Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Join The Crowd: Support Pom Pom – A Flightless Bully Tale

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 1.13.00 PMThis week, my daughter’s crowdsourcing campaign to fund her second children’s book Pom Pom – A Flightless Bully Tale (her first one was Our Canadian Lovestory) is in its final stages – only 5 days left to meet her funding goal (over 85% there).

Please visit her site and join the “crowd” of 250 supporters to secure your very own personal copy(s) of this delightful anti-bullying children’s book (will make a great Christmas gift for your kids or grandkids – there are also school packages available for your local school library).

To visit the crowdsourcing site click here.

To hear Linnie read her story click here.

Thank you for helping her cross the finish line!

@ProudDad
Saskatoon, SK

 

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Help Stop Fat Bullying

Pomeroy Paulus Jr. III

Pomeroy Paulus Jr. III

Today’s post is a personal request in support of my daughter’s new children’s book project aimed at addressing anti-fat bullying.

Launched on Feb 26, World Anti-Bullying day, this Indigogo campaign is aiming to raise money to self-publish, “Pom Pom – A Flightless Bully Tale“, the story of a little slightly rotund penguin, Pomeroy Paulus Jr III, whose friends and family call “Pom Pom”.

But Pomeroy hates his nickname and would prefer to be called by his real name. And, like any boy his age he’s busy trying to impress ‘the birds’, particularly one bird: Pia. This is why Pomeroy dreams of owning a pair of orange swim trunks; the ones that Pete, Pucker and Piper own. The same ones Pia said she loved. There’s just one little hiccup. The antAmart doesn’t carry his size.

Your support can help this story get published so that readers will learn how mom helps Pomeroy get his orange swim trunks, see that Macaroni penguins are not made of mac’n'cheese, and watch Pia save the day when she puts bullies in their place.

Here is how Linnie puts it:

FOUR GREAT REASONS TO SUPPORT OUR PUBLISHING DREAM

(because four are better than three)

♥  You’ll help us stand up against bullies and lend your voice to someone so big that his voice has become small: Fat jokes are not funny and they hurt!

♥  You’ll allow us to produce (illustrate, edit, scan, post produce, book design & print in Canada) every part of Pom Pom - A Flightless Bully Tale 

♥ You’ll own a copy of the book you helped us publish (and maybe even your own custom arctic character)

♥  You’ll help fund Rebecca’s 2nd year of Art School. By paying Rebecca (21) real market value for her art work we were able to fund her first year of Art School with “Our Canadian Love Story” (Linnie’s 1st book) without her having to bag groceries. How cool is that?

To join Linnie’s campaign and reserve your own personal copy(s) of “Pom Pom – A Flightless Bully Tale” (and perhaps even your own arctic character) CLLICK HERE!

Your support is much appreciated.

@DrSharma
Banff, AB

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Results Not Typical: FTC Clamps Down on Fraudulent Weight-Loss Claims

sharma-obesity-weight-loss-supplementsOnce of the big news items this week was the announcement of a $34 million settlement with four marketers of weight-loss products that made misleading claims (L’Occitane, which claimed that its skin cream would slim users’ bodies but had no science to back up that claim, and HCG Diet Direct, which marketed an unproven human hormone that has been touted by hucksters for more than half a century as a weight-loss treatment, LeanSpa, LLC, an operation that allegedly deceptively promoted acai berry and “colon cleanse” weight-loss supplements through fake news websites).

According to the US Federal Trade Commission, this is part of its “Operation Failed Resolution” to stop misleading claims for products promoting easy weight loss and slimmer bodies. The FTC will make these funds available for refunds to consumers who bought these allegedly fraudulent products (although it appears that some of these companies may not have enough funds to pay up).

The agency also announced that additional charges have been made against the marketers of two other products.

The FTC is also calling upon broadcasters and other media outlets to stop promoting weight-loss products that promise results that defy science (and common sense) and has release a new guidance document to help spot such fraudulent weight-loss claims.

In a letter to be sent to US publishers and broadcasters, the FTC states that,

“Every time a con artist is able to place an ad for a bogus weight loss product on a television or radio station, in a newspaper or magazine, or on a legitimate website, it undermines the credibility of advertising and does incalculable damage to the reputation for accuracy that broadcasters and publishers work hard to earn.”

Here is the “business” rationale that the FTC has to offer to publishers and broadcasters for refusing to running such ads:

  • No legitimate media outlet wants to be associated with fraud. Accuracy is your company’s stock in trade. Why sully your good name by being known as a publication or station that promotes rip-offs?
  • If scammers are willing to cheat consumers, there’s a good chance they’ll cheat you by not paying their bills. By the time fly-by-nighters have made a quick killing, they’ve disappeared – and left you holding a stack of worthless receivables.
  • You want to protect loyal readers, listeners, and viewers from bogus products that can’t possibly work as advertised.
  • Reputable advertisers don’t want to associate their brands with media outlets used by con artists.

The FTC advises publishers to run a “Gut Check” and to think twice before running any ad that says a product:

  • Causes weight loss of two pounds or more a week for a month or more without dieting or exercise;
  • Causes substantial weight loss no matter what or how much the consumer eats;
  • Causes permanent weight loss even after the consumer stops using product;
  • Blocks the absorption of fat or calories to enable consumers to lose substantial weight;
  • Safely enables consumers to lose more than three pounds per week for more than four weeks;
  • Causes substantial weight loss for all users; 
  • Causes substantial weight loss by wearing a product on the body or rubbing it into the skin.

Furthermore, all weight-loss ads should include “clear and conspicious” disclosure of how much weight consumers typically can expect to lose. (emphasis mine)

Whether or not publishers and broadcasters will actually heed such advice remains to be seen. My guess is that running such ads may be far too lucrative a business for these agencies to simply give up.

To educate broadcasters and the public, the FTC has released an online “Gut Check” test, where you can check your own ability to spot false weight loss claims – to take the test click here

While the FTC is to be commended for taking these steps, we have yet to see similar punitive action against irrational and unscientific weight-loss claims here in Canada – I wonder why.

If you would like to see more regulation or have had your own experience with such products, I’d love to hear from you.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

Hat tip to the many readers who sent in links to news articles about this announcement.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Health Benefits of Coriander – and Other Stories

coriander-powder-859900While in India, I have plenty of time to read the Indian newspapers and magazines, that have circulations Western publications can only dream of.

Not surprisingly, “health and beauty tips” are a staple feature with articles proclaiming the benefits of everything from yoga to bariatric surgery.

And of course, when it comes to traditional Indian herbs or spices, almost every ingredient is offered as a panacea.

Here, for example, are the virtues of using coriander (dhanya or cilantro), a commonly used spice and garnish (taken from a recent article in the Times of India):

- It lowers blood sugar levels

- Coriander helps in digestion; helps settle an upset stomach and prevent flatulence- Coriander shields you against the Salmonella bacteria

- Coriander being an anti- inflammatory helps in easing symptoms of arthritis

- It protects against urinary tract infections

- Coriander avoids nausea [sic]

- Coriander alleviates intestinal gas

- Coriander lowers bad cholesterol (LDL) and raises good cholesterol (HDL)

- It is a great source of dietary fibre, iron and magnesium

- Coriander is rich in phytonutrients and flavonoids

- In case of women suffering from a heavy menstrual flow, boil six grams of coriander seed or dhanya in 500 ml water, add a tbsp of sugar and consume while warm.

- Arthritis patients can boil coriander seeds in water and drink the concoction.

- Use a paste of coriander and turmeric juice treat pimples and blackheads.

- Coriander is also used in detox diet.

So there we have it – to summarize, the “super food” coriander is apparently good for the following illnesses and complaints: diabetes, dyslipidemia, indigestion, flatulence, arthritis, salmonellosis, urinary tract infections, nausea, menorrhagia, pimples, blackheads and of course “detoxification” (whatever that means).

These types of claims are of course are by no means particular to Indian media – similar articles with similar laundry lists of unsubstantiated or exaggerated claims abound in publications around the world – pandering to an audience that is happy to indulge in “magical thinking”.

Thus, according to Naturaltherapypages.co.uk, coriander also acts as a sedative, anxiolytic, anti-allergic, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-cancer, analgesic, relieves hemorrhoids and venous stasis, enhances libido, relieves headaches and water retention.

For me, any one of those statements are like a nail scratching a black board (When did boards turn white?).

Take the first statement – “Coriander lowers blood sugar.

If we assume this to be true, my first question would be, “By how much?” I would also want to know how long it takes for this “effect” to set in and how long it lasts. Should I expect a “rebound” once the effect wears off. Obviously, I’d want to know the dose-response relationship and whether there is a dose beyond which I would expect toxic effects (like long-lasting hypoglycemic shock).

I’d be curious about whether this effect is contained in the leaf, seed or root of this plant. Does it lose its effect with cooking or frying?

Then, of course I would want to know how this works – is coriander an “insulin-sensitizer” – if yes, through what mechanism? Does it work more like an AMPK activator, a PPARg agonist, or via Glut-4 transporters? Or does coriander work more as an insulin secretagogue or perhaps indirectly via the GLP-1 pathway? Perhaps coriander interferes with hepatic gluconeogenesis or even carbohydrate absorption?

As a clinician, I’d want to know whether I should be warning my diabetic patients about adjusting their diabetes meds if they chose to garnish their supper with coriander. I’d also wonder whether lower blood sugar levels would prompt an increase in appetite and thereby lead to overeating and weight gain?

But then, may be I am just too caught up in my “biomedical” thought structure – perhaps, I should just accept the “ancient wisdom” that, “Coriander lowers blood sugar” and move on…after all, coriander also helps with flatulence – which has me asking….

You get the idea.

Irrespective of any health benefits, I can certainly attest to the fact that coriander is an essential ingredient of any Indian curry – I’m happy to just leave it at that.

AMS
New Delhi, India

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

3rd National Obesity Student Meeting, Edmonton, June 20-23, 2012

Yesterday was the beginning of the 3rd Canadian Obesity Student Meeting here at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Regular readers may recall previous posts on the 1st meeting in Laval and the 2nd at the University of Ottawa.

This year’s meeting, organised by the Canadian Obesity Network’s Students and New Professionals (CON-SNPs), once again brings well over a 100 of Canada’s brightest and finest students and trainees from across Canada for three days of intense scientific and social exchange.

The local CON-SNP organisers, Becky Mercer, Nicole Glenn, and Angela Coppola, have done a tremendous job of pulling the program together. Thanks also to their faculty advisors Bill Colmers and Kim Raine.

The over 100 oral presentations and posters at this meeting cover every conceivable topic from sedentariness and physical activity in kids to school interventions, maternal and infant health, food insecurity and aboriginal health, fat tissue biology and neuroscience, body image and mental health, cancer, inflammation, fatty liver and cardiovascular disease, as well as behavioural, medical and surgical treatments.

Accompanying the conference is an art exhibit ‘The Big Idea‘, featuring a visual exploration of contemporary culture and obesity by ten Canadian, US and UK artists (selected from over 60 submissions), curated by Julian Forrest.

The opening reception for The Big Idea, featuring the noted US performance artist, writer and sociologist, Kimberly Dark, will be held at the Peter Robertson Gallery, June 21, at 7.30 p.m.

I look forward to a couple of exciting and engaging days here in Edmonton,

AMS
Edmonton, Alberta

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In The News

Diabetics in most need of bariatric surgery, university study finds

Oct. 18, 2013 – Ottawa Citizen: "Encouraging more men to consider bariatric surgery is also important, since it's the best treatment and can stop diabetic patients from needing insulin, said Dr. Arya Sharma, chair in obesity research and management at the University of Alberta." Read article

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