Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Help a Grad Student Today

As part of my work at the University of Guelph, I'm part of a team that is designing a sports drink for active women.

If you are a women who has an interest in sports drinks, and feel like volunteering less then a minute of your time to help a group of grad students, then please check out the following survey:


Thanks for your help!


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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Buying Weight Loss

I apologize for the lack of posts; it's been a very busy 2007 so far.

For me, 2007 has been the year of meetings. It's been one after the other for almost all of January. Usually, they involve a good amount of food, and a lot of conversation about nutrition and the food industry.

In fact, I just finished a meeting today where I had one of those "hmmmmm" moments.

You see, it dawned on me while discussing the latest dieting trends that we have done a great job of creating an "industry" out of weight loss. And, by "we" I don't mean some evil corporate conspiracy or some secret group of executives. I mean you, me, and everyone else who make up the buying public.

Somehow, we've convinced ourselves that in order to lose weight, eating less is not the answer. Instead, we've decided that the key to losing weight is eating foods that make us lose weight.

It's as though we are addicted to buying. To purchasing and consuming. In general we have a hard time excepting that "taking away" is the answer. We would much rather "add".

Sure, this keeps us as good little consumers and keeps the economy going, but a quick look at the stats reveals that it certainly doesn’t make us any leaner. In fact, the opposite is happening. We keep consuming and, as a population, we keep getting bigger.

So here is my solution - Instead of worrying about which green tea to buy, and what specific type of grapefruit you are going to eat, which diet you are going to follow, and which fast food is "healthiest", make a rule that outside of the grocery store, you will not pay for food. I don't mean steal. I just mean don't buy anything extra that day.

We already know that just because you are hungry, it doesn’t mean your metabolism is slowing down, or that you are breaking down muscle (Unless you haven’t eaten in over 3 days!). For the most part, it simply means you are used to eating at that time.

So forgo the snacks in the car, and the coffee stop on the way into work. I’m sure that if you can avoid buying any extra food for an entire month, you will see significant weight loss. Despite all the gimmicks and trends, simply eating less is still the best, most effective answer.

Give it a try, but take a positive approach. Go into this experiment thinking that you do not need to buy extra food. That you will not feel bad, or sluggish. That it will not affect your workouts or your stress level. Stay positive, and avoid purchasing anything other than your groceries.


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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Deconstructing Nutrition – The Thermic Effect of Food

Before I get started let me just say that this was by far the most difficult research project I have done to date.

The amount of misinformation, conflicting results, and misinterpreted data out there on this topic is amazing.

For this reason, I have had to break this topic up into three different parts


The thermic effect of food is the energy your body requires to digest, absorb and dispose of the nutrients that you eat. It is often abbreviated as TEF and is usually sited by diet gurus and fitness experts as the reasons why you should or shouldn’t eat a certain way.

Through a quick scan of the internet, I found the following claims:

  • The more often you eat, the higher your metabolic rate
  • Protein increases your metabolism by 40%

So it would make sense that eating multiple small high-protein meals would be the best way to increase your metabolism.

While this theory sounds great, let’s look at what the research has found…

Firstly, the one thing that all the papers I read agreed upon was that the number one factor that affects your TEF is the total amount of calories you eat.

Researchers have calculated TEF to be roughly 10% of your caloric intake.

Therefore, if you eat 1,000 Calories, you raise your metabolism by about 100 Calories and if you eat 10,000 Calories, you will raise your metabolism by about 1,000 Calories.

The majority of the thermic effect occurs in the first hour after eating, but depending on the size of the meal the effect can last from anywhere between 5 and 24 hours. It seems that the thermic effect will last until all the calories from your meals have been metabolized.

This leads us to the theory of eating frequent small meals.

From what I can tell, the idea that food frequency affects the amount of calories you burn is very debatable.

A few papers have found that eating one large meal has a higher thermic effect then many small meals. And a few papers have found that eating several small meals has a larger effect then one large meal. The rest have found no difference.

And to me, this makes the most sense.

If you eat 2,000 Calories, you will have to burn about 200 calories just digesting, absorbing and disposing of the nutrients you have eaten.

It does not matter whether you ate all 2,000 Calories at once, or spread them out through multiple small 500 Calorie meals. The total volume of calories remains the same and therefore so does their effect on your metabolism.

So far, the Thermic effect of food can be best summed up as –

“Eating increases your metabolism”

For the average person, eating around 2,500 Calories a day, the Thermic Effect of Food will increase your metabolism by between 200-300 Calories.

Here’s the kicker - If total calorie content is the best predictor of your TEF, it’s not as if you are going to eat an extra 5000 calories so you can burn an extra 500!

Luckily, there still may be ways to affect your metabolism through the foods you eat. In Part II I will break down the effect the different macronutrients have on your metabolism.


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Monday, January 08, 2007

Sweet Misery

Here is a link to a very interesting movie on the history and politics behind Aspartame.

I will warn you ahead of time that the movie is very one-sided, and many of the claims that are made about the dangers of aspartame seem to be greatly exaggerated. However, it is also very eye opening.

Even if the claims are greatly exaggerated, they still describe a very scary political battle that was behind the legalization of what is probably the world's most famous artificial sweetener.

Sweet Misery -1 hour 30 min

PS- By posting this movie I am not verifying or agreeing with its views or opinions. I am condoning it as an educational piece of work for you to assess and to use as a tool to build your opinions on what you choose to eat and what you choose not to eat.


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Friday, January 05, 2007

What's up with gum?

The other day, after watching the movie "Sweet Misery" I started thinking about gum.

I've never been a big gum chewer, but I decided that I should go on a shopping trip and see exactly what is going on in the gum aisles these days. I was amazed by what I found.

Firstly...from what I could find at my local convenience stores, almost all gum contains aspartame, sucralose, or acesulfame-potassium (remember I'm in Canada, so the ingredients may be different then in other countries).

The interesting thing is that this includes the "sugar" gums - Even the well known "bubble gums" contain both sugar AND artificial sweeteners!

We have gotten to the point where chewing on straight sugar isn’t sweet enough anymore, we have to add artificial sweeteners to sugar to make it sweet enough for our tastes!

Secondly, and probably most shocking to me, was that several of the "bubble gums" contain hydrogenated vegetable oils in their ingredients. I had no idea that there could be trans fats in bubble gum!

Just another reason to read the labels on everything you put in your mouth.


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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Give up on fighting fat?

I came across a very interesting article the other day. I've been wrestling with it's suggestions for a while now and am still not sure whether or not I agree with any of them.

Take a look below and let me know what you think...but please keep in mind that this article is full of personal beliefs from the author and is not to be confused with my beliefs or with scientific fact.

End the War on Obesity: Make Peace With Your Patients

Linda Bacon, MA, PhD Medscape General Medicine. 2006;8(4):40. ©2006 MedscapePosted 11/27/2006

Your patients are desperate to lose weight. Given the presumed health imperative, you feel justified in supporting their goal. You encourage calorie restriction and/or exercise.

The "weight problem," however, never goes away. Face the facts. We're losing the war on obesity. The"common sense" approach just isn't working. Weights are increasing, particularly among dieters, and weight preoccupation and eating disorders are also on the rise.

Challenge your assumptions.

1. Weight has been greatly exaggerated as a health risk. Consider mortality. Except at statistical extremes,BMI only weakly predicts longevity. Many studies indicate "overweight" people live at least as long as"normal" weight people.[1-3] "Overweight" may even be ideal for longevity.[2]Consider morbidity. Epidemiological studies rarely acknowledge confounding factors like fitness, activity, nutrient intake, weight cycling, or socioeconomic status. Studies that do control for these find increased morbidity disappears or at least is sharply attenuated.[4]

2. Sustained weight loss is not a practical goal, nor is it well established to improve health. The vast majority of people regain lost weight,regardless of whether they maintain their diet or exercise programs.[5] And no one has ever proved that losing weight prolongs life. Some studies actually indicate that intentional weight loss increases the risk of dying early from certain diseases.[6-11]

3. Health improvements can result from improved health behaviors, regardless of whether weight is lost.[12]Improvements in insulin sensitivity and blood lipids have even been documented to occur in people who actually gained body fat during an exercise program![13,14]

There's an alternative to the war.

The new peace movement is called "Health at Every Size," and it acknowledges that health habits are more important than the scale.[12]Participation is simple. Quit hassling patients about their weight. Stop prescribing weight loss. Encourage people of all sizes to change focus from weight to health. Support everyone in appreciating their bodies and incorporating healthy lifestyle habits.That's my opinion. I'm Dr. Linda Bacon, Nutrition Researcher, University of California, Davis, and Nutrition Professor, City College of San Francisco.

NOTE: I have placed the references for this article in the comments section.


Fasting for Weight Loss

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Deconstructing Nutrition - When you don’t eat, your metabolism slows down

When you don’t eat, your metabolism slows down.

This "nutrition fact" says that when your caloric intake is too low, your metabolism actually slows down. It has been referred to as “starvation mode” and is the basis for the current trend of advising people that they should eat every couple of hours, never skip meals, and never cut your calories too low while dieting.

But is it true?

To examine this truth, I decided to look into what happens to a person’s metabolism when they fast for a short period of time (between one and three days).

The first study I reviewed had six healthy male volunteers fast for 3 days. During this fast, the researchers measured the changes in the subject’s metabolism at 12, 18, 24, 20, 42, 54, and 72 hours of fasting. What they found was that there was no significant change in energy expenditure during any of the 7 time points. So from this study we can say that a 3 day fast in men does not cause a decrease in metabolism.

Already this evidence goes against the idea that if we don't eat every couple hours our metabolism will slow down.

The second study I reviewed had 8 men and 8 women fast every other day for 22 days straight. There was no significant change in the subject’s metabolism from the start to the end of the study. From this study, we can say that fasting every other day for a period of 22 days results in no significant changes to a person’s metabolism.

So we now know that even if we eat sporadically for 22 days, most likely our metabolism won't be affected.

The third study I reviewed had 8 men fast for either 12 hours or 72 hours and then eat a meal. After the meal their metabolisms were measured for 12 hours. This study found that regardless of whether or not the men fasted for 12 hours or 72 hours, their metabolism for 12 hours after eating a meal was not significantly different. So this study shows us that a short term fast doesn’t affect your metabolism after you eat.

So even if we don't eat for 3 days, there is absolutely no change in the way eating effects our metabolism.

So from the research I was able to review, it doesn’t seem like short periods of fasting cause any negative effects on our metabolism. Nor does it affect our metabolism once we start eating again.

Since having absolutely no calories for a short period of time does not effect our metabolism, I feel safe in saying that the idea that you need to eat every couple hours in order to keep your metabolism “revving” is actually a nutrition myth and not a fact at all. Also, the phenomena of a “starvation mode” does not happen until after at least 3 days of fasting, if it actually even exists.


PS- For those of you who are interested, I will post my references in the comments section.

Eat Stop Eat

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