Fort Myers CHIP

Healthy by choice NOT by chance

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Just a quick post to let everybody know that I've put the Lemon Tofu "Cheesecake" recipe that Kathy was raving about last night up on the web site. You can click here to go directly to it.

Have a great 4th of July!

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Wow! Can you believe it? The 4th of July is next week. Are you looking for some healthy, plant-based options for your cookout? Well, the folks at PCRM (Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine) have some menu ideas for you. Check out their holiday menu. (Click here to read the whole article or click one of the links below to go straight to that recipe.)

Portobello mushroomsPotato SaladZucchiniLimes

PCRM's 4th of July Menu

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Finally, truth in advertising!  smiley

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Here are some interesting facts about Big Agriculture in the U.S., and its impact on us all, compliments of, a web site owned by Participant Media, the company that brought us the groundbreaking documentary Food, Inc.

First, let's look at campaign spending. Over the last 20 years, Big Agriculture has donated over $480 million dollars at the federal level during election cycles. As of June 10, 2012, they had spent $39.3 million, led by sugar producers American Crystal Sugar's and Flo-Sun's combined $1.94 million and Altria Group's (formerly Phillip Morris) $1.14 million. Other notables on the top ten list include California Dairies (# 7) with over $413,000, Monsanto (# 9) at over 1/3 of a million and, at #10, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association at just over $300,000.

How has this spending affected our federal agricultural policies (reflected in the legislation know familiarly as "The Farm Bill")  over the years? First, there's corn. The United States leads the world in corn production producing some 90 million acres of corn per year, but less than 1% of this is sweet corn that people can actually eat. The rest goes to livestock feed, high fructose corn syrup and ethanol.

And what effect has this cheap corn had on our food supply? Well, first, it's not cheap when we consider the $50 billion that you and I, through our federal taxes, have pumped into the corn industry over the past 30 years. During that time the price of soda has gone down 33% while the price of fruit has risen 40%. So now for a dollar you can get

  • 1,200 calories of potato chips or
  • 875 calories of soda or
  • 250 calories of vegetables or
  • 170 calories of fruit.

Is it any wonder that studies show obeisity is highest in our poorest neighborhoods?

Are there hidden costs to The Farm Bill? You bet! Between 2008 and 2010 The Farm Bill gave eight times more in subsidies to commodity crops like corn, soy, rice and wheat than to fruits, nuts and vegetables ($39.6 billion vs. $4.7 billion). But, the market value of the commodity crops was only twice the value of the fruits, nuts and vegetables. Meanwhile, over the last decade, annual consumption of fruits and vegetables has declined by 9 pounds per person. As a result, fewer than 5% of U.S. adults now eat the recommended daily amount of fruits and veggies. The price tag for diet-related, chronic diseases (diabetes, cancer, heart disease and stroke) has now skyrocketed to the point where they cost us over $190 billion (with a b) per year and that may be a conservative estimate.

If any of this bothers you, as it does an estimated 78% of people who say that making nutritious and healthy foods more affordable and accessible should be The Farm Bill's top priority, please make your voice heard by contacting your Senators and Congressman. An easy way to do this is to go to the Environmental Working Group's "Send Your Message" page by clicking here.

Note: Those of you who are Netflix subscribers and have a high-speed Internet connection can watch Food, Inc online by clicking here.


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The Environmental Working Group has just released its 2012 Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce. As they describe it

EWG has scrutinized pesticide testing data generated by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and federal Food and Drug Administration and has created its signature Dirty Dozen™ list of foods most commonly contaminated with pesticides. As well, they publish their Clean Fifteen™ list of the foods least likely to be pesticide-tainted. This year the Dirty Dozen™ has been expanded with a Plus category to highlight two crops -- green beans and leafy greens, meaning, kale and collard greens – that did not meet traditional Dirty Dozen™ criteria but were commonly contaminated with highly toxic organophosphate insecticides. These insecticides are toxic to the nervous system and have been largely removed from agriculture over the past decade. But they are not banned and still show up on some food crops.

Their recommendations: Only buy organic versions of items on the Dirty Dozen Plus™ list. Items on the Clean Fifteen™ list are safe enough to buy non-organic varieties. All fruits and vegetables should be rinsed thoroughly to remove pesticide residues. To read the full EWG report, click here.

Download the guide as a PDF file or as an app for your iPhone/iPad, Android or Windows phone by clicking here.

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By now you who regularly attend alumni meetings know what a big fan I am of Jeff Novick's and today I'm recommending this article by Jeff from the Forks Over Knives web site. Even adopting a totally plant-based diet is no guarantee against weight gain if you don't understand something about the calorie densities of various foods. I've taken the liberty of reproducing Jeff's calorie density scale for plant-based foods below.

If you follow the six principles Jeff outlines in the article and refer to this chart, weight control should never be a problem. For those who'd like an in-depth discussion of the subject, I highly recommend Jeff's DVD CALORIE DENSITY -- How to Eat More, Weigh Less and Live Longer which you can shop for at the Store by clicking the link.

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First, if you're interested in seeing the HBO and Institute of Medicine's 4-part documentary "The Weight of the Nation", here's an article in the News Section of our site that will let you watch all four episodes for free.

Second, I just can't resist this short video from Dr. Michael Greger's site, I really love the conclusion of this study that "vegetarians at age 65 seem to have the DNA of a 25-year old." Thanks, Dr. Greger!

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I found this graphic on the vegSource Facebook page today and thought it interesting. It appears that, while we're spending less on meats (-9.8%) and dairy products (-2.6%) at the grocery, we could do a lot better at what we're spending the savings on. Spending on fruits and vegetables has barely budged (+0.1%) while spending on "processed foods & sweets" (+11.3%) has almost doubled. I wonder about that "grains & baked goods" category as well. I'll bet those "baked goods" are pretty highly processed too.

But, given the popularity of eating out these days, I wonder what percentage of our total food budgets we're actually spending at the grocery?

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Over and over new CHIP graduates come to us complaining that, while their total cholesterol and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels went down during the program, so did their HDL ("good") levels. And isn't that a bad thing?

Well, here's an interesting article from the Pritikin Longevity Center concerning a recent HDL cholesterol study published online in the British medical journal The Lancet. Once again, the conventional wisdom that higher HDL levels are automatically better HDL levels is being called into question.

The new study, led by Massachussets General Hospital, M.I.T. and Harvard researchers, looked at an extensive database of people genetically predisposed to higher normal HDL levels and found "that people who inherited DNA that gave them naturally higher HDL levels throughout their lives had no less cardiovascular disease than people with genes that gave them slightly lower levels of HDL."

Studying populations throughout the world where heart disease is rare, scientists have found that LDL levels are indeed very low, but so are HDL levelsoften 20 to 30 mg/dL, according to R. James Barnard, PhD, of UCLA Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology, and author of more than 190 studies on lifestyle and disease.

In addition, Dr. Barnard and his collegues have found that the quality of HDL in our blood can change. A saturated-fat-rich diet can foul up the ability of HDL to protect against damage to arteries, turning HDL from "good" (anti-inflammatory) to "bad" (pro-inflammatory) cholesterol.

Dr. Barnard says, "Our research from men attending the Pritikin Longevity Center revealed that pre-Pritikin, the men had HDL levels that were quantitatively normal, but their HDL was pro-inflammatory. Post-Pritikin, the men’s HDL had converted to anti-inflammatory despite the fact that total HDL had gone down a little."

Focus on lowering your LDL bad cholesterol, "and don’t worry about the HDL," advises Dr. Barnard.

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I know it's silly, but I've been too serious too much lately.
Have a wonderful day, y'all.

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I don't know how many of you saw the article in the May 14, 2012 edition of Newsweek by Gary Taubes entitled "Why the Campaign to Stop America's Obesity Crisis Keeps Failing", but I urge you to read it. I'm going to propose that perhaps the real reason the campaign keeps failing is articles like this that purport to give good dietary advice, but rather, tout the imagined virtues of an "Atkins" style diet. This article really annoyed me and there is so much wrong with it that I think I'm going to need several posts to cover it all.

In today's post I'd like to address Mr. Taubes' opening paragraphs.

What makes the Bruch story relevant to anything?  Where's the research we're ignoring?  Mr. Taubes hasn’t told us anything factual about what these people were eating nor has he mentioned what their exercise levels were (it was, after all, a time of rampant unemployment), only that a young German doctor thought they looked fat. 

Dr. Hilde Bruch, it turns out, was a pediatrician who became a psychoanalyst, not a dietician or nutritionist, and her interest was in the study and treatment of eating disorders. Dr. Bruch believed that the body knows what it needs and communicates that to the brain, but that there are learned aspects of hunger that children get from their parents that put them out of touch with these natural mechanisms.  

She wrote several books on the subject of eating disorders, coining the term “Eat Like Daddy Syndrome” to describe the behavior pattern where the family father eats like a horse, mother praises father for doing so then asks father to show his muscles to encourage the children (especially males) to overeat.  She also coined the phrase “Clean Your Plate Syndrome”, a practice many of us know from our own experience, that teaches children to ignore the physiological cues from the hypothalamus that cause us to desire to start eating and, later, to stop.  She was also one of the first to write about eating as a socially learned behavior, that we eat when others are eating and that food is frequently an integral part of our celebrations where it would be impolite to decline.

Mr. Taubes’ assertion that Dr. Bruch thought that the childhood obesity she saw around her had nothing to do with gluttony seems patently absurd.  I’m guessing that, as a psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City, most of what she was dealing with were the poor dietary habits of the children of the affluent.  How Mr. Taubes can relate this to the children of the unemployed and poverty-stricken workers of the Depression is beyond me.

More tomorrow...

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In the next section of Gary Taubes' May 14, 2012 Newsweek article entitled "Why the Campaign to Stop America's Obesity Crisis Keeps Failing" he maintains that the concept of "energy imbalance" (taking in more calories than we expend on a regular basis) is wrong and does not account for weight gain. Instead, he proposes an alternative theory that he calls the "hormonal-defect hypothesis" which, if it is true (emphasis mine), holds that: 1) all calories are not created equal and 2) that physical activity plays no meaningful role in keeping off pounds.

But does Mr. Taubes give us any evidence to support that this hypothesis is true? He vaguely refers to three studies—two of humans, one of rhesus monkeys—published by researchers at the University of California, Davis, last fall confirming the deleterious effect of these [glucose and fructose] on metabolism and insulin levels. Then he chides the "anti-obesity establishment" for not subscribing to his version of carbohydrate metabolism, that "insulin regulates how much fat gets trapped in your fat cells, and the kinds of carbohydrates we eat today pretty much drive up your insulin levels." And that somehow explains how poor kids in New York City got fat—eating highly processed foods that are commonplace today, but that, by and large, were not even in existence during the worst of the Depression?

While a gram of fat is different from a gram of protein which is different from a gram of carbohydrate (the gram of fat has over twice as much energy in it), a calorie is a unit of measurement equal to the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by 1° Celsius. Calories can be used to measure the amount of energy contained in our food or the amount of energy it takes to do what we do. If we don't burn as many calories as we eat, there is food left over that must be stored or excreted. That's not theory, Mr. Taubes; that's physics.

The process that converts sugars to fat is called de novo lipogenesis and, according to Dr. John McDougall's book The Starch Solution (and the 10 references to scientific studies he cites), it doesn't work very well in humans, losing 30% of total energy in the process, and equates to a gain of 4 grams of fat daily in women (both trim and obese) fed 50% more calories per day than they usually ate. Doing that daily, it would take a year to gain 3 pounds. That doesn't sound like it would explain the number of obese and morbidly obese teenagers we see around us; they wouldn't have had time. Perhaps there is something else going on here.

Next the article goes on to tell us that "the belief that physical activity plays a meaningful role in keeping off the pounds" is a fallacy. And what does it cite to back this up? Examples of people who exercise and don't change the way they eat. I don't know of any credible health expert who would disagree with that analysis, but, when done in combination with dietary changes that lower the total energy density of their meals, exercise is most certainly an effective tool for controlling weight. But the article goes on to tell us that "When the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine jointly published physical-activity guidelines back in 2007, they described the evidence that exercise can even prevent us from growing fatter as 'not particularly compelling'." Oddly, in 2009, those same two groups came out fully in support of the 2008 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans that Mr. Taubes would like us to beleive they dismissed.

More to come...

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So, what is Mr. Taubes' point in his May 14, 2012 Newsweek article entitled "Why the Campaign to Stop America's Obesity Crisis Keeps Failing"? He's been hinting at it all along with comments like:

"the biology suggests that [sugars, refined flour, and starches] are literally fattening—they make us fat, while other foods (fats, proteins, and green leafy vegetables) don’t."


"Finally, the anti-obesity establishment embraces the idea that what are really missing from our diet are fresh fruits and vegetables—that these are the sine qua non of a healthy diet—and that meat, red meat in particular, is a likely cause of obesity. Since the mid-1970s, health agencies have waged a campaign to reduce our meat consumption, for a host of reasons: it causes colon cancer or heart disease (because of the saturated fat) and now because it supposedly makes us fat as well. The lowly cheeseburger is consistently targeted as a contributor to both obesity and diabetes."

So it's not so surprising, in the next to the last paragraph, when Mr. Taubes gives us his solution:

"So what should we eat? The latest clinical trials suggest that all of us would benefit from fewer (if any) sugars and fewer refined grains (bread, pasta) and starchy vegetables (potatoes)... As for those of us who are overweight, experimental trials, the gold standard of medical evidence, suggest that diets that are severely restricted in fattening carbohydrates and rich in animal products—meat, eggs, cheese—and green leafy vegetables are arguably the best approach, if not the healthiest diet to eat. Ethical arguments against meat-eating are always valid; health arguments against it can no longer be defended ." (all emphasis mine)

Gosh, that sounds just like the Atkins diet!

Additionally, he claims:

"Not only does weight go down when people eat like this, but heart disease and diabetes risk factors are reduced."

I'll refer you to Dr. Michael Greger's excellent web site for scientific evaluation of those claims.

I just want to say, "Shame on you Newsweek/Daily Beast!" You had the chance to educate people, but, instead, you gave them this. Perhaps, it's the confusion caused by irresponsible articles like this that are a far bigger contributor to "why the campaign to stop America's obesity crisis keeps failing."