Saturday, March 2, 2013
Fat and salt can satisfy the human appetite like few other foods.
Photograph: Ian Garlick/ActionAid/PA
Food companies and our health
While some companies are taking genuine steps to supply healthier food to their customers, there is a long way to go before this is universal
Charlotte Sankey for the Guardian Professional Network
guardian.co.uk, Monday 2 July 2012 11.48 BST
When hunger is gnawing, there is a food we find almost impossible to resist: a plate of hot chips, sprinkled with plenty of salt. Fat and salt in this glorious combination can satisfy the human appetite like few other foods.
It reflects a sad state of affairs – how we are overly attracted to eating things which, in excess, do us harm: fat, salt, sugar. Delicious.
Once upon a time, when we were running around the veld and food was hard to come by, a lust for fat and salt was pretty helpful. Those who best survived hardship were the ones who had gorged themselves on energy-rich animal fat. Sugar love goes back to our primate heritage, when we spent our days in the forest searching for fruit – riper fruit supplied more energy and water.
Out of date taste buds
Today our taste buds have not moved on in tandem with our lifestyles. Sugar and salt are addictive. Going to the supermarket can be quite overwhelming for anyone with an addictive personality.
England has one of the highest rates of obesity in Europe, doubling over the last 25 years, with over 60% of adults overweight or obese today (26% obese, 34% overweight). Diet-related chronic disease costs the NHS £7 billion a year, and poor diet could account for a third of all cases of both cancer and cardiovascular disease. "Our food system is failing," said Joan Walley MP, chair of the government's Environmental Audit Committee.
A multi-faceted solution
Is it really beyond our collective ken to sort this out? The tricky bit is that the solution does not, of course, come in the shape of a single silver bullet. It depends on complex web of factors such as how much we exercise (or not) and what we eat (or don't) – and what we choose to eat stems from the way food is priced, advertised, the culture we live in. There is also what we are allowed to eat, either by governments regulating what can be sold to us, or us disciplining ourselves.
So how are we doing? We are certainly eating less salt – in this the UK leads the world (the WHO says salt reduction is as important as stopping smoking). Salt and fat consumption are down 9% since 2006. One of the main culprits, branded sliced bread, has a third less salt since 2006.
Until the recession, nutrition in the UK was improving – we were eating more fruit and vegetables year on year. Various health campaigns contributed: the Soil Association's Food for Life, National Heart Alliance in Ireland, the Healthy Eating campaign in Scotland. The famous Five A Day campaign, launched by the Department of Health in 2002, was having an impact: at its launch we were eating 1.4 pieces of fruit and veg a day, which rose to 3.3 by 2006. With the recession, this fell to 3.2 by 2009, and we were eating more fats and sugars. "Foods high in fat, sugar and salt seem less expensive but actually deliver less nutrition," says Dr Emma Williams of the British Nutrition Foundation.
In the UK, food producers and retailers are not obliged to make food healthy: unlike for smoking and alcohol there is no regulation on food. While countries such as Denmark and France use various fat taxes this does not happen in the UK – which prefers targets and guidelines – or in most of the US.
Witness the impassioned backlash when the mayors of New York and Cambridge MA proposed banning 30oz supersize drinks. The campaign, supported by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told how larger portions make us eat or drink 20-50% more – and we don't make up by eating less later. The largest drink you can get in Australia, the UK or Italy equates to a medium in the US.
While McDonald's drinks sizes are 457% larger than in 1955, some companies are taking real steps to make their products healthier.
Says Jane Landon of the National Heart Forum: "We have got to where we are largely thanks to willing food companies meeting targets set by the Food Standards Agency in 2006 and 2009."
Andrew Lansley's Responsibility Deal calls on companies to voluntarily make food healthier. It replaces measures by Labour which culminated in Food 2030, a national food strategy under Brown. Professor Tim Lang of City University London is one of the Deal's critics: "Labour created a real focus for a joined-up, solution, and half the food companies were entirely happy with it. This Responsibility Deal has taken us backwards. There are very strong forces against a systemic solution." He explains how a company can sign up to the Deal and do nothing. Jamie Oliver and Sustain's Children's Food Campaign have gone further, calling it "shameful". Lansley defends it, claiming more will be achieved by voluntary action than by "costly and intrusive regulation". A familiar exchange.
What are companies doing?
"But some companies are genuinely concerned and it's not just PR," says Professor Lang. Campaigners and public health experts talk of a split between companies who are taking the issue seriously – especially ones with upmarket customers – and those who are window dressing.
Initiatives range from manufacturers such as Kellogg's reducing the salt in its products by 44%, to retailers like M&S cutting salt in 95% of its foods. M&S has invented a new type of low-salt bacon with 30% less salt, compensated by using a new Asian flavour. "It's not that companies don't want to make food healthier, says Claire Hughes, M&S nutritionist. "More that they don't have enough techniques to make it taste good."
Around 350 food manufacturing, retailing, catering and health organisations have signed up to the Deal. They range from big names Co-Op, Nestle, Mars, Kraft and Tesco to small cheese companies.
But there are the thousands who have not: Budgens, Caffé Nero, Iceland, Londis are some of the better known.
Small surprise that David Stuckler of Cambridge University believes voluntary action is not enough: "There is little or no evidence that self-regulation works without the threat of public regulation in the background. If food companies believed these steps were profitable, they would already being doing them."
Isn't asking a retailer or producer to voluntarily reduce delicious nasties such as sugar and fat a bit like asking them to voluntarily reduce their profits?
So where does that leave us? It is quite baffling that we can take a child into a Wetherspoons and either buy it a sandwich with chips that has more salt (4.8g) than the child should consume in a day (4g), or a spaghetti bolognese that has just 0.1g.
Wouldn't regulation create a more level playing field? "Regulating how much salt should be in 100g of bread is not the way forward," replied M&S nutritionist Claire Hughes. "There are so many different types of bread. It's better to look at rewarding people's good behaviour," she adds.
Pass the chips.
Charlotte Sankey runs Creative Warehouse, a publishing and communications consultancy specialising in the environment, arts and education
Food companies and our health | Guardian Sustainable Business | guardian.co.uk
“He who loves the world as his body may be entrusted with the empire.”
-- Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, 600 BCE
"We metabolize information about the universe into our bodies through the food that we eat." --- Deepak Chopra
"One secret to reverse aging is through diet. Favor fresh food, as life energy comes from the sun."
If you focus on success, you’ll have stress. But if you pursue excellence, success will be guaranteed.
-- Deepak Chopra
“You must find the place inside yourself where nothing is impossible.”
-- Deepak Chopra
“Every time you're tempted to react, ask: Do I want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future?”... Inspiration is contagious.
The longing for sweets is really a yearning for love or "sweetness.”
-- Marion Woodman
Visualize your creative dream for your life. Break out of your comfort zone and get comfortable with the unknown....
Walking and physical contact with the earth grounds and balances the energy body.
Sorry, there´s no magic bullet. You gotta eat healthy and live healthy to be healthy and look healthy.
-- Morgan Spurlock
People on the Paleo Diet report that they lose weight and experience higher energy levels.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."
-- George Bernard Shaw.
Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.”
-- Hippocrates 460 - 400 BCE Greek Physician.
Walking in nature reduces chronic pain, depression, ADD, PMS, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.
“Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos.”
-- Don Kardong
I'm pretty sure that eating chocolate keeps wrinkles away. I've never seen a 10 year old with a chocolate bar and crows feet.
-- Amy Neftzger
A good meal soothes the soul as it regenerates the body.
-- Frederick W. Hackwood
Boy George sheds 50# "Portion control, 5 hours between meals, less coffee & tea, Pure water, No bread or sugar!"
“Forget love—I’d rather fall in chocolate!" -- Sandra J. Dykes
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
-- Soren Kierkegaard, Danish...
All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.
-- Charles M. Schulz
Walking stimulates the brain and balances left and right brain hemispheres.
“Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it. Let's do it, let's fall in love.”
-- Cole Porter
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
-- Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food. Paleo
Is food a substitute for love? No, love is a substitute for food.
-- Rohan Candappa
After a full belly all is poetry.
-- Frank McCourt
After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives.
-- Oscar Wilde
Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.
-- Ruth Reichl
Food is a gift and should be treated reverentially--romanced and ritualized and seasoned with memory.
-- Chris Bohjalian
Walking reduces anxiety and stress levels
"Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food." Hippocrates, father of modern medicine. 460-370 BC Greece....
Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.
-- Orson Welles
"Be yourself. The world worships the original."
-- Ingrid Bergman
“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have...
A good meal soothes the soul as it regenerates the body.
-- Frederick W. Hackwood
“All you need to do is hold on tight...and believe!” -- Stephen King
"If the bee disappears from the Earth, man would have no more than 4 years left to live." -- Albert Einstein.
Shop on the edges of the supermarket where you'll find the fresh foods. Avoid the processed foods in the middle.
“Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.”
-- Michael Pollan.
“Silence is the language of god, all else is poor translation.”
A wild goose never laid a tame egg. – Gaelic
Cooking done with care is an act of love. - Craig Claiborne
With grains, dairy, and refined sugars off the Paleo menu, indulging isn’t easy.
Exercise reduces stress, improves breathing, increases circulation, and massages all the organs.
The Paleolithic diet and lifestyle—based on eating hunter/gatherer foods for optimal health—has surged in popularity.
Great food is like great sex. The more you have the more you want. -Gael Greene
Rice, Buckwheat, Cassava (Tapioca), Corn, Millet, Montina, Quinoa, Sorghum, Teff and Wild rice are all gluten-free.
Coffee is one of the Top-10 gluten cross reactors, exacerbating gi symptoms. Try this delicious brew instead!
15 year old invents New Method of Diagnosing Cancer
Refined dairy, cereals, sugars, oils, and alcohol make up 72.1 % of the total energy consumed in the USA.
"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." Emerson
Researchers examined salt levels in more than 9,000 foods at restaurants
Sodium levels in many foods served at Canadian restaurant chains exceed the amount an adult should take in during a day, a new study finds.
Researchers examined the salt levels in more than 9,000 foods sold at 65 fast-food restaurants and 20 sit-down restaurant chains with at least 20 locations across the country.
Considering how common it is to dine out, along with the pervasiveness of hypertension and its health risks, the study authors said it was important to take a systematic look at sodium levels to assess progress towards the federal, provincial and territorial target of lowering sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams per person per day by 2016.
It is recommended that adults eat up to 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, which is called the daily adequate intake (AI) level that Health Canada says is expected to meet or exceed the needs of most individuals.
People aged 14 and older should not eat more than 2,300 mg sodium per day or about a teaspoon of salt — the daily tolerable upper intake level or UL, as that level is likely to pose a health risk.
More than 22 per cent of sandwiches or wraps, ribs and pasta entrees with meat or seafood exceeded the UL for sodium at sit-down restaurants.
On average, meal items not including side dishes contained 1,455 milligrams of sodium per serving or 97 per cent of an adult's daily AI.
Seafood, beef and salad entrees were the categories with the lowest sodium levels per serving.
At fast food restaurants, the highest categories were stir fry entrees, poutine or fries with toppings, tacos and burritos, sandwiches or wraps and salads with meat or seafood.
Study authors Mary L'Abbé, chair of the nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto, and graduate student Mary Scourboutakos took the systematic look at sodium levels provided by industry in 2010 and early 2011.
Since Canada has not yet established targets or implemented a reduction strategy for the restaurant sector, L'Abbé and Scourboutakos used the U.S. targets.
Searching out healthier options
"Because of the prevalence of eating out, as well as the high rates of hypertension and cardiovascular disease, addressing the exceedingly high sodium levels in restaurant foods is essential in order to decrease the burden of chronic disease," they concluded in Wednesday's issue of the Canadian Journal of Public Health.
The majority of establishments exceeded targets for sodium density in baked goods such as bagels, croissants and cookies, fried potatoes, other sandwiches, fries, sandwiches with luncheon meat and pizza.
Because of the high sodium density, reducing portion sizes alone won't work to meet the
targets, the researchers said.
Items that may seem healthier, like salads, aren't necessarily the best option. Diners also need to consider other nutritional aspects like saturated fat and sugar.
For children's items, on average the items contained 65 per cent of the daily recommended amount of sodium — 1,200 milligrams for those aged four to eight.
L'Abbé said it shows the need to establish targets specifically for children. Previous research suggests teens who often eat fast food may alter their taste perception, promoting a preference for salt, but that reductions aren't easily detected when introduced slowly.
The researchers acknowledged that they relied on food establishments to provide accurate data and that sodium levels could vary. They called for more research to see how much market share influences the results.
The Centre for Science in the Public Interest estimated that three-quarters of the excess sodium in the Canadian food supply is added by food manufacturers and restaurants.
Next month, a vote is expected on federal NDP health critic Libby Davies' private member's bill, which requires food manufacturers to meet sodium reduction targets.
The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association is opposed to the bill, saying that restaurants are already working closely with suppliers to reduce sodium levels in menu items.
The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canadian Stroke Network and the University of Toronto. With files from CBC's Kim Brunhuber
Sodium in Canadian restaurant foods 'alarmingly high' - Health - CBC News