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Eating patterns in Canada – culture seems to count when it comes to obesity. 
Quebec has the lowest combined rates of overweight and obesity of any Canadian province. It now turns out that it is also the one province in Canada that truly maintains a true and distinct eating Culture (that is culture with a capital C). According to the 15th edition of Eating Patterns in Canada, Quebec households are less calorie conscious than other Canadians and take great pleasure in eating. The vast majority (82%) feel that it is important to enjoy full and regular meals each day, which compares to 60% of western Canadians and 63% of Ontarians. They are also less likely to skip meals. While some believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day it is lunch and dinner that are of most significance. Most of these meals are prepared at home, with 6 out of 10 lunches and 6.5 out of 10 dinners in Quebec households being made from scratch. They also enjoy dessert with dinner more often – about 112 times a year compared with about 89 times in Atlantic Canada, 57 in Ontario and 55 on the west coast. And they are the least likely to snack.

Prof Arya Sharma
Prof Arya Sharma

Prof Arya Sharma says: ‘While I am generally cautious about inferring cause-and-effect, I am also the first to support any move to improving eating culture. Improving eating culture in the rest of Canada requires a discussion of ‘values’ – and apparently, Quebecers place a higher value on home cooking, regular eating, and finding pleasure in food than the rest of us. Changing this culture will take more than taxing and banning foods. Indeed, I am confident that changing culture will eventually change consumer behaviour, which in turn will ultimately change supply. No easy task – but perhaps worth a wider discussion. In the mean time, perhaps more of us should enjoy our desserts.’
15th edition of Eating Patterns in Canada (EPIC)

Eating carbs mostly AFTER 5pm at dinner reduces diabetes and cardiovascular risks.  
Eating carbs mostly at dinner (rather than throughout the day) could benefit people suffering from severe and morbid obesity according to new research published in two papers in Obesity and in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases.‘The idea for this research came about from studies on Muslims during Ramadan, when they fast during the day and eat high-carbohydrate meals in the evening, that showed the secretion curve of leptin was changed,’ explained Prof. Madar.

Ramadan feast

Here’s what the researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem did. They randomly assigned 78 police officers to either the carbs-mostly-at-dinner diet or the control carbs-throughout -the-day diet for 6 months and measured the effects on the secretion of leptin, considered to be the satiety hormone, whose level in the blood is usually low during the day and high during the night; ghrelin, considered the hunger hormone, whose level in the blood is usually high during the day and low during the night; and adiponectin, considered the link between obesity, insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome, whose curve is low and flat in obese people. The results showed that eating carbs mostly at dinner led to changes in daylight hormonal profiles in favor of the dieters whose:

  • satiety hormone leptin’s secretion curve became convex during daylight hours with a nadir in the late day hunger hormone 
  • ghrelin’s secretion curve became concave, peaking only in the evening hours 
  • curve of adiponectin, considered the link between obesity, insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome, was elevated. 

At the same time this dietary pattern led to lower hunger scores, and better anthropometric (weight, abdominal circumference and body fat), biochemical (blood glucose, blood lipids) and inflammatory outcomes compared to the control group. So much for the ‘no carbs after 5pm brigade’.

A diet rich in slowly digested carbs reduces markers of inflammation in overweight and obese adults.  

Dr Marian Neuhouser
Dr Marian Neuhouser

Among overweight and obese adults, a low glycemic load diet rich in slowly digested carbohydrates significantly reduces markers of inflammation associated with chronic disease, according to a new study by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center published in Journal of Nutrition. In the study, the 80 participants (half normal weight and half overweight) completed a 28-day high glycemic load diet and 28-day a low glycemic load diet in random order. The diets were identical in carbohydrate content, calories and macronutrients. ‘This finding is important and clinically useful since C-reactive protein is associated with an increased risk for many cancers as well as cardiovascular disease,’ said lead author Dr Marian Neuhouser. It also modestly increased blood levels of a protein hormone called adiponectin, which plays a key role in protecting against several cancers, including breast cancer, as well as metabolic disorders such as type-2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and hardening of the arteries.

Higher dietary glycemic load diet linked to worse colon cancer survival.  
Lifestyle has been shown to play an important role in the development of colorectal cancer. Risk factors, such as obesity and physical activity have been shown to directly influence insulin levels and recent studies have shown a direct link between host factors that lead to hyperinsulinemia and cancer recurrence and mortality in colorectal cancer survivors; however, the influence of glycemic load and other related dietary intakes have on the survival of colon cancer patients is unknown. Researchers have now identified a link between higher dietary glycemic load and total carbohydrate intake and increased risk of cancer recurrences or death among stage 3 colon cancer patients, a finding that suggests that diet and lifestyle modification can have a role in improving patient survival, according to a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Kid stuff.  


#1 What would Batman eat? Having trouble getting your child to make healthier eating choices at their favorite fast food restaurant? Priming them with the simple phrase: ‘What would Batman eat?’ may be the answer! In a recent field study by Brian Wansink and colleagues published in Journal of Consumer Research, 22 children in a summer camp were asked if they would like French fries or apple slices with lunch. On one day, they were shown pictures of real or fictional role models and asked what the role models would choose, before making their own decision. The use of this simple prime increased the amount of children who selected apple slices from 9.1% to 45.5%! Making the connection between eating healthy and being an admirable adult clearly helps children to make healthier eating decisions. So, next time you are at a fast food restaurant, be sure to ask them ‘What would Batman eat?’

Colourful plate of food

#2 Should you plate food for your child the same way you do for yourself? In Brian Wansink and colleagues’ study in Acta Paediatrica, pre-teen children and adults were shown 48 different photographs and asked for their preferences based on different dimensions of food presentation. These included the number of components and colors on the plate, the position of the main component, crowded plate versus an empty plate presentation, organizational levels and design. The results suggest amazing opportunities to encourage more nutritionally diverse diets among children. While adults prefer three components and three colors on their plates children preferred seven components and six colors, more than double the adult preference of three!

#3 Is childcare ‘making kids chubbier’? A Canadian study which followed children from 1.5 to 10 years old reports they were 65% more likely to become overweight if cared for in a nursery-style setting, than those cared for by a parent, and who had little exposure to other forms of childcare. Before you start feeling even guiltier as a working parent with a child in child care, check out what NHS Choices has to say. ‘…this interesting study raises more questions than it answers. It is unclear why childcare arrangements would be associated with weight gain, and the study cannot show a cause and effect relationship between centre-based childcare and obesity. The researchers speculate that some childcare centres may have ‘obesogenic’ features (those that promote weight gain). It’s also worth bearing in mind that the study was performed in Canada, and it may be that the results cannot be translated to the UK, or other countries. However, it serves to highlight the importance of good diet and plenty of physical activity for all children, regardless of where they are looked after.’