Author Archives: Jason

About Jason

Jason's career as a health journalist and researcher helps readers understand what they really need to know and use. This music buff loves a good record store and plays a mean bass.

4 Reasons Your Diet is Doomed to Fail

Diets don’t work. It seems like such an obvious, undeniable statement. But if it is true, why does the diet industry continue to thrive? Well, because people always want to lose weight. So when one diet fails to achieve the desired results, it’s off to the next one. In some cases like with major commercial diet brands, they’ve created such a strong brand loyalty that people will often go back to their approach over and over again.

depressed diet

While pondering this simple but important question of why diets fail, I asked two health authors and advocates to chime in.

“In my experience, the key question isn’t ‘Why do diets fail?’, but instead ‘Why do experts keep telling us to eat in ways that we can’t keep up?’,” said Jonathan Bailor, author of The Smarter Science of Slim.

In simplest terms, it’s a matter of supply and demand. It’s just that in this case, the consumer continually goes back to a product that fails them. Could you imagine any other industry this logic would work for?

View Why Your Diet is Doomed Slideshow

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Obesity Makes Career Success Difficult, Particularly for Women

When New Jersey Governor Chris Christie revealed he underwent Lap-Band surgery last month, it instantly fueled speculation that it was at least in part about his 2016 presidential aspirations. True or not, there are valid reasons to consider that weight loss as a powerful tool in helping him to the highest office in the land.woman

All you have to do is look at the people who hold the highest positions in private companies. According to a 2009 study, just five percent of CEOs in the U.S. were obese (with a BMI over 30).

If you drop down to the overweight classification (a BMI between 25 and 29), there is a dramatic difference, but only for male CEOs. The 2009 study estimated between 45 and 61 percent of top male CEOs are overweight. Only five percent of overweight CEOs are women.

What would account for such a major gender gap? Women already fight an unfair uphill battle for wage equality, so one can probably safely assume a significant double standard in how men and women with weight issues are perceived.

“It appears that the glass ceiling effect on women’s advancement may reflect not only general negative stereotypes about the competencies of women, but also weight bias that results in the application of stricter appearance standards to women,” said study co-author Mark Roehling, Michigan State University associate professor of human resource management. (more…)

Obamacare is Coming for Your Corporate Wellness Program in 2014 – What it Means for You

The Affordable Care Act, first disparagingly referred to as Obamacare and now adopted as its accepted moniker, is the most sweeping and dramatic health care legislation since Medicare. It’s also one of the more divisive.health care

Proponents say it will bring health care costs down through wider preventative care; opponents say it is intrusive and sets us up for a new bloated federal bureaucracy.

One of the most important tasks in preventative care and health care cost-reduction is addressing the obesity epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the direct and indirect medical care costs of obesity in the U.S. in 2008 was $147 billion. While obesity rates have leveled in recent years, long-term projections are still grim, with the possibility of nearly half of all Americans being obese by 2030. One report projects the majority of states will be over the 50 percent level.

While there are many myths about Obamacare, one of the better known facts about the legislation is that it will eliminate insurance companies’ ability to discriminate based on pre-existing conditions. But it’s not the utopian “health care for all” scenario some critics may think. Companies are able to more aggressively reward employees for achieving preset wellness goals, and conversely, saddling those who don’t make an effort to improve their health with higher premiums. (more…)

Current Food Trends Include Fresh, Fast and Dining Alone

There are major changes coming to the food industry, or at least for those companies that want to stay economically viable. That’s because, according to various studies on consumer trends, there are significant lifestyle changes that are impacting the way we eat.

Dr. Elizabeth Sloan, contributing editor and consumer trends columnist for Food Technology Magazine, has put together a report illustrating what she feels are the top trends in the food industry. Here are some of the highlights:

foodie

Eating Out is Not On The Menu for Millennials

Restaurant dining is dominated by older generations, with the biggest spenders being in the 55- to 64-year-old age group. During the last five years, baby boomers and older have seen a six percent increase in restaurant visits while millennials’ visits dropped by six percent. (more…)

Mushrooms May Help You Skip Vitamin D Supplements

While many of us will probably get plenty of vitamin D in the summer sunshine, there’s some potentially welcoming news for those who prefer to get theirs from dietary sources (which is always a wise idea anyway). According to new research, mushrooms produce enough vitamin D without the need for supplementation.

mushrooms

There are many reasons vitamin D is important to our health. For instance, adequate vitamin D levels are necessary for promoting healthy bone development, muscle strength, and reducing the risk of bone fractures. Vitamin D is also essential in helping strengthen your immune system and reduces the risk of certain types of cancer, depression and diabetes.

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine examined 30 healthy adults who were randomly given capsules of 2,000 International Units (IU) of vitamin D2, 2,000 IU of vitamin D3, or 2,000 IU of mushroom powder (with vitamin D2). They took these daily for 12 weeks in the winter months. (more…)

Forcing Kids to Clean Their Plate May Cause Obesity, Study Suggests

Are you a member of the “clean plate club”? That’s the saying that always stuck with me when parents (and grandparents) push kids to finish their meal. That sort of mentality, while well-intentioned, may have lasting negative side effects.

New findings have shown that pushing children to eat everything on their plate has a direct link to obesity. The University of Minnesota has published a study that shows this forced eating can be linked to unhealthy eating habits when the child gets to adulthood. Interestingly, while these kids may be at a normal weight at the time, this changes later in life.

kids-eating-cleaning-their-plates

The researchers combined data from two studies including findings from EAT 2010 (Eating and Activity in Teens) and the Project F-EAT (Families and Eating and Activity Among Teens). Both of these gathered their data from asking about the eating habits of nearly 3,000 children and young adults. Each person was given a form that asked questions about weight and regular eating habits throughout the day. It wasn’t until the data from each individual study was compiled that the link to adult obesity was found. (more…)

How Engineering Tasty Low-Fat Foods Makes Things Worse

We recently wrote about the science of mouthfeel and how food manufacturers engineer what we eat to not only taste great, but entice our senses through the texture of the food. Sometimes, food makers face challenges posed by highly publicized campaigns against certain ingredients, one of which brought on the low-fat diet phenomenon.

Demonizing Fat Created a Bigger Problem

One of the bigger problems in human nature, which has manifested itself in the world of diet and fitness, is that we tend to overreact to information. For instance, we hear that saturated fat is bad for us, then instead of simply moderating our intake, we obsessively avoid it altogether or feel guilty when we can’t adhere to unrealistic expectations.

Decades ago, as the public became increasingly weary of saturated fat, manufacturers had to artificially engineer foods to retain their appeal. So what happens? They replace naturally-occurring fats with man-made substitutes that are just as bad, or worse. (more…)

Sugar and Salt: The Battle to See Which Kills More of Us

A recent study found a correlation between how high a nation’s sugar consumption is and its type 2 diabetes rate. Now researchers are taking it a grim step further by estimating how many deaths can be directly attributed to sugary drinks.

Researchers at Harvard have linked sugary drinks to the deaths of 25,000 Americans every year and 180,000 deaths worldwide.

“We know that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to obesity, and that a large number of deaths are caused by obesity-related diseases. But until now, nobody had really put these pieces together,” said Gitanjali Singh, the lead author of the five-year study and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.

soda and chips

In a not-so-shocking development, The American Beverage Association issued a critical response to the study’s findings.

“It does not show that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages causes chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer – the real causes of death among the studied subjects,” the industry group said in a written statement. “The researchers make a huge leap when they take beverage intake calculations from around the globe and allege that those beverages are the cause of deaths which the authors themselves acknowledge are due to chronic disease.” (more…)

How Pepsi Found Itself in the Middle of the Bioethics Debate

Abortion, being the divisive and highly emotional issue that it is, unfortunately makes people jump quickly to conclusions, and in some cases snap decisions. A perfect example of how emotions make us leap before we look occurred when in early 2012, Oklahoma State Senator Ralph Shortey hastily proposed a bill that would ban food “which contains aborted human fetuses in the ingredients.”

Shortey decided to take action after he reportedly heard news through the pro life group Children of God for Life that Pepsi and others were partnering with a company called Synomyx that was using stem cells in researching taste substitutes for sugar. The Internet, and it appears the senator from Oklahoma, got caught up in this to the point where people started believing that fetal tissue was actually ending up in the foods we eat.

Stem cell research

While Shortey played damage control by saying he didn’t think human fetuses were in our foods, it’s hard to dispute what he hurriedly tried to pass into law.

Stem Cells for Taste Testing?

Senomyx has isolated receptors on cells that detect taste, then added them to HEK293 cells, the stem cell line in question. The company can then test countless additives to see which get the desired taste response much more quickly and efficiently than using people in studies. (more…)

The Science of Mouthfeel and How it Feeds the Food Industry

I recently discussed how food companies carefully formulate their products for mass consumption. One of the more important elements to making a food desirable is the so-called mouthfeel, the texture and the perception of that texture, good or bad.

I am aware of this phenomenon firsthand, because even though I am knowledgeable about what is and how it is not healthy to put in my body, I sometimes find myself at the mercy of a food. Certain types of chips can make me lose control, but I happen to also be a bit of a crackhead when it comes to anything gummy.

junkfood mouthfeel

Gummies are a really great example of how mouthfeel is used in food manufacturing. There’s something about the tangy taste coupled with the chewy texture that could really set me off on a binge if I wasn’t careful.

In many cases, “mouthfeel” has no sinister connotation at all. It’s used in wine and beer tasting as just one of several descriptive factors when reviewing products. But it also describes how certain foods and drinks are a perfect match, because one is an astringent that makes you “pucker up” and the other is fatty or oily which resolves the dry feel now in your mouth and throat with its lubricating properties. Think red wine with steak or coffee and ice cream. (more…)