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    Archive for the ‘men’s health’ Category

    “Men’s Health” Stamp of Approval: First It Was Chocolate Milk, Now It’s Fast Food Burgers with Trans Fats

    How much stock would you put in a nutrition expert who suggested you drink chocolate milk and eat fast food burgers?  What if I told you this expert was nationally renowned as a trusted source of nutrition information, often appearing on television and radio as someone worth listening to?  Sadly, this is not just a hypothetical situation.

    Last week, I was flabbergasted when I came across a hyperbolic article by Men’s Health editor-in-chief David Zinczenko’s that painted chocolate milk as one of the absolute best things you can drink for your health, weight, and muscle mass.  This past weekend, I had another “you have GOT to be joking!” moment, thanks to a question tweeted to me by @matchmia.  The question: “what do you think of Hardee’s new turkey burger endorsed by Men’s Health?”.  Wait — what!?!

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    Chocolate Milk: Muscle Nectar? Weight-Loss Secret? Neither.

    Pick up any fitness magazine and you will see the virtues of chocolate milk extolled away, often times classified as the best thing you can drink after a workout. Over the past few years, chocolate milk has even been touted as a heart-healthy beverage (alas, a careful reading of the studies proves otherwise).

    For some odd reason, a May 2010 article titled “The Chocolate Milk Diet” penned by Men’s Health editor-in-chief David Zinczenko was shared by a handful of people on my Facebook feed today.   I should note that despite having no background or credentials in nutrition science or health, Yahoo! Health identifies Mr. Zinczenko as a “health expert”.

    If you are a new Small Bites reader, you should know that I have my share of — pardon the pun — beef with Men’s Health (for their ridiculous attacks on soy, their mixed messages, their condoning of ice cream, soda, and beer following a workout, and for the horrible underlying message behind their popular “Eat This, Not That” book series).

    This particular article gushes endlessly about the many virtues of chocolate milk, mainly weight loss and muscle-building.  Although I shared the article on Twitter earlier today (prefacing the link with “Today’s daily dose of nonsense, courtesy of Men’s Health“), I felt the need to explain, in detail, my frustrations with it.

    These sorts of articles irritate me to the extent they do because not only are they are read by millions, but they are presented as legitimate, objective, trust-worthy nutritional science, when that is not always the case.

    Now, let’s tackle this piece — bit by bit.

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    Why “Eat This, Not That!” Is Not “All That”

    The Eat This, Not That! books, co-authored by Men’s Health editor-in-chief David Zinczenko and nutrition editor Matt Goulding, spawned from a popular monthly feature in Men’s Health magazine and quickly became best-sellers (last year, the Eat This, Not That! iPhone app achieved half a million downloads in two weeks.)

    As of now, there are nine different editions (most of them boasting a “the no-diet, weight-loss solution” banner somewhere on the cover), including Drink This, Not That! and a children’s version.  The common theme among all of them: pit two similar food products or fast food items against one another and select one as the better choice (AKA: award it the “eat this!” command).

    This is a gimmick meant solely to sell books, not communicate a message of health and proper nutrition.

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    Say What?: Wait, I Thought This Magazine Had The Word “Health” In the Title…

    scoopsMany thanks to Small Bites reader Corey Clark who saw this article on the Men’s Health website and notified me of a few bits of information that didn’t quite add up.

    In his e-mail Corey asked me to read the article and claimed that “it seems okay until tip number 8, but then it gets ridiculous.”

    Does it ever!

    The article — titled “10 Surprising Hydrators” — is based on the recommendations of a Registered Dietitian and promises to unveil ten “alternative ways to hydrate… with fluid-filled foods.”

    In fact, the article goes on to claim that if you consume these foods, “you could, theoretically, never drink a drop of plain ol’ water again.”

    Ooookay.

    The piece starts out with the standards: skim milk, watermelon, salad greens.

    Then it goes downhill drives off a cliff before exploding into a fireball of nonsense.

    I am still trying to wrap my head around the last three suggestions:

    “#8 (Soda): Yep, you read that right.  [Registered Dietitian Nancy] Clark says that caffeine, sugar, and water combo can make [for] a great post-exercise slug if it’s your beverage of choice.  It doesn’t make a difference if you crack open a diet or a regular.  But add some salty pretzels or a brat to help your body  hold on to the fluid.”

    If I were a cartoon character, you would see my eyes bulge out, my entire face turn red, and then steam come out of both my ears.

    Soda and a bratwurst following a workout?  Did the writers from The Onion hack the Men’s Health website?

    If the intent is to get readers to consume caffeine, sugar, and water after a workout, how about suggesting something that doesn’t leach calcium from bones.  Perhaps an iced unsweetened latte?

    “#9 (Ice Cream): Stop and get yourself a post-workout cup of Phish Food on your way home from the gym.  Ideally, you’ll choose the light version, but in a moment of weakness, you’ll still be hydrating with that frozen fluid.  We’ll take Ben & Jerry’s over a bottle of Dasani any day.”

    You know that feeling you get when you see Kate and Jon (of “Plus 8” fame) on every magazine cover and television show?  That feeling of  “what sort of messed up parallel universe do I live in?”  That’s pretty much the feeling I got after I read that paragraph.

    By the way, that cup of Phish Food adds up to:

    • 560 calories
    • 90% of a day’s worth of saturated fat
    • 9 teaspoons of added sugar

    “# 10 (Beer): Ok, sort of.  The general consensus among trusted nutritionists is that beer is a dehydrator, not a hydrator.  However, Clark says that a Beer Shandy — one part lager to one part lemonade or Sprite — is OK.”

    Let me get this straight.  Beer is a dehydrator, so therefore it is okay to drink after a workout as long as it is mixed with another fluid?

    I am still in shock that a health magazine would encourage readers to consume soda and ice cream after engaging in physical activity.

    That’s akin to me suggesting chocolate ice cream with almonds as a way to get calcium and vitamin E, or a double cheeseburger as a good source of protein.

    I would like to think this is an example of a sloppy reporter completely taking a professional’s advice out of context.

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    Soy Followup

    28_tofu_lgl2The folks at Men’s Health can’t seem to make up their mind.

    As discussed on Small Bites a few days ago, their latest issue featured a pathetically — and blatantly — biased, much-ado-about-nothing, one-sided article that blasted soy as an unhealthy, feminizing food that has no place in any man’s diet. Editor David Zinczenko even described soy as “a bland threat to manhood” in his monthly note to readers.

    Yet, as Small Bites reader Corey Clark discovered while browing their website, tofu-based recipes (credited to buff fitness model Gregg Avedon) are recommended as “muscle chow” (as they should!)

    I still stand by my theory that the article in question may simply be a form of alternative advertising by the dairy industry and/or whey protein companies.

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    The Soy Scare Is Back

    fotosearch_bxp159791The latest issue of Men’s Health features a section titled “Eat Like A Man,” which includes the staunchly anti-soy, overly alarmist article “Is This The Most Dangerous Food for Men?”

    The article teaser promises to uncover the “hidden dark side of soy, one that has the power to undermine everything it means to be male.”

    Is it just the undergraduate gender and sexuality studies major in me or is that last sentence ripe for a twenty-page deconstruction of American gender roles?

    Anyhow, my red flag immediately went up.  Any time one single food is exposed as being almost lethal, you know something is up (in the same way that, when one single food is touted as the cure for all ailments, you know someone, somewhere is profiting).

    Let me ask you something, intelligent and insightful Small Bites reader.

    Don’t you find it… interesting… that a large majority of the advertisements in Men’s Health are for whey protein powders?  The same ones that compete with soy protein powders on shelves?

    Let’s take it one step further.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, this is a subtle and subconscious form of advertising.  After all, the subscriber reading this article who currently has soy protein powder in his kitchen cabinet may consider shelling out extra dollars for a whey protein variety next time he’s at GNC.

    While you ponder that, let’s continue analyzing this article.

    Oh, look, there’s the predictable “funny” image of a man wearing a superimposed soybean bra.

    And here’s the subject of our feature — James Price, a retired US Army intelligence officer (of course) with a Texas drawl (just in case you didn’t realize he’s a “man’s man.”)

    We learn that Mr. Price experienced lost hair on his fore arms, chest and legs along with penis shrinkage (huh?) when, as a result of being diagnosed with lactose intolerance, he started consuming three quarts of soy milk a day.

    His estrogen levels, blood tests revealed, were eight times higher than normal estrogen levels for men his age.  The culprit?  Phytoestrogens in soy.

    The changes weren’t just physical, as this pathetically sexist excerpts reveals:

    “I was becoming much more sentimental,” he recalls, describing his emotions as almost feminine.  “I’d break out and cry at a sad movie, that kind of thing.”

    Is this article seriously making the case that crying and displaying emotions is a female characteristic?  Did I just time warp to the days when June Cleaver and Zorro dominated television sets?

    The article wraps up with more warnings — Indonesians with the highest consumption of soy had twice the risk of developing dementia than their peers who ate lower amounts of the legume.  Although that study does indeed exist, it’s rather irresponsible to not clarify that the majority of studies on soy and cognitive function have not shown detrimental effects from soy consumption.

    Remember, it is always important to consider the entire body of literature on nutrition issues, and see what the general consensus is, rather than isolated studies that are really outliars.

    With all this craze over phytoestrogens, the writer forgot to mention that flaxseed,  garlic, and dried apricots are also significant source of phytoestrogens.  In fact, ounce by ounce, flaxseeds contain more phytoestrogens than soy.

    The article also conveniently forgets to mention that in some East Asian countries, soy consumption among men can average up to 60 pounds a year, and male breast growth is not an issue.

    After two pages of hyped up alarmism, we are told that, most likely, Mr. Price is simply overly sensitive to phytoestrogens.  In other words, “this case is really unique and not at all representative of the average man’s experience.”

    Adding to the “is this journalism or advertising?” question, the page immediately following the article is an advertisement for traditional Malaysian herbal therapies to help maintain masculine sexual vitality.  My, what a coincidence!

    A true shame.  A much better article would have helped readers differentiate between healthy versions of soy (tempeh, edamame, miso) from those that are simply processed foods attempting to lure consumers with a health halo (ie: soy puffs, sugary soy shakes, etc.), especially considering that the United States has the third highest per capita consumption of red meat in the world.

    By the way, this same issue features “the 125 best foods for men”, which is also just a big advertisement masquerading as nutrition advice.  How else do you explain a “best cream cheese category” (since when is cream cheese a  “must have” nutritious item?) but an excuse to advertise Philadelphia Cream Cheese?

    Similarly, categories like “best salami”, “best hot dog”, and “best milk” appear out of place (salami and hot dogs on a “must have nutritious foods” list ?  And how, exactly, is one brand of reduced-fat milk more nutritious than another?)

    Better luck next month, Men’s Health.

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    Man, Oh Man…

    Have you heard of Taco Bell’s Big Bell Box value meal?

    According to the nationwide chain, it’s “the meal that’s made for men”!

    Gender roles defined by fast food companies. How… evolved.

    Anyhow, for as little as $4.99 (or as much as $5.99, depending where you live), hungry men all over the United States can feast on a volcano taco, a burrito supreme, a crunch wrap supreme, a side order of cinnamon twists, and a large drink.

    Or, if you want to talk numbers:

    1,670 calories
    19 grams of saturated fat (suggested daily maximum*: 20 grams)
    2.5 grams of trans fat (no suggested daily maximum, guidelines call for 0 grams)
    3,470 milligrams of sodium (suggested daily maximum: 2,400 milligrams)

    * = for a 2,000 calorie diet

    Calorically speaking, this is equal to THREE Big Macs!

    You know, this could very well be the nutrition version of Pandora’s box…

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    Me Man. Me No Eat Fiber

    If you were visiting Earth from another planet and relied on media and advertising to fill you in on the intricacies of the human species, you would probably think masculinity is defined, among other things, by taking pride in eating unhealthy foods.

    In 2006, Burger King’s Texas Double Whopper television ad had men admitting to “being fed quiche” and rebelling against “chick food”.

    Now, the folks at Hormel offer another slice of ubermasculinity in this ad for Dinty beef stew (which I scanned from my latest copy of Entertainment Weekly; be sure to scroll all the way down at the link to read the text at the bottom of the ad).

    While not high in calories (a 7.5 ounce can of Dinty beef stew registers at a mere 190 calories), it’s the exorbitant amount of sodium (900 milligrams; almost half a day’s worth) and lack of fiber (a paltry two grams) that taint the nutrition profile of this “manly” product.

    Especially ironic considering that one of the biggest risk factors for developing prostate cancer — a condition so many men fear yet develop at high rates — is a low-fiber diet.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Soy Protein & Men

    [Your newsletter on protein] was your best Small Bites issue to date.

    One thing that I was wondering about with regard to soy protein: I’ve heard it is much more beneficial for women and that there are actually some negative health benefits for men who have diets high in soy protein.

    I think it had something to do with the “estrogen” similarities. Any info?

    — Fred Mursch

    Brooklyn, NY

    I have heard this “if I’m eating soy I may as well put on lipstick” worry from other men before.

    If anything, men can actually greatly benefit from including soy protein in their diets, since their diets are generally higher in saturated fat than women’s.

    Replacing some animal protein with soy-based ones provide healthier fats (tofu and tempeh provide some Omega-3 essential fatty acids) along with fiber, phytonutrients, and vitamins and minerals not found in animal meat.

    Here’s the best news, though. Recent research indicates that soy protein’s isoflavones have protective properties against prostate cancer.

    A study published in the Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention Journal earlier this year analyzed soy consumption and prostate cancer risk among 200 Japanese male subjects.

    The results were pretty clear – those with the highest isoflavone consumption also had the highest decrease in prostate cancer risk.

    It is worth adding that these men were eating nutritiously overall. They weren’t having just half a cup of vegetables a day and getting their sory by munching on soy crisps and dining on soy burgers smothered in ketchup and accompanied by French fries.

    What was made very clear was that the addition of minimally processed soy to an already healthy diet proved to be a valuable tool for lowering one’s risk of developing prostate cancer.

    Yes, very large doses of soy protein can cause breast enlargment and even a small decrease of testosterone in men, but to experience these side effects, you would have to down a handful of soy protein supplements, as it would be very hard to get such amounts in a diet that includes a few soy protein options.

    Popping a cup of edamame in your mouth or ordering tofu with your pad thai does not mean you need to start thinking about going bra shopping.

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