It's difficult to overstate just how aggressively the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) allows Nesquik to push chocolate milk on their young players. The reason why is simple. In 2014, AYSO partnered with Nesquik and named it, "the official ...

 

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Hey American Youth Soccer Organization, Kids Don't Need Sugar To Play

It's difficult to overstate just how aggressively the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) allows Nesquik to push chocolate milk on their young players.

The reason why is simple. In 2014, AYSO partnered with Nesquik and named it, "the official “Chocolate Milk” of AYSO."

Nesquik's AYSO enabled health washing centres around the supposedly "ideal ratio" in chocolate milk of carbohydrates to protein that "can help refuel and restore exhausted muscles".

"Exhausted muscles"?

I did a straw poll on Twitter of parents whose kids play soccer.

94% of the 269 respondents reports their kids as actually moving for less than 60 minutes per soccer outing, with vast majority of respondents reporting less then 30 minutes of movement.
Those poll results correspond nicely with those found by objective measures and published in Pediatric Exercise Science whereby accelerometers revealed that kids only spend 17 minutes of a 50 minute soccer match engaging in moderate-to-vigorous activity.

Now putting aside the discussion of ratios and whether chocolate milk has a special role in "refueling", it's difficult for me to imagine that anyone would suggest that kids moving for less than 30 minutes at a stretch (or even an hour), have "exhausted muscles" that need any special attention.

But I'd be wrong, because Registered Dietitian Tara Collingwood is out there for Nesquik to tell parents that chocolate milk is a healthy, perhaps even necessary, choice.

I know this because a close friend of mine and father of recently AYSO soccer enrolled twin 8 year olds and a 5 year old, has been sending me the signed by Collingwood promotional materials that arrive courtesy of AYSO in his inbox.

Here are Collingwood's "Hydration Guidelines" that recommend not only post game chocolate milk, but also suggest kids quaff 4-8oz of a sports drink for every 15 minutes played.

Here's Collingwood's post game snacks handout which of course includes chocolate milk.

Here's Collingwood's grocery list that includes chocolate milk (with its nearly double the per drop calories of Coca-Cola along with 2.5 teaspoons of added sugar per cup) in her list of "best foods"

Here's Collingwood's game day recommendations, which if my calculations are remotely accurate, would provide my friend's barely moving 5 and 8 year olds with somewhere between 400-600 game based calories, and more than a day's worth of added sugar (especially if drinking sport drinks ever 15 minutes as she recommends) apiece.

And here's Collingwood touting chocolate milk as one of 5 "must-have" foods alongside spinach, salmon, bananas, and whole wheat wraps.

And please don't think that AYSO cares enough about your kids to not allow Nesquik to target them directly with marketing either.

Nesquik has also paid Latina Mommy Bloggers to spread the word about the miraculous marriage of soccer and sugar-sweetened milk.

Here's another

And another

And another

In fact there are many, many, more.

AYSO, if you honestly cared about kids' health and sports nutrition, you'd put an end to this partnership, as Collingwood's love of chocolate syrup notwithstanding, it's nutritionally indefensible.
 
 

Good Lord! British NHS Just Banned Surgeries For Patients With Obesity (And Smokers)

In what is perhaps the world's most biased and blame based health policy, A British NHS just banned patients with obesity or who smoke from receiving elective surgeries in a bid presumably to inspire encourage help whip and prod people into losing weight (or quitting smoking - but I'm not going to touch on smoking in this piece, not because I agree with the policy, but rather because it's not my area of expertise).

The policy's two primary presumptions are ignorant and misguided.

The first has to do with the value of BMI as a clinical tool. While it's true that the risks of medical complications and morbidities rise with weight, BMI is a measure of bigness, not health. Half of the NFL have been reported to have BMIs greater than 30, as did my friend and colleague Dr. Spencer Nadolsky pictured below in his wrestling days when he sported a BMI of 32.

The second presumption is that obesity is a disease of personal responsibility and choice. While no doubt weight can be dumbed down to eat less, move more, I still find it shocking that public health professionals and policy makers exist who believe that somehow people with obesity simply haven't absorbed enough societal guilt, shame, and discrimination to finally lose weight.

Of course, even if you do want to embrace personal responsibility as the sole cause of obesity, medicine isn't about blame. We patch up drunk drivers and folks who don't wear seat belts. We treat people with asthma who don't bother keeping up with their puffers, pneumonias exacerbated by the early discontinuation of antibiotics, and the psychotic breaks of folks who stop their antipsychotics.

Oh, you want surgical examples?

How about liver transplants in patients who once suffered with alcoholism; or how about one that doesn't involve a so-called vice at all - heart bypasses on folks who simply didn't bother to take their blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes medications?

We operate on them all in a timely manner, and so we should, but yet here the NHS feels comfortable discriminating against people with obesity, because they apparently still feel justified discussing obesity on the basis of blame based causation.

But putting those two erroneous presumptions aside, the notion that blame based medicine is something that the UK wants to adopt is plainly repugnant. Medicine's not about blaming and shaming. Life is complicated. And even if a person has the time and personal health to allow a run at intentional behavior change, how high on the list of priorities do you think healthy living lies for someone whose children struggle with substance abuse, or whose debts are staggering, or whose spouse is hobbled with post-traumatic stress disorder? Or someone with any of those same issues who is also unemployed?

Clinically useless truisms aside, obesity is complicated, and moreover we have yet to discover a non-surgical, reproducible, and uniformly effective plan for the management of obesity. And while there's no argument about the fact that in a ideal world everyone would take it upon themselves to live the healthiest lives possible, there's two problems with that argument. Firstly, not everyone is interested in changing their lifestyle, and secondly, statistically speaking, the majority of even those who are interested and successful with lifestyle change will ultimately regress. Meanwhile the burden of suffering that the elective surgery those with obesity are being denied may add to absenteeism, presenteeism, pain, depression, and more.

If someone from the NHS' clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Hertfordshire (who thought up this loathsome, biased, and backwards policy) is reading this, I want to remind you of the NHS Constitution's first guiding principle:

"The NHS provides a comprehensive service, available to all

It is available to all irrespective of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion, belief, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity or marital or civil partnership status."
Either you're going to have to reverse this idiotic policy, or amend that statement above to explicitly exclude those with obesity.

For shame.

(In rushing this post through, I utilized paragraphs from a number of previous stories I've written about obesity, blame, and bias)
 

PepsiCo Confirms They Care About Profit, Not Health

This post is not an indictment of PepsiCo.

In fact I've picked on PepsiCo far less than I have on Coca-Cola over the years because for the most part, PepsiCo hasn't cynically pretended that health mattered to them as vocally as has Coca-Cola.

For PepsiCo, health was always about sales. They simply wanted to make money selling less awful junk food.

Well, that hasn't worked out so well, and so PepsiCo, in a 3rd quarter investors meeting a few weeks ago, did as companies do when faced with disappointing sales figures - they pledged to increase their marketing of their flagship sugary beverages (Pepsi and Mountain Dew).

This shouldn't surprise anyone.

PepsiCo's job is to maximize their profits, and while there may be times when profits and public health collide, if they don't, PepsiCo will protect their interests, not yours and mine.

And this post comes with a serving of especially delicious irony in that just one day after PepsiCo's announcement that they were going to pump their sugary fare, PepsiCo's VP of marketing Gary So published this piece on Medium about how great PepsiCo's commitment is to reducing the consumption of calories and sugar from beverages.

As I've said before, the food industry is neither friend, nor foe, nor partner.

[Thanks to Consumerist Community Editor Laura Northrup for pointing me to the AP piece]
 

My Kids Go Trick or Treating. Yours Probably Should Too.

(A variation of this post was first published October 24th, 2013)

It's coming.

And I'm not really all that worried. At least not about Halloween night.

The fact is food's not simply fuel, and like it or not, Halloween and candy are part of the very fabric of North American culture, and so to suggest that kids shouldn't enjoy candy on Halloween isn't an approach I would support.

That said, Halloween sure isn't pretty. On average every Halloween sized candy contains in the order of 2 teaspoons of sugar and the calories of 2 Oreo cookies and I'd bet most Halloween eves there are more kids consuming 10 or more Halloween treats than less - 20 teaspoons of sugar and the calories of more than half an entire package of Oreos (there are 36 cookies in a package of Oreos).

So what's a health conscious parent to do?

Use Halloween as a teachable moment. After all, it's not Halloween day that's the real problem, the real problem are the other 364 days of Halloween where we as a society have very unwisely decided to reward, pacify and entertain kids with junk food or candy (see my piece on the 365 days of Halloween here). So what can be taught on Halloween?

Well firstly I think you can chat some about added sugar (and/or calories), and those rule of thumb figures up above provide easily visualized metrics for kids and parents alike.

Secondly it allows for a discussion around "thoughtful reduction". Ask them how many candies they think they'll need to enjoy Halloween? Remember, the goal is the healthiest life that can be enjoyed, and that goes for kids too, and consequently the smallest amount of candy that a kid is going to need to enjoy Halloween is likely a larger amount than a plain old boring Thursday. In my house our kids have determined 3 candies are required (and I'm guessing likely a few more on the road) - so our kids come home, they dump their sacks, and rather than just eat randomly from a massive pile they hunt out the 3 treats they think would be the most awesome and then silently learn a bit about mindful eating by taking their time to truly enjoy them.

The rest?

Well it goes into the cupboard and gets metered out at a rate of around a candy a day....but strangely....and I'm not entirely sure how this happens, maybe it's cupboard goblins, but after the kids go to sleep the piles seem to shrink more quickly than math would predict (though last year my oldest told me she believed it was her parents eating them and that she was going to count her candies each night). I've also heard of some families who grab glue guns and make a Halloween candy collage, and dentist offices who do Halloween candy buy-backs.

Lastly, a few years ago we discovered that the Switch Witch' territory had expanded to include Ottawa. Like her sister the Tooth Fairy, the Switch Witch, on Halloween, flies around looking for piles of candy to "switch" for toys in an attempt to keep kids' teeth free from cavities for her sister. The joy and excitement on my kids' faces when they came downstairs on November 1st that first Switch Witch year was something to behold, and is already a discussion between them this year.

And if you do happen upon our home, we haven't given out candy since 2006 and we haven't been egged either. You can buy Halloween coloured play-doh packs at Costco, Halloween glow sticks, stickers or temporary tattoos at the dollar store (glow sticks seem to be the biggest hit in our neighbourhood), or if your community is enlightened, you might even be able to pick up free swim or skate passes for your local arena (they run about 50 cents to a dollar per so if you're in a very busy neighbourhood this can get pricey).

[Here's me chatting about the subject with CBC Toronto's Matt Galloway]
 
 
   
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