I watched The Biggest Loser last week – as well as the prior week’s opener, thanks to TiVo. I know what you’re thinking, but, hey, it’s my job and it has to be done. Truth is, I figure it’s about time someone shook America by the lapels and exposed the myths and fallacies in this show, which has become one of the most popular on TV. With all the glowing coverage, the average viewer is starting to think The Biggest Loser somehow represents the indomitability of the human spirit and the triumph of modern bariatric medicine. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a made-for-TV spectacle that has morphed into a cruel hoax perpetrated on the typical overweight person in America who is desperately looking for the weight-loss secret. It shows precisely how NOT to lose weight. Talk about two steps forward and three steps back. A few years ago, I suggested in this post that there were a few things right with the show (I still took them to task for their sponsor choices) but I’ve changed my mind. If this season’s opener, in which two morbidly obese, untrained contestants nearly died trying to race a mile in the heat, is any indication, nothing will do more to prolong the current obesity epidemic than a fixation on the Biggest Loser and its yelling, screaming, puking, crying, collapsing, extreme dieting, six-hour workout mentality. Hell, if I were an obese person watching all this, I’d be thinking, “dude, if this is what it takes to lose the weight, pass me another Twinkie and let’s see what’s on VH1.”
I thought I’d forgo my regularly scheduled “Dear Mark” Monday post (or “Dear Readers” as the case may be) for a subject very near and dear to my heart: the constantly-evolving, ever-confusing ways of the food rating labelers. Whether it’s the AHA-approved red “Heart Healthy” stamps that implore overweight diabetics to stuff themselves with “healthy” whole grains or the mention of antioxidant and fiber content somehow making that sugary breakfast cereal good for your kids, packaged food distributors seem to love making outlandish claims that bear little to no fruit. It’s incredibly effective, though, for the same reason people will believe anything they hear on TV or uttered by someone with an official title. We’ve already got a far-reaching bunch of bureaucrats at the FDA deciding which macronutrients to highlight and which to demonize on the official nutritional labels that adorn the back of every packaged food item, so the natural next step is a mishmash of extraneous labeling that tries to make nutritional recommendations based on the FDA data (which is itself based on flawed, misguided, or even blatantly false science).
As you may know, I’m not a huge fan of sunscreen lotion. I just don’t think it’s all that necessary. If you’ve had enough Vitamin D skin production for one day, and you’re worried about burning up, using physical barriers – like shirts, hats, umbrellas – to impede the sunlight is better than slathering your skin with powerful chemicals. Still, in the event that the only thing standing between you and a second-degree sunburn is the application of some lotion, have at it. Just be aware that, according to a recent NY Times piece, there is some seriously misleading marketing lingo circulating in regards to SPF counts.
Earlier this month, The New England Journal of Medicine featured an opinion piece about taxing nutritionally empty, sweetened beverage items. The article, entitled “Ounces of Prevention – The Public Case for Taxes on Sugared Beverages,” specifically highlighted the proposal considered but recently dropped in New York State. Governor Patterson of New York late last year proposed an 18% sales tax on soda and fruit beverages containing less than 70% juice. In Maine a wholesale tax on sodas and the sweetening syrups used for their production had been implemented by lawmakers but was recently overturned by voters. With these proposals and related studies in the spotlight, public officials and health experts have increasingly been pressing the beverage tax possibility.
It’s a headline you’ve probably seen by now splashed all over the news sites and channels – “Eating More Red Meat Ups Mortality Risk.” (Red meat once again wears the black hat: surprise, surprise.) Actually, millions of readers/viewers have likely stumbled across the caption and unfortunately taken it at face value. But you know us by now. It’s just too much fun being the merry skeptics when it comes to these sound bites of misinformation.
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