Nutritional News Throwdown!

by Denis Faye | November 3, 2010

My morning surf fell through due to a closed-out shore break, so I have a lot of bottled up testosterone to deal with. But instead of my usual “plan B” – adding a cape and mask to my wetsuit and fighting crime for a couple hours – I’m going to sift through oddly large amount of goofy nutritional news articles that were sitting in my inbox. Ready?

It’s not caffeine that kills people. Stupidity kills people. Some British dude died of a caffeine overdose. From ABC News:

Information from the coroner’s inquest revealed that Michael Lee Bedford ingested two spoonfuls of pure caffeine powder that he washed down with an energy drink. Coroner Dr. Nigel Chapman said the dose Bedford consumed was equivalent to 70 cans of Red Bull.

“This should serve as a warning that caffeine is so freely available on the Internet but so lethal if the wrong dosage is taken,” Chapman said at the inquest.

A warning label on the product said only one-sixteenth of a teaspoon should be taken, but Bedford far exceeded that amount.

“He wasn’t doing anything wrong, it was just the danger of the dose he took,” said Chapman.

What’s not wrong about taking 32 times the recommended dose of any medication or supplement? It’s the penultimate in wrong. The ultimate in wrong, of course, would be to take 32 times the recommended dose of caffeine and chase it with a highly caffeinated beverage. Now that would have been especially stupid… oh wait. That’s exactly what he did! I have a sneaking suspicion what Bedford was trying to accomplish and all I can say is, “Sorry, bro. Freddy Krueger always gets his man.”

Some bad things are badder for you than other bad things! A new study appearing in the journal Obesity (I tried to get a subscription, but my mail carrier complained that it was too heavy), claims that some sodas have more fructose in them than other sodas and are therefore even unhealthier. From Consumer Reports:

That’s a big deal, the authors say, because there is evidence showing that fructose, when consumed in excess, may have a more pronounced negative impact on metabolic health and weight gain than glucose.

The researchers, who call their findings exploratory due to their limited sample and use of a single lab, discovered that some fountain sodas from fast-food chains had more sugar overall than their labels specified. And nearly all of the soft drinks had a higher proportion of fructose than industry and government sources have suggested.

The assumption has been that high-fructose corn syrup comes in formulas containing either a 42 or 55 percentage of fructose, while sucrose (such as brown sugar, granulated sugar, powered sugar, and raw sugar) has a similar composition of roughly half fructose and half glucose. But this recent report suggests that bottled samples of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Sprite contained 64 or 65 percent fructose. “If the fructose content of popular drinks is actually 65 percent rather than 55 percent, then fructose intake would be [approximately] 18 percent higher than previously estimated,” write the authors.

Oh shut up. Seriously? It’s soda! It’s bad for you no matter what! Turning fructose in some kind of evil bogey-carb is foolish. You can argue the nuance of how a sugar goes through your system all you want. I don’t care if it’s filtered by your liver, your kidneys, or your left ankle. It’s still sugar. It’ll still make you fat, give you diabetes, and hasten your death if you consume too much of it. Waffling on about the fructose/glucose balance is just going to confuse people and make them think fruit – which is largely fructose – should be avoided, which brings us to our next lame study.

Nutritious food is good for you! A ten-year study out of the Netherlands shows that people who eat plenty of fruits and veggies, whether they’re fresh or processed, have a lower risk of coronary heart disease. From the study:

Prospective cohort studies have shown that high fruit and vegetable consumption is inversely associated with coronary heart disease (CHD). Whether food processing affects this association is unknown. Therefore, we quantified the association of fruit and vegetable consumption with 10-year CHD incidence in a population-based study in the Netherlands and the effect of processing on these associations.

Of course produce is good for you! It doesn’t matter how processed it is because… oh, wait a minute. That’s actually kind of interesting. I always assumed fresh would win. Sure, I tell people to get their fruits and veggies however they can, but this is news to me. Now I’m going to have to read the whole damn study in order to poke holes in it! Damnit!

So I guess today’s tally is The Real Fitness Nerd: 2. Nutrition Current Events: 1. But I’ll be back! And next time, I’ll actually read the studies first.

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4 thoughts on “Nutritional News Throwdown!

  1. Randi

    After years of reading all the fitness stuff I can get my hands on… I too find a whole lot of “duh!” moments. I enjoy reading your blog. It’s entertaining and informative.

  2. Anonymous

    Didn’t have time to read the study in-depth, but a quick glance seems to show that, for purposes of this study, the word “processed” means juiced or cooked as opposed to raw.

    “Processed fruit and vegetables were also inversely related with CHD incidence in the present study. Processed fruits were mainly consumed as fruit juices, which have a lower dietary fiber content but may be good sources of phytochemicals. Moreover, their liquid state affects volume and chewing and may result in decreased satiety and increased energy intake. However, the positive effect of processed fruit was not confirmed in previous prospective cohort studies on citrus fruit juice and CHD and CVD risk. Processed vegetables comprised mainly cooked vegetables. Cooked vegetables also have a generally lower dietary fiber content than raw ones, vitamin C can be lost in cooking water and salt is often added. One study found no association between higher frequencies of baked vegetable intake and CHD incidence. Although fruit juices and cooked vegetables have lost intact cell walls and insoluble fiber, these findings suggest that improved bioavailability of bioactive compounds, e.g. flavonoids and carotenoids, may have contributed to the lower risk of CHD incidence.”


  3. D Faye

    Great work, Michm. You spotted the Achilles Heel before I did. There are so many good things about fruit. Processing may not eliminate all of them, but it does mess up the things you’ve mentioned here.


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