Sunday, December 4, 2016

CSPI's Big Fat Secret

The Center for Science in the Public Interest blasted the BMJ this week for refusing to retract a September 2015 investigatory article by Nina Teicholz of Big Fat Surprise fame after two independent experts found "no grounds for retraction."

-- excerpted from official statement of CSPI Nutrition Director Bonnie Liebman

Though some of the information in Teicholz's article was not accurate, the BMJ published corrections.

In contrast, CSPI is infamous for making one of the biggest blunders in nutritional history, a mistake that endangered the public health it claims to protect. But you will not find any admission of this colossal error on the group's website.

Back in the 1980s, CSPI campaigned to get restaurants and fast food chains to replace natural fats like butter, beef tallow and lard with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils -- commonly called trans fats -- which it claimed were much healthier.

-- excerpted from The Atlantic
But then this happened:

-- excerpted from The Atlantic

Now this is where CSPI's revisionist history on its role in the sat fat scam gets fascinating. When the embarrassed watchdog group found itself on the wrong side of science, it pretended like its campaign to popularize poisonous trans fats never happened.

Here's how the group describes the history of trans fats on its website:

-- excerpted from CSPI website
The use of the passive voice here -- "were assumed to be healthier" -- takes a page out of Stalin's play book by acting like CSPI had nothing to do with the campaign to promote trans fats. Despite being one of the loudest voices of its day to replace healthier natural fats with hideous trans fats, CSPI takes no blame for this debacle and acts like it was vacationing in Hawaii when this all went down.

A CSPI website graphic of the timeline of its involvement in trans fats begins in 1993 -- several years after it had bullied McDonald's and other fast food chains to fry their french fries in partially hydrogenated oils.

from CSPI website

Equally duplicitous, another page of the CSPI website that lists the group's "victories," mentions this milestone for 1989...

. . . yet fails to mention that McDonald's replaced the beef fat with trans fat, a substance it now deems as dangerous as motor oil and Mountain Dew.

Fortunately, there is something called newspapers which has the memory of a wife. After the  FDA finally banned trans fats, Sarah Kaplan of the Washington Post wrote:

-- excerpted from the Washington Post
So why does CSPI now pretend like it was never a big time fan boy of trans fat?

Most likely the group fears it will lose major street cred on current claims that other substances, such as saturated fat, are the progeny of the devil and pond scum. The Photoshopped selfie on CSPI's website portrays a group that has always been on the right side of nutritional history, despite a raft of evidence to the contrary.

Friday, November 25, 2016

I Can't Believe It's Not Science: Harvard Sat Fat Study as Suspect as Unilever 'Butter'

Like most dietary health devotees, one of the first things the Loquacious Lowcarbivore does when we see new headlines about the latest nutrition research is check out the funding sources of the study on which the "findings' are based.

Buried at the bottom of the study
we found that three of the researchers
work for Unilever
Sure enough, the latest sat fat hit piece from Harvard School of Public Health researchers published in the Nov. 23, 2016, BMJ was funded partly by (drumroll please) . . .  Unilever!

Surely it is just a coincidence the researchers found associations in longitudinal data in favor of the maker of Country Crock, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and other products that stand to benefit from the study's findings. For instance, the study suggests heart disease risk is reduced by subbing real butter for vegetable oil spread (which Unilever just happens to sell).

Without getting into statistical or scientific minutiae, on a macro level we can all agree that  longitudinal studies based on self-reported data suggest associations -- not cause and effect -- and can be corrupted by confounding variables. Such extrapolative research is also vulnerable to study design bias and is not as scientifically rigorous or definitive as a randomized control trial.

Most news reports, however, do not bother to make such boring distinctions and can be counted on to tout as fact whatever Harvard researchers say.
CUTTING back even slightly on butter, cheese and red meat is enough to ward off heart disease, a major study shows.

Some of the fake butter spreads
and veg oil products
made by Unilever
Scientists say ditching one per cent of daily saturated fat can cut risk by eight per cent. -- The Sun
Swapping butter and meat for olive oil and fish does cut the risk of heart disease, a study has found.
Switching 1 per cent of your calorie intake from saturated fat to vegetables, polyunsaturated fats or wholegrain carbohydrates reduces the chances of heart disease by up to 8 per cent, a Harvard team concluded. -- The Times
New research shows that replacing just 1% of daily calorie intake from saturated fat with other sources of energy - such as whole grain carbohydrates or polyunsaturated fats - cuts the risk of heart disease by 6 to 8%.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, is the latest to throw its weight behind official NHS recommendations which say saturated fat should be limited in order to protect against heart disease. -- The Daily Mail
Not surprisingly, none of these glorified press releases news reports mentioned anything about Unilever's financial involvement possibly influencing the findings in the company's favor. Nor do they make a distinction about different types of nutritional studies and the relative reliability of each.

As George Henderson and Grant Schofield point out in their Rapid Response to the BMJ article, "Because epidemiological research from high-profile institutions will tend to be reported in an "over-exaggerated" fashion and thus can have unintended consequences, methods need to be rigourous enough to minimise both type 1 and type 2 errors, and be interpreted strictly in the light of higher quality experimental evidence into the same questions."

Thursday, November 24, 2016

How Kellogg's Paid Dietitians to Be Human Tony the Tigers

The professional credibility of registered dietitians took another hit this week after Associated Press reporter Candice Choi unveiled Kellogg's history of paying off dietitians to convince people that breakfast cereal is an essential part of a healthy diet.
Kellogg's received a thumbs up
from the dietitians to whom
it paid consulting fees.

Choi's article revealed the Kellogg-funded Breakfast Council of "independent experts" was not so independent after all. The Battle Creek company essentially bribed registered dietitians to tweet and write blog posts about the health benefits of eating cereal for breakfast and required the RDs to sign a contract forbidding them from hawking products "competitive or negative to cereal."

Although the council dissolved this year after half a decade marveling over Mini Wheats and engaging in other morally questionable behavior, repercussions to the collective reputation of registered dietitians will linger long after the last snap, crackle and pop of the council's existence.

Such RD media darlings as Sylvia Klinger and Darlene Hayes were outed as Kellogg's social media puppets in Choi's article, but their dubious dealings will hopefully cause the public to be more skeptical and question the motives behind any dietitian's claim, asking:

Is the statement based on fact or a fat consulting fee?

Kellogg's covert scheme to deceive the public surfaced a year after New York Times reporter Anahad O'Connor uncovered a similar plot by Coca Cola to convince the public that soda could be part of a healthy and balanced diet. The cola company created the Global Energy Balance Network, a credible sounding cadre of researchers and dietitians it compensated to shift the blame for obesity away from sugary beverages.

The photo below and accompanying caption hint at the major hit to dietitians professional reputations.
The Kellogg booth at an annual dietitians' conference, where company representatives explained the health benefits of their products, in Boston. On its website, amid news of Pop-Tarts and Frosted Flakes, Kellogg touted a distinguished-sounding breakfast council of independent experts dedicated to guiding its nutritional efforts. (AP File Photo)
As more and more plots to use dietitians as "nutrition influencers" are revealed by the media, many dietitians are starting to come clean about receiving money for being corporate shills.

Unfortunately, these same food and beverage corporations sponsor continuing education courses for dietitians; so many could unwittingly do their bidding for free.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Could Ivanka Trump Become the First Lady of Low Carb?

One of the bright sides of the Obamas leaving the White House is the end of Michelle's misguided Let's Move low-fat chocolate milk solutions to obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases associated with metabolic mayhem.

I like Michelle Obama and believe she meant well, but her campaign was a dismal failure.

White House vegetable garden aside, the nation's school lunches are as unhealthy and unpopular as ever and children's waistlines continue to widen on the high carb American diet pushed by big food interests like Kellogg's and Nestlé.

Ivanka Trump, on the other hand, may be far more effective in promoting good health by modeling the success of low-carb diets and undemonizing saturated fat.

The mother of three young children is renowned for her trim figure, which she largely attributes to eating whole foods and few carbs.

Excerpted from EAT THIS, NOT THAT
Though Ivanka's personal views on dietary fat are not totally clear, a clue may be deduced from an article on her personal brand's website, written by Dr. Nancy Simpkins:
As for fats, the verdict has changed. The long-standing belief that “low fat” equals healthier has been disproven. Recent research has shown that healthy fats, such as avocados or nuts, keep you full longer and are beneficial to your blood vessels.
That's right. Not only is the health value of eating low-fat a "belief," it is a "disproven" belief.

The Loquacious Lowcarbivore suspects the woman who is so perfectionistic she poses her family in white does not let a controversial paragraph like that slip by on her website without her approval.

Although Donald Trump's love affair with fast food has captured most of the press so far, we await the deluge of media stories on Ivanka Trump's more enlightened way of eating and hope it helps tip the scale in favor of science based dietary guidelines.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Why Doctors Should Never Dispense Dietary Advice

An Australian physician named Gary Fettke has been muzzled for life by the Australian Health Practitioners Regulatory Authority (AHPRA) from dishing out dietary advice to his patients and could forfeit his right to practice medicine if he disobeys.

The Loquacious Lowcarbivore must go out on a limb to agree with this distinguished group.

Just think of the financial disaster to the pharmaceutical and medical device industries if people with diabetes no longer had to take medications, obsessively monitor glucose levels or purchase artificial legs.

As an orthopedic surgeon, Fettke recommended a low carb healthy fat diet to his patients putting all sorts of moneyed interests in peril.

Telling people with diabetes to avoid sugary breakfast cereals and other highly processed foods would take a big bite out of the profits of special interests like Nestlé, Campbells and the Australian Breakfast Cereal Manufacturers Forum, all of which partner with the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) -- the financially threatened dietitians group that lodged an anonymous complaint against Fettke two years ago.

Shunning sugar would cause a global economic meltdown, the likes of which we have never seen. Or, at the very least, put a bunch of bought-and-paid-for dietitians out of business.

On a more serious note, the malicious absurdity of what just happened to a good man like Dr. Fettke sends shivers up the Loquacious Lowcarbivore's spine. Not only has he been forbidden from dishing out dietary advice to his patients FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE, but he would also be restricted from discussing nutrition were he to obtain a nutrition degree that would ostensibly qualify him to do so.

Does AHPRA stand for A Herd of Patently Ridiculous Autocrats? Is it legal and ethical for a regulatory body to hold a doctor's license ransom by dictating which doctors can and cannot dispense dietary advice?

“If I’ve got a patient whose got unstable diabetes in hospital, with an out of control infection, and their blood sugars are all over the place, and they’ve got a can of soft drink in front of them, theoretically, I’m not allowed to advise them not to have that,” Fettke recently told the host of the Tasmania Talks podcast.

Even Kafka could not have imagined this degree of bureaucratic absurdity.

Sign the petition to overturn AHPRA's decision to silence Dr. Gary Fettke:

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Naked Juice Lawsuit Like a Modern Day 'Emperor Has No Clothes'

CSPI Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Naked Juice a.k.a. Pepsi

My office recently contracted with a new food vending service for our break room that appeared to offer a variety of healthy foods. But a quick scan of nutrition facts revealed how much sugar they contain. The raspberry yogurt parfait had a whopping 70 grams of sugar; the Naked Juice Green Machine, 35.

In other words, most of the food and beverages were wolves in sheep's clothing, pretending to be healthy when they were basically sugar cubes disguised as health food.

Given that Naked Juice is owned by PepsiCo, I shouldn't have been surprised the  "vegetable" juice contained as much sugar as a fizzy glass of cola.

Which is why the often misguided Center for Science in the Public Interest has it right this time by filing a class action lawsuit against Naked Juice for intentionally deceiving the public on the nutrition value of its juices.

Courtesy of  CSPI website

Having reading the full complaint by CSPI (download pdf here), the problem is not just that Naked Juice sells what amounts to cheap, sugary fruit juice, it's that the company intentionally tricks consumers into thinking they are drinking something healthy by using trendy buzz words and images on its label that are psychologically linked to good health.

The complaint states, "PepsiCo does this by naming each Naked beverage after a food or ingredient perceived by consumers to be highly nutritious, like kale, and filling its labels with photographs of these same ingredients."
Has there ever been a better example
of the Emperor Has No Clothes
than Naked Juice?

The above quote refers to Naked Juice's Kale Blazer, a beverage that exploits the health halo of  kale to hawk a drink whose first and third ingredients are orange juice and apple juice, respectively.

Yes, despite the fact two of the first three ingredients are sugary fruit juices, the bottle depicts only kale, cucumbers, spinach and celery on the label, attempting to hide the orange and apple juice like a crazy aunt in the attic.

As the CSPI complaint points out, "Although Kale Blazer is predominantly orange juice, it is not named 'orange juice with kale and apple juice,' or 'orange juice with kale and apple flavors,' nor does the label
predominantly show oranges and apples."

Instead, the Kale Blazer label features the words veggies and dark leafy goodness to imply that is what the juice mainly contains instead of -- that's right, cheap, sugary fruit juice.

Would you guess from this label
the product is mostly
sugary fruit juice?
Compounding the intelligence insult, the company highlights the phrase NO SUGAR ADDED on the label to appeal to consumers trying to avoid sugar even though Kale Blazer contains more sugar than a Snicker's bar. When you extract the juice from fruit you're basically left with sugar water without actually having to add sugar to the product.

On branding website Brand Channel, Andrea Theodore, one of Naked's chief marketing honchos, said young people in the juice brand's target market are willing to pay more for the product based on the perception the juice is good for their health.

"They believe that foods and beverages are part of what is going to help them live long and vibrantly. Because of that, they’re willing to spend more. There’s value in [the Naked Juice brand proposition]. It’s worth its weight in gold and resonates with these consumers because we have the same values they have."

Which begs the question of which values Pepsi and its target market -- millennials -- have in common: hoodwinking people? taking advantage of ignorance? fleecing consumers?

The perception of optimizing health and energy is deliberately fostered by Naked Juice marketers down to the dark green, leafy vegetables on the label of what is essentially cheap fruit juice. It's what some product designers call a "dark pattern," a form of deceptive marketing that deliberately creates a false impression to get people to behave against their best interest. The strategy hinges on what Harry Brignull, Ph.D. calls "cognitive biases"  for consumers to construct their own “subjective social realities.”

How else could you explain paying two or three times as much for apple juice disguised as a health potion?

The crux of the CSPI lawsuit is not that Naked Juice is selling an unhealthy product, it's that the company is deliberately deceiving consumers into thinking their unhealthy product is healthy and then charging them a premium for the privilege.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Why Don't More Doctors Recommend Low-Carb High-Fat Diets?

I recently listened to an old podcast featuring Dr. Jay Wortman's presentation from the 2015 Low Carb Cruise, which brilliantly answered a question that has been bugging me for months:

"Why don't more medical doctors recommend low-carb high-fat diets to reverse chronic disease and maintain optimal health?"

For every Dr. Sarah Hallberg, Dr. Peter Attia, Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt or Dr. David Perlmutter there are hundreds of thousands of Dr. Buffaloes who follow the herd of conventional nutrition advice.

Even the Tin Foil Hat Cat
is skeptical about
high-carb diets
Wortman is a Canadian physician who reversed his diabetes with a ketogenic (low-carb high-fat) diet. Though he jokingly suggests donning a tin foil hat because his medical herd metaphor sounds like a kooky conspiracy theory, he is dead serious.

The reason more doctors do not recommend their patients follow a low-carb high-fat diet is they are trained in medical school to stay in the middle of the herd where it is safe -- even if the herd is moving in the wrong direction. For a doctor, being on the fringe is dangerous.

So why does the medical herd continue to clomp along in the wrong direction when it comes to dietary advice?

Any hunter can tell you that to control a herd, you do not have to kill all the animals in it, says Wortman. All you have to do is shoot the leader and all the other animals will fall in line.

Which is exactly how the food industry influences the dietary guidelines adopted by most Western governments and promoted by mainstream disease organizations, such as the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.

Food industry is in cahoots with medical opinion leaders
Food companies and industry groups deliberately target opinion leaders from prestigious institutions like Harvard to publish articles and books that promote the high-carb dietary recommendations which the mainstream medical buffaloes blindly follow.

To be fair, Dr. Wortman is on the advisory board of Atkins Nutritionals, an affiliation which he states upfront so his bias is transparent. However, I feel confident he is on the board because it aligns with his belief system and appreciate that he does not attempt to hide his association with Atkins.

In his presentation, Dr. Wortman mentions a nutritionist I had never heard of named Dr. Frederich Stare, a now discredited "expert" who founded the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. Stare published 18 books and hundreds of articles, most of which promoted the idea that the American diet of "meat, potatoes, bread and grain, pasta and sugary desserts" did not harm people's health. Turns out Stare was heavily financed by the sugar and tobacco industries and was influential in the FDA decision in 1976 to label sugar as a food that is Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS).

Dr. Wortman also calls out the former Chancellor for Health Affairs at the Duke University Health System, Dr. Victor Dzau, who was previously on the board of Pepsico -- where he earned more than a quarter million dollars per year plus shares of the company's stock. What are the odds this respected cardiologist was not influenced by his cushy affiliation with the sugar water cola company?

Dr. Wortman says that in 2004, when the low-carb movement started gaining steam thanks to the popularity of the Atkins and South Beach diets, the junk food industry began quivering in fear and designed a subversive strategy to discredit what it repeatedly referred to as the "low-carb craze."

One group that helped implement this strategy was Oldways, a non-profit organization that promotes itself as dedicated to supporting "healthy eating and drinking, with programs that help consumers improve their food and drink choices, encourage traditional sustainable food choices, and promote enjoyment of the pleasures of the table."

The fact that this alleged "healthy food" advocacy group is funded by corporations like Con Agra, Pepsico, Kellogs and the Juice Products Association -- the latter of which plies children with sugary fruit stripped of fiber -- obviously has no bearing on its recommendations.

Meanwhile, says Dr. Wortman, the international public relations firm Hill+Knowlton publicly boasts on its food and beverage industry strategy website that it has "experience and contacts to help engage key stakeholders in a constructive dialogue and help inform public perceptions through outreach and communications with academics, nutritionists, government health bodies and special interest groups."

In PR speak that means these flacks knows how to "manipulate the herd by controlling the leaders of the herd," he says.

Which is why doctors continue advising their patients to follow a high-carb, low-fat diet.

It's not that I didn't know any of this, but Dr. Wortman's presentation makes the case for a high-carb conspiracy so compelling, it alleviates any doubts I might harbor about ignoring conventional dietary advice.

Listen to Dr. Wortman's full presentation here.