It is time for Canada to ban trans fats

Image by Marcin Wichary

Image by Marcin Wichary

Last week my colleague Jon Gravel published an article with Maaike DeVries on the website Healthy Debate, arguing that Canada should move to ban trans fats. The article was well written and persuasive, and since it was published using a creative commons licence I have decided to republish it here so that our readers can benefit from it. Enjoy!

On November 7th 2013, the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced their proposed measures “to completely eliminate artificially produced trans fatty acids (TFAs) from the American food supply”. This measure would prevent food manufacturers from selling products containing artificial TFAs. Just as many Americans made their own New Year’s resolutions, their government has proposed quite a respectable one indeed.

There is an overwhelming volume of scientific literature demonstrating that consumption of partially hydrogenated oils (primary source for artificially produced TFAs) adversely affect multiple cardiovascular risk factors. Scientists from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that complete elimination of TFAs could prevent 10,000 to 20,000 coronary events and 3,000 to 7,000 coronary deaths each year in the United States. TFAs are not essential to the human diet, provide no health benefit and their complete elimination from the global food supply has been called for by the World Health Organization (WHO).
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Category: Guest Post, nutrition | Tagged | 1 Comment

Does Canada’s Food Guide Promote Weight Gain? Debate Video Now Available

Food Guide debate

Today I am pleased to post the video from last week’s debate titled “Does Canada’s Food Guide Promote Weight Gain?”.  The debate featured two heavy hitters: Dr Hasan Hutchinson (Director General of the Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion within the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada – the office responsible for the Guide) and Dr Yoni Freedhoff (Medical Director of the Bariatric Medical Institute, and an outspoken critic of the Food Guide).

The debate video was recorded and expertly edited by Mr David Baker, and is available below (email subscribers can view the videos on the blog). You can find out more about David’s production company here.  I watched all the videos except the Q&A this afternoon, and both presenters were fantastic.  For those interested in seeing how people reacted to the debate in real-time, I have also embeded a Storify of the event, created by Dr Zach Ferraro.

Before watching the videos I was inclined to side with Yoni, and that hasn’t necessarily changed now that I’ve seen the debate.  That being said, I think it’s great that Dr Hutchinson was able and willing to promote the Guide in person.  One of my personal take-home messages from the debate was that the Guide itself is pretty good; it’s the messaging that sometimes confuses people (e.g with respect to serving sizes, juice intake, chocolate milk, etc).  I think that more knowledge translation events like this debate would go a long way to clarifying some of those issues.

Does Canada’s Food Guide Promote Weight Gain? from Dave Baker on Vimeo.
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Category: Interview, News, nutrition, Obesity Research | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The world does not need a “sport” popsicle


“Replenish, Restore, Refresh”

The Chapman’s “Sport Lolly” is a popsicle.  It calls itself “frozen hydration”.  But it is a popsicle.

I hope this goes without saying, but “sport popsicle” is an unnecessary food category. According to the nutritional info on the Chapman’s website, the Wild Berry Blast is nutritionally almost identical to No Name Brand Ice Pops (which I assume most people would regard as dessert, rather than a tool for improving sport performance).  They both have 60 kcals, and the Sport Lolly actually contains more sugar (13 grams vs 11 in the Ice Pops).  The only difference that I can see (aside from the branding) is that the “electrolyte enhanced” Sport Lolly has 35 mg of sodium, while the No Name Brand Ice Pops have just 20 mg.

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Category: Miscellaneous, nutrition, Products | 3 Comments

Weight loss will not solve obesity-related bullying – Obesity Panacea Podcast # 29

I really enjoy podcasts.

I listen to them almost everyday during my walk to/from the lab, while I’m working out, and while I’m making supper.  Peter and I have been doing an Obesity Panacea podcast intermittently over the years, and I have always wanted to make it a regular feature. Given that I’ve recently transitioned to a new job and a new city, I thought this would be a good time to make the podcast a more regular feature.

My goal is for the podcast to feature interesting conversations with obesity/health researchers.  There are lots of podcasts/shows that interview researchers about specific new findings (e.g. the wonderful Quirks and Quarks).  So I’m hoping to instead focus a bit more on the bigger picture; why people were drawn to their area of research, what their research program tells us as a whole (as opposed to focusing only on the latest study), etc.
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Category: Obesity Research, Peer Reviewed Research, Podcast | Tagged | 3 Comments

3 tips for the ultimate weight-loss breakfast

breakfastI love breakfast.

It is exceptionally rare for me to miss breakfast, and when I do, I am in a prickly mood most of the day, ravenous by mid-morning, and making poor food choices by lunch.

And it’s not just me.

Research has shown that breakfast skippers have an overall poor diet quality and make lousy food choices throughout the day compared with breakfast consumers. Not surprisingly, breakfast skipping is strongly associated with an increased likelihood of weight gain.

Thus, one could argue, breakfast may very well be the most important meal of the day.

While simply having breakfast is great, what you have for breakfast can make a big difference.

Here are the top 3 ways to ensure you get your day off to a good start.

1. Load up on fiber

I’ve previously discussed how having a breakfast high in fiber may be more satiating for a smaller number of calories, and thus may be one important way to help manage hunger and thus caloric intake. I’ve also discussed another study showing that a breakfast high in fiber and with a low glycemic index (the degree to which an ingested food causes a spike in blood glucose levels) may enhance fat oxidation during a subsequent bout of exercise.
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Category: News, nutrition, Obesity Research, Peer Reviewed Research | 10 Comments

New study finds many “active” kids are actually couch potatoes

Photo by Thijs Knaap.

Photo by Thijs Knaap.

Today’s guest post comes from friend and colleague Dr Katya Herman, and describes her recent paper in the journal Preventive Medicine.  This study was done using the QUALITY cohort, which is a very useful dataset for studying the relationships between  sedentary behaviour/physical activity and health in the pediatric age group (this is the same dataset that we used for my recent paper on the health impact of breaks in sedentary time). You can find more on Katya at the bottom of this post.


By now we’ve all heard that being too sedentary isn’t just another way of saying we are inactive – in fact, it is possible to accumulate enough physical activity for health benefits, yet still be too sedentary, depending on what we are doing for the other 23+ hours of our day, referred to as being an “active couch-potato”.  We also know that too much sedentary behaviour (including screen time, use of passive/motorized transportation, and other instances of sitting/reclining for long periods) is detrimental to our health, independently from the health benefits we might achieve from being “active” people.

On average, Canadian children spend almost 9 hours per day (over 60% of their waking hours) sedentary, including a high amount of screen time.  This screen time especially has been found to be associated with weight status and obesity in childrenUntil now, few research studies had attempted to describe sedentary behaviour in children using both objective (accelerometers) and subjective (child self-report) information together.  Hence this is what we set out to do, in young children who were at elevated risk for obesity due to having at least 1 obese parent.
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Category: Obesity Research, Peer Reviewed Research, Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour | Tagged | 2 Comments