Reducing Waist Lines By Limiting Sugary Drinks

25 06 2012

Last week, CNN wrote a post indicating that the mayor of Cambridge, MA, Henrietta Davis, took steps to adopt the sugary drink ban that was proposed by New York City’s Mayor, Michael Bloomburg. Not only did Mayor Davis want to prevent oversized drinks sales (greater than 16 oz.), but she took it one step further by proposing to ban free refills on soft drinks at restaurants. “Our environment is full of way too many temptations,” Davis said. “This is one temptation that isn’t really necessary.”

This is a very bold move and some Americans will complain (mainly restaurant owners and those losing their free refills).  However, with obesity rates and diabetes  still on the rise, bold actions must be taken. Amid the studies and warning signs of inactivity and overeating in America, the majority of Americans are unwilling to make the healthy change. An action to restrict people from inflicting harm on themselves should not be looked upon as a governmental takeover, but rather a change to allow us to live longer. When the government decided to ban smoking in restaurants, there was an outcry from smokers complaining that their freedom was being taken away. However, after a few months, those who smoked went outside as usual, very little complaining occurred, and everyone was able to breathe easily again.

America Weighs In

Limiting the amount of soft drinks someone consumes in one sitting may be a good start in fighting obesity and diabetes. However, the other part of the equation is not just quantity, but also quality. How much sugar is in that 12 oz cup? Sugar is the key ingredient in all soft drinks, and is a factor in the epidemic of obesity. The sugar content in drinks can be difficult to estimate, so we need to turn to the nutrition label on a product.

This is where a startling realization hits those who know how to read the label. The amount of calories within many products are not accurately represented! That’s right, those calories are not what they may appear. A search for an answer was prompted when I was explaining to my wife how one calculates the amount of calories in a product. To figure out the total calories in a product, the three macronutrients are summed up by their respective caloric value. In all foods and beverages, calories are calculated by adding the total amount of fats (1 g = 9 kcal), carbohydrates (1 g = 4 kcal), and proteins (1 g = 4 kcal) in the product. Sometimes alcohol is also added (1 g = 7 kcal). An example was presented using a can of Coke (see picture). When we take a look at the three Macronutrients, we see that the only one that has a value is carbohydrates. This made it easy…so I thought.  When we multiply the amount of carbs in the beverage (39 g.) with its corresponding caloric value (4 kcal), we get 39 * 4 = 156 calories. But wait, why does the calories of the can state 140 cal? This is not a rounding issue as you will read below. The  extensive search led me through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (who regulates the food label) to get to the bottom of the fiasco. Scrounging through the FDA guidelines for proper labeling of nutrition facts was daunting. I came across a plethora of jargon and redirections that made it hard even for the product manufacturer to adhere to the guidelines.

The following were some questions relating to the problem, but there was nothing in my search that could explain why Coke was able to misrepresent their caloric value by 16 calories!

N8. Should a value of 47 calories be rounded up to 50 calories or rounded down to 45 calories?
Answer: Calories must be shown as follows:
50 calories or less–Round to nearest 5-calorie increment: Example: Round 47 calories to “45 calories”
Above 50 calories–Round to nearest 10-calorie increment: Example: Round 96 calories to “100 calories”
21 CFR 101.9(c)(1) Also see Appendix H for rounding guidelines.

N18. What is meant by sugars on the Nutrition Facts label?
Answer: To calculate sugars for the Nutrition Facts label, determine the weight in grams of all free monosaccharides and disaccharides in the sample of food. The other nutrients declared on the nutrition label are defined in 21 CFR 101.9(c). 21 CFR 101.9(c)(6)(ii)

N16. How is total carbohydrate calculated?
Answer: Total carbohydrate is calculated by subtracting the weight of crude protein, total fat, moisture, and ash from the total weight (“wet weight”) of the sample of food. 21 CFR 101.9(c)(6)

When I was able to find the section on carbohydrates and caloric measurement requirements (see references), there was nothing that mentioned how accurate the manufacturer had to be when producing a number. They did state that a certified chemical testing company had to weigh all amounts of nutrients before producing the label. So my question is, what scientist doesn’t know how to do basic arithmetic? Before banning the extra-large cups and refills, we might want to figure out how much sugar we really are consuming.


Code of Federal regulations. Title 21 – Food and Drugs: Section 101.9 Nutrition Labeling of food

CNN: Mass. Mayor Suggests Ban on Large Drinks, Free Refills

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Appendix H: Rounding the Values According to FDA Round Rules

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Nutrition Labeling; Questions G1 through P8

The Bare Necessities: From Shoes to Barefoot

11 06 2012

Try this: go outside and run around the block (ok, just jog). Most of you probably would have donned a pair of cushioned, foot correcting sneakers before walking out of your house. This is typical for many 21st century humans who want to make sure they don’t get injured while braving the pavement. Shoe stores are filled with hundreds of brands and models specifically designed to combat some kind of foot problem when you’re running. However, current studies have indicated that the ideal thing to wear for running might not be a pair of arch supported or ankle stabilizing sneaker anymore. Why it took researchers so long to run down the stats on how our bones, muscles, and ligaments adapt to the different surfaces when we walk or run and how that changes our whole body’s physiology is probably because they were wearing the wrong shoes too. Barefoot running, and even walking, can be traced back to our great Paleolithic ancestors and now companies like Vibram, Newton, Saucony, and Nike have flooded the markets with their shoes that claim to resemble running barefoot, without the scrapes and bruises.

Through advanced technology, shoe manufacturers have been able to design sophisticated footwear to prevent our feet from over pronating (stability control), pounding the ground with too much force (shock absorbers like air sacs, springs, and more cushion), and dropping our arches (arch support). These new methods for controlling our feet’s movement are more of a “crutch” than a treatment. In the last decade, studies on barefoot running have sent many health and sports magazines to track down experiences of this phenomenon. The leading magazines for running enthusiasts, Runners World and Running Times, have both printed a number of articles on the benefits of minimalist shod and barefoot running. A study conducted by Dr. Daniel E. Liberman, professor on Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, pointed out the natural adaptations of the body as a person runs barefoot compared to a shod runner. When a runner has the ability to allow his or her foot to move freely when making contact with a surface, the proprioceptors within the foot muscles respond and adapt to the surface, thereby recruiting the correct set of muscles to prevent injury from occurring. With foot correcting sneakers, the foot has little awareness of the surface with which it is making contact, causing a incorrect running style, and therefore, the recruitment of different muscles are needed, resulting in common running injuries.

Here’s an experiment for you to try. Go to your local high school track, or if you have a clean section of road nearby, run ten yards down the track or road. Then take off your shoes and repeat. If you compare the two running styles next to each other (shoes and barefoot), one would see that our running style quickly changes when our foot hits the ground. When we run with shoes, because of the cushion in the heel, we’re more prone to have our heel strike first. Yet once our shoes come off, our body shifts to the mid or front part of our foot where our legs can suddenly work together like a spring and propel our bodies forward. This also prevents our heel from stabbing the ground and hurting the bony surface. “The amount of reaction force generated in the foot and leg also decreases, explains Dr. Liberman. A look at his figure (Fig. 1) shows that there is much less reaction force when someone uses a front foot strike with a short stride, which is common when running barefoot compared to a rear foot strike (heel to toe style).

This is not to say that everyone should go out today, ditching those old cross-trainers and run freely. Running barefoot takes time, as is common in any form of muscle training. Muscles, when stressed, need time to recover and adapt. Also, unlike the humans of 100,000 years ago who didn’t grow up with something on their feet from birth, have paved roads, and broken glass shards, the 21st century human must train our feet longer for the conditions of today’s environmental surfaces. Vibram’s FiveFingers, Nike’s Free Run, Saucony’s Kinvara 2 are minimalist shoes that allow your feet the freedom to move like being barefoot but with a little added protection between your feet and the pavement. If you want to be true to your natural instincts, train your body to run sans shoes. Start on grass or sand before transitioning over to tougher surfaces. Don’t run too long if you’re inexperienced because the muscles in your foot will quickly fatigue. Running a couple times a week barefoot will make your feet adapt to the surface and overtime, you’ll have the ability to run away without any injuries.


Liberman, D.E. (2012). What we can learn about running from barefoot running: an evolutionary medical perspective. Exerc. Sport Sci. Rev., Vol. 40, No. 2, pp. 63Y72