Category Archives: junk food

Smoke, mirrors, statistics, damned lies?

Benjamin Disraeli said: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Then we have “smoke and mirrors”, leading us implicitly to believe something is true when in fact it isn’t. This morning, you decide…

I’ve just seen a TV advert for a new breakfast drink product. Always one to know what goes into these things I put the sniffer dog to work. What I found was a great lesson in why we should treat food labels with a dose of healthy scepticism!

Apparently this product contains 8.1 grams of sugar per 100 grams of product – that’s just 9% of your daily advised amount according to the manufacturer’s information panel.

The problem here is the product is sold in 250ml bottles. Well done Sainsbury for therefore pointing out that really means you get 20 grams of sugar in an individual sized bottle equating to 22% of your daily advised amount in their product information panel.

The BIG problem with both sets of information? If 8.1 grams sugar equates to 9% of our recommended intake, or even if 20 grams equates to 22%, it means the actual daily recommended intake is somewhere between 90 and 91 grams sugar. Hmmm – in who’s world?

Well certainly not in WHO’s world! The World Health Organisation recommends limiting free sugars to just 25 grams per. day. The NHS have yet to catch up, and still recommend limiting free sugars to 30 grams per. day. So in my world that means one individual-sized bottle of this new product actually delivers 88% of our sugar intake as recommended by the World Health Organisation, or 73.33% as recommended by the NHS.

weetabix

Obesity – who deserves the blame?

einstein

After Susan Jebb, the Government’s former diet tsar, said obesity is mainly caused by a person’s genes and the prevalence of junk food, other experts have hit out saying fat people should be told their size is their own fault. So just who SHOULD carry the blame for your obesity, asks a news article this weekend?

It comes down to the difference between ignorance and insanity.

It’s true that the food industry, Public Health, and the NHS in the UK have all mislead the public for years. Sadly knowingly for some time too. They ALL sold us the “low-fat myth” for decades. They ALL overlooked the fact that there was no real evidence against saturated fat. They ALL overlooked the weight of evidence against sugar for 40 years.

We became a fat nation! And I say obesity was encouraged because the organisations who should have protected us kept us in IGNORANCE. Ignorance about why we were really gaining weight. Ignorance about why  a whole host of chronic diseases have been burgeoning. Ignorance about the “unrelenting march” of diabetes reported last week.

But we know now! We know sugar is deadly. We know it has raised our levels of inflammatory disease to crisis point: diabetes, heart disease, vascular disease, some cancers and more. And we can no longer claim ignorance. We can no longer claim to being kept in the dark.

The food industry is showing very little sign of change. In the many months now since we lifted the lid on the nonsense that is “low-fat”, I’ve watched in near despair as more and more fat-free and low-fat products have been unleashed into the market-place – still claiming health-benefits. It sucks, it really does. But we are no longer ignorant to the truth. We can shake our heads in disbelief that they care so little. But we no longer have to fall for their dishonest hype!

I started speaking out against low fat as long ago as 2003 – and I have never knowingly put a low-fat-sugar-laden version of food into my body since. But I still do occasionally eat something with added sugar: a bite of chocolate, a slice of birthday cake, the occasional dessert maybe. And every time I do I know, and accept, that my behaviour is INSANE. Insane because there is enough information to enable me to make a better choice. Insane because I have enough knowledge to enable me to make a better choice. Sometimes I make insane choices, but I have to face the fact they are MINE!

I am at the point of awareness that any weight gain is certainly now my own fault, and I carry 100% responsibility.

Historically Susan Jebb is right – the past 40 years have largely been not our fault. But from here on in we are all responsible for our own food choices – as these experts suggest! And only when we accept our own responsibility, embrace our own dietary and behavioural change, take control over our own choices will things improve.

RebalanceDiabetes is ready and waiting to help anyone willing to help themselves. Give me a shout!

 

 

 

To tax or not to tax?

sugar writingToday marks the final day of International Diabetes Awareness Month 2015.

Today the sugar tax debate is hitting the media again in a big way.

Whether you are for or against a sugar tax it seems a fitting time to give more attention to this debate, and to turn the spotlight again on sugar: the dangers of sugar, the role of sugar on public health, the economics of sugar.

Is this the first time in living history that a Government has resisted such public calls for a tax? Resisted an opportunity to boost the chancellor’s coffers, with strong public support? The political stance is curious to say the least.

Here is a selection of the articles I’ve come across this morning:

MPs back sugar tax and ban on junkfood ads during X-factor

Jamie Oliver’s right! MPs say it’s time for a 20% tax on sugary drinks to tackle childhood obesity

Ban Junk Food Ads And Tax Sugary Drinks – MPs

UK MPs seek tighter measures on sugary drinks to tackle childhood obesity 

MPs back sugar tax endorsed by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver

Breakfast Briefing: Pressure grows on Gov for sugar tax

Tax sugary drinks and restrict TV adverts for sweets, MPs urge

MPs to call for ‘sugar tax’ and tighter controls on junk food ads

Introduce tax on sugary drinks, say MPs

MPs call for sugar tax to combat obesity

Radical Overhaul Needed To Beat Obesity – MPs

MPs demand 20% levy for fizzy drinks and blitz on junk food deals

Sugar tax: MPs join call to cut £5bn a year cost of obesity

Commons health committee puts weight behind UK sugar tax

Commons chiefs to demand ‘sugar tax‘ and tighter controls on junk food ads

Despite all those calls for the sugar tax, there is an “against” view point also reported this morning. It’s a minority of the British people who believe such a tax would be effective in combating obesity and disease – including diabetes:

British public unconvinced by soft drinks tax

I am throwing my hat onto the side that says there probably is a better way – regulate the food industry, restrict the amount of sugar permitted in processed foods, education, more transparent food labelling…

I am grateful this topic is working its way up political agendas. Let this debate rage!!

 

Cereal killers?

Sipping my green tea in Waitrose’s cafe on Saturday, and browsing the weekend supplements, I came across an article about a cereal bar, Cereality, recently installed in Texas Fort Worth airport. The pictures of what might typically pass for breakfast or a snack were nothing if not disturbing.

Cartons of cereals, already sugary enough to be considered to be confectionery in their own right, mixed with chocolates, sweeties,
cookies, and dripping in syrups and sweet sauces. Food? Really? Have we so lost our marbles? Lost sight of what constitutes food, let alone healthy food? Or even an appropriate portion size of sugar?

A mere 20 minutes later, queuing at the checkout, my senses were further assaulted by the prominent display of breakfast cereals of the worst kind. Displayed in the most prominent position in the store.

Sugar laden, refined carbs in a box masquerading as food! IMG_20151003_172234

The kind that kids will nag their parents to buy. For the jolly cartoon images on the boxes. For the free junk toys inside. For the sugar on which the breakfast cereal industry is gleefully getting them hooked.And it struck me that breakfast cereal manufacturers and those peddling them are having a huge, and profitable, laugh in the face of ever rising rates of obesity and diabetes. And it’s simply not good enough!

Here’s why…

In 2009 Which? magazine investigated breakfast cereals, and, as reported in the press at the time, concluded that a mere 8% of tested brands would meet Food Standards Agency criteria for acceptable levels of sugar. In 2012 Which? revisited breakfast cereals and again concluded that few products would provide for a healthy breakfast.

In the intervening 3 years things have gone from bad to worse. Kelloggs and Nestle and chums have continued unabated to peddle their sugar-laden wares, and to add insult to injury have introduced ever more damaging options. Nestle even have the audacity to package some of the worst products, in my opinion, in “green top” boxes, devised to fool consumers that there is something healthy in the packet. There mostly isn’t!
Back to cereal cafes: as ever, what happens in the US eventually appears in the UK. Cereal cafes are no exception. Cereality in the States at least has a fluffy friendly name. But here in the UK it seems we’re prepared to openly embrace the darkest, most cynical side of this new trend.

Cereal Killer Cafe is aptly named indeed. Almost every conceivable brand of tooth-rotting, blood-sugar-disrupting breakfast carb is available. Alongside a piece of cake obviously!

Similar nutritionally-bankrupt concoctions – they call them cocktails – can be found at the unattractively-named Black Milk Cereal Dives popping up around the UK. Already-too-sugary cereal
products topped with Krispy Kreme doughnuts? Topped with Oreo cookies and chocolate sauce? Topped with Tootsie Rolls?

There simply has to be enough information out there about the dangers of sugar and refined carbs now for the owners of these questionable establishments to be fully aware of the health implications of their sugar bowls. Doesn’t there?

I pray the “food” industry never sinks lower than this. It’s hard to imagine that it could!

In the meantime I’m going to cry real tears and pray for a food industry in which sanity and ethics make a come-back! And I’m going to continue to eat, and recommend, eggs for breakfast!

The light at the end of this tunnel is the news that eggs are making a comeback – enjoying some well-deserved redemption. Once more for old times sake – “Go to Work on an Egg!”

The Truth About Sugar – was it useful for people living with diabetes?

fiona phillipsSo, did you see The Truth About Sugar on BBC 1 last night at 9pm?

If you did watch, and you’ve been following RebalanceDiabetes closely, you’ll have recognised a lot of the messages! So much of what I have shared with you via FaceBook, Twitter, in newsletters and in this blog over the past 2 years was covered in the programme. It was great to see those messages finally being addressed on TV. There was one huge message, however, that I whole-heartedly disagree with – but I’ll come on to that!

The way in which the messages were covered was simple, straightforward, and graphic. Some of the experiments they used to illustrate the points brought them home powerfully, I thought.

Here are some of the useful facts to keep reminding yourself of:

  • Sugar leads to body fat – quickly AND easily!
  • Sugar leads to disease!
  • There are huge quantities of sugar hidden in processed foods – even savory dishes.
  • The food industry go to great lengths to work out exactly how much sugar will make you eat more of their products – regardless of it’s effect on your health!
  • More onus should be put on the food industry to make it clear how much sugar is hidden in their products! Never mind the food industry representative saying everyone knows that a gram means – actually I don’t believe they do! I think everyone understands what a teaspoon of sugar looks like though!
  • The ONLY way to know what’s in your food is to cook it yourself and from scratch.
  • The sugars we drink cause us to eat more because they interfere with your hunger mechanism, and your body can’t tell you to stop taking in calories.
  • Drinking fruit juices means you take in massively more sugar than eating whole fruits. What I would add here though is that fruit contains the same type of sugar, and it’s just as harmful, as in juices, so fruit consumption shouldn’t be unlimited! 

So here’s the point I absolutely disagree with: Sadly The Truth About Sugar promoted the idea of artificial sweeteners. NO! There is enough research to show that artificial sweeteners still cause problems. Some of the articles I’ve shared with you over the months show that people are actually MORE likely to be obese using artificially-sweetened drinks compared with the full-sugar varieties. And research has shown that artificial sweeteners disrupt insulin – making them just as dangerous for people living with diabetes. Switching to artificial sweeteners is the one message I would love you to ignore from last night’s programme.

Otherwise, The Truth About Sugar gets my thumbs up, and I can’t wait for next week’s episode!

Deja vu for diabetes!

TweetHere in the UK, since March 2011, our government has been running with a strategy called the Responsibility Deal. It has questionably made the food industry responsible for your health! Health experts will tell you quite simply – IT ISN’T WORKING! An article published in the British Medical Journal just yesterday says it’s “a “dead-duck” for sugar reduction“. Not so great then for people living with diabetes!

Today the headlines are screaming against the fact that the food industry has been allowed involvement in food research. Make no mistake – this is not right! It’s not OK. IT IS NOT OK!

Experts advising ministers on obesity are being paid hundreds of thousands of pounds by the junk food industry, an investigation has found. Key scientists behind policies aimed at encouraging the public to eat a healthier diet have been given vast sums for their research by the likes of Coca Cola, Nestle and Mars. The revelations prompted concerns that ‘cosy deals’ are deterring ministers from enforcing tough limits on sugar and fat.” says the Daily Mail.

Want to hear it from a “more serious” source? Well how about this?:

Prof Simon Capewell, from the University of Liverpool and an adviser for the group Action on Sugar, told the BBC: “I was shocked, quite honestly; this is heart-breaking news and basically it appears a lot of people have been seriously misled.” He said there would be an “inherent conflict of interest” between profits and public health. “It’s like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank,” he concluded.” from the BBC.

Or this?:

David Stuckler, professor of political economy and sociology at Oxford University, said: “There are inherent conflicts of interest between corporations that profit from unhealthy food and public health collaborations.” In 2013 a study by the medical journal Plos found that reviews of the effects of sugary drinks on obesity with industry funding were five times more likely to conclude that there was no link than those without industry funding. It concluded that industry funding of research “may bias conclusions in favour of sponsors’ products, with potentially significant implications for public health”.” from the Telegraph.

The British Medical Journal is hardly likely to engage in tabloid sensationalism. This is a serious story – we can be sure!

The crux is that this government, these scientists, the food industry, have wasted another opportunity to put your health ahead of profits. They had a chance to benefit you, and they have again failed!

Again?

I read all this today and found myself having a deja vu experience. Haven’t governments squandered opportunities to improve public health before in favour of food industry interests and profits? Haven’t scientists more interested in their own livelihoods and reputations than in public health been allowed to influence government food policy before? Yes they have – and to devastating effects!

Am in wandering into conspiracy theory territory here? I’m afraid not!

Do you remember a BBC 2 series called “The Men Who Made Us Fat” in 2012? It’s all revealed in episode 1 – which you can watch on Vimeo – link here! That’s saved me a lot of typing today!

I really recommend you watch the whole programme, but if you’ve truly no time to watch for the whole hour, I’ve highlighted some salient points for you:

  • at 7 mins 42 secs into the programme we are told that political deals in the early 1970s under the Richard Nixon government in the U.S. put industry profits before public health.
  • 31 mins in, we learn that a “scientist” called Ancel Keys claimed fat was responsible for heart disease. He had no evidence, no actual research, just an opinion! Yet the vilification of saturated fat ever since the 1950s hinged on this one scientist’s opinion – BECAUSE his theory suited the mighty sugar industry!
  • 32 mins 50 secs, we hear about John Yudkin, who was the only scientist at the time speaking out against sugar. Of course he wasn’t popular with the food industry, who were making huge profits from sugar and high fructose corn syrup. So they discredited his work – which we know now was correct!
  • Skip to 39 mins 30 secs to hear from a food industry insider how the manufacturers know just how to get you hooked on their junk foods! Sugar is the key to you buying more and increasing their profits!!
  • Then to 44 mins 20 secs to hear how, in 1977, George McGovern’s report, criticising sugar for the emerging obesity problems fast-becoming apparent in the U.S., was amended to remove any blame of sugar and to point the finger at fat – in support of Ancel Keys’ opinion.
  • Move to 52 mins 20 secs, and be prepared to be horrified that in 2000 the sugar industry lobbied against the World Health Organisation’s recommendations to limit sugar – and won! WHO never published those recommendations for financial reasons!

It’s no wonder that responsible scientists and doctors are appalled by this current revelation, that their colleagues, that our government, is yet again collaborating with the food industry giants. Collaborating against your best interests. Collaborating for funding, for profit, simply for money.

Oh – of course they all say it’s up to the individual to make sure their own diet is healthy – see 18 mins 30 secs into ‘The Men Who Made Us Fat’ to see it’s been their long-standing mantra. They smilingly deny their products are in any way to blame for your obesity, for your heart disease, for your diabetes problems.

One thing I agree with – it IS up to you to take full responsibility for your own diet, your own health. Because two things are for sure, the food industry won’t help you, and the government won’t insist they do!

RebalanceDiabetes is standing right here – ready to help!

How many calories?

So how does a diet of about 1100-1200 calories a day sound to you? Possibly a bit restrictive? Like you might go hungry? Impossible? Whatever it is for you HOLD THAT THOUGHT!

Did you see an article in the press recently about foods and snacks that contain a massive 2000 calories? If not here it is! We are now surrounded by readily available foods and snacks that contain so many calories it’s mind-blowing. And we have completely lost sight of what is normal/reasonable/do-able?

Take a ‘treat’ at Costa as an example – you have to love that they are very open about the calorific values of their productsmenu attached here:

1 Chai Latte massimo size (667 calories) and 1 portion Layered Carrot Cake – well carrots are vegetables right? (617 calories) – that’s a whopping 1284 calories and it’s only a snack!!

1 Raspberry & White Chocolate Cooler medio size (517 calories) and 1 Raspberry & Almond Square – well fruit and nuts are good right? (445 calories) – that’s a calorific-budget-blowing 962 calories!!

1 Long Jing Green tea (5 calories) and 1 Mini Rhubarb & Custard Tart (133 calories) – a manageable now-and-again-treat at 138 calories!

It’s all about choices…and being a little bit savvy.

So that 1100-1200 calories-per-day-diet? What’s it to be?

This?:

(actually one large burger & fries blows the budget slightly at nearly 1300 calories!)
Slide1

Or this?:

Slide2

Because, believe it or not, these menus are both about the same number of calories.

To begin to find out how you can enjoy 4 or 5 plates of food, together with a hot chocolate drink, each day sign up for the next FREE RebalanceDiabetes seminar – click here!

How to make your New Year Resolution a roaring success!

happy-new-year-2015-gold-1380The Telegraph recently carried an article that claims January is the worst month of the year to start a new diet or fitness routine. I couldn’t agree more!

Logically we are on a hiding to nothing if we try to make a one-step change from all the excesses of December to, what is often, a somewhat ascetic approach to life in January. It just doesn’t make sense. We have a hoard of goodies left over from the Christmas and New Year festivities – and even if we resist our own stash of sugar, some kind person will bring their surplus sugary stuff into the office in the hope that everyone else will consume it for them! We have the after-party emotional anti-climax to deal with while we get back into our usual routines – oh joy then to think of a spot of self-deprivation! And to top it off we’re in the middle of winter with not a hint of spring in sight – yet we fool ourselves that we are going to stick to the occasional cold lettuce leaf or yoghurt when what our bodies actually need to thrive is hearty warming winter food (think soups, stews and casseroles!)

So it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that a whopping 92% of new year diet and fitness resolutions fail within just a few weeks. Like the ohso short-lived new year fireworks, they might start dazzling well but they’ll quickly fizzle out!

taipei-cnySo could there be a valid reason why Chinese New Year happens in the middle of February? You bet!

The snowdrops are out, and the crocuses, daffodils and tulips are well on their way. The trees are showing a touch of new green colour. With our own sap rising we start to truly feel that spring is indeed on its way! With winter on its way out we experience hopeful anticipation for the rest of the year ahead. As the nights get much more noticeably lighter we even spring-clean our homes in readiness for a fresh start.

THIS is a great time to start a new diet and fitness routine, as the Telegraph article confirms.

The Chinese have always thought so – so why has it taken us a few thousand years to finally come to the same conclusion? Hmmm!?

So what about January? Well it’s a fantastic time to make our resolutions and plans for a positive change – starting in February! It’s a fantastic time to get our ducks in a row to ensure real success as spring approaches. It’s a great time to research how and what changes we’ll make.

It’s no accident that the next FREE RebalanceDiabetes seminar is most timely on 26th January 2015. If you are determined to make a successful positive change for you and your health then this is especially for you! I’ll give you lots of help to decide how you can spring to success in the Chinese Year of the Goat.

If there’s one action you can still usefully take in January it’s to BOOK HERE NOW!

Why swapping low-fat for low-carb isn’t enough!

fatsWe’ve seen plenty of news articles recently that confirm low carb-diets are better for diabetes than low-fat. And I agree. BUT…

…that’s not the whole story. You’ve got to understand more about the nature of fats!

A bacon and egg fry-up might trump toast and marmalade in the blood-sugar stakes, and keep you feeling fuller for longer, but it also contains massively more calories. You see, just 1 gram of carb contains 4 calories of energy. 1 gram of protein contains 4 calories of energy too. 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories of energy! That’s  more than twice the calories in fat compared with carbs or protein. And yet, I haven’t seen a single article warning readers of this fact.

Without considering portion sizes it will be so easy to take in huge amounts of calories.

Also, there isn’t enough being said about which fats are healthy and which are harmful. So I thought maybe it’s time to set the record straight here too…

Hydrogenated/trans fats are THE WORST! Artificial laboratory-made to turn an unsaturated oil into a saturated fat by adding hydrogen into the mix. It’s a way to make an oil into a solid, spreadable fat. But it’s also a fat that your body cannot process as nutrition. It’s a fat that is so toxic it will damage your liver, and will linger in your body for a long, long time. Give these fats a miss – never be tempted to use them. Remember, oils that are liquid at room temperature have to have been artificially processed to turn them into a ‘margarine’. Pure olive oil spreads, pure sunflower spreads, pure soya spreads all fall into this category.

butterSaturated fats can be processed by the body – and there’s increasing evidence that they are not harmful. Their reputation is certainly being redeemed right now. BUT, ‘not harmful’ is not exactly the same as ‘healthy’! That said, coconut oil is a saturated fat, and is also getting great press about health benefits too! Butter is once again the thing to spread on your bread – but watch out for those calories – it’s hard to stick to a light smear of butter. It tastes so good it’s too easy to slather on thickly!

Unsaturated fats have long been thought to be healthy. That’s only partly true! Omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids are definitely OK – both are associated with good heart health, and, on top of that, omega-3 is anti-inflammatory. Olive oil is high in these 2 omegas – that’s why it is still considered to be the healthiest oil! And of course it’s the key ingredient that makes the Mediterranean diet so beneficial!

But omega-6 – oh dear oh dear! Omega-6 is necessary. BUT omega-6 is inflammatory too!

Now, we do all need an inflammatory response – it could be a life-saver. But when we develop too much inflammation then real health problems occur. Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, heart disease, cardio-vascular disease, stroke, arthritis, fibromyalgia, are all associated with high levels of inflammation. And high levels of omega-6 have now been shown to contribute to these conditions.

Before we used processed foods it’s thought we had a ratio of about 1:1 between omega-6 and omega-3 in our diets. But with processed foods our diets are way higher in inflammatory omega-6 than anti-inflammatory omega-3.  Research findings now suggest we should seriously limit the amount of omega-6 in our diets. Sunflower oil has about 26 times more omega-6 than omega-3 – definitely one to avoid! Rapeseed oil has been hailed for several years as the UK’s healthy equivalent to olive oil. Sorry folks, it’s just not true! Rapeseed has twice as much omega-6 compared with omega-3 and doesn’t begin to be the equivalent of olive oil at all.

The big downfall with olive oil, and other high omega-3 oils, is that they burn and become toxic at high temperatures, so be careful of heating them for roasting/frying. Best stick with butter or coconut oil for high temperature cooking (saturated fats are difficult to burn), and use olive oil for gentle cooking or for use cold.

Any questions? Please just ask!

Christmas with diabetes – make it easy part 4!

Party food can sometimes be a carbohydrate feast can’t it? It can be the hardest thing to negotiate for anyone living with diabetes. How many times have you been faced with an unimaginative ‘beige buffet’, left wondering how on earth you’ll deal with your blood sugars?

But getting creative with party food can be as much fun as it is a challenge! This can be your chance to really shine – not just for the diabetics in your social circle, but for the benefit of everyone else too. You don’t have to be diabetic to be left feeling bloated, sluggish, lethargic and exhausted after the usual bread and pastry party fayre.

party food choicesTry these ideas out for size: (and let me know what you think to them!)

  • Tomato and Basil Espresso (tiny tiny chilled soups)
  • Mature Cheddar Cheese, Pineapple and Grape Skewers
  • Cherry Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella in Pesto Shots
  • Watermelon and Goat Cheese Skewers
  • Parma Ham, Melon and Strawberry Skewers
  • Smoked Duck, Rocket and Orange Rolls
  • Garlic, Chilli and Coriander Sautéed King Prawns
  • Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese and Dill Terrine
  • Hummus / avocado dip / tomato salsa & raw vegetable crudites
  • Devilled eggs
  • Devils on horseback (prunes or dates stuffed with cheese or almonds and wrapped in bacon)
  • Angels on horseback (oysters wrapped in bacon)
  • Cheese and herb stuffed mushrooms
  • A selection of olives and antipasti

So be the host with the most or hostess with the most-est this year, and have the healthiest, most creative party food for miles around!