This Diet Doesn’t Just Help With Weight Loss. It May Also Prevent Major Diseases.

If you have friends or family members who’ve lost weight or are very focused on their health, chances are you’ve heard of the ketogenic diet.

As those who’ve adopted the low-carb, high-fat diet will tell you, it comes with many health benefits, especially when it comes to dropping extra pounds. But did you know that besides making it easier for you stay in shape, it could potentially prevent major diseases as well?

According to HealthLine, over 20 studies show that following the ketogenic diet will help with weight loss, and may even prevent significant diseases such as diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease. But it gets even better.

Health professionals including Dr. Valter Longo from the University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology have found that low-calorie diets can slow tumor growth and starve cancer cells of the glucose they require for fermentation.

According to The International Journal of Preventative Medicine, studies “indicate that [the Ketogenic Diet] had an inhibitory effect on tumor growth and 9 researchers expressed that [the Ketogenic Diet] could enhance survival time.”

So what exactly does this diet entail? It focuses on high-fat, adequate-protein, and low-carbohydrate foods, which put your body in a metabolic state known as ketosis, forcing it to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. The standard guideline is to make sure what you eat consists of 75% fat, 20% protein, and just 5% carbs.

Diet Doctorrecommends you keep your carb intake to under 50 grams per day, as the fewer carbs you eat, the more effective the diet will be. Meals should be based on meats, fish, eggs, butter and cheeses, nuts and seeds, healthy oils, avocados, and low-carb vegetables. Coffee or tea without sugar or sweeteners is acceptable, as is an occasional glass of wine — but water should be what you’re drinking the most.

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Why Does Nanny-State California Hate Coffee So Much?

Last week, a judge in California sided with the Council for Education and Research on Toxics, which had filed a lawsuit in 2010 against establishments that sell coffeeStarbucks, gas station vendors, convenience stories like 7-Eleven, and so forthto tack on a warning to their coffee (not unlike a cigarettes Surgeon General warning) that each cup of java contains acrylamide, a chemical produced when coffee beans are roasted.

This, of course, incited backlash from everyday coffee fans to the National Coffee Association, which made a statement calling the ruling misleading, saying that it did nothing to improve public health (PDF).

The Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT) is a part of the Metzger Law Group, which describes itself as a boutique firm focusing on environmental and toxic chemical exposure in California. In the lawsuit it brought against Starbucks (PDF), Metzger is described as a California corporation, acting as a private attorney general, in the public interest.

The problem with its description as the plaintiff? Its overexaggeration of the carcinogenic potential of coffee consumption is in fact a potential public disservice.

To be clear, CERT isnt technically wrong that coffee contains acrylamides (a chemical regulated by the Food and Drug Administration) and of its cancer-causing potential.

In the National Toxicology Report, a cumulative breakdown of toxins and agents that scientists have found to cause cancer and produced by the Department of Health and Human Services, acrylamides are reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogeneity from studies in experimental animals (emphasis their own).

What does this mean? Scientists tested how acrylamides have affected mice and rats and have found symptoms ranging from benign thyroid and adrenal gland tumors to benign lung and mammary gland tumors. Those tumors occurred in a higher number of instances than the baseline level, which suggested to researchers of these studies that there was something about acrylamides that was problematic.

Sure, those are serious and damning results to take away from these experiments. But theres three blaring problems with declaring coffee as a carcinogen on equal footing with, say, cigarettes.

First, these are tumors that were found in rodents. While mice and rats are often used in animal experiments for drugs as a preliminary testing ground and model for humans, the fact is that they are mice and rodents, not humans. The way humans process enzymes and chemicals and additives and so forth can be very different and have effects that can vary wildly from what happens in humans.

Second, rodent experiments often focus on dumping one chemical in large amounts into a rodents system. For mice and rats in these experiments, which not only have smaller bodies than humans but also are intaking inhumanly larger quantities of the chemical being tested, that means that they develop irregularities that might not occur during normal human consumption. Theres no doubt that acrylamide can cause cancer in high doses and has been proven to instigate tumors in rodents. The closest link to cancer between coffee and humans was a study that suggested there might be a link between consuming hot beverages and esophageal cancer (PDF).

But the fact is that you would have to intentionally be consuming acrylamide at ridiculous, nearly impossible-to-consume doses to even be at risk of cancer. As Popular Science pointed out with the help of a statistician, it would take an adult at highest risk to consume 160 times as much as the rodents in these experiments. Even then, that would still only be at a level that toxicologists think unlikely to cause increased tumors in mice. In other words, solely focusing your entire diet on acrylamide and practically imbibing the stuff cant even guarantee that youeven micecould get a tumor.

Which brings us to the third problem with the acrylamide lawsuit and hoopla around its apparent cancer-causing properties. Its not just coffee that contains trace amounts of itits any food thats gone through high temperatures. That can be everything from fried chicken to roasted chicken, french fries to baked potatoes, those healthier versions of potato chips made out of root vegetables to roasted produce. To avoid acrylamides would require you to avoid virtually any food that is cooked.

The Report on Carcinogens says as much. They point to a correlation between male factory workers at places that process water soluble polymers (where acrylamides are often used) like oil recovery, water treatment facilities, and paper thickening processes. They also think there might be a correlation between Swedish, French, and American women, their diets, and instances of breast tissue showing signs of cancer, but the link was at best weak, and researchers admitted that other factors like smoking could have played a role. A 2017 meta-analysis in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention backs this up, stating the overall evidence suggests no association of coffee intake with cancers of the stomach, pancreas, lung, breast, ovary, and prostate overall.

So when CERT points to the fact that acrylamides are in coffee and back at Proposition 65which states that California businesses with more than 10 employees are required by law to warn consumers if their products contain one of 65 chemicals that the state deems carcinogenic, causing birth defects, or harmful for reproductive systemstheres a need to pause and evaluate the real risk of acrylamides.

If were slapping on warnings on a cup of coffee that declares it to be just as harmful as a pack of cigarettes, thats a dangerous, illogical equivalency that results in confusion and fear mongering. Making coffee consumption the equivalent of slurping poison is ludicrous. Drinking a cup or two or even three of coffee will not be dangerous; at best, youre a little less groggy, at worst a bit jittery. But at risk of developing tumors and cancer? Probably not.

The blatant truth is that coffee can never be as violently carcinogenic as cigarettes, and calling it a cancer causing agent doesnt make sense, especially because no one drinks cups of coffee on end and therefore probably cant be poisoned by coffee in any way. In fact, the National Cancer Institute says as much on its website, noting that acrylamide levels vary and that people are exposed to substantially more acrylamide from tobacco smoke than from food.

And there are certainly worse chemicals to worry about than a minute trace of acrylamides in coffee. Remember the trans fat bans that swept the nation about a decade ago? Hydrogenated fats are legitimately dangerous to consume, and the heightened attention given to their near-ubiquity in processed foods and ties to heart disease, diabetes, and stroke were well documented in humans to cause negative outcomes.

But acrylamides in coffee? Nah.

If anything, Proposition 65 and the case of labeling coffee as carcinogenic is indicative of the messiness of food studies, particularly with respect to those that teeter between sin and healthy indulgence. Theres probably no such thing as eating too many vegetables and facing negative consequences. But foods like coffee, eggs, wine, and chocolate fall in a grey area. Theyre lusciously sinful and offer something almost tantalizingly indulgent with their richness, so it makes sense that were always trying to gauge whether or not these foods that bring us so much joy are good or bad.

The messaging, of course, is frustrating. One minute wine is heralded for its antioxidant properties, the next its vilified for its connection to various liver issues. Chocolate is similarly celebrated for its antioxidant properties, but really, who only has one square of it? Eggs too have sparked debate among industry experts who point to the whites as excellent sources of protein and nutrients, but the yolk is one big nutritional question mark.

Coffee is like these foods, hopping back and forth between linked to a 64 percent decrease in early death and its current status as potential carcinogenic. Its apparent benefits address American health epidemics: reductions in developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease and stroke. Its benefits seem universal, linked to longer lives among Americans across demographic and socioeconomic lines, in both its caffeinated and decaffeinated forms. It might decrease rates of breast cancer and liver cancer. Of course, these are results that should be taken with a grain of salt, but theyre benefits worth noting in light of Californias painting of coffee as a demonic chemical.

The point is this: Everything in moderation is a great nutritional phrase because it rings so true. Every human body is different thanks to the complicated gymnastics of genes and environment and chance that make everyones nutritional needs different. Seeking to figure out if a food is good or bad does nothing but muddle the debate; simply put, foods that dont fall into fruits, vegetables, legumes, water, or their ilk have good and bad qualities to them, and understanding your unique physiology and dietary needs will make their consumption either safe or not so much so for you. And its crucial to remember that niche food industries have well-oiled marketing groups that also fund studies and constantly attempt to veer public attention toward the nutritional benefits of food to eek up their profits. Food is, after all, big business.

Which brings us back to the case of the evil cup of java, Proposition 65, and how coffee might become a villain in the state of California. Putting a warning on a cup of coffee is going to not only confuse customers, it takes away from a daily pleasure for the majority of Americans. A cup of coffee makes people less grumpy, more alert, and simply more awake. Its a bonding activity, a much-needed break in our harried world, and an art form whose most ardent fans will compare its roasting and farming and brewing to those of wine. To make coffee a nutritional devil is a step gone too far (at this rate, any foodstuff that goes through some heating for cooking could contain acrylamides).

The bottom line: Coffee is safe. Labeling it a carcinogenic is not.

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Can the ad industry make us eat more veg?

Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Popeye encouraged children to eat spinach in the 1930s. Should something equally creative be tried today?

Advertisers are the experts at persuading us to eat burgers, crisps and fizzy drinks. But what if they tried to sell us something healthier?

Popeye may be half the size of his arch-rival Bluto, but one gulp from his can and he is tossing his enemy high overhead, wrapping him up in rope, or bopping him round the head with those trademark pumped up forearms.

Popeye’s green-veg-fuelled antics were credited with boosting US spinach sales by a third during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Cities in spinach-growing regions erected statues of the sailor man-hero out of gratitude. And a generation consumed more vitamins than they would otherwise have done.

These days, though, without a frontman like Popeye, vegetables don’t get much of a look-in on the marketing front. In the UK only 1.2% of all advertising spend on food is aimed at promoting vegetables, according to campaign group the Food Foundation.

Popeye moment

Former ad man Dan Parker thinks we’re missing a trick. He says it’s time once again to deploy the weapons of the marketing industry in the battle to shift us to healthier diets.

Image copyright KEO films
Image caption Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a supporter of the campaign to advertise veg

Working in conjunction with campaign group Peas Please and backed by chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver, the plan is to roll out an advertising campaign that will radically alter our perceptions of vegetables.

“At the moment vegetables are the bad guys. We don’t want them to be the bad guys,” he says.

There’ll be no more “playing the health card”, he says, like Public Health England’s five-a-day message, which only serves to make eating veg feel like a chore.

“People don’t buy health, they buy happiness. That’s a mantra for all advertising,” he says.

Image copyright Dan Parker
Image caption Dan Parker says he sometimes feels guilty about his career in food advertising

Dan’s own transformative spinach-gulping moment came when after 20 years in the industry, working for the likes of McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, he discovered he had type 2 diabetes.

His job had been to use every possible psychological and creative technique to persuade people to eat more of the food products his clients sold.

In his words advertisers like him were “arrogant, ignorant, blinkered,” with no idea of the harm their work was causing.

In a light bulb moment, he realised the lessons he had learned through marketing fizzy drinks, burgers and chips could help turn the tables and persuade us all to eat more healthily.

He closed down his advertising agency and founded a new charity, Living Loud, with others from the industry.

After all who knew better than he did what makes people eat what they eat?

Snack attack

Most important of all these tactics, he says, is “normalising”.

For decades the food industry has played on our desire to fit in, a strategy that has already stealthily altered our eating habits.

We’ve been persuaded that a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack are part of everyone’s day, and that it’s normal to have frozen pizza and ready-meals in your shopping trolley, and you don’t watch television in the evening without a snack to hand.

Now, says Dan, advertisers are busy feeding us the message that eating larger portions is OK, even a bit cheeky and fun. Walkers crisps ads show Gary Lineker eating a bumper pack on his own, and a Galaxy chocolate ad suggests it’s ok for Audrey Hepburn to eat a family-sized bar.

Image copyright Walkers
Image caption Gary Lineker’s ad campaigns for Walkers show him refusing to share large bags of high salt, high fat snacks

If advertisers can normalise these habits, there’s no reason they can’t normalise a portion of veg on your plate too, says Dan.

Frozen food giant Birds Eye, one of the few companies that spends money marketing vegetables, is supporting the Peas Please campaign and is increasing its own ad spend by 42% this year to £4.8m. Normalising frozen veg is at the core of their message.

While there will be “infomercials” about healthy eating on social media, and portraits of the farmers behind their frozen peas, the TV campaign focuses on telling “the story of families coming together at the moments when Birds Eye veg is served up at home”.

Image copyright Birds Eye
Image caption Birds Eye is aiming for traditional family fun with its pro-veg campaign

For Dan Parker, however, that message doesn’t quite go far enough. He would like to see the wider Peas Please campaign pack more of an emotional punch.

“Great advertising stirs emotions. That’s its point,” he says. “If you’re in an emotional state then you are more susceptible to subliminal messaging, you’re easier to influence and more likely to buy without giving thought to diet or budget.”

Whether it’s stress and comfort, celebration and reward, relief or nostalgia, there are ways to sell us food to meet our emotional impulses.

Impulses often subtly planted by advertisers.

Unspoken messages

Ideally he’d like to see an ad that does for veg what the “I want to teach the world to sing” ad from the 70s did for Coca-Cola. It offered almost no information about the product. Instead it gave viewers “a cause for celebration, a sense of togetherness with a contemporary hippy vibe”.

In that same vein, Damon McCollin-Moore at creative ad agency Ifour points to the recent Nike ad showing Londoners, plus a smattering of celebrities, overcoming different challenges to get to their training sessions.

Image copyright Ifour
Image caption Ifour’s advert treated carrots and peas as a bit of fun

He describes it as “a hymn to London” which sends an unspoken message that Nike customers are resilient and adventurous.

The holy grail would be creating something that makes us feel rather than think differently about veg.

In the meantime, Ifour has already had a go designing an ad for veg on behalf of Peas Please which showed a cartoon boy playing with his carrots, holding them up to his head, to look like Batman.

“We’re not trying to make any outlandish promises,” says Ifour’s creative director, Graeme Hall. “It is just raising the idea veg can be fun.”

The image they created was simple but it offered the chance to tap into another great marketing ploy: participation.

School children (such as those pictured from Pentrefoelas Community School in Wales), chefs and whole teen football teams, posted pictures of themselves on social media having a bit of fun holding carrots to their heads.

Graeme says current marketing fashion is to convince consumers the whole thing is about them, rather than about the product, whether that’s through quizzes, personality tests or shareable memes.

He also thinks “trinkets and collectibles” like McDonalds gives away with its meals for kids could help to make veg more fun.

But if it came to TV advertising, his colleague Damon thinks the way to go would be a series of “life hack” videos, showing parents ways to “get one over on their kids”.

They suggest a narrative revolving around a celebrity, one who is relatable for ordinary people and emphatically someone not associated with healthy eating, and show their mother sneaking vegetables into their dinner.

Image caption Would Miranda Hart be the right person to reform the nation’s eating habits?

“You could have an adult child, like Miranda Hart, and have her mum cooking for her. She could be tricked over and over again into eating vegetables,” says Damon.

The irreverence and humour might go some way to supplanting the burdensome image veg has earned in recent years, he thinks.

And if that idea rings a bell with older consumers, it’s not perhaps a surprise. Tony Hancock was being told to “Go to work on an egg”, by his bossy housekeeper five decades ago.

And she always got one over on him in the end.

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Twitter Is Having A Field Day Roasting The Luxe Diets Of International Students

We’re very familiar with the stereotype that all international students are wealthy. They’re the ones ordering bottle service at the club, going out for dinner with one of their myriad credit cards, indulging in expensive coffees and going on casual designer shopping sprees. While the stereotype is certainly not 100% accurate, people on Twitter have been riffing on the trope and posting photoshopped “designer” foods to poke fun at the foreign students. We may not be able to afford it, but that Louis Vuitton cupcake looks miiighty tasty.