“.

Brits will just have to decide if the benefits of Alli outweigh (no pun intended) the side effects.

Note that in the first four months that it was available for sale in the U.S., Alli sold over two million starter packages. At $60 per package, that is $120 million in sales in only four months.

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Genetics & Obesity

The American Society for Addiction Medicine held their annual conference in Toronto this past weekend. One of the attendees, Dr. Carolyn Ross spoke about the link between human genetics and obesity. In an interview with a local radio station, 680 News, Dr. Ross said that “70 per cent of obesity is genetic”.

Dr. Ross hopes that this linkage between obesity and genetics will ‘take away some of the stigma and shame associated with obesity’.

A related newspaper article appeared in this past Sunday’s Toronto Star. In this article, the link between anorexia nervosa and human genetics was discussed. In this article, the point was made that over the past 30 years, the rate of anorexia has remained unchanged while the rate of bulimia has risen sharply. The point being made here is that while bulimia may indeed be driven by a societal demand for thinness, anorexia may be driven by a genetic flaw.

While research into a genetic cause of anorexia (or bulimia, binge eating, etc) is only in it’s infancy, “results of the first genetic studies, released in the past five years, reveal that genetic vulnerability for anorexia nervosa lies on chromosome 1 of the 24 chromosomes that make up the human genome”.

So what do we take from this?

If Dr. Ross is correct and genetics has a huge impact on obesity, do we ignore the smaller role of our own behaviour? If you knew that you had inherited a genetic propensity towards obesity, do you give up trying to eat a healthy diet and engage in physical exercise? Do you wait for science to come up with a genetic cure?

While I agree with Dr. Ross that the social stigma attached to obesity is cruel and thoughtless ( if there is a genetic component to both obesity & cancer, why is it acceptable to mock the obese but not a cancer patient?), obese individuals still have to accept responsibility for their own health.

For every person who was born with a congenital leptin deficiency, there are thousands upon thousands of obese individuals who have a simple genetic predisposition towards obesity. A PREDISPOSITION.

Genetics is not Destiny.

Learn how to keep your body healthy, learn how to train your body to overcome cravings, eat well, exercise, and make the most with the genetic hand that you were dealt.

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BMI effectiveness questioned

A study conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic says that excess body-fat is associated with early signals of heart disease, EVEN in people whose BMI is considered normal.

Their findings, presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session, put into question the effectiveness of the BMI as the primary measure of obesity.

It is amazing that it has taken this long.

The main limitation of this measure of obesity is not the BMI itself, but in it’s implementation. The medical community made a mistake by relying on a ‘one size fits all’ tool like the BMI. Obesity is not a ‘one size fits all’ problem.

The BMI index was meant to be used as “a simple means of classifying sedentary (physically inactive) individuals with an average body composition”.

The key word is average. Not tall people. Not short people. Not muscular people. Not “big boned” people.

AVERAGE people.

I have been helping people eliminate their body-fat and transform their bodies for over 15 years, and I have never had a client who was an AVERAGE person. There is no ‘one size fits all’.

Current research shows that obesity has a very strong genetic component. Like most medical conditions, having a genetic propensity towards obesity does not mean that you will be fat. The lifestyle that you choose to live will determine whether or not you fulfill your genetic predisposition.

Instead of using a BMI, I track my clients’ progress with individualized tools like circumference measurements or calipers or electrical impedance scales.

Note – I was made aware of this study by an article available at this blog. Take a look.


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Apples lower Metabolic Syndrome risk

There is a new scientific paper being discussed today that claims that people who eat the equivalent of one large apple a day are at lower risk of metabolic syndrome.

The paper, presented at the Experimental Biology 2008 meeting was produced by Nutrition Impact, LLC , paid for by the American apple industry and heartily endorsed by the author of the 16th C rhyme “An apple a day keeps the doctor away…” .

The paper analyzed data collected in the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. After crunching the data, Nutrition Impact concluded that adults who eat apples and/or apple products (juice, sauce) are 27% less likely to have metabolic syndrome than non-consumers.

Other benefits for the apple eaters include: smaller waistlines, less abdominal fat, and lower blood pressure.

Not too suprisingly, when compared to apple abstainers, those who chose to indulge eat more fruit in general. They ingest higher levels of fibre, vitamins A and C, calcium and potassium. They also eat less total fat, saturated fat, modified fats and total sugar.

From this paper, I think it is safe to say that apples make up part of a healthy diet. When compared to other fruits, the apple is not a magic anti-Metabolic Syndrome pill. However, when compared to the typical North American diet of sugar, modified fats and a variety of non-foods, the apple is a superstar.

I found out about this paper in my daily National Post – Apples & Metabolic Syndrome

I thought this blogger did a great job with this topic. I wish my post was half as well written. medinnovationblog


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Dieting – what a tangled web – pt.2

In 2007, North Americans spent an estimated $64 billion on weight-loss products & services. This works out to an average of $810 per dieter.

2007 North American population = 334,000,000 x Approx 25% of the population participating in the weight-loss industry = 79,000,000 dieters in North America.
$64,000,000,000 spent in 2007 / 79,000,000 dieters = $810 per person

So what did the typical North American dieter get for their $810?

Not a whole lot of success considering that obesity rates keep increasing year after year.

So keep your $810 in your pocket and pay attention.

In Part 1 of this post, I began by dividing all of the different methods of weight-loss into two camps

Eat Less and Burn More

I then gave an introductory explanation of the methods that fell into the Eat Less camp

Today I will cover the Burn More camp.

Burn More

By itself or in conjunction with one or more of the Eat Less methods, burning extra calories can be an effective way to lose weight. In addition, some of the Burn More methods will do more for your health than just melting away body-fat.

One of the most obvious and time tested ways of burning more calories is exercise.


Along with eating less food, exercise is the original cure for excess body-fat. Get outside, move around and you WILL lose body-fat.

Simple, right?

Not in 2008. Weight-loss is a huge business. If you owned a business that earned just 1% of the weight-loss industry sales, you would have grossed $580 million dollars last year. Sounds pretty good to me.

However, if you are going to earn $580 mill, you had better be offering something more complicated than:

  • Walk 30 minutes per day at a brisk pace
  • Stretch every night before bed for 20 minutes
  • Perform 30 minutes of body weight exercises / calisthenics 3 times per week
  • 15 minutes of deep breathing exercises or guided meditation per day

This plan, when combined with a meal plan focused around fresh vegetables, fruit, lean protein (animal or vegetable) and minimal grains will result in a leaner, fitter, healthier & more relaxed you…GUARANTEED

This plan is simple and effective. However, simple and effective will not achieve $580 million in sales.

$580 million in sales requires that the exercise gurus make things complicated. For example, one of the major fitness centres in the U.S. is offering 341 different fitness classes. Three Hundred and Forty One.


Let’s simplify.

Even with 341 fitness classes, fitness training actually has very few goals.

  1. Make your heart & lungs work better
  2. Make your muscles stronger
  3. Keep your joints & muscles at optimum flexibility/stability
  4. Improve your co-ordination – balance, agility, etc…

These 4 four fitness goals are designed to help you live longer & live better.

I will cover this topic in more detail @ Synergy Mind and Body.

Fat Burners / Thermogenics

Fat Burners or Thermogenics are dietary supplements or synthetic drugs designed to speed up the metabolism of body-fat. Take a pill and see the fat melt away.

Thermogenics have been around in one form or another for a long time. In the 1800s, digitalis was used as a fat-burner due to the assumption that its ability to increase the heart rate would result in fat loss. At that time, digitalis was also known as Dead Man’s Bells and Witches’ Gloves due to its toxicity.

In the 1900s, thyroid pills became popular.

In the 1960s & 1970s, amphetamines were all the rage. This continues today with Phentermine et al. Amphetamines are supposed to work by speeding up the metabolism & suppressing appetite. Sounds great until you get to their contraindications. Dependence, increased blood pressure & heart rate, insomnia…

In the 1980s/1990s, the Ephedrine/Caffeine/Aspirin (E.C.A) fat burner stack was very popular.

A distinct thermogenic effect was noticed by most who tried this fat burner. However, in most people, the effect was short lived and the product had to be cycled on and off as the effects wore off. People would lose weight while on, and then gain it back while off the stack. As well, there were numerous potential side effects.

The legal status of Ephedrine is currently up in the air. Supplement companies are currently unable to market ephedrine products as weight loss or bodybuilding supplements. The connection of pseudoephedrine to crystal meth makes further clouds the status of ephedrine as a marketable thermogenic.

When supplement manufacturers were banned from using ephedrine for their thermogenic products, they turned to other “natural” compounds such as citrus aurantium, guarana and yerba mate.

Hormonal Supplements

Another method of achieving weight loss involves the control of the body’s storage hormones. In particular, insulin and cortisol.

Insulin resistance, which may be caused / accelerated by the typical North American diet of fast acting carbohydrates, has numerous symptoms. One of those is weight gain; particularly fat around the abdominal region.

In the 1800s, Lord Byron popularized the use of apple cider vinegar as a method of controlling insulin and keeping body-fat at bay. Strangely enough, apple cider vinegar is currently experiencing a re-birth as a weight-loss supplement.

More recently, supplements such as chromium, alpha lipoic acid, vanadium, magnesium, taurine, zinc, gymnema sylvestre and banaba leaf extract/ colosolic acid have been promoted as insulin controlling weight-loss supplements.

Another hormonal approach to weight loss involves cortisol. It is cortisol’s ability to elevate blood sugar levels that has made it a target of dieters and supplement companies.

Phosphatidylserine found in white kidney bean extract as well as various adaptogenic herbs are being marketed as cortisol blockers effective at fighting stress induced weight gain.

Like the insulin focused supplements, the effectiveness ofcortisol focused products is still up for debate.

Liposuction / Abdominoplasty

While I may be stretching things a bit by including surgical methods of weight loss in the “Burn More” category; it fits here better than the “Eat Less” category, and I didn’t want to write a separate post. So there. Sue me.

Abdominoplasty is also known as a “tummy tuck”. Excess fat and skin is cut away from the body, the abdominal wall tightened and like Humpty Dumpty, is all put back together again.

Another method of surgically removing body-fat is liposuction. While there are various different methods of liposuction, the basic concept is the removal of body-fat by the insertion of a hollow narrow tube (think of a drinking straw) which is connected to a vacuum or suction machine. The fat is sucked out of your body through the tube.

It must be noted that like any surgery, both procedures involve risk.

Well, that’s it for today. In future posts, I will be looking at individual methods of weight loss. While I will focus mainly on the “eating less” side of the equation, I would be happy to answer anyone’s questions concerning any of the other methods. If I don’t know the answer, I will find someone who will.


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Dieting – what a tangled web

As of April 3, 2008; a Google search of the word “diet” would return you over 179,000,000 hits.

There are thousands upon thousands of individuals & corporations who will sell you the perfect solution to your weight loss dreams. Take this pill. Use this cream. Wear this belt. Do this workout. Try this diet.

Marketdata Enterprises, Inc., a U.S. market research company estimates that the weight loss industry had sales of $58 billion in 2007. They are projecting that by 2010, the industry will be worth $68.7 billion. This projection would have been even greater if it wasn’t for the scare of a possible recession.

So where do you start?

Let’s begin by dividing all of the different weight loss methods into 2 main camps.

Eat Less and Burn More

Eat Less

Simple. Eat less food and you WILL lose weight. That will be $58 billion, please.

Not so simple. Every seasoned dieter knows that our bodies are stubborn about holding onto our fat and that unless we are willing to survive on nothing but air and sunshine, (see breatharianism) we had better become smarter about burning body-fat.

To that end, smart people throughout history have com up with smart ways to help the rest of us eat less food. Here are some of their methods.

Structured Diets

Instead of just eating less of the foods you usually eat, there have always been diet gurus willing to sell you their one of a kind, guaranteed to work, fat burning diet. Some work, some don’t. Some work for a while, but then stop working. Wikipedia lists 79 different types of diets. In future posts, I will analyze some of the diets on the market today.

I will also look at extreme diets like the VLCD diets used in hospital settings, fasting or detox diets like the “Master Cleanse” and anorexia.

Behaviour Modification Techniques

From 1895 to 1919, a man named Horace Fletcher popularized a method of eating that promised weight loss, greater health and an abundance of energy. His practice was called Fletcherizing. Practitioners of his method were called Fletcherizers. The secret of his method – chew each bite of food until it liquifies in your mouth. In 2008, a modified version of this technique is part of Paul McKenna’s “I Can Make You Thin” program.

Another behaviour modification technique comes from the field of psychology. Psychologists (see Judith Beck) are teaching cognitive behavioural therapy techniques to clients trying to lose weight.

Appetite Suppressants

Attempts to suppress appetite have been around almost forever. In the 1800s, tree sap & camphor tea were thought to suppress appetite. Ice water is purported to both suppress appetite and increase short term metabolism. Along the same lines, soup based diets (see Cabbage Soup diet) claim to suppress appetite.

Other methods of appetite suppressant include dietary fibre (see food & supplements), homeopathic & aromatherapy preparations, herbal appetite suppressants (see Hoodia Gordonii), and synthetics like fen-phen.

Diuretics & Laxatives

These two methods of weight loss have a long and undistinguished history. In the 1800s, dieters used Potassium acetate (diuretic) and chalk (laxative) for rapid yet temporary weight loss. Commonly used as a last ditch effort to lose weight FAST, laxatives and diuretics come in many forms.

While most natural diuretics, like asparagus and cranberries, have a relatively safe and gradual effect on body fluids, herbal products like ephedra, horsetail and dandelion root along with synthetic products such as lasix and aldactone have a much more powerful and potentially dangerous effect on fluid levels and your kidneys.

Like the diuretics, laxatives come in varying strengths and from both natural sources like coffee, senna leaf, and aloe vera as well as from synthetic sources like Tegaserod. Like diuretics, laxatives can have serious side effects when abused.

Fat Blockers & Carb Blockers

Fat and Carbohydrate blocking supplements are designed to stop either dietary fats or carbohydrates from being absorbed by your digestive system. The theory is that “blocked” fats and carbs pass straight through your digestive track without being used for energy or stored as body-fat.

Bulimia & Anorexia

Bulimia and Anorexia are the only methods of weight loss currently recognized in the AMA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as eating disorders. Other forms of disordered eating, such as binge eating, while not recognized as mental illnesses by the psychiatric industry, are still very serious medical conditions. To engage is these behaviours is dangerous.

Bariatric Bypass Surgery

Bariatric or Gastric Bypass surgery is the catch-all phrase for the different types of surgical procedures designed to treat obesity by altering the G.I. tract and consequently reducing the amount of food eaten and/or absorbed by the patient. As of April 2008, there are at least 8 different types of Gastric Bypass surgeries.

Like all surgeries, Gastric Bypass surgery is not without risk. On top of the surgical risk, the success of this procedure is not guaranteed. Recent research has shown a genetic component to the success of Gastric Bypass surgeries

Scientific Research

As science learns more and more about our bodies, the search for effective weight loss moves farther away from diets, behaviour modification and diet pills and towards anti-obesity vaccines targeting various hormones (leptin, ghrelin, pyy, agrp, etc…) and genetic research.

While the search for a genetic answer to obesity is very exciting, it seems like for the present, genetic research into obesity is creating more questions than answers. I will be following this research closely and will be posting as new developments come to light.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, all of the different weight loss methods available today fall into two camps, Eat Less and Burn More.

This post served as a general introduction to the “Eat Less” methods of weight loss. My next post will address the “Burn More” methods.

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