A few blurbs from the news and my readings this week, which sometimes converged.
Bacon, Veggies and CPI: A financial analyst from CNBC noted that the price of bacon was falling because there were too many pigs. Jane Harris also reported that lettuce was down 30% and tomatoes 20% with an overall price reduction for vegetables of 10%. Interestingly, I read an article by Roland Sturm this week and in his article he placed a chart with a graph of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and showed that as the CPI went up so did the prices of some foods. In his chart, the index for sugars and sweets remained below the CPI line, but the index for fruits and vegetables soared above it. In 2002, the CPI was 180 and the fruits and veggies were marked at 260!
PSA: News came out this week that due to the unreliability and absence of life saving benefit, the prostate specific antigen test as a prostate cancer screening measure should be revisited and possibly curtailed.
Soda and SNAP: I listened to an official with our (US) governmental nutrition supplement program speak against policy that would disallow the purchase of sugar sweetened beverages or soda with program dollars. As I thought about his argument; discrimination, enforcement and embarrassment, I had a couple of counter points. Let's consider SNAP (formerly food stamps) and WIC. I believe that recipients cannot use these benefits to purchase tobacco or alcohol. The people receiving SNAP and WIC know this and tend not to "try" to buy them. This obviates any embarrassment that would occur when the system (cashier) tells the customer, sorry that is not allowed. More importantly, another government entity has determined that there is no nutritional value to these beverages - they are empty calories. SO, why would a nutritional program pay for something with NO nutritional value?
Food Deserts: The more I read the less I believe. People do have access to grocery stores and supermarkets and research shows that in some cases, the density of stores is associated with higher BMI not lower. This is counter to the arguments on food deserts, but I can explain it. The same toxic environment of a 7-11 is alive and well in the grocery store. I.e. high calorie foods are cheap and mercilessly promoted in the aisles.
Calcium: You CAN consume too much and calcium needs, unlike vitamin D, can be easily met through food sources. Researchers from Switzerland raised concern on the issue this week. They note that supplements may not be necessary for all people, esp. women who take them the most, and that excess calcium intake is associated with heart disease. [actually, my mom recently decided to eat a little more hummus and less cheese because of her high calcium intake - she didn't have to wait for these scientists - she has me :)]
What do you want to weigh? I have saved my favorite for last so I hope you are still reading. I received an alert in one of my Linked IN groups on a NY Times article where Carson Chow from the NIDDK was interviewed. He is a mathematician. As I read the article I realized that Chow was one of the authors on the study discussed both here and here. The NY Times article is certainly an easier read than the journal article I reviewed and you may want to read it yourself - click here to do so. Two things stood out for me, or one thing stood out for two reasons. As you may recall from my past posts, Dr. Hall cautioned that a 100 calorie reduction in intake might cause 1/2 the goal weight loss in the first year, but it could take 3 years for the total loss to occur. Weight loss is not a fast process when the change is small. Chow talks a little bit about the other side. Weight gain can also be slow (not if you keep adding calories, but if your additional increase is stable - that same 100 calories say). He talks about averages - average intake. Saying that if on average the caloric intake is balanced, weight gain will not occur. (this also argues against only cutting calories on some days of the week for weight loss to occur, because on average you won't be eating less). I know that he is right because I see my sister eat very well 'on average' and she looks great - maintaining a significant weight loss for several years. I remember that my father used to tell me the same thing. The problem is, most people do not control their intake on any day - none the less, on average. I am uncomfortable deviating from my daily goals (because of problems like that), but this article and the very cool simulator provide evidence against my fears. This version, much different than the excel document Dr. Hall sent me a year or two ago, is much easier to use. If you use it, you can determine how long it will take you to reach your goal based on what you are willing to do calorie and activity wise. I really encourage you to check it out. You may get a window that asks if you want to accept the applet - a computer issue. I went ahead and said yes, but you have to make your own decision there.