Cutting fat makes you... fat!?

Glass of fresh milk isolated on a white backgroundIn a recent paper in the Scandinavian Journal of Primary Healthcare, "middle-aged men who consumed high-fat milk, butter and cream were significantly less likely to become obese over a period of 12 years compared to men who never or rarely ate high-fat dairy." It seems that the skim-milk-is-better mantra no longer is true, although no one's certain why. Perhaps it's because full-fat milk makes us fuller quicker. Perhaps it's because there are substances in full-fat milk that help our metabolism.

It's rare that a health study gives a result that you actually want to hear. Of course, if you need to cut down on cholesterol, you're not allowed to take advantage of this good news. Barring that, however, it's looking like you can (and should) indulge a little more when it comes to dairy.

When bottled isn't good enough....

If you find yourself thirsty in the East Village and you have $2.50 burning a hole in your pocket , stop in to Molecule for a to-go cup of... water. New York city water, which is some of the best you can get when it comes to tap water, is simply not good enough for the folks at Molecule. They run it through a huge, expensive filtration system and serve the final product to its customers.

"It's about treating water a little more consciously, mindfully and respectfully," says a co-owner of the "water cafe." If only they treated their customers the same way.

Nanny Bloomberg

Bloomberg is at it again. He is hellbent on making New Yorkers healthier, first by going after smoking and then after trans fats. (He even tried to go after salt in restaurants. Much to the relief of city chefs, he was unsuccessful.) Now large sugary drinks are in the crosshairs. In particular, he wants to make it illegal for food establishments to serve drinks larger than 16 ounces.

Needless to say, the soft drink industry is none too pleased. To quote an ad they placed in the New York Times, "Nanny Bloomberg has taken his strange obsession with what you eat one step further.... What’s next? Limits on the width of a pizza slice, size of a hamburger or amount of cream cheese on your bagel?"

In Bloomberg's defense, you can still order 32 ounces of soda at a restaurant. You just have to order two 16 ounce drinks. (The hope is that by doing so, people will better realize just how much they are consuming.)

Paula Deen's down-home... and diabetic

For years, Paula Deen has been using her southern charm to convince us that proper nutrition has no place in the kitchen. Although she preaches moderation, there's nothing about her butter-, flour-, and sugar-laden cooking that backs this message up. Now it appears that biology has caught up with Paula. She has come out of the closet as someone with Type 2 diabetes. Perhaps she's had one too many burgers with Krispy Kreme doughnuts as buns.

Should we be happy that the queen of unhealthy cooking has finally gotten what was coming to her? Of course not. Should we be furious that she's known about her condition for the past three years while continuing throw stick after stick of butter in her food? Absolutely.

Vitamins & minerals: what's the harm?

So you take a multivitamin every morning because you heard it's a good thing to do, but you're not sure if it's making a difference. You keep taking them, though, because at least they're not harming you. Not so fast. A new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has concluded that taking vitamin and mineral pills may actually increase your risk of death from cancer or heart disease. Several supplements were found to be dangerous, with the worst being iron. Only one was found to be beneficial: calcium.

The study was performed on older women, but it certainly raises the concern that all of us should be much more careful about the pills we pop.

Needless to say, advocates for the supplement producers have released statements which downplay the study, stating that the effects are merely correlative and not causal.

So what's the best strategy? No one is contesting that your body needs important vitamins and minerals. Instead of getting them through a pill, though, play it safe and get them the old fashioned way, through food.

Diet drinks not so diet-y after all

The jury's still out on exactly how bad artificial sweeteners are for your overall health. Ignoring any of these adverse effects and focusing solely on weight loss, you would think that a zero- or low-calorie soda would at least have little to no effect on your waistline.

Not so. But how on Earth can someone put on weight when no calories are ingested? The best guess is that artificial sweeteners influence people's appetites, making them more prone to eat unhealthy foods afterwards.

And if you think going to the gym reduces this effect, guess again. Diet drinks apparently warp your appetite regardless of how much you exercise.

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Fries are the devil

It should come as no surprise that recent studies at Harvard have targeted french fries and potato chips as fattening foods. The numbers, however, are a bit sobering. A serving of potato chips every day for four years will add over 1.5 pounds to your waistline. Do the same with french fries, and you've gained an extra three pounds. (This bit of news in particular makes me want to cry.) Meanwhile, whole grains, fruit, nuts, and yogurt will all help you lose weight.

More so than ever, it appears that what happens in the kitchen has more impact than what happens in the gym. "Diet and exercise are important for preventing weight gain, but diet clearly plays a bigger role," said one of the leaders of the study.

Other factors that were found to contribute to weight gain: watching TV, sleeping too much, sleeping too little, and booze (woe is me!).

Thanks to Dave for the heads-up.

Calorie counting made super-easy

If you're counting calories and you're not not sure how many you are taking in, finding the answer is now as easy as snapping a picture. Using a new iPhone app, Meal Snap, you can now take a picture of the meal in front of you and be told not only what food is in the meal but also the number of calories. Does it work? Based on the reviews, although a little rusty, it does a surprisingly good job.

How does it work? From what I understand, the pictures are submitted to a human-powered service called Mechanical Turk. Once the food is identified, the information is submitted to Daily Burn, the creators of Meal Snap, and the calorie content information is found in a database.

Magic? Not exactly, but pretty darned close to it.

R.I.P. Blair River

"The Heart Attack Grill diet is not for everyone. Side effects may include sudden weight gain, repeated increase of wardrobe size, back pain, male breast growth, loss of sexual partners, lung cancer, tooth decay, liver sclerosis, stroke, and an inability to see your penis. In some cases, mild death may occur."

Ho, ho! That is funny stuff!!

I've already mentioned the Heart Attack Grill in a previous post. Why mention it again now? Blair River, the man in this video, passed away earlier this month. He was 575 pounds and 29 years old.

From Jon Basso, the restaurant's founder and the jackass dressed as a doctor in the commercial: "Cynical people might think this (River's death) is funny."

Jon Basso, on the other hand, takes morbid obesity very seriously.

Treat yourself to anything but this

You’ve been good. You’ve gone to the gym regularly and have been watching what you eat. It’s time to give yourself a little treat. How about indulging in a Cold Stone PB&C shake? It’s what Men’s Health calls “The Worst Beverage in America.” If you choose to inhale one of these, get ready for a day’s worth of calories, over three times the daily recommended allowance of saturated fat, and an amount of sugar equivalent to that found in 30 Chewy Chips Ahoy Cookies… all in one giant cup.

Thanks to Dave for the reference.

It's here!

No, not the iPad. Something even more innovative and game-changing. Until now, we've been led to believe that a sandwich, by definition, is two slices of bread with some kind of filling in between. How foolish we've been!

Leave it to KFC to think outside the box and bring us the Double Down, the first fast-food sandwich to use slabs of fried chicken as buns.

Inside the "buns": Bacon and mayonnaise. Nutritionally, it clocks in at 540 calories, 32 grams of fat, and 1380 mg of sodium. How does it taste? The consensus, at least among discerning palates, is that it's an overly moist, overly salty mess.

Although it isn't health food by any stretch, it's also important to realize that the Double Down is nowhere near the worst the fast-food industry has offered. It's no worse, for example, than a Quarter Pounder with Cheese from McDonald's.

Salt ban?

In a bill currently being considered by our competent state legislature: "No owner or operator of a restaurant in this state shall use salt in any form in the preparation of any food for consumption by customers of such restaurant." Not surprisingly, chefs are up in arms over this heavy-handed and totally unreasonable proposal to lower the sodium intake of restaurant-goers.

This bill is an unfortunately consequence of the smoking and trans fat bans having passed so successfully and with such good results. Our lawmakers are starting to think it's their responsibility to monitor every aspect of our health.

This time, it appears, they've gone way too far.

365BLACK

365black"Like the unique African Baobab tree, which nourishes its community with its leaves and fruit, McDonald's has branched out to the African-American community nourishing it with valuable programs and opportunities." This has to be a joke. I'm not African-American, and I'M offended by what is a clearly a marketing strategy to target black people.

On the feedback page, they make several statements and ask visitors to the site if they agree or disagree.  An example of one such statement is: "McDonald’s is a brand that gets me."

Strongly disagree.

Can you cheat sweet?

sugar-substitutesA few things about sugar substitutes should give you pause next time you reach for a yellow, red, or blue packet. Studies of the health effects have been done only on animals. The effects on humans are still not known. Furthermore, it's believed that consumption of artificial sweeteners could increase a person's appetite for more sweetness and for foods with higher carbohydrate content.

So what are your options? Stevia, a new player in the sweetener game, is considered safer than the others because it is natural. (It could indeed be fine, but I'm not particularly convinced by this argument. Cyanide, after all, is "naturally" found in small amounts in bitter almonds.)

When all is said and done, it helps to put things in perspective. The number of calories in a teaspoon of sugar? Only 15.