THE LATEST PLAY IN THE STATISTICS GAME
We’ve all seen the ads touting dairy as a weight-loss aid. Every granola bar, breakfast cereal and block of cheese now brags about it. Welcome to yet another entertaining quarter in the ongoing Statistics Game. Dairy is a big topic and there are several studies we’re going to take a look at today. And by take a look, I mean tear apart.
As far as I’m concerned, “da-iry” hasn’t done anything great with the place (though the ad campaigns are always cute). The aliens can have it. We’d all be a lot better off without the so-called Wonder Tonic – and we’d lose weight a lot faster.
It is true that calcium plays a role in fat metabolism (a small role – more on that in a moment). But it’s also true that calories play a role in getting fat. Reducing calories from any source is going to help you lose weight much more effectively than simply drinking milk instead of, say, soda or juice. For one thing, milk has almost as much sugar as a glass of Coke (yes – check the labels). For another, milk is hardly nature’s perfect food for humans. Cow milk is nature’s perfect food for…cows. I realize that’s controversial, but it’s true. And relying on calcium for your weight-loss goals is like relying on vitamin C-enhanced Seven Up for your antioxidant needs.
I love a good slice of cheddar as much as the next guy and gal, but there’s no way any responsible health care practitioner should ever recommend making dairy a part of a healthy diet, much less a weight-loss plan. Hey, if you’re living on potato chips and pizza, a glass of milk might be a step up. I set the bar a little higher, and I hope you do, too.
Dairy, in limited amounts, isn’t something I worry too much about. I don’t think it’s an ideal human food, especially since most of us lack the enzyme needed to digest it and essentially force ourselves to become accustomed to the stuff. But you could do worse than the occasional dollop of cottage cheese or scoop of sugar-free yogurt, especially if you favor organic dairy. (Which, by the way, you should: regular dairy is typically full of antibiotics, hormones, and contaminants like pus. Yum.)
Enter dubious study #1.
Though Major Moo (the dairy industry) paid for six clinical studies – yes, they funded their own studies – the main one is what I’m calling the Tennessee Two Pounder. The University of Tennessee loves Major Moo, and Major Moo loves T. U. The lead researcher in the study was astounded by the amazing benefits of dairy, which he discovered after
being paid millions of dollars conducting the study. For a few million, I can be amazed by just about anything, but I still wouldn’t be amazed by the results he got: a mere two pounds on the “it’s not a dairy diet” dairy diet.
When this whole Major Moo campaign started last year, I was pretty suspicious. I don’t conduct my own studies of my supplement line for a reason: it’s unethical and no matter how honest a businessperson might be, you simply can’t help looking for more than might be there. Two pounds is not amazing. It is not impressive. You can lose two pounds by skipping dinner for two nights (really).
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (a group of 5,000+ docs and 100,000 other health-minded folks) has sued Major Moo this fall for what it says are grossly misleading ads. Major Moo spent over $200 million on six clinical trials and a slew of ads recommending 24 ounces of milk every 24 hours. Though Major Moo is insistent that they’re not pushing a “dairy diet”, the PCRM says the ads are misleading, that plenty of people have actually gained weight (that part’s true) by following the 24/24 recommendation, and the actual studies are suspect, anyway.
Note: PCRM promotes vegetarianism – I don’t – but I think they’re right on the money with this issue.
Enter dubious study #2.
It just gets better. Another dairy-funded study says that mice consuming dairy in lieu of other foods lost weight faster. That makes sense, but it’s not because dairy is a magic food. Dairy is what I call a “dense” nutritional food. It’s easier to cut calories if you’re satisfied, and dairy is a rich food. However, this particular study left me saying “Whaaaa?” The report on the study carefully explained the mice, the milk, the parameters. And then, at the end, the researchers (remember, funded by Major Moo) announce that low fat milk is the best bet for losing weight. The entire study focused on calcium’s role in weight loss, and the conclusion was about something else entirely.
This kind of bait-and-switch is a big problem in the world of studies. Hey, maybe low-fat milk is better (I personally don’t think so, because it is higher in sugar and is more refined than regular milk). But the study’s conclusions were illogical and misleading.
Enter dubious study #3.
A retrospective study in Seattle found that people who consumed higher levels of calcium gained less weight as they aged than people who didn’t eat much calcium: 10 pounds versus 15 pounds. Fine. I personally wouldn’t brag about my product causing only slightly less weight gain, but that’s me. Here’s what gets me: after accounting for exercise, diet and lifestyle habits, the actual role of calcium in this number was only 3%. Three percent. That means 97% of the weight gain was related to everything but calcium.
I do have a degree in biology. I’ve spent 25 years researching and developing health supplements. The statistical significance standard of 15% is right up there with the Hippocratic Oath. 3% is not significant. It is not even meaningful. So I’m perplexed at this quote from a doctor analyzing the study:
“While calories consumed, exercise and metabolism account for 97 percent of the fluctuations in body weight, calcium explains about a 3 percent variability of body weight in U.S. adults,” said Robert P. Heaney, who studies the effects of calcium at Creighton University in Nebraska. “Three percent isn’t bad.”
He’s right; three percent isn’t bad. It’s just pointless.
1) Yes, calcium helps with fat metabolism – a bit. Other things – like cutting calories – work better and retrain the body more effectively.
2) Lots of foods and supplements have calcium. Milk has a lot, but it also has a lot of sugar and calories. It often comes loaded with antibiotics, hormones and contaminants. It’s not an ideal food for most humans.
3) Look for significant changes when trusting a new study.
4) Don’t immediately trust new studies…when the outcome benefits whoever paid for them.
Avocados are at the tail end of their season right now, so you can scoop up these deliciously fatty treats for a great price. The best part about this rich fruit? The fat is good for you! Especially in winter, when skin is prone to dryness, an extra daily dose of beneficial fatty acids can be all it takes to stay comfortable in your skin.
Slice, score, or mash your avo, drizzle with a little lemon or lime juice, add a dash of kosher salt, and you’ve got yourself a really nutritious snack. Keep in mind that, like nuts, avocados are very high in calories, so enjoy in moderation.
Fuel up with this smart pick before the weekend hits!
I don’t know whether to laugh or cringe at the bizarre-but-true existence of the Heart Attack Grill. Call it vulgar, call it wasteful, call it offensive – but someone’s eating there. A lot of someones. And I guarantee you they’re not healthy.
The Heart Attack Grill: the restaurant that so prides itself on inducing heart problems, the burgers have names such as “Double Bypass”. Of course, as John Stossel points out, no idiotic unhealthy venture would be complete without scantily-clad “nurse” waitresses. (Because if you’re going to infuriate the health experts, you might as well offend the better-smelling half of the population, too. The bizarre American intersection of fast food meat and female objectification – didn’t these guys learn anything in college? Did they go to college?). Everyone knows I’m no big fan of the food police. Also, I fully admit to a love affair with salad rivaled only by Popeye. But, considering the fact that millions of people every year are tragically affected by easily-prevented heart attacks (and the fact that a half-million die), this kind of gloating stupidity concerns me, if only because these men may be reproducing.
Sara here. I have a little issue with the high prices and low quality of eggs at the supermarket. At least, I do now, because when Junior Apple Janet wrote in with the following, I had to spread the word:
“Home with my parents for the holidays, I was a bit confused when Dad came home with 88 cent eggs. Yes, 88 cents. More confusing still was the rainbow of colors and sizes of the eggs – not sure I’ve ever eaten green eggs before. I don’t know when my parents started doing this, but I am a convert. In fact, I ate nothing but eggs the whole time. My folks humored me until I insisted on serving omelets for the third day in a row. I couldn’t get over how much better farm eggs are! Why isn’t everyone doing this?”
Farm-fresh eggs are a good thing. They’re fresher, tastier, more nutritious, and cost less than your average parking meter. Who would bother with the thin-shelled, bland, pale store variety of eggs when real farm eggs are available?
What’s going on, Apples? If you are lucky enough to be living in or near a rural area, I recommend that you check out the egg situation.
The purpose of this post (yes, there is a point) is to highlight some of the better-egg tips in case you, like myself, aren’t within easy access of a farm.
- Go organic, of course.
- Give each egg in the carton a quick feel to make sure it’s not cracked and stuck to the carton.
- Choose Omega-3-enhanced eggs for an easy fatty acid boost every day.
- Look for eggs that are a little bit chalky or matte. The shinier the shell, the older the egg.
- Try to pick eggs that don’t have a lot of irregularities and bumps – an older chicken giveaway. Older chicken = inferior eggs.
- Don’t worry about cholesterol.
And, while we’re on the topic of eggs, did you know that egg foo yung (an American Chinese invention) is a surprisingly healthy restaurant food? Fried rice, egg rolls and the endless procession of cornstarch-based sauces in many American Chinese restaurants aren’t exactly your best bet for nutrition. But egg foo yung is typically sauce-free, high in protein, low in fat and sugar, and usually has a few veggies thrown in. It’s really not much different from an omelet. Speaking of omelets…
EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT: Milk Thistle
WHAT IT IS: Milk Thistle, or silybum marianum
Milk thistle is a hardy, prickly plant of the thistle family. It grows easily around the world. It is edible and its leaves are often eaten in a manner similar to artichokes. It can also be made into a potent beverage not unlike coffee. Used for more than 2,000 years, milk thistle was once thought to activate lactation (hence the name).
Milk thistle contains a substance, silymarin, which is a uniquely powerful antioxidant. It stores itself in the liver and can prevent and even reverse damage from toxins like alcohol and painkillers.
STUDIES SHOW: Milk thistle is one of the most thoroughly documented nutrients. Numerous studies support the claim that milk thistle can combat toxic damage in the liver from metals, poisons, alcohol, painkillers, pollution and other contaminants. Importantly, milk thistle has been shown to fight free radical damage – in fact, it appears that milk thistle may actually reverse some signs of oxidation in the liver.
Additionally, dozens of studies show that milk thistle can reduce cholesterol as well as inflammation in the liver. Milk thistle has the ability to fight lipid peroxidation, the process which creates cholesterol in the liver.
WHY WE LIKE IT: We like milk thistle because of its unique potential for benefitting the liver. Though known for being susceptible to damage from excess alcohol, the liver is also easily stressed by today’s diet and lifestyle trends (high in sugar, trans fats, free radicals and drugs). Maintaining liver health is crucial for cholesterol production and metabolism, the body’s inflammatory response, and overall health.
Milk thistle can help to reduce cholesterol and fight free radicals in the liver. This humble leaf also offers broad health benefits: helping to heal tissues, protect against further oxidation, and diminish inflammation.
Because we are inundated with free radicals – as Mark says, it’s a free radical minefield out there – it’s vital to supplement the liver with protective nutrients. And milk thistle is among the best sources for supporting liver health.
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