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General

Doug Ford’s OHIP Changes: A Bummer, or Not?

Posted April 4, 2019 by bigcitylib

I’m especially wondering about his plan to cut back on pain relief for colonoscopies.  I’ve gone through the procedure twice.  First time around they hit me with a General and I still didn’t pass out.  I watched on a B&W TV screen as…

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Children

Coca-Cola Funded ISCOLE Trial Continues To Conclude Lack Of Exercise Drives Childhood Obesity

Posted April 3, 2019 by Yoni Freedhoff

When it comes to associations, causality matters – the importance of which is easily understood when considering childhood obesity and inactivity. Whether inactivity leads to kids to gain weight, or whether weight leads kids to become inactive have very different implications

My very publicly expressed bias is that childhood obesity drives inactivity, and there’s data to support that assertion including this study whereby when observed over time in 8-11 year olds, weight gain predicted inactivity, while inactivity did not predict weight gain, leading the authors of that study to conclude,

“adiposity is a better predictor of PA and sedentary behavior changes than the other way around.”

As to what’s going on, if I were to venture a guess, it’d be some combination of obesity related abject bullying (multiple studies demonstrate bullying is associated with decreased physical activity and obesity has been shown to be the number one target of schoolyard bullying, not to mention the fact that bullies may make fun of heavier kids when exercising explicitly), being one of the worst/slowest on a team, and increased effort involved, that lead heavier kids to decreased MVPA (moderate-to-vigorous physical activity).

Now I’ve blogged before about the Coca-Cola funded ISCOLE trial almost entirely ignoring the possibility that childhood obesity drives inactivity rather than the other way around, and recently, another study came out of the ISCOLE group that did the same.

(and if you’re interested, here’s a published discussion of the emails between ISCOLE investigators and Coca-Cola that not surprisingly suggests that these relationships have the very real potential to influence the framing of results even if funders not involved in study design)

The study, Joint associations between weekday and weekend physical activity or sedentary time and childhood obesity, published in the International Journal of Obesity, looked at weekday and weekend levels of MVPA and sedentary time in 9-11 year old children in 12 countries and their associations with obesity.

Yes, they were found to be associated.

Though they do have a single throwaway line speaking to causality,

“It is not known whether lower levels of physical activity are the cause or the consequence of obesity”,

that did not stop them from writing this as their final line and conclusion,

“Since children have more discretionary time during weekend days than weekdays, children should be encouraged to increase physical activity during weekend days, especially a high level of MVPA

which while true on the basis of health as a whole, when framed in the explicit context of childhood obesity as it is in this paper, seems to deny the much more likely case that weight simply slows kids down.

And honestly, that matters.

It matters because one of the most predominant stereotypical narratives of obesity is that it is a disease of laziness and ISCOLE’s recurrently utilized framing supports that stigmatizing message. It also matters because, if considered at least by the parents I regularly see in my office, inactive children with obesity are being regularly judged (and sometimes even shamed or bullied) by their well-intentioned parents for not being active enough to lead them to lighter weights and I can’t help but wonder if this would still be the case if the meat of the discussions in these sorts of papers focused on the barriers to physical activity erected by childhood obesity itself?

I would love to see more research done on the various mechanisms by which childhood obesity might contributes to inactivity, and more longitudinal studies designed to test causality, rather than paper after paper with conclusions that to my confirmation bias at least, ignore the many reasons why kids with obesity are understandably less likely to be physically active, and in so doing, fail those poor kids.

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General

And You Thought Joe Biden Was Bad?

Posted April 2, 2019 by Balbulican
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General

Big, old and banged-up – Canada is home to the world’s largest Tyrannosaurus Rex

Posted March 29, 2019 by Anonymous

Scotty – the world’s largest T-rex – discovered in Saskatchewan

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General

How to remember to forget – the new science of erasing memories

Posted March 29, 2019 by Anonymous

Remembering to forget – the new science of erasing memories

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General

What would happen if the Yellowstone supervolcano exploded?

Posted March 29, 2019 by Anonymous

Possible global cooling would result for years if Yellowstone erupted.

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General

Google glasses could help kids with autism read emotional cues in people’s faces

Posted March 29, 2019 by Anonymous

Google glasses can help kids with autism read faces

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General

Meet the odd little moons that interact with Saturn’s spectacular rings

Posted March 29, 2019 by Anonymous

Cassini’s close encounter helps show off Saturn’s tiny ring moons

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General

A woman who can smell Parkinson’s disease could hold the key to early diagnosis

Posted March 29, 2019 by Anonymous

How a woman who can smell Parkinson’s disease is helping to develop a diagnostic test

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General

If You’re Calling For A Ban On Bottled Water, But Not On Bottled Sugar Water (Soda, Juice, Sports Drinks, etc), You’re Doing It Wrong

Posted March 27, 2019 by Yoni Freedhoff

Apparently two former city Councillors, and some “water advocates” from a group named the Ottawa Water Study/Action Group, are lobbying the City of Ottawa to ban the sale of bottled water in all municipal buildings.

They rightly argue that Ottawa city tap water is terrific, and that the sale of bottled water is destructive to the environment.

But here’s the thing.

All the other plastic bottles in the vending machine, you know, the ones that are just water with some sugar and flavour, they’re in the very same bottles, and their consumption, unlike water’s, isn’t good for health.

So if you enact a ban on bottled water, but allow the sale of sugared waters, you’re likely to shift sales to them, will do little to nothing towards for the environment, and you’ll be promoting unhealthy beverages. Not something I can get behind.

I’m all for banning plastic bottles, but all plastic bottles, not just the ones containing the only actually healthy beverage being sold.

        
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General

Shoppers At UK Supermarkets That Got Rid Of Checkout Aisle Junk Food Purchased 16% Less Small Pack Junk Food One Year Later

Posted March 25, 2019 by Yoni Freedhoff

So it wasn’t a randomized trial, but the results were interesting nonetheless.

In the UK, a number of supermarkets electively decided to stop the sale of impulse buy small pack checkout aisle junk food. Researchers curious about the impact had a peek at their sales date.

What they found was encouraging and they detailed their findings in their article Supermarket policies on less-healthy food at checkouts: Natural experimental evaluation using interrupted time series analyses of purchases. Plainly put, when compared with purchases from supermarkets still selling checkout aisle small pack junk, shoppers purchased 16% less small pack junk food from supermarkets that didn’t offer checkout aisle junk food temptations.

Given the ubiquity of junk food in checkout aisles, and here I’m not just talking about the supermarket, but pretty much any and every checkout aisle, cleaning them up is a very real target in improving our food environment. And before you say it can’t be done, it’s been done with tobacco’s “Power Walls” (but some irony here in that at least some of the new walls hiding cigarettes are being used to advertise junk food)

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General

“Weird wonders” in China – new half-billion year-old fossils from the dawn of animal life

Posted March 22, 2019 by Anonymous

Unearthing a treasure trove of Cambrian era fossils in China

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General

A Japanese spacecraft visits an asteroid – and will bring back a souvenir

Posted March 22, 2019 by Anonymous

A visit to an asteroid may reveal the secrets to life on Earth

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General

Mysterious green icebergs from Antarctica might be fertilizing the southern ocean

Posted March 22, 2019 by Anonymous

Green icebergs might be feeding the southern ocean

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General

Our farming ancestors are the reason we can say ‘f’ words today

Posted March 22, 2019 by Anonymous

How our switch to soft foods has affected our speech

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General

How long does it take to dream a dream?

Posted March 22, 2019 by Anonymous

Dreams only happen at some points during sleep

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Exercise

If You Tie Exercise To Weight Loss It Can Lead To Statements And Recommendations Like These

Posted March 21, 2019 by Yoni Freedhoff

I’ve long called for a rebranding of exercise to promote it on the basis of all of its incredible benefits, and explicitly not in the name of weight loss.

While on paper there’s no doubt that people can lose weight through exercise (and in research studies too), in practice they generally don’t. And though there’s also definitely the suggestion that exercise helps to keep weight off (or serves as a marker or inspiration for maintaining a whole slew of weight responsive behaviour changes), when it comes to public health, I believe focusing on weight loss as the outcome of choice in exercise interventions risks those interventions’ dissolution when weight loss doesn’t occur.

Helping to make my point is a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. The study, Implementing School-Based Policies to Prevent Obesity: Cluster Randomized Trial, looked at the impact school based nutrition and physical activity policies had on weight.

The study found that while school based nutrition policies seemed to have an impact on weight over time, school based physical activity policies didn’t.

Not measured of course, or at least not mentioned, were the impacts those physical activity policies might have had on other health related parameters (blood pressure, blood sugar, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, mood, sleep, attention, learning, physical literacy, and more) – things that I think the literature would support as being far more likely to see exercise-related improvements.

But it’s the study’s abstract’s conclusion that got me, as I think it does a great job of highlighting the risk of clinging to exercise as an important driver of weight loss. Here it is in its entirety (highlighting mine),

“This cluster randomized trial demonstrated effectiveness of providing support for implementation of school-based nutrition policies, but not physical activity policies, to limit BMI increases among middle school students. Results can guide future school interventions.”

Suffice to say I think it’d be an incredible shame if results like these guide any future school related physical activity interventions, as the benefits of exercise are myriad, something these results wholly ignore, and if these results guide anything, they’d guide the avoidance or elimination of school based physical activity policies which would let kids down on so many levels.

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Children

Why I Don’t Celebrate Marketing Fruit To Children By Way Of Cartoon Characters

Posted March 19, 2019 by Yoni Freedhoff

A few weeks ago I noticed the Center for Science in the Public Interest giving kudos to Disney and to The Lego Movie for their licensing of their cartoon characters to sell pineapples and bananas.

I don’t share their enthusiasm.

In part that’s because neither Disney nor the Lego Movie have any qualms licensing their characters to sell crap to kids. McDonald’s recently announced that Disney’s happily taking many millions of dollars from them (actual dollar cost not announced, last was $100 million) to once again include Disney toys in their Happy Meals, while the Lego Movie, well they’re already in Happy Meals.

But my bigger objection is that we shouldn’t be targeting children with advertising in the first place because why should anything be advertised to a population that has been shown to not be able to discern truth from advertising? And so even if the advertisements happen to fit with your definition of what’s good for kids, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s plainly unethical to allow advertising to target children period.

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General

‘Skeleton Keys’ – a new book explores the secret life of bones

Posted March 15, 2019 by Anonymous

The story of bones from a man obsessed with them

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General

When a butterfly’s disguise fails, its backup plan is poison

Posted March 15, 2019 by Anonymous

A tasty butterfly has an unpalatable backup plan

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General

Super-powerful solar storms hit Earth in the past – and could recur in the future

Posted March 15, 2019 by Anonymous

Our planet’s been hit with humongous solar storms in the past

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General

Actors’ brains have different activity patterns when they’re in character

Posted March 15, 2019 by Anonymous

To get the role, your brain activity needs to play the part too

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General

Inactive ingredients in your meds might not be so inactive after all

Posted March 15, 2019 by Anonymous

Inactive ingredients in medications could be a health concern

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General

Do wind turbine farms have an effect on climate?

Posted March 15, 2019 by Anonymous

Turbines absorb energy from the wind, so is there an effect “downstream” and with regard to climate?

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General

Coca-Cola’s New Simply Smoothie Strawberry Banana Contains 11.5 Teaspoons Of Sugar Per Cup

Posted March 13, 2019 by Yoni Freedhoff

I should probably be putting “smoothie” in sneer quotes when discussing this new product.

The ingredients in this “smoothie” aren’t simply water, strawberries, and bananas but rather they’re strawberries, bananas, and apple, grape, and lemon juices.

Perhaps that’s why in an 11.5oz serving of it, there’s 44g of sugar (responsible for 85% of its 200 calories). For reference, drop for drop, actual Coca-Cola contains 15% less sugar and 33% fewer calories.

But of course no one confuses Coca-Cola for a healthy beverage.

But Coca-Cola (Simply’s parent company) sure hopes you confuse this “smoothie” with one given they’ve festooned it with front of package shout outs that explicitly suggest it’s good for you.

I’m also confused by its nutrition.

The ingredients report that 11.5oz of banana strawberry “smoothie” provides 1g of fiber, yet that’s less than what would be found in just a 5th of a small banana, and yet to eat 44g of sugar from small bananas, you’d have to consume 18x that amount. And the 35% Vitamin C? You’d get that from just 2 strawberries.

Unless it’s you doing your own blending (and even then, remember it’s not likely to be as filling and you’ll be able to consume a great deal more) eat your fruit, don’t drink it.

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General

Why Fund Or Publish Diet Studies That Have Little Relationship With Real Life?

Posted March 11, 2019 by Yoni Freedhoff

I’m honestly not trying to be mean, but that was the thought that went through my mind when I read the recently published study, Log Often, Lose More: Electronic Dietary Self‐Monitoring for Weight Loss which purports to explore the relationship between food diary use and weight loss.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge proponent of using a food diary. Whether it’s tracking calories, carbohydrates, macros, or whatever, there’s ample evidence to suggest that tracking helps to maintain new behaviours, but is that what this study showed?

Well it did show that those keeping a food diary and using it more often had greater weight loss during a 24 week behavioural weight loss intervention.

So what’s my problem?

I have two (well, two related to this study, clearly many overall).

The first is that the food tracker utilized was web based, and not a smartphone app. It’s a minor quibble, but nonetheless, app based food diaries are the norm, why not use them? Given we have our phones wherever we go, but not our desktops and laptops, that might make a real difference to the percentage of people using them (and yes, I realize there are web browsers on phones, but that’s just not the same).

I’m guessing the reason a smartphone app wasn’t used is that using one would not have provided the researchers with the minutes users spent tracking, which brings me to my second, and more significant, concern.

Apparently, in the first month, successful users (those who ultimately lost more than 5% of their presenting weights) were shown to be using that web based food diary 23-24 minutes daily. And though some of that is likely consequent to learning curve, by month 6 it was still taking them 15-16 minutes of effort to record their daily meals and snacks.

Those are extremely high numbers. Having once done a stretch of 3 years of not missing a single day’s use of, first a web based, and then an app based food diary, I can tell you that in short order, it really shouldn’t take longer than 2-3 minutes daily to track. The learning curve is at most 2-3 weeks, and once beyond that, useful food diaries keep track of your entered meals and snacks such that re-entering them is a simple as a click.

Or at least that’s how it should be.

Which means that the users in this study were either taught the world’s least efficient means of keeping a food diary, or the web interface utilized was just awful (or both).

Either way, I’m not sure how the results of this study help much. Because while I’m definitely a believer when it comes to the benefits of food diary use, it would seem to me that what this study actually measured are the outcomes of people so incredibly dedicated to their behaviour change efforts, that they bothered putting up with an awful and time consuming food diary for 6 months.

[for some expanded thoughts from me on keeping a food diary, here’s a piece I wrote for Greatist a number of years ago, and for full disclosure, I’m currently closing in on beta-testing our office’s own food diary and behaviour change smartphone app]

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General

Military sonar puts blue whales off their feed

Posted March 8, 2019 by Anonymous

Sonar disturbs the feeding habits of blue whales

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General

Man and man’s best friend have both been experiencing declines in sperm quality

Posted March 8, 2019 by Anonymous

Man’s best friend comes to the rescue to inform declines in dog and man sperm

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General

Clam gardens have been cultivated by indigenous people for millenia

Posted March 8, 2019 by Anonymous

Clam garden aquaculture on the west coast is 3500 years old

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General

Your brain may need sleep to repair your brain’s DNA ‘potholes’

Posted March 8, 2019 by Anonymous

Just what are your chromosomes doing while you’re sleeping?

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General

Exploring the powerful emotion of awe – how it can be awe-some and aw-ful

Posted March 8, 2019 by Anonymous

Harnessing the powerful emotion of awe for good or evil

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General

Meal Prep Week-Long Power Bowls

Posted March 7, 2019 by Angela (Oh She Glows)

You’ve probably seen the meal prep trend online where dozens and dozens of meals are prepped in containers for the entire week? Holy moly. I can say that will probably never be me. I once tried an over-ambitious meal prep and not only did I end up with way too much food, but it took […]

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General

The Goodness Paradox – Why humans are so good and so bad

Posted March 1, 2019 by Anonymous

Humans evolved to be virtuous and violent, says the author of ‘The Goodness Paradox’

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General

Do cows produce more methane than rotting grass?

Posted March 1, 2019 by Anonymous

Bacteria produce the methane in both examples

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General

How selecting for genes to keep the hive clean could help honeybee survival

Posted March 1, 2019 by Anonymous

Encouraging bee hygiene could be the secret to fighting colony collapse

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General

Countdown to the Moon landing – How Apollo 9 tested the lunar lander in Earth orbit

Posted March 1, 2019 by Anonymous

Countdown to Apollo 11: Testing the lunar lander in Earth orbit

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