Category Archives: Big Food

At Least Fish Sticks are Honest

fish sticks

So it seems there’s a fish conspiracy going on. A recent study revealed up to 1/3 of fish sold is deliberately mislabeled.  Meaning your favorite filet of grouper is potentially something called asian pangasius, or ponga.

And, apparently, if you purchase red snapper, there’s a 94% chance you’ve been fooled.  And charged a premium for your naivete.  A few other findings, as reported by Forbes:

  • More than half (59%) of the 46 fish types tested had mislabeling.
  • 84% of white tuna samples were actually escolar, “a species that can cause serious digestive issues for some individuals who eat more than a few ounces.”
  • Fish on the FDA’s “DO NOT EAT” list for sensitive groups such as pregnant women and children because of their high mercury content were sold to customers who had ordered safer fish.

It all makes frozen fish sticks seem more reputable.  At least they recognize what they’re pushing can only be generally described as “fish”.  Someday that may be the best we can get.


Fat Mouse Pushes Organic Farming Agenda

Courtesy New York Times

Courtesy New York Times

The mice pictured above have the same diet.  EXACTLY the same.  And they performed the same amount of activity.  A lab mouse is easy to manipulate that way.

So, why is one mouse obese? Perhaps it’s a gland problem.  Or maybe our fat mouse is cursed with a slow metabolism.

Fortunately, this being a lab experiment, we know exactly what has led fat mouse to gain weight.  And, presumably, a searing jealously of the skinny mouse.  Our fat mouse was been exposed to an “obesogen”.

An obesogen is a chemical that causes our bodies to retain fat at an inordinate rate.  Unfortunately, they aren’t only found in labs.  We humans are essentially covered in them.

Obesogens, a term first coined by biologist Bruce Blumberg, can be found in plastics, furniture, machine reciepts, and, oh yeah, our food.

It seems a lot of the pesticides and herbicides used in industrial farming can have the endocrine-disruptive behavior of an obesogen.  Another reason emerges to eat organic as much as feasible.

Obesogens aren’t the main cause of America’s obesity epidemic, the easily accessible abundance of processed junk food still holds that title. But ongoing studies like the one performed on our two mice are revealing our chemically enhanced environment is doing us no favors.


McDonald’s and the Olympics

Ah, the Olympics.  A 17 day demonstration of what human bodies are capable of when pushed to the limit.  The payoff from the sacrifices these athletes have made is a remarkable thing to witness.

The Olympics also means Big Macs, Happy Meals, french fries, and Coca-Cola.  Not exactly the type of fuel high performing bodies need.

Nevertheless, you’ll see numerous advertisements for McDonald’s and Coca-cola in the commercial breaks.  Two companies whose products contribute to the obesity epidemic in the breaks between acts of physical perfection.

There’s no need to get on a soapbox. The juxtaposition of these two extremes is argument enough.  The real point to underscore comes this quote from IOC president Jacques Rogge:

“The bottom line is that we have to support and alleviate the needs of…our national Olympic committees and international federations.  Most international federations are on a lifeline for the Olympic Games and they need the financial support…otherwise they would be in trouble.”

Translation:  We don’t really want unhealthy food advertised so prominently during the Olympics, but well, we need the money.

I’m not lamenting.  Just reminding.  It’s the money.  It’s why pizza is a vegetable in schools, produce is pesticide laden, and livestock are fed antibiotics.  It’s always the money.

But don’t fret.  We’ve got a really good women’s gymnastics team…

The Truth about High Fructose Corn Syrup

It’s time to give the definitive word (mine at least) on High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).  Let’s make this quick and straightforward with 3 simple statements.

1)  There is some debate, but generally speaking HFCS is no worse for our body than regular sugar.

2)  HFCS is made from corn.  Due to farm subsidies, we have lots and lots of corn.

3)  Since we have so much corn, HFCS is cheap. Making it an ideal ingredient for Big Food processors.

Don’t be fooled.  By marketing tactics touting a product made with “real sugar”.  It doesn’t matter if it’s HFCS or cane sugar, if you consume too much you’ll gain weight and increase your risk for developing diabetes.

You’re now a little wiser.  Spread the word.

Life, Diet, and Taxes: 4 Rules for Eating Right

A new report says most Americans  believe income taxes are easier to understand than deciphering nutrition advice.  That’s startling. But with dietary advice coming from all sides, ultimately an understandable finding.

But it doesn’t have to be complicated.  In fact, I’ve found nutrition is rather straightforward if you follow four simple rules.  Less is more, especially for a simpleton like me.

#1 Calories count, kinda.  Calorie count is the single number to use for a quick way to judge a food’s healthfulness.  But, the makeup of those calories can change everything.  Junk food calories are worse than vegetable calories.

Simply put:  It’s better to eat a 150 calorie apple than a 100 calorie Oreo snack pack.

#2 Healthier doesn’t mean healthy.  Baked Lays are better than regular Lays.  A little bit.  Both are processed potato based snacks.  Eating a little better can help, but if everything you eat is a little better than junk, you’re still eating junk.

#3 Big Food is a used car salesman.  They want you to buy their product.  And they know you care about eating healthy.  So they plaster whatever claims they can on their package to make you think it’s good for you.  It’s not.  Be wary of advice from someone who only wants your money.

#4 There are no gimmicks.  We know how our bodies respond to food.  Vegetables good.  Cookies bad. There will be no miracle breakthrough diet. Won’t happen.  Stop waiting for it.  And disregard anyone who says otherwise.

Weight of Nation Cliff Notes #2

Last week HBO debuted Weight of the Nation, a four-part miniseries examining the obesity epidemic in the United States  .  It’s likely difficult for you to find the time, or desire, to watch a four-hour documentary.  Especially when you’re trying to Keep up with Kardashians.

But you wanna stay informed, right?  Of course you do.  So as a service, I’m here with the Cliff Notes®.  Now you can participate when the over-educated know-it-all brings it up at a party or BBQ.

Part 3: Children in Crisis

Part 3 covers the affect of the obesity crisis on children.  Simply the saddest and most infuriating section of the program.

A scene in one profile of child struggling with obesity particularly struck me.  This child’s parent was very concerned about her weight.  Going so far as to have her enrolled in a wellness program at the local clinic.  Clearly she understands the ramifcations on her child’s health.

Yet, when filmed at home the child was eating a bowl Co-Co Puffs and drinking V8 Splash.  Both are loaded with sugar and directly causing her obesity.  Through her misunderstanding of nutrition, the caring mother was undermining her very efforts to improve her child’s health.

Methinks this scene is repeated all across the country.

Part 4: Challenges 

If you’re going to watch an hour of Weight of the Nation, make it this one.  It begins by charting a history of human diet and agriculture to illustrate how the food enviornment we currently live in doesn’t jive with how were built.

An overview of the link between poverty and obesity drives the point home further before a lengthy discussion on industrial agriculture and the big business of food summarizes the challenges our society faces.  Two quotes summarize the ladder portion perfectly:

On industrial agriculture:

We don’t even have enough fruits and vegetables being grown for every American to meet dietary recommendations.

On Big Food:

The kind of food we eat is the kind that is most profitable.

Lastly, in a decidedly positive turn, we are introduced to different companies, cities, communities, and citizens who are pushing efforts to combat the obesity epidemic.  The documentary ends with a series of hopeful examples and statements for ultimate success combating obesity.

My Thoughts

Overall, I’d recommend checking out Weight of the Nation.  The first two parts made me feel this was the same old lecturing and doomsday predicitions that, while true, typically fall on deaf ears.

In the end though, I feel Weight of the Nation, while not perfect and not the seminal documentary the changes the way we look at the obesity epidemic, achieves its goal of starting discussion.  After all, that’s what we’re doing now.

Weight of the Nation Parts 1 & 2 Cliff Notes

Weight of the Nation Cliff Notes

Last week HBO debuted Weight of the Nation, a four-part miniseries examining the obesity epidemic in the United States  .  It’s likely difficult for you to find the time, or desire, to watch a four-hour documentary.  Especially when you’re trying to Keep up with Kardashians.

But you wanna stay informed, right?  Of course you do.  So as a service, I’m here with the Cliff Notes®.  Now you can participate when the over-educated know-it-all brings it up at a party or BBQ.

Part One: Consequences

The first hour brings us the typical parade of depressing stats and doomsday predicting experts to underscore the seriousness of the problem.  It’s likely stuff you’ve already heard a few times.

More affecting was the detailed examination of what obesity does to our body.  Several organs and body systems are discussed, but nothing drives home the point more than the comparison of cadaver hearts from a healthy weight person and an obese individual (video).  Think “these are the lungs of a smoker…”

Part Two: Choices     

The second installment focuses on strategies to lose or control our weight.  It’s full of the typical, “eat less, move more” advice.  Although that advice is solid, the documentary did little to compare differing views regarding healthy diets.  (i.e. veganism, paleo, adkins).

I was also disappointed to not see an in-depth discussion on the affect our food industry has had on our skyrocketing obesity numbers.  Although, I suppose Food Inc. covered that pretty well.

The biggest lesson from Part Two was a discussion on the metabolic changes an obese body goes through.  Essentially, once obese, a body will treat any weight loss as a sign of starvation and fight to get the weight back.  It’s a fight that’s nearly impossible to win.  Science is trying to help though (video).

On Friday I’ll give the Cliff Notes for Parts 3 & 4.  I’ll also give my overall impression of the documentary.  As if you care….