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THE DIET DETECTIVE

The Diet Detective: Some weird facts to ponder

Saturday, December 21, 2013 - 12:14 pm

Interplanetary weight loss

Where to go in space so you can say you weigh less? Hint: Avoid Jupiter.

According to NASA, if you weigh 200 pounds on Earth, here is how much you would weigh on:

•Mercury: 76 pounds.

•Venus: 182 pounds.

•Earth's moon: 34 pounds.

•Mars: 76 pounds.

•Ceres: 6 pounds.

•Jupiter: 428 pounds.

•Saturn: 212 pounds.

•Saturn's moon Titan: 24 pounds.

•Uranus: 172 pounds.

•Neptune: 220 pounds.

•Pluto: 16 pounds.

Check out your weight on other planets and moons at www.nasa.gov/ audience/forkids/kids club/text/clubhouse/ Astro-Matic_3000.html #.UqziO-Lwupo.

Insects allowed

The foods you eat contain insects, rat hair and rat excrement. The Food and Drug Administration sets “food defect action levels,” which are the maximum levels of natural or unavoidable defects in foods such as how many insects or rat hairs are permissible.

“Action levels” are the point at which the FDA starts an investigation and decides what action is warranted. But if these are the upper limits allowed by law, what can we expect to find in our food? Well, that depends if you ask the FDA, it's about 10 percent of the action levels, but other experts argue it could be as high as 40 percent.

Here are a couple of foods from the guide just so you get a taste. You can view the entire list on the FDA website at www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/guidancedocumentsregulatoryinformation/sanitationtransportation/ucm056174.htm#intro.

Peanut butter

Defect: Insect and rodent filth.

Action level: An average of 30 or more insect fragments and one or more rodent hairs per 100 grams.

Example: In every 18-ounce jar of peanut butter, there can be as many as 150 insect fragments and five rodent hairs.

Chocolate

Defect: Insect and rodent filth.

Action level: An average of 60 or more insect fragments and one or more rodent hairs per 100 grams.

Example: A typical chocolate bar is about 60 grams, or 2 ounces. It could have as many as 36 insect fragments and about half a rodent hair and still be sold in supermarkets.

Worried about eating too much over the holidays?

Being active every day does more than burn calories. According to the Journal of Physiology, “A daily bout of exercise generates vast physiological benefits even when you consume thousands of calories more than you are burning. Exercise clearly does a lot more than simply reduce the energy surplus.” The amount of physical activity used during the study was running on a treadmill for 45 minutes every day.

Work out by playing games

The famed creators of Guitar Hero have come up with a game that can be played on nearly any exercise cardio machine (e.g., treadmill, elliptical, bike). It's called Goji Play (http://bluegoji.com/) and works with your iPad or iPhone. According to the company, the game comes with a wireless sensor, so “your movement is part of the game. And our game controllers either mount on your equipment or can be held in your hand ... making the transformation complete.” According to the website, Goji Play has 12 games and apps available and plans to develop many more. While I haven't received the game yet, I imagine it's amazing. The cost is a bit steep at $99.

How many calories?

This is not new news, but it's interesting nonetheless. Most people don't realize that the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for regulating food labels, allows companies to be as much as 20 percent off on calories and key nutrients.

From the FDA: “A food with a label declaration of calories, sugars, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, or sodium shall be deemed to be misbranded under section 403(a) of the act if the nutrient content of the composite is greater than 20 percent in excess of the value for that nutrient declared on the label.” See www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?fr=101.9 and www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm063113.htm.

In fact, researchers from Tufts University found that “Measured energy values of 29 quick-serve and sit-down restaurant foods averaged 18 percent more calories than the stated values. Likewise, measured energy values of 10 frozen meals purchased from supermarkets averaged 8 percent more calories than stated on the label.”

What does that mean? You could be consuming a lot more calories (and other nutrients such as sodium) than you think.

It gets worse, because it works in reverse, too. The nutrients you need, such as fiber and vitamins, “must be present at 80 percent or more of the value declared on the label,” which means that the food may contain only 80 percent of the amount listed.

Account for these differences in your diet.

Who controls your food?

The nonprofit Food & Water Watch has a quiz for you to take to find out how much you know about your food supply. Answer questions such as: What percentage of grocery sales make up Walmart's business? Since 1990, Whole Foods Market has acquired how many natural food store chains? The top three companies produce how much of the bagged salad sold in grocery stores? See www.foodopoly.org/.

You can also download their free report called “Grocery Goliaths: How Food Monopolies Impact Consumers” at http://btfy.me/2td7vq.

Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com.