Critics say putting exercise calorie counts on food packaging would only reinforce the notion that exercise earns people the right to eat ‘crappy foods’
According to scientists, Brits consume, on average, 6,000 calories on Christmas Day alone.
So, in an experiment published last year in the British Medical Journal, U.K. researchers explored whether providing people with the amount of exercise required to burn off the calories in, say, a single piece of mincemeat pie (21 minutes of running) or one small Christmas pudding (a staggering 110-minute run) would help prevent weight gain over the holidays.
In fact, they found participants in the “brief intervention” group exposed to this new kind of food labelling ended the holidays weighing 0.5 kg less, on average, than a comparison group.
Now, in a new review and analysis that pooled data from 14 randomized controlled trials, some of the same collaborators are reporting that when labeling known as PACE — physical activity calorie equivalent — is displayed on menu items, people consume, on average, 65 fewer calories per meal compared with other types of labeling, or no labeling.
It may not sound like much. However, the average person eats three meals a day, plus two snacks — five separate eating occasions where PACE might nudge people to reduce their total calorie intake by 200 to 250 calories a day, said Amanda Daley, of the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Loughborough University.
“In the U.K., the guidance is that if you want to lose weight then you should look for a deficit of 500 calories per day, so already you could see how PACE could cut into that 500 calories,” she said.
The Royal Society for Public Health in the U.K. is already calling for PACE labeling on the front of food packaging.
But not everyone is so enthralled. Some worry it could lead to an exercise/eating disorder nightmare. “We know that many people with eating disorders struggle with excessive exercising, so being told exactly how much exercise it would take to burn off particular foods risks exacerbating their symptoms,” Tom Quinn, of the eating disorders charity Beat, told the BBC.
“Quite honestly, we have as a society, over quite a long time really, only focused on exercise as a means to manage weight or burn calories when it is poor at both,” said obesity specialist Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa.
One advantage around PACE is that it tells people what it takes to burn that muffin or that Frappuccino
Freedhoff’s issue with the idea of putting exercise calorie counts on food packaging is that it would reinforce those messages, as well as the notion that exercise earns people the right to eat “crappy foods.” (In a related tweet, he also worried it could reinforce weight bias by suggesting people struggling with obesity are “lazy gluttons.”)
The idea that some “magical set of instructions” will lead everybody to make healthier choices is, well, magical thinking, he said, when the wider problem is the constant provision of junk food at every turn.
“And if you discourage the consumption of junk food and simultaneously discourage people from exercising, I don’t think that’s a public health win,” Freedhoff said.
Daley, however, argues that traditional nutritional labeling is difficult for the public to grasp and doesn’t provide any context or meaning. Many people don’t understand the meanings of calories or grams of fat in terms of energy balance, she and her coauthors wrote, and studies show the public consistently underestimates the number of calories in food. “Just putting numbers on a packet really has no relevance,” Daley said.
“One advantage around PACE is that it tells people what it takes to burn that muffin or that Frappuccino,” she said. It could help people decide whether the calories are “worth it.”
Some festive examples include: one thick slice of roast turkey (roughly 100 calories) would require 16 minutes of walking, three large roast potatoes (161 calories) 27 minutes of walking and one small Christmas pudding (1,280 calories) 110 minutes of running.
According to the formula, 100 calories is about 10 minutes of running and 20 minutes of walking for an 80kg man (the average weight for a man).
Daley said there is no evidence to date that physical activity campaigns lead to unhealthy or disordered eating. Obesity is related to cancer deaths, cardiovascular deaths and stroke, among other killers. “We’re interested in trying to save lives from those diseases,” she said.
Ultimately the researchers would like PACE to be seen on labels in supermarkets, on packages, and particularly on menus in restaurants and fast food outlets. “All those types of places where we eat high-calorie foods would be a really good place to start.”
There are some caveats: Most of the studies Daley and colleagues analyzed were small, and based on lab settings or “hypothetical meal selection scenarios,” not real life ones.
Austrian government proposes law to legalise assisted suicide
Austria’s federal government has submitted a draft law to make assisted suicide for seriously ill adults legal, the federal chancellery said in a statement on Saturday.
The new law lays out the conditions under which assisted suicide will be possible in the future, following a ruling by Austria’s Constitutional Court last December according to which banning assisted suicide was unconstitutional because it violated a person’s right to self-determination.
“Seriously ill people should have access to assisted suicide,” the federal chancellery said in the statement.
The new law allows chronically or terminally ill adults to make provisions for an assisted suicide.
They have to consult two doctors who have to attest the person is capable of making his or her own decisions. A delay of 12 weeks also has to be respected that can be reduced to two weeks for patients in the final phase of an illness.
(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Christina Fincher)
Namibia suspends use of Russian COVID vaccine after S.Africa flags HIV concerns
Namibia will suspend the rollout of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, its health ministry said on Saturday, days after the drugs regulator in neighbouring South Africa flagged concerns about its safety for people at risk of HIV.
Regulator SAHPRA decided not to approve an emergency use application for Sputnik V for now because some studies suggested that administration of vaccines using the Adenovirus Type 5 vector – which Sputnik V does – can lead to higher susceptibility to HIV in men.
South Africa and Namibia have high HIV prevalence rates.
Namibia’s health ministry said in a statement that the decision to discontinue use of the Russian vaccine was “out of (an) abundance of caution that men (who) received Sputnik V may be at higher risk of contracting HIV,” adding it had taken SAHPRA’s decision into account.
The Gamaleya Research Institute, which developed Sputnik V, said Namibia’s decision was not based on any scientific evidence or research.
“Sputnik V remains one of the safest and most efficient vaccines against COVID-19 in use globally,” the institute told Reuters, adding over 250 clinical trials and 75 international publications confirmed the safety of vaccines and medicines based on human adenovirus vectors.
Namibia said the suspension would take effect immediately and last until Sputnik V receives a World Health Organization Emergency Use Listing. But it will offer people who received a first dose of Sputnik V a second to complete their immunisation course.
Namibia received 30,000 doses of Sputnik V as a donation from the Serbian government, but only 115 had been administered as of Oct. 20.
Namibia has also been using COVID-19 vaccines developed by China’s Sinopharm, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, acquired through a mix of procurement deals and donations.
So far it has only fully vaccinated around 240,000 of its 2.5 million people, reflecting African nations’ difficulties securing enough vaccines amid a global scramble for shots.
(Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa in Windhoek and Polina Devitt in Moscow; Editing by Alexander Winning and Ros Russell)
Britain reports highest weekly COVID-19 cases since July
Britain recorded the highest number of new cases of COVID-19 since July over the past week, government figures showed on Saturday, a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson played down the prospect of a return to lockdown.
Some 333,465 people in Britain tested positive for COVID-19 over the past seven days, up 15% on the previous week and the highest total since the seven days to July 21.
Daily figures https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk showed there were 44,985 new cases on Saturday, down from 49,298 on Friday. Daily death figures were only available for England, and showed 135 fatalities within 28 days of a positive test.
Deaths have risen by 12% over the past week, and the total since the start of the pandemic now stands at 139,461, the second highest in Europe after Russia.
While vaccination and better medical treatment have sharply reduced deaths compared with previous waves of the disease, hospitals are already stretched and Britain’s current death rate is far higher than many of its European neighbours.
Government health advisors said on Friday that preparations should be made for the possible reintroduction of measures to slow the spread of the disease, such as working from home, as acting early would reduce the need for tougher measures later.
Johnson, however, said he did not expect a return to lockdown.
“We see absolutely nothing to indicate that is on the cards at all,” he said on Friday.
(Reporting by David Milliken, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Christina Fincer)
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