Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Nutrition Debate #265: “Let’s Start with Food”


A new TV commercial targeted to people with type 2 diabetes begins, “Now I’m ready for someone to listen to me.” I didn’t get the pitch at first, but it had a few things I can relate to: 1) my goal (and hope) in writing this blog is that people will “listen to me,” 2) I share the speaker’s frustrated tone, and 3) I like the inference that people with type 2 diabetes should “take charge” and be more involved in their own management plan. The pitch all became clear to me, though, with the name of the web site, www.Fit2Me.com, and the sponsor of the advertisement, AstraZeneca, a drug maker.

Then the voiceover says, “Let’s start with food.” I like that too. The pitch makes each one of us important…and a unique individual. That’s good marketing, and it picks up on the most recent clinical guidance from the ADA, and I quote: “It is the position of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) that there is not a “one-size-fits-all” eating pattern for individuals with diabetes.” The ADA has now declared, in effect, that low-carb diets are an appropriate “eating pattern” for people with type 2 diabetes. Zowee! The Fit2Me folks have obviously read the ADA Position Paper and are attempting to cash in.

So, to learn more, I decided to sign up. It is a well designed interactive website where you provide a little information, and then you pick a “counselor” to choose your style of mentoring. You then choose, with clicks, 1) the foods, 2) activities (exercise) and 3) treatment plan just for you. I answered all their questions and was automatically put into a bi-monthly Sweepstakes program!  I “liked” certain foods and “disliked” others. The result, I was told, was over 1,000 recipes (from over 10k) that fit my “likes.” I “liked” zero (0) “activities,” but that did not seem to deter my mentor.

Then I went back to the food and recipes section. It also is very well designed with a keyword search function and a list of 7 additional search dropdown boxes for things like meal, type of cuisine, type of dish, time to make, serving, style and main ingredient. I searched on “eggs” and got over 100 recipes, 12 (each with picture) on a page. I clicked on #12, “Sweet Southern Egg Salad,” (132 calories, 6 carbs) to get more details. Among my food choices I had previously selected “gluten free,” and the picture showed two brown slices, top and bottom, that looked suspiciously like pumpernickel bread, so I wondered how that could be? And while I was glad to see carbs listed with calories, how could this recipe have only 6?

Well, obviously, it couldn’t. And the “bread” (if that what is was) was not included in the recipe ingredients. Neither was the green leafy veggie under the top slice, but, I said generously, it’s a start-up website, so maybe I should cut them some slack. Then, I read the preparation instructions. It calls for 8 eggs (for 4 servings), but throws out (or sets aside), 4 of the yolks. Yikes! Okay, I’m starting to get the drift here. The secret agenda – well, not so secret if you draw inferences – is that they follow ADA protocol, which follows AHA protocol, which follows the USDA Dietary Guidelines on dietary cholesterol.

Further evidence of that is the choice of “non-fat” plain yogurt and “low-fat” mayonnaise for the recipe. The Nutrition Facts panel has all the required items plus a few more like “exchanges” and “carb servings” for the yo-yo dieters out there who have tried and failed repeatedly to permanently lose weight. Interestingly, the required “Total Fat” and “Saturated Fat” are there, and it also includes “Monounsaturated Fat” which is not required. That no doubt is designed to appeal to the Mediterranean Diet followers. Another clever inclusion, but how about polyunsaturated fats?  They’re not included!!!

You can’t blame AstraZeneca or their diet consultants. It is the USDA that’s way behind the curve here, and they are between a rock and a hard place. How can you constantly demonize saturated fat to the point where red meat is verboten and full-fat dairy is getting harder and harder to find in the store, and not include polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) in your eating pattern? Besides, the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines expressly extols PUFAs, while strongly condemning saturated fats, linking them like conjoined twins with artificial trans fats. That only leaves monounsaturated fats unscathed. And frankly, how much olive oil can a person eat?! Anyway, this recipe has 3g of PUFA per serving vs. 2g SFA and 2g mono.

So, while this is a very nice interactive website, and it’s easy to get sucked in, it has its limitations. You can, however, change and limit your dietary preferences to select foods and reshuffle the deck for more recipes. And you can also substitute full-fat versions in the recipes you like, but, alas, the software won’t recalculate the calories and grams of fat. ;(
Anyway, it will be interesting to see if they pitch a medication regimen to me as my next doctor’s appointment approaches. They did ask me for the date and offered to remind me. Another feature (I think) of this innovative interactive application.

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