Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
21 Dec

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Worker Bees’ Daily Bites

1) Gosh, thanks, Labelman!

The FDA has created an interactive online tool to help people better understand the Nutrition Facts Label. Visitors to the site learn to “Make Your Calories Count” with the help of Labelman. Yes.

The program helps explain percentages, serving sizes and caloric information.

The Nutrition Facts Label has been criticized virtually since its introduction. The label is perhaps misleading to some because it is based upon a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet, which is much more than many people, especially women, need to consume. Additionally, nutritional percentages are somewhat misleading. A candy bar may “only” have 20% of one’s daily recommended saturated fat intake, but that doesn’t make a candy bar healthy. The big problem with this percentage standard is that the actual product may be ridiculously high in fat, sodium or sugar, but appear to be “low” compared to the total daily limit. For example, a soda may contain about one-eighth of the recommended daily sugar for a 2,000-calorie-consumer. But soda is nothing more than sugar water and is therefore one of the worst things you can put in your body.

Cynics in the health industry point out that this “percentage” comparison standard, which does not actually reflect the individual merit of the product, almost encourages unhealthy eating habits.

We’re not sure how helpful a guy named Labelman could be, but we want to know why the standards are what they are, anyway. Who says 160 grams of carbohydrates a day is desirable? Is saturated fat really so terrible if it’s properly balanced with health fatty acids like Omega-3? And how about serving sizes – who really only drinks 8 ounces of something or eats 7 chips? Discuss, Apples.

2) Seven Ways, Same Result

The New England Journal of Medicine released a study today that says newer tests are not appreciably better at predicting heart attacks than standard tests. Now, if you run a Google search for this story, you’ll find that they are all suspiciously alike – even newspapers in India are running the same lines. What that means? A press release or a statement from NEJM, most likely. (Yes, this happens all the time.)

The study of some 3,900 people found that testing for CRP, homocysteine and other substances (considered the new rock stars in heart disease treatment) aren’t much better at predicting heart problems than a good old cholesterol or blood pressure test.

This study reveals some interesting things. Let’s read between the lines. It doesn’t necessarily mean that CRP or homocysteine tests are bad; it simply means that obvious factors are enough to determine risk. Guess what those obvious factors are? Even the conservative NEJM discusses them:

However, the standard risk factors — high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history, advanced age, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and diabetes — proved to be just as accurate when it came to predicting heart disease.

Testing cholesterol is still a great way to go, not because cholesterol is bad (like mainstream medicine would have you believe) but because it is indicative of inflammation. Many of the other easy-to-see risk factors are entirely preventable through lifestyle choices. In a roundabout way, this long-term study reflects what we already ought to know: an expensive test can show what’s already written all over one’s face.

Here’s the money quote:

“This really supports the value of focusing on risk-factor reduction, not looking for a magic blood test,” said Dr. Richard Stein, director of preventive cardiology at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

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