Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Ironman

In my opinion, there's no greater sporting event.

Swim 3.8 kilometers (2.4 miles) , Bike 180 kilometers (112 miles) and Run 42 kilometers (26.2 miles). All under 17 hours.

It's the Ironman.

And if you can't join them... watch them in action this Saturday (December 18th)!

What these athletes will do to just get to the start line is monumental by any standards.

Top ironman pros will:

Swim 18 miles (29km) per week
Bike 350 miles (560km) per week
Run 60 miles (96km) per week

Calories burned weekly: 30 000
Extra meals per week an ironman eats: 42
Pounds an ironman would lose per month without these extra meals: 34

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Seafood for Thought: Part 2 (End of the Line)

The End of the Line is the first major feature documentary film on the impact of overfishing on our oceans... and it looks really good!

Scientists predict that if we continue fishing as we are now, we will see the end of most seafood by 2048!

Filmed over two years, The End of the Line follows investigative reporter Charles Clover as he reveals "the dark underbelly and hidden costs of putting seafood on the table at home or in restaurants". It's filmed across the world – from the Straits of Gibraltar to the coasts of Senegal and Alaska to the Tokyo fish market, and features top scientists, indigenous fishermen, politicians, celebrity restaurateurs, and former tuna farmer turned whistleblower, Roberto Mielgo.

"The End of the Line is a wake-up call to the world".

For more information about the movie and other ways you can take action, click here.

The End of the Line is also a book (by Charles Clover) which I've started... will let you know what I think!

For Part 1 of Seafood for Thought, click here!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Seafood for Thought: Part 1 (How to find sustainable seafood)

Overfishing is the greatest threat to our oceans today. About 130 million tons of seafood is harvested every year- that's double of what it was in the 1970s! 90% of all large, predatory fish (like tuna and cod) are already gone from the world's oceans, and
nearly 75% of the world's fisheries are fished to capacity, or overfished... a situation that’s only getting worse, putting at risk the over 120 million people worldwide who depend on fish for their incomes....

The fishing gear used to catch seafood is also destroying ocean ecosystems and catches non-target, often endangered, species like sea turtles, seabirds and marine mammals.

There’s also the issue of illegal fishing that puts further pressure on stocks, and on the food security of coastal communities.

According to Greenpeace, we’re taking 2.5 times more out of the sea than what is sustainable, and we need to ease up on the volume we consume. That said, lots of people like seafood and it’s recommended as a great source of that beneficial omega 3 fatty acid –DHA...

So what’s an environmentally-conscious fish lover to do?

Our seafood choices have the power to make this situation worse, or improve it. And to improve it, we need to start consuming seafood in a sustainable manner.

Sustainable seafood can be defined as species that are caught or farmed in a way that ensures the long-term health and stability of that species, as well as the greater marine ecosystem.

There are a few great programs out there that can help us get sustainable seafood on our plates.

Greenpeace’s Redlist
The Redlist is a list of seafood that are the most damaging and in need of immediate attention – a list of "what not to eat" and "what not to sell".
For example, in Canada, Atlantic Salmon (farmed), Atlantic Cod, Atlantic Haddock, and Atlantic sea scallops are on the Redlist.
Seafood markets and consumer preferences for seafood differ from country to country, so there are different Greenpeace Seafood Red Lists for different countries- make sure to look at your national Greenpeace website- click here.

SeaChoice (Canada)
SeaChoice is a Canadian sustainable seafood program, formed by five Canadian environmental groups including the David Suzuki Foundation. Their goal is to help Canadians take an active role in supporting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.
They provide great seafood (and sushi) guides for your wallet with traffic-light scorecards- "Best Choices", "Some Concerns", and seafood you should "Avoid".
Click here to print out your own copy of the guides!

Seafood Watch (Monterey Bay Aquarium)
The Seafood Watch program helps American consumers and businesses make choices for healthy oceans. They offer handy pocket guides with a list of recommendation using the traffic-light system- seafood items that are "Best Choices," "Good Alternatives," and that should be "Avoided."
Their pocket guides are available for six regions of the U.S.: West Coast, Southwest, Central U.S., Southeast, Northeast and Hawaii and they also also have national and sushi versions of the pocket guides. All of their guides are updated every six months. Click here to print your own guide.

Ocean Wise (Vancouver Aquarium, Canada)
The Vancouver Aquarium is a non-profit association dedicated to effecting the conservation of aquatic life. Its Ocean Wise program works directly with restaurants, markets, food services and suppliers ensuring that they have the most current scientific information regarding seafood, and helping them make ocean-friendly buying decisions.
The Ocean Wise logo can be found in participating restaurants, markets and food-service outlets throughout Canada- currently there are over 300 participating members- all committed to providing ocean friendly alternatives to their customers. Click here to find out what restaurants are Ocean Wise in your area.

Not from Canada or the US?
Seafood Watch includes a list of organizations by country offering their own localized recommendations- click here.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Would you eat 16 packs of sugar?

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have done it again...

Remember the Drinking Yourself Fat campaign that told us that "drinking 1 can of soda a day can make you 10 pounds fatter"?

Their new ad asks:

Would you eat 16 packs of sugar?

Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner, hopes “that this campaign will encourage people to consider healthier alternatives to sugary drinks... Even small changes can have real health benefits.”

Monday, 1 November 2010

Starved for Attention

A friend of mine, Dr. Umang Sharma, brought this great campaign to my attention... thanks Umang!

This year, an astonishing 195 million children worldwide will suffer from the effects of malnutrition; 90% of them live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Malnutrition contributes to at least 1/3 of the 8 million annual deaths of children under 5 years of age.

According to the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), without essential nutrients 9 children will continue to die every minute of causes related to malnutrition.

MSF, along with the VII Photo agency, launched “Starved for Attention” in June, a global multimedia campaign presenting a unique and new perspective of childhood malnutrition.
Through a seven-part mini-documentary series that seamlessly blends photography and video, the campaign aims to rewrite the story of malnutrition.

Photojournalists traveled to malnutrition “hotspots” around the world - including India, Bangladesh, Mexico, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the United States - to shed light on the underlying causes of the malnutrition crisis and innovative approaches to combat this condition.

Currently, international donors - in particularly those making the largest humanitarian contributions to food assistance projects - are currently providing substandard foods like cereal-based fortified flours. While these foods can relieve hunger, they don't meet basic nutritional standards for infants and young children, a reality highlighted by the fact that none of these cereals are used in nutrition programs in the donors' own countries.

To end this double standard, you can sign the petition “Overcoming Childhood Malnutrition: The Time to Act is Now” on

The time to act is now.

Friday, 17 September 2010

The Garden

I saw 'The Garden', a documentary, last year in class- which was somewhat awkward because it made me cry quite a bit.

It is such a sad, but important story. A definite must see.

The film explores and exposes the fault lines in American society and raises crucial and challenging questions about liberty, equality, and justice for the poorest and most vulnerable among us.

Click Here for more information.


Thursday, 2 September 2010

Beyond Food Miles

The New York Times recently ran an Op-Ed piece that almost seems to disparage the local food movement. Contributor Stephen Budiansky states:

"...the local food movement now threatens to devolve into another one of those self-indulgent — and self-defeating — do-gooder dogmas. Arbitrary rules, without any real scientific basis, are repeated as gospel by “locavores,” celebrity chefs and mainstream environmental organizations. Words like “sustainability” and “food-miles” are thrown around without any clear understanding of the larger picture of energy and land use".

Not long ago I wrote a blog post entitled 'Do Locavores Have it Wrong?' in which I reviewed James McWilliams' main points from his book 'Just Food: Where locavores get it wrong and how we can truly eat responsibly'. These points are pretty much the same as Budiansky's- mainly that we have to look beyond food miles to move towards a sustainable food system.

I agree.

I just don't agree with statements like that of the Center for Consumer Freedom: "Someone should tell the “locavores,” who encourage people to buy food from the closest sources possible - like farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs (that buying something grown halfway around the world can be more eco-friendly than buying something grown just a county or two away)".

Local Food Systems (LFS) have been found to be effective means to achieve food sovereignty- the right of people to local, healthy and ecological food production, realized in equitable conditions that respect the rights to decent working conditions and incomes- CSAs and Farmer's Markets are examples of such LFSs. That said, it is now understood that to achieve this vision, LFSs must go beyond food miles (See Figure 1.0).

A Few Facts:

A globalized food system

-Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, 37 industrialized countries, including Canada, agreed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 5.2% from 1990 levels. As of 2007, Canada's emissions were 26% above 1990 levels, and continue to rise, making this country one of the top 10 global polluters.

-Transportation accounts for 25% of Canada’s GHG emissions, more than any other sector of the economy. About 30-40% of road cargo moves food (a UK stat- data lacking for Canada)

-Between 1968 and 1998, world food trade increased by 184%, with the majority of food trade occurring between countries of similar environments, resulting in the same food items merely being swapped. For example, in 2005, Ontario exported $69 Million, and imported $17 Million, in fresh tomatoes.

-Rather than selling to local retailers, farmers sell into a complex system wherein food is usually shipped hundreds of kilometres to centralized processing plants, only to potentially be sold in a supermarket close to the product’s point of origin.

-In the US and Canada, food typically travels between 2,500 and 4,000 km from farm to plate, up 25% since 1980.

- Using imported versus local ingredients generates four times the GHG emissions; one study found that replacing imports of 58 common food items with local counterparts would be the equivalent to taking 16,191 cars off the road.

Local Food Systems (LFS)

In response to this globalized food sourcing system, concerns about the environments, and a decreased confidence in the agri-food industry (due to outbreaks, GMOs, etc.), there has been a surge of LFS initiatives- Canada is home to over 2300, the top four of which are:

31.3%- Restaurant and chef initiatives serving local food
24.9%- Farmers’ markets generating $1.03 billion in sales
15.3%- Retail grocery stores sourcing local foods
12.8%- Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

More Facts (some of these points are mentioned in Budiansky's article).

-It is true that foods traveling a shorter distance will not necessarily have less of an environmental impact; mode of transportation, size of vehicle and economies of scale (how much can be moved at once) must be considered.

For example, air transportation produces the most GHG emissions, followed by road (small-sized vehicle), road (truck), rail, and water.

That means that food transported by water could travel seven times farther than food transported by road (truck) and release less GHG
a unit of food delivered by tractor trailer from California to Ontario may require less fuel than if delivered within a 100-mile radius in a small pick-up truck.

Studies show that food systems that integrate bulk deliveries of sustainable produce are more environmentally friendly than options such as farmers’ markets, requiring a greater number of small-sized vehicles (See figure 1.0 above).

-It is also true that a focus on food miles ignores energy use at other stages in the food system.

Transportation accounts for 11% of energy use, but agricultural production and processing account for 83%- this includes things like water use, harvesting techniques, type of fuel used etc. That's why it was found that it's more energy efficient to ship grass-fed lamb raised in New Zealand’s by boat to Britain than transporting local grain-fed amb within Britain, or to import tomatoes from Spain to the UK than to produce them in heated greenhouses in the UK off-season.

What Does this all Mean?

-We need to continue to support our local farmers by buying from farmer's markets and CSAs.

Despite the growth of LFS initiatives, farm incomes have continued to fall, dropping 24% between 1988 and 2002. The average Ontario farmer earns just over $8,000 a year, while production costs continue to rise.

Farmers can realize a 40-80% increase in return by marketing through LFSs by capturing more of the value added normally captured by agri-business.

Money spent locally has also been shown to boost local economy- one study found that a 20% increase in local food purchasing would generate $500M worth of economic activity, enough to stimulate 10,000 new jobs.

-Driving more than 10km (6 miles) to a farmer's market is probably not the most environmentally-friendly activity. We need to ask our local grocers to source locally-grown products.

What's Happening?

Because of this kind of discussion, researchers from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture have proposed the use of food “eco-labels” on foods that will give consumers more information than just point of production, but include information on both food miles and CO2 emissions.

These labels are appearing on supermarket and menu items in the UK (labels also include compliance to animal welfare standards), Australia, Japan, Taiwan, and Sweden.

The Swedish National Food Administration is even developing dietary guidelines that give equal weight to climate and health! They expect a 20-50% reduction in the nation’s emissions from food production as a result.

While critics point out that eco-labelling alone will not fight climate change, it will encourage the food industry and farmers to adopt carbon-reducing strategies.

In Toronto, there's a Non-Governmental Organization called Local Food Plus (LFP) that is doing amazing work. They have developed certification criteria that go beyond local to include sustainable production methods, soil and water conservation, worker welfare, humane animal handling, protection of biodiversity, and on-farm energy use.

They work with farmers, encouraging sustainable farming practices, and organizations & grocery stores, encouraging them to source locally. Because of them, the University of Toronto- the largest Canadian University- became the first university on the continent to formally commit to purchasing local sustainable food for their cafeterias and residences.

Great things are happening...!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Fresh: The documentary

Fresh is a new documentary examining the consequences of our industrial food system, and offering practical alternatives... Looks like a good one!

Click here to find a screening near you... or to find out how you can host a screening!

If you're in Toronto- there's a screening tomorrow, followed by a panel discussion with some of the leading food activists in the Toronto area! Click here or here for more information on that.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Seeds of Hope: We are the leaders we've been looking for

In the clip below, Grace Lee Boggs, author and activist, talks about change.

While she states that our planet is currently facing a serious time of uncertainty, she sees hope, and a movement emerging where, instead of people complaining about things, they're doing something about it.

She gives the example of Will Allen, former basketball player and current urban farmer, community organizer, writer and activist. Allen puchased a 2-acre piece of land to grow food for a community. According to Boggs, growing our own food provides a way for young people to relate to the earth, their elders, and time, in a different way.

In answer to the question often posed, "How do I make a difference?", Boggs says that it should be something local and something real- however small. Even starting a dialogue is doing something.

When asked if there are leaders we can look to, Boggs states that we have to rethink the concept of leaders; leader implies power.
Instead, we need to embrace the idea that we are the leaders we've been looking for.


Friday, 6 August 2010

What to do if there's a kitchen oil fire

According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking fires are the No. 1 cause of home fires and home fire injuries. Most kitchen fires happen when people aren't paying attention or they leave things unattended.

Cooking oil is particularly dangerous because it can catch on fire if it gets too hot.

  • Never fill a pan or deep fryer more than one-third full of oil.
  • Make sure pans and utensils are completely dry- water and oil don't mix.
  • Never leave your pan unattended. If you leave the room, turn off the heat.
  • Use a thermostat-controlled deep fryer to make sure the fat doesn’t get too hot.
  • If the oil starts to boil, remove it from the heat source right away. Turning down the temperature won't reduce the heat fast enough.

If your pan catches fire...
Watch this to find out what to do

To recap: What to do if there's a kitchen oil fire

  • Don't move the pan, it'll be very hot.
  • If you can, turn off the heat, making sure not to lean over the pan to reach the controls.
  • Don’t use a fire extinguisher on a pan of oil because the force of the extinguisher can spread the fire.
  • Never use water- this will cause a fireball (see video!)
  • If you can, wet a cloth, wring it out, and place over the pan to smother the fire. Make sure the cloth has no holes in it.
  • Get outside, stay outside and call 911

Other tips to prevent fires when cooking

  • Don't wear loose clothing- they can catch fire easily.
  • Never leave pans unattended. If you're called away from the stove, turn off the heat.
  • Don't cook if you've been drinking alcohol or taken prescription drugs.
  • Turn saucepans so the handles don't stick out over the edge of the stove top.
  • Keep the oven and stove top clean - built-up fat and bits of food can start a fire.
  • Check that your toaster's clean, well away from curtains and empty the crumb tray regularly.
  • If an electrical appliance catches fire, don’t throw water on it. If it is safe to do so, you may be able to put out the fire immediately by either pulling the appliance’s plug out or switching off the power at the fuse box.
  • If a fire doesn’t go out, get out of the house right away, stay out and call 911.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Nutrition on the Tour de France

Just wanted to say Hi!
It's been a while! I recently moved and started a new internship and am having trouble finding some free time!
I miss reading your blogs, and miss blogging... but I hope to find some balance soon!
Hope you're enjoying your summers!!

It lasts three weeks, covers over 3500km, and is arguably the world's most physiologically demanding sporting event....

The 172 cyclists (including one Canadian!) that participated in the 97th Tour de France this year traveled through 3 countries, rode an average of 182km (114 miles) a day over the 20 'stages' at an average of 40km (25 miles) an hour,while climbing 10 mountains or racing against the clock in individual time trials.

This effort has been described as roughly the equivalent of running a marathon almost every day for 3 weeks. In the mountains, they climb a vertical distance equal to three Mount Everests!

Below, Robbie Ventura, a professional US cyclists, describes nutrition during the 7 hour, 140mile Stage 6 of the Tour:

Cyclists will burn over 5000 calories.
Each hour, they'll aim to eat about 400 calories and drink 3 water bottles!

A 1988 study found that cyclists met half their caloric needs for the day while on the bike... Pretty impressive!
A good chunk of their calorie and carbohydrate intake came from liquids.

Cyclists are given feed bags at the start and middle of each stage. These bags contain easy-to-eat foods- sports bars and gels, fruit, small sandwiches, Coke cans.

Here's sport physiologist (currently with team RadioShack) Dr. Allen Lam with his recipe for a 'real-food' addition to the riders' feedbags: Rice Cakes?!

The cyclists in the study mentioned above were also pretty good and meeting their total daily caloric needs- while they spent about 6100 calories a day, they were able to eat about 6000 a day- not a small feat given that they're on they bikes 7-8 hours a day, and then have to deal with a lack of hunger that results from strenuous activity. The average Tour rider loses about 10lbs from an already small frame.

One easier way to take in those calories after a day on the bike is to drink them. Dr. Allen Lim explains the cyclists' recovery routine, which includes drinking 700-800 calories!

A post-race meal for Lance Armstrong:

Lance Armstrong's Post Race Meal in the Car -- powered by

Friday, 4 June 2010

GMOs Part 1: An Overview

Since its introduction, the use of biotechnology in food production and agriculture has generated much controversy. While touted as the environmentally-friendly second Green Revolution by its proponents, critics point to safety, health, and environmental risks, and ethical issues associated with this new technology.
Consumers have consistently voiced unease with genetic engineering of their food, but have unwittingly been consuming genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for two decades; Canada currently does not require GMOs to be labelled but, rather, has implemented a voluntary labelling policy.

Here’s a bit of an overview.

Biotechnology, also known as genetic engineering or genetic modification is the science of transferring genes (DNA) from one organism to another to pass on desired traits.

While surveys have indicated that individuals are largely in favour of its use in the fields of medicine and industry, its use in food production and agriculture have generated polarized viewpoints, and controversy .

Foods containing the new genes are referred to as transgenic, bioengineered, genetically engineered, genetically modified (GM), genetically modified organisms (GMO) and, due to the fear they invoke, the pejorative ‘Frankenfoods’ .

The commercial use of GM crops started in the mid 1990s. Since then, the technology has spread rapidly. Between 1996 and 2009, the worldwide land area occupied by GM crops - mainly soybean, cotton, corn, and canola - increased 80-fold, from 1.7 million to 134 million hectares, with an average yearly increase of 9 million hectares.

In 2008, GM crops were being grown by over 13 million farmers in 25 countries. The countries with the biggest share of the GM crop area are the United States (50%), Argentina (17%), Brazil (13%), India (6%), and Canada (6%).

It is estimated that at least 70% of food products on North American supermarket shelves contain GM ingredients.

Benefits of Genetic Engineering of Food

In theory, food biotechnology’s potential is manifold, touted by industry leaders as “the most important scientific tool to affect the food economy in the history of mankind,” and “the single most promising approach to feeding a growing population while reducing damage to the environment”.

The world population is projected to increase to 8.9 billion by mid-century, with global demand for rice, wheat, and maize expected to increase by 40% as early as 2020. Given the backdrop of dwindling natural resources and environmental degradation, GM crops offer the possibility of increasing yields sustainably, even in poor conditions (e.g., drought, poor soil quality), while also reducing the need for damaging and costly chemical fertilizers. In turn, this technology could offer the promise of food security in developing countries.

Nutritionally and medicinally- enhanced crops can also help improve the health status of populations suffering from malnutrition with poor access to food and medicine.

Risks of Genetic Engineering of Food

Despite the benefits of GM crops, consumer opinion surveys have consistently indicated that the public has a very negative attitude toward GM foods, expressing a concern for their safety. Industry boycotts, ecoterrorism, legal bans, and trade disputes by non-governmental organizations (NGO), governmental agencies, and concerned citizens reveal public misgiving about the risks associated with food biotechnology.

Critics, including environmentalists, scientists, farmers, consumer and health advocacy groups, public interest groups, trade protectionists, grain importers, politicians, religious rights groups, ethicists, and consumers, object to the production and marketing of GM foods primarily on the basis of food and health safety, the environment, and the ethics surrounding biotechnology.

I'll cover these in my next post!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Healthy Bacteria in Yogourt

Did you know that the average 6-oz yogourt container contains about 18 billion live bacteria?
Mmm mmmm!

(The number of live bacteria after you open the container is unknown though...).

But don't worry... the bacteria is good for you!

Click here and here for previous posts on probiotics.


Thursday, 27 May 2010

Mobile Cupcakes

What will they think of next?!
I saw this on my last visit to New York City:

Monday, 10 May 2010

Stay in the Game... Check Your Balls!

Testicular cancer accounts for a small % of all cancers in Canada- only 1.1% . However, in 2006, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported that steadily increasing rates were alarming; in the last 3 decades alone, incidence has increased by 59%. Testicular cancer is often referred to as a young man's disease and is currently the most common type of cancer, and leading cause of cancer death, in men in their 20s and 30s!

Because men in the at-risk age-group remain largely unaware of testicular cancer, its symptoms, the importance of TSE, and the role of early detection on survival rates, I developed a Social Marketing Campaign and Public Service Announcement (PSA) for an assignment. Thought I'd share my PSA with you (Thanks for your help guys!). (The website on the PSA doesn't really exist).

What causes testicular cancer?

It's not well understood what causes testicular cancer, but risk factors include a family history, cryptorchidism (undescended testicle), previous testicular cancer, age (15-49 years old), and race (incidence is 4 times higher in Caucasians than African American, for example). Nonetheless, many men will develop testicular cancer without any of these risk factors.

Testicular Self Exams (TSE)

Testicular cancer is one of the most curable types of cancer when detected before it has spread (the cure rate is 99%). So, testicular self examination (TSE) would be the obvious recommendation.


Recommending TSEs is still a bit controversial- critics state that population-wide recommendations shouldn't be made until it can be proven that TSE reduces mortality. Given the low incidence though, this is probably not possible.

Both the American Cancer Society and the Canadian Cancer Society suggest that early detection can improve treatment and recommend that TSE be part of regular routine medical exams. However, research shows that not all health care providers perform testicular exams, or even talk to their patients about performing TSE. Moreover, men tend to delay going to the doctor, possibly delaying early diagnosis. Half of testicular cancer patients are currently diagnosed in advanced stages.

Other critics state that recommending regular TSEs would lead to a number of false-positive results, resulting in patient anxiety. This, however, has been refuted, and TSEs have been reported to be highly effective and sensitive in cancer detection.

How to Perform a TSE

According to the Testicular Cancer Resource Centre, and the Sean Kimerling Testicular Cancer Foundation, self exams should ideally be done once a month, either in front of a mirror after a warm shower, or in the shower - the warm water relaxes the skin of the scrotum. The thorough exam should take about 3 minutes.

Gently examine each testicle with both han

Place your index and middle finger under the testicle with the thumb on top. Gently roll the testicle between your thumb and fingers. You shouldn't feel any pain. It's normal for one testicle to feel a bit larger than the other.

Find the epididymis, a soft, tube-like structure behind the testicle that collects and carries sperm- once you're familiar with this structure, you won't mistake it for a suspicious lump. Cancerous lumps are usually found on the sides of the testicle but can also show up on the front.

What to Look For

See a doctor as soon as possible if you:

Have any pain in your testicles or scrotum.
Detect any hard lumps, nodules (smooth rounded masses), or abnormalities
Notice any swelling
Detect a significant loss of size in one testicle
Detect a significant enlargement of a testicle
Feel a dull ache in your lower abdomen or groin
Feel heaviness in the scrotum
Notice collection of fluid in the scrotum
Have pain or discomfort of the breasts.

When in doubt, see a doctor.

For more information:

And for great PSAs!

Friday, 7 May 2010

What are the Dirty Dozen?

Researchers at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a research and advocacy organization in Washington D.C., just came out with their new "dirty dozen" list of fruits and vegetables- the fruits and vegetables that have highest, and lowest, levels of pesticides.

Organic farming doesn't use pesticides and fertilizers, so it's the better choice for the environment, and for our heath. However, buying organic can be more expensive.

If you can only buy a few organic fruits and vegetables, choose from the dirty dozen list- according to EWG, this can help reduce pesticide exposure by up to 80%.

The Dirty Dozen
(starting with the worst)

1. Celery
2. Peaches
3. Strawberries
4. Apples
5. Blueberries
6. Nectarines
7. Bell peppers
8. Spinach
9. Kale
10. Cherries
11. Potatoes
12. Grapes (imported)

Clean 15 (the lowest in pesticides- starting with the best)

1. Onion
2. Avocado
3. Sweet corn
4. Pineapple
5. Mango
6. Sweet peas
7. Asparagus
8. Kiwi
9. Cabbage
10. Eggplant
11. Cantaloupe
12. Watermelon
13. Grapefruit
14. Sweet Potato
15. Honeydew Melon

The list isn't much different from last year's.

Click here for a PDF version of the shopping list.

To minimize consumption of pesticides, EWG reminds you to eat a varied diet, rinse all your produce and buy organic as much as possible.

*It should be noted that the group only refers to pesticides on the produce (and therefore ingested) and not the total quantity of pesticides used in agriculture. For example, corn falls in the "clean" list but non-organic corn farming may use a large amount of pesticides... Something that is important to consider from an environmental standpoint.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Dietitians of Canada & its Industry Partners

January 2013- Note- this post has broken links- see update below.

Dietitians of Canada (DC) is the "national voice of dietitians" and states that it is "the most trusted source of information on food and nutrition for Canadians". However, did you know that DC partners with industry, including Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Monsanto, Nestle, pharmaceutical industry, supplement industry (e.g., Centrum), etc etc. (The American Dietetic Association does as well).


How does this affect DC's message? How does this make dietitians look? Do you think they can be unbiased and critique the food industry, if they're getting money from it?
I decided to write a letter to voice my concern- (it was also an assignment!). I'd love to know what you think!

btw- I was inspired by American dietitian, Marion Nestle's, call to ADA members.

Dear Dietitians of Canada CEO and Board of Directors,

As a new Dietitians of Canada (DC) member, I am surprised by, and cannot condone, this organization’s long history of partnering itself with food, beverage, and pharmaceutical industries - regardless of the nutritional quality of their products, their history, or stated goals. DC professes itself to be “the most trusted source of information on food and nutrition for Canadians,” but these partnerships put into question this trustworthiness, the integrity of DC’s messages and research, as well as my own credibility as a member. I ask that you review your advertisement and sponsorship policies to recognize, and minimize, the many conflicts of interest that arise due to these alliances.

DC partners with, and receives funding from, a large number of companies that that do not align themselves with DC’s vision of “advancing health through food and nutrition,” e.g., McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Ltd. - which has “a passion and a responsibility for enhancing and protecting the McDonald's brand” as a guiding principle; the Canadian Sugar Institute, whose ultimate goal is to “maintain a healthy and competitive sugar industry;” Coca Cola Ltd., whose mission is to “refresh the world” and vision includes profit and productivity; PepsiCo Canada, representing Pepsi-Cola, Frito-Lay, Tropicana, Gatorade and Quaker brands; Nestlé Healthcare Nutrition, a company with a well-documented history of promoting and distributing infant formula in developing countries; Roche, producer of Xenical, a weight-loss drug; and Compass Group Canada, whose national partners include Harvey’s, Tim Horton’s, Mr. Sub, and Pizza Pizza, among others.

While DC states that “an advertisement for a product or service does not constitute endorsement by Dietitians of Canada,” it definitely gives the appearance of one. Moreover, it is acknowledged that partnerships with industry can compromise credibility of organizations and its professionals, as well as the legitimacy of research.

The following are just a few of the many examples of industry sponsorship of DC activities that raise questions of conflict of interest:

-The Montreal 2010 DC national conference program acknowledges numerous industry sponsors, many with commercial interest in the topics discussed:
  • Kellogg’s - whose products include cereal brands All Bran and Raisin Bran, and All Bran and Fibre Plus cereal bars – is sponsoring a symposium on fibre, “exploring the breadth of science supporting the many health benefits of eating a diet high in fibre...”;
  • The Centrum Foundation is sponsoring ‘Prenatal Nutrition Guidelines,’ which includes the new recommendations for iron, folate, and omega-3 fatty acids;
  • Lallemand Institut Rosell, producer of yeast and bacteria, is sponsoring ‘The Role of Microbiota in Medical Nutrition Therapy’;
  • Campbell Company of Canada, with its line of gluten-free products, is sponsoring ‘The Gluten-Free Boom: Challenges and Opportunities’.
Whether sponsorship of conferences directly influences content or speakers’ opinions is up for debate; however, it does give the appearance of support, and may have an indirect influence by silencing critique of the product.

-As part of DC’s mission to support “ethical, evidence-based best practice in dietetics,” the Canadian Foundation for Dietetic Research (CFDR) was created. However, it becomes impossible to distinguish between independent evidence-based research and corporate involvement:

Five of the 11 CFDR Board of Directors are employed by industry groups Nestlé, Kraft, Compass Group Canada, Unilever, and Dairy Farmers of Canada.

CFDR’s 2009 Annual Report disclosed that it received over $220,000 from more than 20 corporations, including $75,000 from The Centrum Foundation and Wyeth Consumer Health Care Inc. Two of the seven research grants awarded by CFDR in 2009 were directly linked to supplementation:

How can all Canadian infants get the Vitamin D needed for optimal health?’ “examines how children of vegetarian parents can get the vitamin D they need through supplementation...”

Can thiamin supplementation help patients with heart failure?’ aims to “determine an effective dose of thiamin supplementation that will restore red blood cell thiamin levels, leading to better health for patients with heart failure.”

Centrum was also a benefactor in 2008, when CFDR featured a special collaborative research project investigating the use and barriers of vitamin and mineral supplements.

There are different sources of conflicts of interest in research, but financial conflicts of interest have been found to consistently produce a bias.

-A 2009 Ipsos Reid survey, done on behalf of DC and its partner, Dairy Farmers of Canada, sought to provide an informal 24-hour recall of over 2000 Canadians. Two of the four conclusions drawn included the mention of dairy products: “A significant number of Canadian adults had not consumed any milk and alternatives or any vegetables and fruit on the day prior to the survey...,” and “A majority of Canadian adults are not aware of the many health benefits of milk and alternatives....”

Coverage of the survey by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation ended with a dietitian stating: "For people who say, 'I don't want to worry about the food groups,’ just look at your plate, and see if you can't throw in one veggie or some cheese.”

Corporate sponsorship is pervasive in the field of nutrition. Individuals and organizations engaged in such partnerships justify them in terms of advancing research and bettering the public’s health, maintaining that the relationships do not forfeit integrity; however, the above examples provide just a sampling of the many conflicts of interest that arise from the collaborations between DC and industry that compromise DC’s, and its members’, credibility. In fact, Health Canada’s Sodium Working Group was recently disparaged by the Center for Science in the Public Interest due to the involvement of DC representative Susan Barr, because of DC’s heavy involvement with industry.

Board of Directors, as long as DC continues to align itself with food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries, and rely on these corporations for funding, it will never be respected, and neither will I. As a member of the purported “nation-wide voice of dietitians,” I hope my voice, and my concerns, are heard, and that DC will carefully review its advertising and sponsorship policies to recognize the many conflicts of interest that exist, and their consequences, and take steps to minimize them in order to restore DC’s credibility. These steps may include, but are not limited to, beginning a conversation with members with regards to this issue, increasing transparency of use of corporate funds, being much more selective in choosing which companies to enter into partnerships with, and ensuring DC and CFDR Board Members have no corporate ties.

I look forward to hearing about the steps that will be undertaken in this important matter.

Thank you for your time.


Feel as strongly as me?

To have your voice heard, copy and paste the paragraph below – feel free to personalize it - and send it to Marsha Sharp, the Chief Executive Officer of Dietitians of Canada ( )

and to the member of the Board of Directors of your area, if your a member of DC:
Matthew Durant, Atlantic,
Barbara Khouzam, Quebec, North-East and Eastern Ontario,
Kerry Grady-Vincent, Central and Southern Ontario (email NA publicly).
Rosemary Szabadka, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and North Western Ontario,
Maureen Elhatton, Alberta and the Territories (email NA publicly)
Heather McColl, British Columbia (email NA publicly)
As well, cc. Georgette Harris, the front-line contact on sponsorship and advertising ( ).

and/OR by clicking here.

Dear DC CEO and Board of Directors,

I would like to express my concern towards the many partnerships DC has with food, beverage and pharmaceutical companies. These alliances, and reliance on their funding, gives the appearance of support, encourages perceptions that sponsorship prevents DC from criticizing the food industry, and makes it impossible for DC to be a trustworthy source of information for Canadians; by extension, as a DC member, I cannot be a credible source of information, or trusted as a professional.
I hope that DC will carefully review its advertising and sponsorship policies to recognize the many existing conflicts of interest, and their consequences, and take steps to minimize them in order to restore DC’s integrity.
I look forward to hearing about the steps that will be undertaken in this important matter.
Thank you.

Other sources:
Gingras, J. (2005). Evoking trust in the nutrition counsellor:why should we be trusted? Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 18, 57-7.

Nestle, M. (2001). Food company sponsorship of nutrition research and professional activities: a conflict of interest, Public Health Nutrition, 4(5), 1015-1022.

Lesser, L.I. (2009). Reducing potentital bias in industry-funded nutrition research. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(3), 699-700.


Update (January 2013)

I had not revisited this post in a while and notice that many of the links are broken. Some updated facts : 

  • The Canadian Foundation for Dietetic Research (CFDR), created to support ethical, evidence-based best practice in dietetics, has a vision of enhancing the health of Canadians by contributing new knowledge about food and nutrition. In 2012, the CFDR received about $200 000 in revenue from corporate "partners". These included the Dairy Farmers of Canada and Nestlé (the two biggest donors, each giving CFDR $125 000 over 5 years), as well as The Centrum Foundation and Pfizer Consumer Health Care Inc., Campbell Company Canada, Compass Group Canada, Kraft Canada Inc., McCain Foods, McDonald's Restaurants of Canada Limited, Unilever Canada Inc, Abbott Nutrition Canada, Aramark Canada Ltd., Canola Council of Canada, Egg Farmers of Canada, General Mills Canada Corporation, Kellogg Canada Inc., Loblaw Companies Limited, Mead Johnson Nutrition, PepsiCo Canada and Sodexo Canada. 
  • They note: "CFDR is grateful to the many corporate partners and donors who believe in the value of dietetic and nutrition research in building a healthy Canada."
  • 8 of the 11 2011/2012 Board members have industry ties. 
  • I'm having trouble finding the program for the 2012 annual conference. The 2011 DC Ontario Regional conference one shows  a breakfast sponsored by Becel and Egg Farmers, a lunch by Unilever, a "special conference memento" courtesy of the Sugar Institute, and industry-sponsored talks.