Flavour of the Week

Nutrition Newsmakers of 2012

flavour-of-the-week-logoHere’s our continuation of  the highlights (and lowlights!) in food, nutrition and health from the last 12 months.

From beef recalls to Dr. Oz’s “magic” touch to the popularity of gluten free diets, the final instalment of our 2012 in review awaits!

6. Beef gets beat up. 2013 was a bad year for the beef industry! First, Hu et al. published a study linking red meat consumption to higher risk of all-cause mortality, which was then broadcast worldwide with a multitude of terrifying headlines. Keep in mind, the data was correlational not causative, though the results were fairly suggestive – risk of death increased 13% with a daily serving of unprocessed red meat, 20% with processed meat like bacon or sausage. For a great critical appraisal, see what Dr. Yoni Freedhoff from Weighty Matters has to say, as well as this telling quote from the original study authors: “A moderate [red meat] consumption, for example one serving every other day, I think is fine.

beef cutsBut that wasn’t it for beef – the hits just kept on coming! In mid-September, a massive beef recall, impacting both Canada and the US, was initiated after appallingly bad food safety practices were discovered at XL Foods in Brooks, Alberta.

E. coli was first detected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency two weeks before action was taken; consequently, nearly 20 people became ill from eating contaminated meat. Not surprisingly, consumer faith in the beef industry has been severely shaken, with an estimated 42% of Canadians reporting that they reduced their beef intake in the wake of the recall and many calling for stricter safety regulations and monitoring. Definitely not a good year for beef.

7. Dr. Oz’s endorsement = big sales. For good or bad, whether backed by science or complete “malarkey“, getting a shout out from Dr. Oz brought the cha-ching to many supplement manufacturers this year. First, it was raspberry ketones. Supported by in vitro and in vivo research only didn’t stop this “fat-burner in a bottle” from flying off the the shelves… literally. Then came green coffee bean extract – albeit with more research to back up its claims, even some in *actual* humans, there is certainly not enough evidence to be say: “… this miracle pill can burn fat fast” [emphasis ours].

Now some might say, what’s the harm? Both of these supplements are generally recognized as safe, so promoting them is not putting the public at risk. We would argue, however, that promoting supplements that have limited evidence and encouraging people to spend their hard-earned money to buy them is not a terribly ethical practice. There, we are off of our soapbox! Click here to read a great new article from Slate on “The Oz Effect”.

big gulp8. Not without my soda! We thought junk food taxes would never come to North America, and they didn’t this year …but an outright ban on jumbo sodas did! In September, New York City banned restaurants from selling any soda larger than 16 oz., though refills are still available. Ironically, the bill was nicknamed the “Big-Gulp Ban”, however, convenience stores and the notorious Super Big Gulp are actually exempt.

Naturally, controversy followed the ban with some “soda enthusiasts” threatening legal action, but it got people thinking: could a similar ban be enacted in other North American cities? Only time will tell how the Big Gulp Ban may affect obesity and chronic disease rates in the New York area and whether other regions will follow suit.

9. The battle against calcium continues. Poor, beleaguered calcium. If the anti-milk movement wasn’t enough, a study released this year sent everyone running to the medicine cabinet to flush their calcium supplements down the toilet. We were fortunate to have Dr. Tanis Fenton tackle the subsequent media blitz to look at the actual science. As a cohort observational study, the statistics linking calcium supplements and CVD may be significant… but correlation does not equal causation! What was Dr. Fenton’s conclusion on the calcium issue?

“Let’s rely on the strongest evidence available on this topic, which concluded that the evidence does not suggest that calcium supplements cause heart attacks. And none of the studies associated dietary or dairy calcium with cardiovascular disease.”

Enough said.

10. The anti-wheat movement not slowing down. All year it was gluten this, gluten that after the release of Dr. William Davis’s Wheat Belly and, let’s face it, once Miley Cyrus publicized her weight loss after cutting out gluten. While those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities rejoiced a growing awareness in the food industry and boon in the availability of palatable gluten-free products, the general public is continuing to jump on the GF bandwagon left, right and centre. But is there any evidence to support the Wheat Belly assertion that modern-day wheat is a scourge on our health? We say no. [Here’s a great Wheat Belly review by Desiree Neilsen, RD (favourite quote: “Swiss cheese-like holes in his logic”)].

Our take on the gluten-free frenzy? While there is little harm in going GF so long as your diet remains balanced, adopting a GF diet without any evidence of intolerance, sensitivity or allergy is largely unnecessary and quite expensive. And thinking that going gluten free will allow you to shed pounds without effort *may* work out… but there are some pretty tasty gluten-free cookies and cheezies on the market now! Let’s face it, we eat too much over-processed, refined, nutrient-stripped wheat in the form of hamburger buns, white pasta and junk food. While the prevalence of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity do seem to be increasing, for the vast majority of us avoiding whole grain bulghur wheat when you could just cut out the fettuccine alfredo seems a bit misguided!

What’s in store for 2013? Maybe the top food-related Google searches by Canadians in 2012 will give us a clue of things to come – bacon, poutine and maple syrup… delicious but not-exactly healthy tidings! Well, it can only get better from here!

Here are some other great “year in review” lists:

Happy New Year from No Baloney!

One thought on “Nutrition Newsmakers of 2012

  1. Pingback: Nutrition Newsmakers of 2012 | No Baloney

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