Another Strike Against HFCS

The advent of high fructose corn syrup in our diets correlates with soaring obesity rates. Some but not all data point to insulin resistance caused by inflammatory factors in fat tissue.

A new study in Nutrition and Diabetes tested this theory. For 10 months, mice were fed either a regular diet, a high-fat diet or a regular diet with 8% HFCS (such as a diet with soft drinks).

Results? The HFCS chow caused more severe adipose inflammation and insulin resistance than the other two. When ghrelin (the hunger hormone) was removed from the mice, the inflammation decreased.

HFCS appears to affect metabolism in ways that can contribute to obesity.



Rules of Attraction

Impulsive people are less able to inhibit responses. Thus it seems likely that people struggling to maintain a proper weight also struggle to say “no” to tempting high-calorie foods like cake and candy. Is this impulsive nature only with food or also with other areas of life as well?

One interesting study from Maastricht University in the Netherlands looked at 87 females who were tested with general stimuli and also with food-related pictures. A higher body mass index (BMI) was linked more often with impulsivity with food-related photos. No real surprise there. But interestingly, there was no more impulsivity linked with general stimuli in those with higher BMIs.

The message?

The authors write: The implication is that weight loss interventions need to focus on decreasing food-specific impulsivity rather than on reducing general impulsivity.”



Eating Well on SNAP

One of six Americans subsists on food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). An individual receives about $4.30 a day, an amount that wouldn’t last long if a daily latte is part of the routine. But most lower income people aren’t regulars at Starbucks.

And as Mark Bittman wrote in his column in The New York Times: “The alternative to soda is water, and the alternative to junk food is not grass-fed beef and greens from a trendy farmers’ market, but anything other than junk food: rice, grains, pasta, beans, fresh vegetables, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, bread, peanut butter, a thousand other things cooked at home—in almost every case a far superior alternative.”   

Brett Arends, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal recently put his $4.30 where his mouth is– by trying to eat nutritiously on that small amount.

First, he looked to peanut butter, eggs and legumes for protein instead of expensive meats and fish.

Then he added “whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, and whole-wheat bread..” In the end, Arends reported that he ate well, felt healthy and even gained a few pounds. Read his story here.


Fixing Obesity is No SNAP

Food stamps or the SNAP program are the subject at many dinner tables these days in America and not just the 47 million receiving them.

Seems there are many stories to tell: a person whipping out a SNAP debit card to pay for pint-size cartons of Haagen Dazs ice cream—at $4 a pop–at the supermarket checkout; the family buying a pile of shrink-wrapped steaks; the carts filled with soda, potato chips and the litany of junk foods–all paid for by taxpayers.

The questions I hear break along two lines:  

  • Why is the government paying for premium ice cream and expensive steaks when those just above the cutoff must settle for budget options?
  • And why are we allowing sugary, fatty foods when obesity is epidemic, especially among SNAP recipients?

Limiting choice is too difficult –does a soda have more sugar than a sports drink?—as well as insulting, say defenders. The holes in this argument are clear: another federal program called Women, Infants and Children (WIC) tells recipients their grains must be whole and milk must be reduced-fat as well as allowing only a defined list of foods deemed nutritious. This solution would show immediate improvement in SNAP purchases. But powerful food lobbies fight this plan and so far are winning.  

Tina Rosenberg wrote an excellent analysis of this issue in The New York Times recently: “To Fight Obesity, a Carrot, and a Stick” is a conversation starter for all involved in public health and obesity issues.