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Banning Chocolate Milk Doesn’t Have Outcomes Parents Hope For

71805_webA simple way to cut calories and sugar is to watch what you’re drinking.  The increasing numbers of children with obesity is causing much concern and there is a eager search for a solution.  Concerned parents and teachers of the PTA turned to banning chocolate milk to lower their children’s sugar intake. As a sample test 11 elementary schools in Oregon banned flavored milk (strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate, herby referred to as chocolate milk).  Research released by Cornell University this week was conducted in-order to understand the potential impact of removing chocolate milk has on milk sales and intake, which concluded that removing chocolate milk from schools had a ill affect on children’s meals.

Schools have done this before.  In 2011, Los Angeles Unified School District removed flavored milk from its schools in order to battle youth obesity.  It is known that this may not be a successful way to combat childhood obesity.  In 2012 after the US Department of Agriculture updated school meal standards, the National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jerry Kozak cited other research that showed milk consumption can drop 35 percent when flavored milk options are removed.

“When schools ban chocolate milk, we found it usually backfires. On average, milk sales drop by 10 percent, 29 percent of white milk gets thrown out, and participation in the school lunch program may also decrease,” reports Andrew Hanks, lead author and research associate Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. “This is probably not what parents wanted to see.”Chocolatemilk1

Though it was shown in sales data that students did substitute chocolate milk for plain milk, they also wasted an average on 40.9% of milk they selected.  Students were forced to chose another drink option by eliminating the availability of chocolate milk, but this did not encourage them to drink it.  Cornell’s findings suggests that eliminating chocolate milk can increase total milk waste by 29.4%

Children, and adults alike, do not choose foods because they are nutritionally good for them, they choose foods that taste good.  Of the students who purchase lunches served as part of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), two-thirds choose chocolate over white milk.

These results are from a pilot test and further research must be done, but it does provide us with some insight of what some of the unforeseen affects are of getting rid of flavored milk in schools.  This information needs to be considered when deciding whether the amount of sugar children consume with flavored milk is validated because of the nutrients that milk offers.  The study authors suggest taking other tactics to encourage white milk over chocolate, rather than an outright ban.

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What’s the Deal With Fat?

Fat is a necessary part of a person’s diet.  Fat is essential to your health because it supports a number of your body’s functions.  What can be tricky is that there are numerous types of fats both good and bad; therefore we have to be conscious of the type of fats we consume.  The fat that is found naturally in food is dietary fat which can be found in plants and animals.  Though fat can be beneficial its dark side is that it is high in calories and a consistent excess of calories can lead to weight gain and other related issues.  Managing one’s intake of fat can be trying because fat has found its way into many food items.  Americans on average are exceeding the recommended maximum consumption of fat by more than 50 percent.

Fat has always had a negative connotation and has always been distinguished as unhealthy.  A pile of oil atop of a piece of three cheese pizza may not look appealing but the brain swoons once it is inside of the mouth.  Fat is as much a feeling as it is a taste.  The trigeminal nerve is responsible for transmitting sensations from the mouth to the brain.  “Fats and fat-soluble molecules are responsible for the characteristic texture, flavor and aromas of many foods and play a major role in determining the overall palatability of the diet” (Drwnoswski and Schwartz 1990) “the sweeter and denser stimuli were perceived as lower in fat, despite the fact that the actual amount of fat remained constant.

Taste buds have five primary tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami (a savory taste).  Fat has no such receptor but is extremely alluring to the brain. The affect that fat has on the brain was investigated in a study done on sugar and fat done by neuroscientist Edmund Rolls in 2003.  It found that fat is just as potent to the brain as sugar, “Fat and sugar both produce strong reward effects in the brain,” Rolls said. Scientist Adam Drwnowski  studied just how alluring fat is. “There was no bliss point, or break point for fat,” found Drwonski “The more fat there was, the better.”  This means that unlike sugar, which has a point of there being too sweet fat did not, there was never too much.

Surveys have shown that grocery shoppers who stop to read nutrition labels look first and foremost at the fat content of foods.  This has led to the over saturation of products that claim to have less fat or lower fat, and it has initiated a host of marketing tricks the industry uses to make it seem like they have cut back. “Low-fat”, “reduced fat”, or “fat-free” products are not necessarily healthy and they can also cause the consumer to mistaken the product to be healthier than it actually is.  Simply put, the health halo effect leads people to overestimate the overall healthfulness of a food based on one narrow attribute.  Studies have shown that people eat far more low-fat foods than they do traditional versions.  In order to reduce the amount of fat in a product food manufactures have to compensate for the change by replacing it with carbohydrates from sugar, refined grains, or starch.  The exchange for switching out fat for sugar is not justifiable because sugar has now been shown to be even more harmful to your diet.

Fat comes in many forms, a few that are recognizable or “visible” – table spreads and salad and cooking oils – or “invisible” fats included in meat, dairy products, and many process foods.  The different kinds of fat are usually seen as good or bad:

  • “Good” fats—monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—lower disease risk. Foods high in good fats include vegetable oils (such as olive, canola, sunflower, soy, and corn), nuts, seeds, and fish.
  • “Bad” fats—saturated and, especially, trans fats—increase disease risk. Foods high in bad fats include red meat, butter, cheese, and ice cream, as well as processed foods made with trans fat from partially hydrogenated oil.

Low-fat is an age old diet myth, what is important is the type of fat.  Some sources of fat are undesirable for instance Michael Moss, author of Salt, Sugar, Fat stated “Americans now eat as much as 33 pounds or more cheese a year, triple that amount we consumed in early 1970s.

Saturated fat has been demonized since the 1970s when a landmark study concluded that there was a correlation between incidence of coronary heart disease and total cholesterol, which then correlated with the percentage of calories provided by saturated fat, explains Aseem Malhotra, interventional cardiology specialist in a recent article at the British Medical Journal (BMJ). “But correlation is not causation,” he says. Nevertheless, we were advised to “reduce fat intake to 30% of total energy and a fall in saturated fat intake to 10%.”  “It is time to bust the myth of the role of saturated in heart disease and wind back the harms of dietary advice that has contributed to obesity.”

Sugar

Sugar is found in many foods, whether its hidden away or prominently displaced as a marketing tool.  It’s not unknown how alluring sugar is, but we’ve lost track of how much we are consuming throughout the years of the rise of convenience foods.

There are two types of sugar: added and natural.  Foods containing naturally found sugar include fruit, fruit juice, milk and dairy products. Added sugar, as the name suggests is sugar that is added to food during processing or preparation to make it sweeter.  There is a long list of ingredients that are classified as added sugar includes not just white table sugar, but brown sugar, honey, agave syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, and stevia.  Just to mention a few food products that have a lot of added sugar include sugary drinks, cakes, candy, fruit drinks, bread, pasta sauce, chips and snacks, yogurt, and cereal.sugar-in-food

Sugar has a great influence on how our bodies perform.  Jean Mayer, a Harvard professor of nutrition, is credited with discovering how the desire to eat is controlled by the amount of glucose in the blood and by the brain’s hypothalamus, both of which in turn are greatly influenced by sugar. Scientist are not the only ones who have looked into how sugar affects the brain, food manufactures have also learned how to use it to produce better, more tasty, and addicting foods.  Food scientists can determine a product’s “bliss point,” – the precise amount of sweetness – that makes it most enjoyable.

The increasing amount of sugar Americans are craving may be turning into a learned behavior, the sweeter food is the sweeter we expect it to be.  Throughout generations this produces kids who love sweet breakfast cereal, who grow up to desire sugar in their morning coffee, sugary salad dressing at lunch, frozen meals with sugar, topped off with a bowl of ice cream. As our taste becomes increasingly accustom to high amounts of sugar we start to unconsciously expect it.

With consumption at rates 22 teaspoons of it a day, the American Heart Association suggested in 2009 that Americans  should cut their intake down to six teaspoons for adult women and nine for men. Although here is no specific national guideline for sugar consumption.  Nor is there a recommended maximum limit for the amount of sugar food producers use unlike salt and fat.  In 2004 when the WHO tried to include the 10% sugar limit recommendation in its Global Strategy for Diet, Physical Activity and Health, the U.S. Congress — under pressure from the sugar industry lobby — threatened to withdraw U.S. funding for the agency.

Sugar has come under fire previously in the late 70’s when the public became concerned about the amount of sugar in cereal and the FTC looked into regulating how TV advertising was aimed at kids.  Some cereal’s clock in at 50 percent sugar.  Soda consumption once was looked as the major culprit of the rising obesity numbers, but now the intake of other sugary drinks, like sports drinks, vitamin water, tea and others are just as bad.

Released earlier this year, this research is the first to link on a national level the amount of sugar American adults eat to their risk of dying from heart disease after taking into account weight, age, health, exercise and diet, said lead study author Quanhe Yang, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  “The risk of cardiovascular disease death increases exponentially as you increase your consumption of added sugar,” says the study’s lead author, Quanhe Yang, a senior scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Consuming too much added sugar — in regular soda, cakes, cookies and candy — increases your risk of death from heart disease, according to a new study, the largest of its type.Excessive sugar is a big contributing factor to the obesity epidemic in America and other countries across the world.  Weight gain is just the tip of the iceberg.  Obesity is correlated with increased risks for even worse conditions including diabetes 2 and heart disease.

sugar

How can we curb our desire for sugar?  Be conscious about the products were consuming, ultimately we are in charge of our health and can not be reliant on outside forces.  Start with breakfast, the quintessential breakfast dish accounted for 31 percent of Americans’ morning meals, beating out eggs, bagels and other pastries, according to an ABC poll.  Sugary drinks are also ill advised, even fruit juices  like the beloved orange and apple, because the majority of nutrients and fiber and left behind when its sweet nectar is cultivated.  We can’t expect food manufactures to be solely responsible for our health, they are in the business of making money and that is what they will do.  It’s not that gloomy through.  Campaigns are fighting for regulation and the lowering of additives.  Also the new nutrition labels, which we wont be seeing for a few years, with address the issue of added sugars and more prominently display the amount of sugar a product contains.