Health: the general condition of the body or mind with reference to soundness and vigor; soundness of body or mind; freedom from disease or ailment. Nu·tri·tion: the science or study of, or a course of study in, the process by which organisms, esp. humans, take in and utilize food material. Posts in this category pertain to the science of human nutrition and diet, and their impact on health.

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.

Research, Advertisement, or Ethical Statement?

Filed in UncategorizedTags: Academia, Health/Nutrition

Really interesting little tid-bit from the world of academia:

If you don't like getting your paper rejected before it even reaches peer review, ask David Egilman how to get around the process: In what may be an unprecedented move, when the Brown University researcher's paper was recently rejected from an occupational medicine journal, he simply bought two pages of ad space and printed the entire article in the same journal.

The article brings up some potentially thought-provoking questions concerning ties between researchers and their sponsors in industry, but doesn't really try to make a case either way. Of course, combined with other recent reports of researcher unpropriety, people might start asking questions...

Slimming Down the Body of Christ

Filed in Religion, Social IssuesTags: Health/Nutrition

Christianity Today writes about the ever-expanding waistline of the body of Christ. I totally agree with preaching the Biblical principle that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that Christians should be setting an example with respect to physical fitness; however, those with expertise on Biblical matters regarding the body and nutrition should not try to speak as experts on matters of secular nutrition. For instance:

From Atkins to South Beach, fast and easy weight-loss programs tend to be the goal of most people seeking a new diet. But virtually every health expert agrees that the path to true wellness lies not in the latest diet craze but in a permanent lifestyle change.

Now, the irony here is that both of the weight-loss plans mentioned are designed precisely and explicitly as lifetime ways-of-eating. Both are written with an emphasis on diet/nutrition as a component of overall weight management, including exercise, and a focus on long-term success, not quick weight-loss.

I applaud the effort to integrate Biblical principles into our daily lives, but we get in trouble when we don't discern between Biblical principle and our own knowledge or beliefs. For example:

"The healthy diet," Dr. Enriquez says, "is what we find in the Bible—the fruits and vegetables in Genesis 1:29. God added meat in Genesis 9:3, but we're not supposed to let go of the carbohydrates [as the Atkins craze would suggest], because we need them for our energy. But we need the right carbohydrates, not the simple ones you find in white bread or white pasta or white rice. They give us calories, but they have no nutrients. We need more complex carbohydrates in the form of fruits and vegetables."

Again, Dr. Enriquez is apparently speaking from a position in which he as just about no knowledge of the tenets of the Atkins Diet. Fruits and vegetables are exactly the carbohydrates that are included in the Atkins Diet. But that is beside my point. First, what kind of twisted theology is it that says that we eat fruits and vegetables in priority over meat because God gave them to us earlier than he did meat? Does that mean also that I should prefer to dress myself with fig leaves because Adam used them before God clothed he and Eve in animal skins? (Thankfully for those of you who would have to be around me, the answer to that question is "no".) Second, Dr. Enriquez then takes that faulty premise as a basis for stating that the human body "needs" carbohydrates for energy - an assumption that has been proven resoundingly untrue again and again.

I don't so much have a problem with espousing nutritional beliefs that differ from my own; I do, however, have a problem with trying to use the Bible to back up those views. So, stick to using the Bible to preach Biblical principles: The body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, we are to honor God with our bodies, self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit borne in the life of one living by the Spirit, gluttony and drunkenness are listed among the sins of the flesh - while at the same time allowing and encouraging Christians to study and learn sound nutritional principles and other matters of specifics on which the Bible remains silent on their own.