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Dietary dysfunction
January 29, 2014, 05:00 AM By Dorothy Dimitre

“The ways in which the food industry practices distort what Americans are told about nutrition — and compromise food choices — raise serious issues that are worth consideration by anyone concerned about nutrition ad health.” — Marian Nestle, “Food Politics.”

I wonder if we should ever trust the editors of Time magazine again. There’s a little blurb on the “Briefing” page of the Jan. 20 issue that reads: “37 — pounds an Iowa man lost (17kg) over a three-month span even though he ate food only from McDonald’s. His secret: regular exercise.”

They are referring to John Cisna, a science teacher from Iowa with an apparent desire to challenge a traditional way of thinking. Seems he decided to prove that he could base his diet on the food at McDonald’s and lose weight. So he recruited three of his students to carefully plan a 2,000-calorie menu based on nutritional guidelines recommended by the Food and Drug Administration. We are told that he also “walked briskly” for 45 minutes several times a week and played basketball, etc. His cholesterol lowered by 79 points. Makes you wonder what he was eating before.

The Time blurb is very misleading. No mention of those 2,000 carefully chosen calories each day. You wonder if they were trying to mislead readers into believing the McDonald’s menu can be good for us or promote the food industry mantra that it isn’t what we eat, but how much we exercise.

Just when we might think that a bit of common sense might be coming to the nutrition conundrum that we constantly have to deal with, along comes Cisna. When you check out one of his sample menus (from the Huffington Post), you realize that responsible nutritionists would cringe at the amount of sugar, even though he drank diet Coke (which is another problem) and the amount of saturated fat including a sausage burrito, yogurt parfait, hot fudge sundae, small fries. And no whole grains or dark green and yellow vegetables. Cutting calories may make you lose weight, but in no way will ensure you get optimum nutrition from McDonald’s offerings. As Michael Pollan wrote in “Food Rules,” “Not only can processing remove nutrients and add toxic chemicals, but it makes food more readily absorbable, which can be a problem for our insulin and fat metabolism.” Let’s hope that everyone took this weight loss/McDonald’s story with several grains of salt.

Speaking of shedding pounds, we read recently that Sensa, that highly advertised weight loss product which has been touted to make you eat less if you sprinkle it on your food before eating it, finally is being investigated by the FDA. It’s hard to believe that anyone fell for that hype, but thanks to its deceptive advertising and fabricated data, we are told that it has produced $364 million in sales. So now, even though the company is being sued, it is reported that it has been allowed to stay in business. Now they claim they’ll change their advertising.

It’s absolutely outrageous that the company wasn’t required to prove Sensa’s effectiveness (or not) and its safety before marketing it. You wonder how many other weight loss gimmicks will be uncovered before our government agencies will protect us from such chicanery by requiring proof of safety and effectiveness before such products are allowed to be sold.

Then there’s the continuing saga of Foster Farms (If it isn’t bacteria, it’s cockroaches!). It’s hard to overlook how Foster Farms is raising and processing its chickens so that eating them can cause illness. What are the FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture doing (or not doing) that allows this problem? Why can’t we depend on being able to buy chicken that’s not contaminated? How is the greed for profits interfering with food safety and our health? Why aren’t inspectors and government regulators out there insisting chicken products are not contaminated? Or is it that we consumers should just accept the fact that relying on industry is increasingly becoming a crapshoot.

And now, on Jan. 23, we hear that “caramel coloring” in sodas is suspect as a potential carcinogen (must be the “secret ingredient” we hear about). Several years ago, it was confirmed that this chemical byproduct causes cancer in animals. 

The above are just four recent examples of how we cannot rely on the FDA and USDA to protect us from a food industry that could care less about how their products may undermine our health — as long as they make big profits and they are not caught. Don’t we deserve better? 

“Public health might be better served if the FDA could sponsor research by independent investigators to further its regulatory decisions, yet congressional agriculture committees consistently deny requests for such funding.” — Nestle.

Since 1984, Dorothy Dimitre has written more than 700 columns for various local newspapers. Her email address is



Tags: weight, mcdonald, before, wonder, industry, health,

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