Category Archives: Diet and Nutrition

Not all obese people are unhealthy, just most.

Scanning through blog after blog, a common theme floods the month of August. Several entries appear to cite this article or some other article that follows the same story. I read through the article and the wording throughout struck me to be quite odd.

In the study, about 51 percent of overweight adults, or roughly 36 million people nationwide, had mostly normal levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, blood fats called triglycerides and blood sugar.

Almost one-third of obese adults, or nearly 20 million people, also were in this healthy range, meaning that none or only one of those measures was abnormal.

Yet about a fourth of adults in the recommended-weight range had unhealthy levels of at least two of these measures. That means 16 million of them are at risk for heart problems.

The wording appears to compare healthy to unhealthy. Most comparisons make a clear point by showing the contrast between like things. In any case, I later found this to be how the original journal article was also worded. I decided to stop reading journalists’ take on the paper and decided to show the data from it directly.

 

The following chart shows the percentage of people that have risk factors associated with heart disease.
  Normal Weight Overweight Obese
20-34 years old 10.3% 52.3%
35-49 years old 16.9%  – 68.9%
50-64 years old 41.7%  – 79.6%
65-79 years old 54.7%  – 85.7%
80+ years old 56.2%  – 77.1%
20+ years old 23.5% 48.7% 68.3%

Unfortunately the journal article did not mention age specific percents for the overweight category.

Looking at the data in that form one does not see obesity as equaling unhealthiness, just significantly MORE unhealthy than being a normal weight. Also the risk factors affect the obese at a very young age. This should have been what most of the news sources were reporting. Instead we saw headlines like “Some Obese Individuals Appear ‘Metabolically Healthy,’ Without Increased Cardiovascular Risk,” “Half of overweight adults may be heart-healthy,” or “Overweight doesn’t always mean heart risks.”

The news spread like mad into blogs and with that came several entries like this. Browsing through the comments one quickly sees how the majority feels that they fall into the obese but HEALTHY category (statistics from the study shows otherwise). The sad fact remains that this study only focused on ONE aspect of health. Who knows what other diseases follow similar trends. 

In any case, the study shows that not everyone lives a healthy lifestyle (regardless of size). BMI remains an archaic method of determining health. Childhood obesity needs to be addressed, as potential risk factors are significantly higher for obese children.

Living a high quality life free from disease may be impossible, but cutting risk factors can aid you in the goal. This study shows that losing weight can help.

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Dunkin’ Donuts getting healthier

Dunkin’ Donuts has a new menu for customers watching their health and weight. The “DD Smart” menu, which will debut in stores Aug. 6, will feature new flatbread sandwiches. Customers will be able to choose either a turkey sausage egg-white sandwich or a vegetable egg-white sandwich. Both will be under 300 calories with 9 grams of fat or less, the company said.

“We just felt it was important to provide some choice in our menu,” said Will Kussell, president and chief brand officer.

The new menu will also include current menu items that have 25 percent fewer calories, sugar, fat or sodium or are made with more “nutritional ingredients”. Current products that will join the new sandwiches on the menu include a multigrain bagel, Cofee Coolatta with skim milk, Iced Latte Lite, a reduced-fat blueberry muffin, and more.

The entire DDSmart menu can be found here.

Hopefully in the future, success of this ‘smart’ menu over their old offerings should drive them to make this their ‘regular’ menu. I am strong proponent of fast food joints offering smarter choices not in special menus but making those choices the norm. It’s all about small steps and this decision by Dunkin’ Donuts provides a step in the right direction.

 

7/30/08 – 4.66 miles in 47:37 (slow run with Sparky)

Health tip: When eating at sit down restaurants…

Chili’s, Outback, T.G.I. Fridays… Sit down full-service restaurants remain a hot spot for anyone looking for good filling meal. As great as the food and atmosphere might be, a lot of damage (as far as goals to get fit) can happen here. Most of the entrées at these establishments contain well over 1000 calories, couple that with a drink and you might end up consuming over 1500 calories in one meal!

While many might argue that self control issues need to be addressed to prevent over-eating. The easiest way I have found to control this bingeing involves taking a ‘to-go’ container with you. As soon as your food arrives, simply place a good portion of it into your container.

The reasons I promote taking your own container is one can pack away the food as SOON as it arrives not after one is already stuffed and because of the environmental impact of the styrofoam boxes. Styrofoam is not a part of most curbside residential recycling programs, even though it is labeled with the recycling number 6. Styrofoam is made from polystyrene and is extremely bulky and lightweight, which makes it costly to recycle polystyrene in small quantities.

The second important step involves limiting/eliminating the amount of soda you consume at the establishment. Free refills often urge people to down several cups. These cups often hold 22-32 ounces, that’s more than enough. Limiting oneself to water might be the safest way to avoid any possible urges to order a refill.

These little changes in habits might seem pointless but everything adds up. The weight loss you might not see now will arrive 6 months later. I by no means am a pinnacle of human fitness, verbalizing these goals just helps me keep with it.  Just enjoy the journey and try to keep everything moderate.

7/24/08 – 4.6 miles in 42:34

New rule requires calories on menus in New York

A new rule requiring chain restaurants in New York to post calorie information on their menus took effect this past Friday. The regulation defines a chain restaurant as one that has 15 or more outlets across the country.  In New York, the rule affected 2,000 restaurants or 10 percent of the total in the city. Among them are such restaurants as McDonald’s, Burger King, Applebee’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks and Subway.

The rule also states that caloric information must be presented in the same font and format as the price and name of the food item. Health inspectors may issue fines from $200 to $2,000 for establishments not in compliance. 

I hope the rule makes it nationwide. This will prevent people claiming ignorance about the unhealthy nature of meals they consume. It will also serve as reality checks for people consistently consuming fast food. Several customers have claimed to be unaffected by the advent of the rule, if it changes a few decisions a week, I think it’s well worth it. 

The enforcement of this rule would definitely affect the way I sometimes attack the dollar menu at fast food restaurants. 

7/22/08 – 4.6 miles in 41:42 (8:56 per mile pace)

Obesity rises to new heights…

A report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated that the overweight populations of 45 U.S. states increased last year. The percentage between 2005 and 2007 grew about 1.7 percent to a record 25.6 percent, or about 54 million people. That pretty much means 1 in every 4 American is obese!

Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee are the states with the biggest percentage in obesity. 30 percent of the adults are considered obese, that’s nearing 1 out of 3 people! Colorado sported the lowest rate at 18.7 percent.

By U.S. regions obesity was most prevalent in the South, with 27 percent of residents classified as obese. In the Midwest, the number was 25.3 percent; in the Northeast, 23.3 percent; and in the West, 22.1 percent, according to the report.

Breaking the numbers down by race/ethnicity and sex, obesity prevalence was highest for non-Hispanic black women (39.0 percent), followed by non-Hispanic black men (32.1 percent).

Education levels play a role, too. For men, obesity prevalence was lowest among college graduates (22.1 percent) and highest among those with some college (29.5 percent) and a high school diploma (29.1 percent). For women, obesity prevalence was lowest among college graduates (17.9 percent) and highest among those with less than a high school diploma (32.6 percent).

The CDC defines obesity as a body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height) of 30 or above. An adult who is 5-feet, 10-inches tall is considered obese if he or she weighs 209 pounds. I know many people remain opposed to using BMI for anything but when one looks at just how much leeway has been given, it’s very scary.

The report contained data about adults but children do not show any immunity to the obesity epidemic. Obesity remains an issue that must be addressed. People have to start being held accountable instead of making silly references to genetics, physiological problems, or fast food companies. Take initiative and make some small changes, it’s not too late or the wrong time. Let’s help each other get healthy!

7/20/08 – 4.1 miles in 36:47

Battle of the diets: Atkins wins

Low-fat food pyramid

Low-fat food pyramid

The Atkins diet may have just proved itself.

A study, out this week, found that among moderately obese people in Israel (mostly men), the Mediterranean diet and the low-carb Atkins like diet actually outperformed a low-fat diet at promoting weight loss over a two-year period.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes fish, sources of “good” fat like olive oil and nuts, veggies, and whole grains. The low-carb diet set limits for carbohydrates but none for calories or fat, dieters in the study were urged to choose vegetarian sources of fat and protein. The low-fat diet allowed no more than 30 percent of daily calories from fat.

Mediterranean food pyramid

Mediterranean food pyramid

The participants were employees of a nuclear research center in Israel. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day in Israel, and the participants all ate lunch at the center’s cafeteria daily. That allowed the researchers to offer them lunch options that made it easier to stick to their diets. For breakfast and dinner, the dieters were counseled on how to stick to their eating plans and were asked to fill out questionnaires on what they ate. During this two-year period around 85% of the 322 people in the study stuck with their diets.

The less-than-great news is that none of the diets produced huge weight loss: Among the people in the study, those assigned to the low-fat group lost the least, about 6.4 pounds, while the Mediterranean diet group lost an average of 9.7 pounds and the low-carbers lost 10.4 pounds.

Atkins (low-carb) food pyramid

Atkins (low-carb) food pyramid

Surprisingly the low-carb diet also excelled at improving the cholesterol profile, reducing the total cholesterol to HDL ratio by 20 percent, compared to 16 percent in the Mediterranean diet and 12 percent in the low-fat diet. The Mediterranean diet proved most effective against diabetes.

 

Some other interesting facts to note from the study:

  • Most of the weight loss occurs in the first 6 months, weight then increases and plateaus off.
  • 24 people (out of 109) abandoned the low-carb diet, 16 people (out of 109) abandoned the Mediterranean diet, and 10 people (out of 104) abandoned the low-fat diet.
  • The study was partially supported by the Veronica Atkins Research Foundation.

The study showed that the three diets produced similar improvements in things like liver function, cholesterol profiles and overall health. I think any one of these diets can help one’s health but without pairing it with exercise it really does not impact ones life significantly. No quick fixes exist, in the end activity will always remain the leading weight loss solution.

The journal article in its entirety.

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

A truly amazing concept, a panoramic view of cultural diversity from a diet standpoint. Hungry Planet: What the World Eats dives into the dietary habits of a spectrum of families from different countries featuring pictures of each family behind 1 weeks worth of food. The artists behind this novel concept, photographer Peter Menzel and writer Faith D’Aluisio, visited some 30 families in 24 countries.

This post does not contain all of the families featured in the book but does show large portion. Some things worth noting include the horrific packaging of foods in developed nations. One quickly sees why the industrialized nations produce so much trash. Other visible facts includes the lack of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other produce in the US families. The reality being the cost and convenience of being able to store prepackaged foods for a long period of time while having foods that are quick to prepare.

I hope everyone examines these pictures and takes something from it.

Japan: The Ukita family of Kodaira City

Food expenditure for one week: 37,699 Yen or $317.25
Favorite foods: sashimi, fruit, cake, potato chips

Great Britain: The Bainton family of Cllingbourne Ducis

Food expenditure for one week: 155.54 British Pounds or $253.15
Favorite foods: avocado, mayonnaise sandwich, prawn cocktail, chocolate fudge cake with cream

Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily

Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11
Favorite foods: fish, pasta with ragu, hot dogs, frozen fish sticks

United States: The Caven family of California

Food expenditure for one week: $159.18
Favorite foods: beef stew, berry yogurt sundae, clam chowder, ice cream

Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp

Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23
Favorite foods: soup with fresh sheep meat

Kuwait: The Al Haggan family of Kuwait City

Food expenditure for one week: 63.63 dinar or $221.45 Family recipe: Chicken biryani with basmati rice

United States: The Revis family of North Carolina

Food expenditure for one week: $341.98
Favorite foods: spaghetti, potatoes, sesame chicken

Mexico: The Casales family of Cuernavaca

Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09
Favorite foods: pizza, crab, pasta, chicken

China: The Dong family of Beijing

Food expenditure for one week: 1,233.76 Yuan or $155.06
Favorite foods: fried shredded pork with sweet and sour sauce

Egypt: The Ahmed family of Cairo

Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53
Family recipe: Okra and mutton

Ecuador: The Ayme family of Tingo

Food expenditure for one week: $31.55
Family recipe: Potato soup with cabbage

Mongolia: The Batsuuri family of Ulaanbaatar

Food expenditure for one week: 41,985.85 togrogs or $40.02
Family recipe: Mutton dumplings

Bhutan: The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village

Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03
Family recipe: Mushroom, cheese and pork

Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide

Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07
Favorite foods: fried potatoes with onions, bacon and herring, fried noodles with eggs and cheese, pizza, vanilla pudding

Guatemala: The Mendozas of Todos Santos

Food expenditure for one week: 573 Quetzales or $75.70
Family Recipe: Turkey Stew and Susana Perez Matias’s Sheep Soup

India: The Patkars of Ujjain

Food expenditure for one week: 1,636.25 rupees or $39.27
Family Recipe: Sangeeta Patkar’s Poha (Rice Flakes)

United States: The Fernandezes of Texas

Food expenditure for one week: $242.48
Favorite Foods: Shrimp with Alfredo sauce, chicken mole, barbecue ribs, pizza