Tag Archives: fast food

San Francisco Bans Happy Meal Toys

Happy meal new year

Image by noodlepie via Flickr

The post below is from our friends at NaturalNews.com. It’s a good site to get health information without the slant of the pharmaceutical industry or its partner mainstream medicine.

NaturalNews Post

San Francisco has become the first U.S. city to crack down on the dubious practice of fast food companies luring children into eating unhealthy meals by giving away gimmicky toys. “Our children are sick. Rates of obesity in San Francisco are disturbingly high, especially among children of color,” said San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar, the sponsor of the measure, in a press conference.

The new law, which goes into effect December, 2011, would only allow toys to be given away with “healthy” children’s meals. That’s defined as a meal under 600 calories that includes fruits and vegetables but not a beverage with excess sugar (such as a soda). McDonald’s Happy Meals obviously do not fit this definition of a healthy meal.

According to a Reuters report, McDonald’s spent over half a billion dollars advertising and giving away toys in 2006. This is obviously money spent with a purpose — and the purpose is to keep children begging for more Happy Meals so they can get their hands on more toys. Across the industry, promotional spending on children’s toys to promote junk food tops $1.6 billion a year, reports Reuters.

That’s $1.6 billion spent in trying to persuade children to eat factory-fabricated animal products and nutritionally-depleted fast foods. Can you imagine what this must be contributing to childhood obesity? What about diabetes and heart disease later in life?

San Francisco understands that feeding junk food to your children is not a smart way to have a healthy city (or state, or nation for that matter). I actually admire the city’s willingness to start clamping down on these toy enticements. There’s a point at which local communities and cities need to send a message to corporate America: “You will NOT be allowed to harm our children any longer!”

I just wish more cities had the courage to stand up to the powerful fast food chains and say enough is enough. Yes, you can sell food. Or you can sell toys. But you can’t use toys to trick children into asking for food that we now know is strongly contributing to an epidemic of obesity and disease.

In a perfect society, of course, it would be parents who would say no to their children and stop buying Happy Meals with toys in them in the first place. But health-oriented parenting is another article altogether.

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Fast Food Chains To Offer Statins With Their Meals?

Below is a blog post from cnn.com.  It simply amazes me that a peer reviewed journal would suggest that fast food companies offer statins with their meals to offset their horrible health effects.  See my comments at the end of the article.

CNN Blog Post

A new report in the American Journal of Cardiology suggests that fast food restaurants should offer statins – a popular class of cholesterol-lowering medications – alongside their unhealthy food.

“We propose that the fast food industry is well placed to offer advice and supplements to counteract the cardiovascular harm arising from the foods they purvey,” the report said. “These companies already have an infrastructure for providing a variety of condiments… A generic statin could be added to the panoply of items in the self-service tray at little additional cost.”

The study – which likened taking a statin before eating to putting on a bike helmet before biking – was based on analyses of other scientific studies, and concluded that taking the drugs could offset the risk of eating fast food just enough to render the food harmless.

“Most of the primary prevention statin regimes we examined, with the exception of pravastatin, had the strength to counteract the increase in risk caused by an unhealthy diet; or eating an additional 36 g[rams] of total fat or 2.8 g[rams] of trans fat per day – approximately equivalent to a Quarter Pounder with cheese and a small milkshake,” the British researchers said in the study.

But Dr. Ralph Sacco, president of the American Heart Association, says that not only isn’t the solution that simple, it could be dangerous.

“There are other things regarding obesity that are important that a statin won’t neutralize, such as diabetes and high blood pressure,” Sacco said. “Even though we agree statins have a lot of good evidence in reducing cardiovascular and stroke risk, there are certain risks with any medications.”

The risks are relatively infrequent but include liver damage, muscle cramps and long-term muscle damage.

The British researchers concluded that the risks of eating fast food are much greater.

“Statins have been shown to be safe even at high doses,” the report says. “The documented safety record of statins is substantially better than that of fast foods, which carry not only direct cardiovascular risks, but other risks due to obesity.”

But regardless of whether the benefits do in fact outweigh the risks,  Sacco says there are far better ways to reduce the negative effects of obesity.

“If you can control it with diet and exercise, that would be our preference rather than having to take a medicine.”

Dr. Court’s Comments

This is perhaps the most ridiculous recommendation I have ever seen from a mainstream medical publication.  They are suggesting that fast food chains offer cholesterol lower medications, called statins, with their meals to offset the negative health effects they have on human physiology. This is the pinnacle of not taking responsibility for one’s health.  Why take responsibility if you can take a pill to supposedly offset the detriments to your health from eating the most unhealthy foods in the world?

Statin medications are not as safe as Big Pharma would like you to believe. Statins are HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, that is, they act by blocking the enzyme in your liver that is responsible for making cholesterol (HMG-CoA reductase). The fact that statin drugs cause side effects is well established—there are now 900 studies proving their adverse effects, which run the gamut from muscle problems to increased cancer risk.

For starters, reported side effects include:

  • Muscle problems, polyneuropathy (nerve damage in the hands and feet), and rhabdomyolysis (a serious degenerative muscle tissue condition)
  • Anemia
  • Acidosis
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Immune depression
  • Pancreas or liver dysfunction, including a potential increase in liver enzymes
  • Cataracts

These side effects hardly seem harmless and to give them as an option with your value meal from McDonald’s is outrageous.  It is a great marketing ploy by the pharmaceutical industry to get as many American’s on statins as possible.  Think about it.  Wouldn’t this kind of strategy significantly increase sales of statin drugs?  Of course it would.  And where do we start and stop giving them to people.  Does a 3 year old eating a happy meal get a statin to go with it?  What about people who are already taking statins?  Do they just take extra because you really never can get to much medication can you?  The slope is a slippery one and I cannot believe this has even been suggested.

I was happy to see the president of the American Heart Association take the other side of this story.  He mentions that statins do nothing to offset the other health complications of fast food like diabetes and high blood pressure.  This is true.  You can’t take a statin to avoid diabetes.  What he doesn’t mention is the fact that those kinds of food – food high in refined sugar – are notorious for raising inflammation in the body.  When you raise inflammation you raise the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and osteoporosis to name just a few.  You can’t control inflammation by taking a statin.  Some new research does suggest that statins lower one of the inflammatory enzymes called CRP.  But that’s just one.  There are others that are still detrimental to one’s health.

This kind of a recommendation is dangerous.  Period.  It is also irresponsible for the American Journal of Cardiology to publish such information.  It plants a dangerous seed.  This kind of a recommendation encourages people to continue to make poor decisions regarding their diets.  It gives them an excuse to continue to destroy their health under the pretense that they are offsetting their bad decisions with a pill.  Instead, we should be encouraging people to make healthier choices regarding their diet and lifestyle.

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National Junk Food Day?

Most of you probably did not know this, but yesterday was National Junk Food Day.  I’m not sure why we need a National Junk Food Day, but it exists.  In a society that is as unhealthy as we currently are it looks like to me every day is National Junk Food Day.  Why don’t we just have a National Smoking Day or a National Eat ‘Til You Can’t Buckle Your Pants Day?

Ok, so maybe we shouldn’t have those days but I think you get the picture.  Having a day to ‘celebrate’ junk food is ridiculous in my opinion because judging by health care costs and our waistlines, people are already celebrating it too much!  Check out the statistics below on junk food consumption in this country.

STATS!

  • The average American eats about 24.5 pounds of candy per year, with 11.6 pounds being chocolate candy
  • There are 3,961 confectionery and nut stores in the U.S.
  • The top five ice cream flavors are vanilla, chocolate, butter pecan, strawberry and chocolate chip mint
  • More than 90% of households in the U.S. consume ice cream
  • Not into candy or desserts? The U.S. has 12,804 McDonald’s restaurants
  • Children aged 6 to 11 are more likely to eat cookies than apples (or any other type of fruit)
  • 12- to 17-year-olds are as likely to eat potato chips as salad
  • On average 82 percent of people eat no cruciferous vegetables in a given day
  • On average 41 percent of people eat no fruits at all in a given day
  • Each day, 1 in 4 Americans visits a fast food restaurant
  • McDonald’s feeds more than 46 million people a day. (That’s more than the entire population of Spain.)
  • French fries are the most eaten “vegetable” in America
  • There’s one soda vending machine for every 97 Americans
  • In 1972, we spent $3 billion a year on fast food — today we spend more than $110 billion.
  • Sodas alone contribute 7.1 percent of total calories eaten
  • Salty snacks and fruit-flavored drinks add another five percent
  • Children and youth aged 11 to 18 years visit fast food outlets an average of twice a week
  • Household income spent on away-from-home foods rose from 25 percent of total food spending in 1970 to nearly one-half in 1999
  • By 14 years of age, 32 percent of adolescent girls and 52 percent of boys in the United States are consuming three or more eight-ounce servings of sweetened soft drinks daily

I got a little carried away with the statistics but they are incredibly easy to find and they are fascinating.  Some of them are unbelievable!  This is part of the problem in the US in terms of health.  These companies specifically market to children so they can get them hooked and in the habit of consuming their food.  They know that habits are hard to change even if they’re bad for your health.  If they can get a child hooked they’ve got a costumer for life.

I hope these statistics have enlightened you a little and I hope it makes you think about just how much junk we put into our mouths as Americans.  A National Junk Food Day is not necessary and hopefully in the next few years it can pass us by and no one will notice.

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As your health care premiums rise, insurance companies make money off fast food

This is a post from the Time wellness blog.  There is a link to it below the article.  Health insurance companies should not own stock in fast food restaurants.  It’s a total conflict of interest.

Time Article

McDonald's and other fast food chains get support from, who else, health insurance companies.

Health insurance companies in the U.S., Canada and Europe hold nearly $1.9 billion in fast-food company stock, according to a new study from researchers at Harvard Medical School and the department of medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance. In the study, published this week in the American Journal of Public Health researchers examined major insurance companies’ stock holdings with five leading, publicly traded fast food chains: McDonald’s, Burger King, Jack in the Box, Yum! Brands (which owns KFC, Taco Bell, and others), and the Wendy’s/Arby’s Group. They found that, as of June 11, 2009, major health insurers owned $1.88 billion in fast-food stock, representing 2.2% of the companies’ total public holdings.

While some of the insurance companies have disputed the accuracy of these figures, the researchers found that U.S.-based insurance providers Prudential Financial, Massachusetts Mutual and Northwestern Mutual owned $355.5 million, $366 million and $422 million respectively in fast-food stock as of last June, with Northwestern Mutual representing the largest fast-food stock holding of any insurance company included in the study. ING, the insurance provider based in the Netherlands, held $406.1 million in these stocks. Canadian insurance provider Manulife held $146.1 million worth of fast-food stock. Those numbers, according to the study, were based on data from Yahoo! Finance from June 11 of last year.

The study authors argue that these findings show a disconcerting disregard among insurance companies for the a growing understanding of how the fast food industry is “increasingly understood to negatively impact public health.” Though they concede that fast food products can of course be consumed responsibly, the researchers emphasize that “the marketing and sale of products by fast food companies is done in a manner that undermines the public health,” and that having the very organizations that provide health insurance support these fast-food chains indicates corporate irresponsibility. As study author Dr. J. Wesley Boyd told the Wall Street Journal health blog:

“They’re profiting directly off the people who eat fast food, and if that leads to obesity or cardiovascular disease, they’ll charge you more for premiums if you have some of those conditions… They’re making money in either case.”

Health insurers should be “held to a higher standard” Boyd and colleagues argue before presenting two means of achieving that loftier standing. Insurance companies can either “divest themselves of holdings in fast food companies as well as other industries that have a clearly negative health impact,” they suggest, or they can use their ownership as leverage to force fast-food chains to adopt “practices consistent with widely accepted public healthy principles.”

The researchers concede that there are a few logical explanations for why health insurance providers might hold fast-food stock—to offset financial liability “associated with their policyholders consuming fast food,” due to a lack of understanding of the potential negative public health impact of excessive fast food consumption, or even simply due to a lack of communication between departments. Yet none of these explanations let the insurers of the hook, they argue. “If insurers are to play a greater part in the health care delivery system they ought to be held to a higher standard of corporate responsibility,” they write. “This responsibility includes aligning all o their resources—including financial investments—in ways that improve health or, at the very least, do not harm it.”

Dr. Court’s Comments

This is an obvious conflict of interest.  It is also another reason health premiums are so expensive.  The health insurance industry is helping fund the very industry that is making people sick!  It’s outrageous.

These are the very same companies that will charge higher premiums if you gain weight or cancel your policy if you cost them too much money.

Just the other day I had a patient come in and tell me she had been dropped by her insurance company because she had “reached her lifetime cap” in terms of spending.  That cap by the way was $1 million.  This was and continues to be a very sick woman, but the insurance company does not care.  All they know is that she is costing them too much money.

Apparently these insurance companies see nothing wrong with investing in fast food though.  Why don’t they invest in tobacco companies too?  There really is no difference.  A lifetime of smoking is not any worse for you than a lifetime of eating fast food.

There are plenty of other ways to invest the large amounts of money that insurance companies make every year.  Investing that money in fast food companies only makes your premiums higher.  It’s like the local police force supplying the drug dealers with cash. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

The insurance company will be the first to raise your premiums for eating at fast food chains.  Of course they don’t know when you actually eat there, but they do require you to have regular physicals.  If your cholesterol goes up, if your weight increases or any other health marker changes negatively, you can expect an increase in the amount of money you pay them.  They’ll turn around and invest that money back into the very problem that is plaguing society.

Fast food companies will say that their food can be eaten as part of a healthy diet. I do not agree and their marketing is designed to get you to eat at their chain as often as possible.  They’d like nothing more than for you to eat every meal at their restaurant.  However, doing this is extremely detrimental to your health.

Obesity costs this country billions each year.  The insurance companies make billions off high premiums and denying care at every turn possible.  With their profits they invest irresponsibly in companies that are playing a significant roll in the  high cost of health care in this country.  In my opinion this should be illegal.

They have the right to invest their money, don’t get me wrong.  They should be investing it in areas that improve health, not destroy it.

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Weight Watchers says eat at McDonald’s to lose weight!

Weight Watchers has now officially endorsed Chicken McNuggets as a “healthy meal” in New Zealand, where McDonald’s restaurants will begin carrying the Weight Watchers logo on several menu items. This bizarre and inexplicable decision has now made Weight Watchers the laughing stock of the health world where nutrition and weight loss experts normally don’t use “McDonald’s fast food” and “weight loss” in the same sentence.

As The Guardian reports, “As part of the deal, which the company says is the first of its kind in the world, McDonald’s will use the Weight Watchers logo on its menu boards and Weight Watchers will promote McDonald’s to dieters.”

Nutritionists, not surprisingly, were shocked at the announcement. The idea of eating at McDonald’s to lose weight seems a bit ridiculous, and anyone who believes that eating Chicken McNuggets will cause you to lose weight is arguably one nugget short of a Happy Meal. Sometimes you just have to point out the stupidity of these things, even at the risk of offending someone who has convinced themselves that eating more Chicken McNuggets is their ticket to a slim, fit and sexy body.

Watch your weight balloon!

Weight Watchers, by the way, never actually claims that eating the foods they endorse will cause you to lose weight. If you examine it carefully, even their name isn’t really about weight loss. It’s about weight watching… as in, watch your weight grow larger by the day…

A “weight watch” is sort of like a “tornado watch” or a “tsunami watch.” You keep your eyes peeled and wait for something disastrous to happen — such as ballooning to 300 pounds while engaging in unhealthy eating McHabits based on snarfing down meat parts from factory-farmed cows raised in bovine concentration camps that might more accurately be called “Cowschwitz.”

If Weight Watchers is going to endorse McNuggets, then why not just endorse the entire McDonald’s menu and throw the logo behind Big Macs and ice cream shakes, too? It’s not like Weight Watchers is trying to “protect its reputation” by not crossing a line, you know. Once you’ve endorsed McDonald’s as “healthy” food, that line is no longer anywhere in sight.

Of course, McDonald’s products merely join a long list of questionable foods marketed under the “Weight Watchers” brand name — a brand that in my opinion has discovered great commercial success in selling the false hope of weight loss to clueless consumers who are unwilling to read ingredients lists on food labels.

Not coincidentally, Weight Watchers has now become the “McDonald’s” of the weight loss industry — and industry filled with so many scams and shams that the idea of eating Chicken McNuggets to lose weight doesn’t even seem that strange to many people.

We live in a world where corporate promotional lies are disgusting at best, and criminal at worst. We’re told that psychiatric drugs will make you happy, that chemotherapy will make you healthy and that eating at McDonald’s will make you lose weight. We’re told that sugary junk drinks will give you “energy”, that toxic vaccines are necessary for your immune system to work correctly and that buying silly pink-ribbon products will somehow cure cancer.

At the same time, we’re told that vitamins are dangerous, that sunlight causes cancer and that there’s no such thing as a cure for type-2 diabetes. Everything that’s good for you is discredited as bad while everything that’s toxic is hyped up as “healthy.”

I suppose in light of the corporate-sponsored sick-care insanity that passes for medical advice these days, the idea that eating at McDonald’s will make you lose weight doesn’t seem as insane as it really should.

But that doesn’t make it any more true.

In a world gone mad with dietary misinformation touting fictional foods, insanity can now be marketed to the intoxicated mainstream as if it somehow made sense.

… and people swallow it.

via Weight Watchers says eat at McDonald’s to lose weight.

Dr. Court’s Comments:

There isn’t a lot to say about this piece as I think it is very well written.  I agree totally with the points the author has made above.  The fact that Weight Watchers would team with McDonald’s is mind boggling.  There isn’t a single responsible nutritionist that would agree this is a good idea, but corporate money rules the roost.  McDonald’s thinks they can get more people to eat their food by advertising it as Weight Watchers sponsored.  Weight Watchers sees this as an avenue to advertise to a group of costumers that don’t necessarily want to change their eating habits, but might try the Weight Watchers program if it contained McDonald’s chicken nuggets.

This is another shameless corporate ploy for more business that ends up hurting the public.  It is only a matter of time before programs like this are here in the US.  Most people won’t even think twice about it.  They’ll go about their day and eat unhealthily all the while convinced the food choices they are making are good simply because Weight Watchers has endorsed it.

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