66% of Packaged Foods Have Sugar

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Think you are eating healthy? Think again.

A team of researchers went through ALL products sold in a typical north american food retailer. What they found was a surprise: 66% of packaged foods had sugar as an ingredient. (see reference #1 below for more)

This excluded such as vegetables, fruits, or other raw foods such as water, rice and grains.

Sugar was found as an ingredient in 86% of snacks and 79% of beverages. It also showed up unexpectedly in foods generally seen as healthy such as yoghurt (73%) or baby infant formula (47%).

What does it tell us?

First, it tells us that if you pick an item randomly at a food retailer, it most likely has sugar. That’s what will happen next time you are going to a grocery store, if you are not careful.

Second, even if you pick “healthy” foods with nice big labels on it (such as whole wheat, 0% fat, fortified etc.), it most likely has sugar or an equivalent in it. Read the ingredients list to confirm. Even organic food have sugar in them.

Third, this also means that if you buy food on the go, it most likely has sugar in it. Fast food restaurants have the same suppliers as food retailers. The difference is that you won’t get to read the ingredients label.

Finally, this shows that our society is ADDICTED to sugar. We are relying on an industrial food industry that likes to sprinkle large amounts of sugar on any food it produces, and not just sweets, in order to sell more. This addiction leads to inflammation. 10 years or 20 years later, it leads to obesity, and then chronic diseases.

Eating sugar continuously is equivalent to a permanent attack on our body’s system. Whenever we eat sugar, cells around our intestines produce Interleukin-1beta, a messenger substance that can cause chronic inflammation, increase insulin production and also causes insulin-producing beta cells to die off in patients with diabetes. (See reference #2 below)

 

What should we do?

As long as it is impossible to identify the presence of added sugars using nutrition labels and impossible to identify amounts of added sugars in packaged foods, a general guideline is to stay away as much as possible from packaged foods. Get raw foods – vegetables, fruits, whole grains, simple water etc. Those are the foods without any paper or plastic packaging. This way, you also stay away from food chemicals, additives and emulsifiers. If you really have to pick a packaged food, take 30 sec to read the ingredients list. Pick the ones that have ingredients you know (and not an unpronounceable chemical), with the least amount of sugar, corn syrup or artificial sweeteners.

If we all do this together, perhaps it will encourage a few food suppliers to actually care and offer healthy prepared foods!

References:

  1. Rachel B. Acton, Lana Vanderlee, Erin P. Hobin, David Hammond. Added sugar in the packaged foods and beverages available at a major Canadian retailer in 2015: a descriptive analysis. CMAJ Open, 2017; 5 (1): E1 DOI: 10.9778/cmajo.20160076
  2. Erez Dror, Elise Dalmas, Daniel T Meier, Stephan Wueest, Julien Thévenet, Constanze Thienel, Katharina Timper, Thierry M Nordmann, Shuyang Traub, Friederike Schulze, Flurin Item, David Vallois, Francois Pattou, Julie Kerr-Conte, Vanessa Lavallard, Thierry Berney, Bernard Thorens, Daniel Konrad, Marianne Böni-Schnetzler & Marc Y Donath. Postprandial macrophage-derived IL-1β stimulates insulin and both synergistically promote glucose disposal and inflammation. Nature Immunology, January 2017 DOI: 10.1038/ni.3659

Healthy Snack Alternatives

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My general rule : don’t snack. It is much easier to eat junk food when snacking. We also dismiss easily calories from snack but they easily add up. It is better to sit down with others and take a significant and balanced meal.

There are cases where snacking is ok. Endurance & strenuous exercise is a good case. Missing breakfast or a meal is another case. Eating something to prevent hypoglycemia or decrease effects of strong alcohol are other good cases.

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The Vertues of Slow

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Faster & Better.

This is the motto of modern western countries. Entrepreneurs, corporations and governments live by it, and brought many inventions: plastic packaging, engines, planes, frozen meals, fast food, 4K TV, e-commerce, white (refined) flour, hamburgers, coke, antibiotics, genetically-modified food, laptops and VR headsets.

At every iteration, the faster and better products are celebrated. Every year, we get more pixels, more speed, more calories per gram, more fat and sugar per gram, more caffeine in a can, and more social notifications in a day of Facebook than our grandparents would ever get in a lifetime. Amazing, isn’it? And addictive.

 

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Sports & Fitness Tech Outlook for 2017

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For those in the medical and healthcare field, I wrote about trends for 2017.

The article got interest so we will do the same exercise for sports and fitness technology.

Sports & Fitness is a different field from medical. We see a lot of Kickstarter projects with colourful lights claiming medical benefits, without evidence. There are teams with good software but poor hardware (e.g. AndroidWear), and teams with good hardware but poor software (e.g. Garmin).

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Tips For Running In the Cold

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One of my goals was to run outdoors this winter and so far, it’s a success. I run 3 times a week with temperatures between -10C and 5C (-14F to +23F for our American friends). This can go to -15C or lower with the wind factor.

Why Run? If you missed it, read why you should consider running regularly.

It’s not crazy as it sounds! Yes winter in Canada is cold, dark, and dirty. But running outdoors is less depressive than being confined in a living room or exercising in a crammed gym. Here are my top tips to make winter running suck less:

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What can we expect for HealthTech in 2017?

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In 2016, I saw innovative and unexpected developments:

  • Drones promise to bring quickly and safely medication to villages and remote places. A company like Vayu has already deployed such drones in Madagascar. In addition to medication, the drone can bring back to a healthcare facility blood samples for testing.
  • Philips and other startups like Clarius are introducing wireless ultrasound transducers. These are transportable in a small bag and use your tablet or phone as screen. Ultrasounds are traditionally prohibitive in cost and too heavy for individual usage.
  • Virtual reality can help reverse complete paralysis. Others companies are using VR to distract children from needles or transfusions.
  • People can now control prosthetics through thoughts. I’ve also seen the first Cybathlon with very interesting devices. See video here with commentary
  • GPS sports watches and fitness trackers are now mainstream, with companies like Apple, Fitbit, Garmin and Samsung offering a variety of devices.

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Improving Metabolism With Intermittent Fasting

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Chances are that if you read this blog, you live in a developed country. Food is readily available.

Look around you. There is plenty of food. Plenty is not the right word. We love food. We swim in food. We adore food so much we have large, humongous signs outside. We have *temples* dedicated to food on every block. Our love life is around food. We give food to others to show how much we care. Or we deprive kids of food to punish them. We bestow moral values to food and our whole belief system is centered on the idea that food, or more food, is always good.

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