Reporter Discovers Rounding on Food Labels

Filed in Social IssuesTags: Health/Nutrition

I guess it's Pick On day...

On the launch of the new FDA food label requirements, one HealthFinder reporter discovers that labels can legally accomodate for rounding:

THURSDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- When it comes to food labels that list levels of unhealthy trans fats, zero plus zero doesn't always equal zero.

That's because newly implemented U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules on labeling allow foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving to claim "zero" grams of trans fats on their labels.

Under these guidelines, which went into effect on Jan. 1, a food with 0.4 grams of trans fats can be listed as having zero trans fats. That means that Americans who consume three or four servings of these foods in a day will have unwittingly eaten an extra gram or two of trans fats.

...Barbara Schneeman, director of the Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling and Dietary Supplements for the FDA said the reason the FDA is allowing foods under 0.5 grams of trans fats to be rounded down to zero is that current detection methods for trans fats aren't very reliable below 0.5 grams.

Um, hello?!? Has our illustrious reporter never before looked at a food label? Has she not noticed that ALL macro-nutrients - fat, carbohydrate, and protein - as well as their sub-categories (e.g. saturated fat, fiber) are subject to the same rounding rules?

Free. This term means that a product contains no amount of, or only trivial or "physiologically inconsequential" amounts of, one or more of these components: fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugars, and calories. For example, "calorie-free" means fewer than 5 calories per serving, and "sugar-free" and "fat-free" both mean less than 0.5 g per serving. Synonyms for "free" include "without," "no" and "zero." A synonym for fat-free milk is "skim".

Here's another "shocker" for our reporter: ">1g" means 0.5-0.9 grams. The reason for such rounding? First, the meaningful differences between zero, >0.5, 0.5-0.9, and 1.0g of a macronutrient are negligible. Second, as mentioned in the article, detection methods for such small amounts are not terribly accurate or reliable.

The problem lies not with the rounding, but with the often-asinine "serving" sizes listed on labels. Easy fix: list both the nutrition information for a serving size, as well as for the package as a whole. Most questions of "hidden" amounts of macronutrients would then disappear.

Government-Propogated Stem Cell Obfuscation

Filed in Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

You know, I generally like the web site as a decent roundup of recent studies and information. I don't, however, like it when this government-maintained web site propogates the unnecessary and agenda-driven obfuscation of the stem-cell issue:

TUESDAY, Jan. 10 (HealthDay News) -- What had once seemed a giant leap for science has turned out to be not even the smallest of steps -- for now.

Seoul National University's announcement Tuesday that all of Dr. Hwang Woo-suk's apparently groundbreaking research in human stem cells was faked closes a bitter chapter in the quest to find more and better remedies for human illnesses.

Hwang's only legitimate claim is having cloned the world's first dog, Snuppy.

For those who have pinned their professional and personal hopes on stem cells, the shocking disclosure means this area of research is headed back to square one.

"We're back to the beginning in terms of trying to achieve somatic cell nuclear transfer," said Dr. Susan Okie, a contributing editor with the New England Journal of Medicine.

For the uninitiated, "somatic cell nuclear transfer" (SCNT) is the technical term otherwise known as "therapeutic cloning" - in other words, embryonic stem cell research. The article, however, makes no mention of the differentiation of types of stem cells, nor that adult stem cell research has already delievered many bona fide treatments and therapies (as of July 2005, the stem-cell scorecard reads: Adult 65, Embryonic 0).

The article's out-of-context doom-and-gloom continues:

Research is being reset to "where we were before, where using somatic cell nuclear transfer to derive stem cells is only a theoretical possibility," added David Magnus, director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethnics. "We're hopeful, but whether it's possible and how long it's going to take is something that is now a complete unknown. This really is a setback in a lot of ways."

The setback is not a death knell for the field, however, experts predicted.

"I think these kinds of experiments will succeed," said Dr. Darwin Prockop, director of the Center for Gene Therapy at Tulane University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. "They will eventually succeed, and perhaps sometime soon."

While SCNT researchers remain "hopeful" that "these kinds of experiments... will eventually succeed", adult and cord-blood stem-cell therapies already succeed, and without the ethical implications or thus-far false hope of embryonic stem cell research:

Leading proponents of research on embryonic stem cells are themselves lowering expectations that dramatic cures to diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s are just around the corner. The Guardian newspaper recently reported that Lord Winston, the most prominent embryonic-stem-cell researcher in the United Kingdom, said that hopes for cures had been distorted by arrogance and spin.

“I view the current wave of optimism about embryonic stem cells with growing suspicion,” Winston told the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Similarly, South Korean cloning expert Curie Ahn now warns that scientists won’t be able to develop cures from embryonic stem cells for three to five more decades. In experiment after experiment, scientists are learning that embryonic stem cells are too carcinogenic or “wild” for therapeutic purposes.

Back to the article, more mis-information:

The damage to the public's perception of stem cell research is likely to linger, Prokop added: "Every time you say stem cell for a while, people will think 'fraud.'"

Nevertheless, stem cell research with the potential for real breakthroughs continues...

The article's one "more information" source link is to the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR), hardly an unbiased source, as ISSCR are ardent supporters of embryonic stem cell research, and their FAQ discounts adult stem cell research as well as the already proven therapies from adult stem cell research.

OYB: January14

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Today´s reading:
OT: Genesis 30, Genesis 31:1-16
NT: Matthew 10:1-23
Ps: Psalm 12
Pr: Proverbs 3:13-15

Today´s notable verse:

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Matthew 10:16 (NIV)

The One Year Bible Blog notes:

Matthew 10 verse 16 stands out - "Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Be as wary as snakes and harmless as doves." This is good advice for us today as well. Jesus is still sending us out today as his followers. And I do think this teaching is wise - for us to be wary and harmless at the same time. It's an interesting line to walk, but I believe a wise one. I believe the only way to really walk this line well is through the blessing of the Holy Spirit. I don't think we can do it on our own...

I chose this verse as today's notable verse as well. Though, the connotation of the NIV's translation as "shrewd as snakes" seems to have more emphasis than the NLT's translation as "wary as snakes." The ESV and Youngs Literal Translation translate this phrase as "wise as serpents", Darby translates as "prudent as serpents", Wycliffe translates as "sly as serpents." The original Greek word used here is phronimos, which means "practically wise, sensible" and is derived from phroneo, which means "to have understanding, to think." Perhaps this understanding brings much more clarity, eh? Jesus is telling his disciples to think and to understand; to be wise, practical, and sensible with respect to the world around them, and the people with whom they interact. The term in, but not of applies here, since Jesus also tells his disciples to be "blameless as doves." Indeed, it is a fine line to walk - to learn enough of the world and of people to understand them, yet to keep ourselves set apart from the world, and from worldly people. If we separate ourselves from the world, we don't risk being influenced by the world - but we also have no opportunity to influence the world for Christ, as salt and light. I would rather face my own failure to set myself apart from the world and risk sinning than isolate myself from the world and risk the opportunity to help one who is lost in the world to find Christ. You know what, either way, I'm going to sin. I do, every day! But on the one hand, God can use me; on the other, I am useless. I would much rather be a useful sinner than useless sinner. Either way, my salvation is secure; but, oh, that I would hear, "Well done, my good and faithful servant!"

Comments from you & Question of the Day - Based on my discussion of "The Red Tent" by Anita Diamant above, are there other Biblical fiction books that you have read that you would recommend? The Red Tent is the first Biblical fiction book I have read, and I'd like to read some more. Please post up in the Comments section below any other Biblical fiction books you'd recommend?

I know it's probably not exactly what you are looking for, but Eli by Bill Myers was a great read. It is a parallel-universe "what-if" book based on the premise that the Gospel story happens in the present-day United States. (Bill Myers' Fire of Heaven trilogy is great as well, but it is apocalyptic Christian fiction, and definitely outside the scope of the question. His best book may be Face of God.)


Bald Man Blogging poses this question:

Then he touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it will happen.” And suddenly they could see! Jesus sternly warned them, “Don't tell anyone about this.” But instead, they spread his fame all over the region.

Curious why Jesus didn't want them to say anything. As a result of their testimony, legions of sick were brought to Jesus wherever he went. Was he hoping to escape the crowds and get on to something else? Was this great healing ministry a “sidetrack” to Jesus' real purpose? Again, I don't have answers; just questions.

I can think of several reasons Jesus may have given the erstwhile blind men such a command (and he does so elsewhere, as well) - reasons consistent with what we know of Christ. Perhaps it was a matter of timing? Even with Jesus, his ministry had a specific timing in which he was to carry it out - just as we today see the element of timing in God's plan for our lives. Perhaps it was important the Jesus' ministry that those who sought him for healing did so because of their belief in who he claimed to be, rather than their belief in the testimony of those whom he had already healed. Perhaps these men (and others to whom he gave the same command) needed some element of personal/spiritual growth that could only be accomplished through their subsequent experience with living healed yet unable to explain how or by whom. All of the above? None? This question is perhaps one of those for which we won't know the answer until Christ's return.

Starting to Sound Plausible

Filed in PoliticsTags: War on Terror

Reports of Al Zawahiri's demise might actually be true, and they're doing forensic tests:

Eighteen people were killed, according to the villagers who said women and children were among the fatalities.

But Pakistani officials tell ABC News that five of those killed were high-level al Qaeda figures, and their bodies are now undergoing forensic tests for positive identification.

Officials say Zawahiri was known to have used safe houses in this area last winter and was believed to be in the area again this winter.

The 'sphere has been all abuzz with the initial reports, but I'll wait for the forensic evicence to come back before I get too hopeful...