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Slim fast recall triggers thoughts on the reasoning behind supplimentation.

December 4, 2009 1 comment

So today Slim Fast has recalled all of their canned products because of a possible bacterial contamination. This the latest in the ongoing saga of recalls featuring all things canned and otherwise. No special date specifications or UPC codes to match. There’s a remote chance you could end up ingesting some of these bacteria and get really sick. This isn’t the sort of weight loss they had in mind, so they’re recalling the entire line.

It is this kind of news that feeds the ongoing debate about the industrialization of the western diet, and the evils therein. With help from the likes of Michael Pollan (author of “The Omnivour’s Dillema” and “In Defense of Food”) and recent documentaries like “Food, Inc”, this ongoing debate between foodie fist shakers and the multi billion dollar industry has become increasingly lively over the last few years.

So here we have an excellent example of a bunch of tennants on both sides going terribly wrong:  many people , foodies and non-foodies alike, feel compelled to lose weight as a part of their quest to be healthy. In doing so many find themselves reaching for the supplimentary approach, it being presumably a more healthy approach than regular old dieting. Put another way, instead of eating a normal meal, they are looking for promising and nutritious alternatives in an effort to ensure that they meet their nutritional and bodily ideals as perscribed  by the latest in health science.

I recall when I was younger my Grandfather had to replace his regular diet for a time with canned meal replacements as a result of a stroke. He couldn’t actually swallow, so he had to ‘drink’ his meals via a stomach tube. Thankfully this didn’t last terribly long, but I have often pondered how they managed to get a hole dinner into one or two of these little cans vanilla/chocolate/strawberry flavoured cans. And is that what neopolatain ice cream was made of?

Today I see similar products all over the place. At the grocery store and pharmacy to be sure, but also in the hands of coworkers in the office; people who are assumably completely healthy and claim to be simply too busy to take the elevator downstairs to pick up a deli sandwich. I can’t help but wonder still: how is it possible to replace the enjoyment and value of a reasonable meal-like-object into a processed and pasteurized canned liquid?

And it occurred to me yesterday at the local health-stuff store: it’s not just cans. It’s powders, pills and promises in jars and tubes. It’s the promise of health in a form that is both fast and convenient. You can tailor your supplimentation to suit your desire. With slim fast we hope to shed some pounds, but that brand is but 4 steps down the aisle from protien powders that will help you ‘bulk up’, should that be your desire. It’s like those chemistry sets I lusted after as a child but never received, with all the ingredients necessary to create the ideal and optimally healthy human being we crave to be. No sandwiches or salads required.

But at what cost? Sure, there’s the lost joys granted by the simple act of eating. What is there to say about entrusting our nutrition to a company, where the central aim is probably more along the line of garnering profit than it is focused on helping me find my ideal and healthiest form? More importantly: are we right in assuming that these products will do what they promise if we follow the instructions on the label? What if something goes wrong (as it clearly has with these products from Slim Fast)? Sure we get our money back, but where do we go to fill the void when we’ve already taken the idea having a sandwich for lunch out of our routines? Do we consider getting back on the sandwich, or do we suppliment in lieu of the lost suppliment?

If the questions are enough to drive you to eat candy, the answers are no better. There simply aren’t any straight ones. Sure we can demonize industrialization and the loss of the good old days all we like, but that’s not going to help us get our lunch back. What it may do is give us something to vent our frustrations on one rant at a time. Once we’re done shaking our fists, though, we still won’t really know how to make sure we are healthy.

So maybe the answer is in not thinking so hard. Maybe we should just dumb the whole thing down and retake our calm in the form of a simple sandwich. Maybe Pollan is right, and we should just “Eat food.” We can even skip the however-many pages in his latest book and just go with what is simple and logical.

We can learn to cook yummy things that don’t come in jars with labels and indications of how much of our daily recommended sodium intake are involved. Maybe they aren’t 100% balanced and would cause that enigmatic food piramid to blush they’re so nutritionally lopsided. Find the ugliest veg in the product aisle and see what you can learn about it (my money’s on celeriac: ugly as sin, but you just treat it like potatoes and you’re good to go).

Just take a deep breath, let go of the metal tab under your finger, and stop thinking so hard. You might be healthier for it. You might not. Either way you’ll definately find more enjoyment in it.

http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2009/12/04/consumer-slim-fast-recall.html.

Categories: General Health

Report Analysis: Article on KSWB as an example of inadequate information in journalism

November 13, 2009 Leave a comment

Read the complete article on the KSBW website.

MONTEREY, Calif. — While many are lining up in droves to get the H1N1 vaccine, others are seeking a more natural way to fight the virus. One of these alternatives is using naturopathic medicine, which is based on the belief that the body can heal itself through diet, exercise and lifestyle changes.

“I don’t recommend vaccinations for H1N1,” said Beatrice Levinson, owner of Monterey Bay’s Naturopathy. “My recommendation: the very basics are exercise, diet, water and sleep. I call them the four pillars of health.” Besides a diet full of natural health foods and getting plenty of exercise, naturopaths also recommend certain natural products and supplements to boost the body’s immune system.

This is actually something that pops up quite often whenever the flu is in the news for an extended period of times. It seems that there is already a well established desire to look into preventative measures and treatments outside of the avenues of modern medical practices.

Of particular interest here are two oddities that I felt warranted pointing out:

  1. Many of the claims made here are, un-journalistically in my opinion, not citing references or attributing a source. Who says elderberry syrup contains compounds that can fight off viruses?
  2. The author has gone so far as to mention silver as being of particular concern as an ingredient in some of the ‘remedies’ that the FDA has somehow confiscated from the internet. It does not mention why this is of particular importance.

It is precisely this lack of precision that breeds misunderstandings and irrationality on the part of the reading public. I’m all for finding a more traditional method for virus prevention, but do articles such as these do more harm then good?

Note to flu-phobes: Vitamin D is your friend

November 6, 2009 Leave a comment

With the advent of the dreaded(?) H1N1 virus, Vitamin D is popping up in the news again as a hot-topic flu-fighter (see this article). Ever the sceptic, my first question (after “Really?”) was “How exactly?”

As it turns out, the vitamin in question is purportedly not your average vitamin. It’s a secosteroid (a steroid where one of the bonds has been broken). Most other vitamins aren’t, and so the behaviour is a bit different. Read more…

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January 1, 1970 Leave a comment

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Categories: General Health