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New food guide unveiled without food groups or recommended servings

Instead of eating food from four groups, Canadians are now encouraged to follow three guidelines on: what to eat regularly, what to avoid, and the importance of cooking and preparing meals at home.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor unveiled Canada’s new food guide on Tuesday at a market in Montreal. It was last revised in 2007.

Our decisions on what to eat and how are influenced by a host of factors from taste to tradition, Petitpas Taylor said.

“Canadians deserve an easy simple source of advice they know they can trust,” she said.

There’s no longer an emphasis on food groups and recommended servings. Instead, Health Canada recommends eating “plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods. Choose protein foods that come from plants more often.” For instance, fruits and vegetables make up half the plate on the report’s front cover.

“It’s not about portion per se, but perhaps about proportion,” Dr. Hasan Hutchinson, director general of Health Canada’s Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion, Health Products and Food Branch, told reporters.

The proportion approach can be incorporated into family meals and snacks, he said.

Health Canada said the guide is taught in schools and promoted by health professionals to support the goal of getting Canadians to eat well. It can also influence the foods served and sold at daycares and schools, recreation centres, workplaces and health-care facilities.

A two-page snapshot of the new 62-page guide for health professionals and policymakers includes a glass of water as the recommended “drink of choice.”

The second of three guidelines covers foods and beverages that undermine healthy eating.

Health Canada recommends eating ‘plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods.’ (CBC)

Beverages that contain a lot of sugar — including 100 per cent fruit juice — have been associated with a higher risk of tooth decay in children, the guide said. What’s more, consuming foods or beverages with added sugars has been linked to an increased risk of weight gain, excess weight and Type 2 diabetes.

The guide also notes there are health risks associated with alcohol consumption.

The guide was prepared using high-quality scientific reports on food and health, excluding industry-commissioned reports given the potential for conflicts of interest, according to Health Canada.

Hutchinson said that when officials scanned the evidence, they were struck by aspects of the food guides in Brazil, Sweden and Belgium. Fresh, unprocessed food is the cornerstone of the Brazilian food guide.

The third guideline in Canada’s revamped guide focuses on food skills, and advises to:

  • Be mindful of your eating habits.
  • Cook more often.
  • Enjoy your food.
  • Eat meals with others.
  • Use food labels.
  • Limit foods high in sodium, sugars or saturated fat.
  • Be aware of food marketing.

“It doesn’t need to be complicated folks,” Petitpas Taylor said.  “It just needs to be nutritious, and, might I dare say, fun.”

For parents, the most important takeway is that juice and sugar-sweetened milk are beverages that should be limited and considered treats for themselves and for their kids, said Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, medical director of the non-surgical Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa. 

“Overall though, the most important message is cook more, use less boxes, go to restaurants less frequently, not never but less, and remember that food marketers’ job is to sell food. It’s not to protect your health, and consider that too as there are inevitable criticisms launched by the food industry about this non-industry friendly food guide.” 

The full guide says food skills should be considered within the social, cultural and historical context of Indigenous people.

“It’s quite different from the previous one because it talks about the context of eating,” said Jean-Claude Moubarac, a professor in the nutrition department at the University of Montreal who advised on Brazil’s food guide. “It goes way beyond just nutrients and food and really adopts this much more holistic approach, which is much more appropriate.”

Food loaded with sugar, salt and fat

Moubarac is pleased with most of the new Canada’s Food Guide. He said it makes it clearer to consumers to seek out fresh and minimally processed foods, and avoid highly processed foods. The food industry has three years to introduce new nutrition labels to food products detailing information such as processed sugar content.

He said one limitation is those new food labels will only be available in 2022.

“It makes me think: how will consumers be able to identify highly processed food loaded with sugar, salt and fat?”

Availability and accessibility concerns such as finances are another consideration in the guide.

Now that Canada’s new guide is released, Moubarac said, policies and programs should be set up to make healthy foods more available and less expensive to address obstacles for healthy living for people who want to eat more fruits and vegetables. He also called for teaching children how to cook in school so they “fall in love with cooking real food.”

The new guide includes a mobile-friendly version that will be continually updated with resources, such as recipes.

Health Canada is also working on healthy eating patterns for health professionals and policymakers with details on the amounts and types of foods to serve at institutions for people in different age groups and life stages.

A tool kit for for Indigenous populations is being planned.

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Library debuts ‘Healthy Living Section’ and monthly club for parents Feb. 11

Too Many Requests

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Cancer survivors face hardships related to medical bills: Study | Health

Health, Cancer Survivors, Survival stories.

Washington DC: A new study now finds that cancer survivors carry a higher burden related to medical debt payments and bills compared with individuals without a cancer history. The greatest hardships are found in younger survivors. The research, published in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the study also found that among privately insured survivors, those who enrolled in high deductible health plans and did not have health savings accounts were particularly vulnerable to medical financial hardship.

Medical financial hardship can encompass three domains: material (such as problems paying medical bills); psychological (for example, worrying about paying medical bills); and behavioural (which might include forgoing or delaying care because of cost).

Zhiyuan Zheng, PhD, of the American Cancer Society, and his colleagues analysed information from the 2013 to 2016 National Health Interview Survey. The study included nationally representative samples of 10,354 cancer survivors and 124,436 individuals without a cancer history.

Compared with those without a cancer history, cancer survivors were more likely to report any material hardship (ages 18 to 49: 43.4 per cent versus 30.1 per cent; ages 50 to 64: 32.8 per cent versus 27.8 per cent; ages 65 and older: 17.3 per cent versus 14.7 per cent), psychological hardship (ages 18 to 49: 53.5 per cent versus 47.1 per cent, with similar rates for older groups), and behavioral hardship (ages 18 to 49: 30.6 per cent versus 21.8 per cent; ages 50 to 64: 27.2 per cent versus 23.4 per cent, with similar rates for ages 65 and older).

Among privately insured survivors, having a high deductible health plan without a health savings account was also associated with greater hardship compared with low-deductible insurance. Speaking about the study, Dr. Zheng said, “Identifying patients with medical financial hardship will be important for primary care and oncology care providers.” He further added, “Developing and evaluating interventions to minimize medical financial hardship will be important for the research community. It may also require attention from health policy makers.

“According to Dr Zheng, younger cancer survivors, aged between 18 to 49 years, experience greater financial hardship than their older counterparts. He said, “It may be that they do not have the opportunity to accumulate financial assets to pay for medical expenses.

In addition, a cancer diagnosis might interrupt employment, and consequently limit access to employer-sponsored health insurance coverage.” “Although we could not identify the underlying reasons for greater hardship intensity in the younger group in this study, we believe it will be an important area for additional research,” he concluded. 

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HEALTH TIPS: How to follow your goals most of the time – Sarasota Herald

It’s still January. How are those New Year’s resolutions coming along? Nutrition experts tell us our biggest challenge to long-term health is sticking to a plan for the long term. Not that our intentions aren’t honorable. It’s just that words like “routine” and “consistency” don’t often match life’s erratic and unpredictable circumstances.

How about we give ourselves a break and focus on “most of the time” this year?

Sometimes situations merit some flexibility. We’ve all been there: A social function where we are served a menu that doesn’t exactly fit into our health goals. An emergency that forces us to eat dinner from a vending machine.

Here’s the good news: Normal eating involves giving ourselves permission to decide how we will handle each and every eating opportunity this year. My decision to eat a chocolate-covered pecan and caramel candy from the local sweet shop for lunch will not ruin me for life … unless I make it a daily habit.

So in the spirit of encouragement, let’s keep going with those resolutions. Each day, with each eating encounter, let us ask ourselves, “How important is this to me right now?” and “What is the best decision I can make if I want to reach my health goal?”

Here are some “most of the time” habits to help us reach our nutrition goals:

• Eat at least three small meals a day at reasonable intervals. Our bodies burn calories more efficiently when we don’t overload the system with a day’s supply of food at one time.

• Pay attention to how your body signals you to start and stop eating. That means beginning to recognize true body hunger — the time to start eating. Then learn to eat slowly enough to feel the “I’m not hungry anymore” signal.

• Remind yourself — especially when you want to eat but you’re not really hungry — to drink water, tea, coffee or other calorie-free beverages. Sometimes we confuse thirst with hunger.

• Decide to add more fiber to your daily routine. Remember that fiber is only found in foods of plant origin. Most of time, strive to include a vegetable, a fruit, and/or a whole-grain food with each meal.

• Decide if you need to cut back on alcohol. The holidays are over; and it’s not an essential food group.

• For all eating occasions, put into your head the image of a plate portioned into four sectors. One section is for protein-rich foods (fish, poultry, meat, cheese, soy foods), another is for starches (pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, crackers). Reserve the remaining two sections — the largest part of your plate — for non-starchy vegetables (leafy greens, tomatoes, carrots, green beans, zucchini and a host of others) and fruit.

Oh, and one more reminder if you’re striving to eat less and move more this year: It’s hard to eat while you’re exercising.

— Barbara Quinn, The Monterey County Herald

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Health tips from United Way | Health

Too Many Requests

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Pelosi ‘playing chess on 3 boards’ with health care

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is laying out her strategy on health care and first up is improvements to “Obamacare” and legislation to lower prescription drug costs.

“Medicare for all” will get hearings.

Pelosi and President Donald Trump have been sounding similar themes about the need to address high drug costs. But her plans to broaden financial help for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act are unlikely to find takers among Republicans.

Either way, Democrats believe voters gave them a mandate on health care in the midterm elections.

Pushing her agenda, Pelosi is working from the ground up through committees.

Former Democratic congressman Jim McDermott of Washington state says she’s playing chess on three boards. He predicts her most difficult challenge will be “herding new members” impatient for sweeping changes.

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, The Associated Press

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Canada’s Food Guide revamp expected to shake up food groups

It appears the traditional four food groups are about to get a shakeup.

A new version of Canada’s Food Guide will be released Tuesday, and it appears the government is bringing an end to its longstanding practice of dividing foods into neat categories of meat and alternatives, milk and alternatives, vegetables and fruit, and grain products.

“Based on some information we got from Health Canada, all four food groups are out – and in comes 24 categories of products,” Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at Dalhousie University and expert on the Canadian food system, told CTV’s Your Morning on Monday.

The first federal food guide was released in 1942, under the name Canada’s Official Food Rules. There have been several revisions since then, with the most recent coming in 2007.

There were initially six food groups, with fruits being separate from vegetables and eggs receiving their own category. Eggs were folded in with meat and fish in 1944, and fruits and vegetables were combined in 1977. Other food groups saw slight tweaks, mainly to promote alternative dairy products, grains and proteins, but the overall concept has remained largely the same for more than 75 years.

According to Charlebois, dairy and milk products will be one of the categories listed in the new guide. In general, the categories will focus less on promoting specific food products and more on general nutrition.

“We’re actually going to be promoting fibres and proteins. That’s the language we’re going to hear starting tomorrow,” he said.

Many specific details regarding the new guide have been kept under wraps. Dairy and beef producers have expressed concern that their products will be given short shrift.

Health Canada’s head of nutritional policy shed some light on the guide’s contents earlier this month in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Hasan Hutchison said the guide will contain “a bit of an emphasis … on having more plant-based foods,” while also referring to lean meats as nutritious choices. It will also maintain its recommendations that Canadians consume lower-fat milk, yogurt and cheeses.

Development of the guide began in 2013 and included consultations with more than 6,700 people. While the consultations revealed a general consensus of satisfaction with the existing food guide, concerns were raised around some issues, including whether it did enough to warn of the dangers of processed foods, high-sodium beverages, sugars and saturated fats.

Only part of the new guide will be released Tuesday at an event in Montreal with Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor. The remainder, including recommendations for which foods Canadians should eat and in what quantities, will be made public later this year.

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People classified as trans by health-care providers may actually identify as male or female: study

People who have been classified as transgender or gender diverse by their health-care provider may not actually self-identify as trans, new research has found.

According to a study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) about sexual orientation and gender identity data, some people prefer to identify themselves by their current gender identity and not as a trans male or trans female.

WATCH BELOW: A parent’s transition: Alberta family shares their story

Dr. Andrew Pinto, a clinician-scientist at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital and one of the study’s co-authors, told Global News that researchers surveyed over 14,000 patients in health-care settings and asked them: “What is your gender?”

Respondents were given the options female, male, trans — female to male, trans — male to female, intersex, other, prefer not to answer and do not know.

“When we compared people’s answers to medical information in their chart, we found this discrepancy,” Pinto said.

READ MORE: Human rights tribunal hearing underway to challenge repeal of sex-ed curriculum

The researchers found that many patients who had been classified as transgender or gender diverse in their medical chart “did not self-identify as transgender but rather selected female (23 per cent) or male (15 per cent).”

“Really, what that [finding] is saying is… that some individuals who are gender diverse and transgender actually do not want to say their gender is trans. If they are asked a question like: ‘What is your gender?’ They’ll choose their current gender identity.”

Pinto said that this finding is aligned with other research in this field and is an important lesson for health-care providers.

WATCH BELOW: B.C. teen’s journey to becoming a transgender activist

“If [gender] is not correctly identified, it could be because the person has not felt comfortable disclosing it and that conveys something about the level of trust that they have with that clinic or that provider,” Pinto explained. “It could also be that it’s never been explored or asked by the provider, too.”

Research shows that transgender people often face barriers to health care, including lower rates of cancer screenings, which can impact the quality of treatment they receive.

“Right now, the only kind of standard [in Ontario] is what’s on our OHIP card, which only has male, female and more recently, ‘X’,” Pinto said. “So it is up to individual organizations what they choose to ask.”

To better serve patients, Pinto said doctors should ask patients about their gender identity. The study also found that the majority of patients would welcome such questions.

READ MORE: Anti-LGBTQ group petitions magazine’s use of gay couple on cover

“One of our recommendations is that health organizations should actually ask a two-part question: ‘What was your sex assigned at birth, and what is your current gender identity?’” Pinto said.

By asking this two-part question, doctors may be better able to serve patients, as it’s important for providers to be aware of an individual’s medical history and unique needs.

Furthermore, by asking more detailed questions around gender identity, Pinto said doctors are signalling a level of inclusiveness and respect for members of the LGBTQ community.

READ MORE: Divorce hurts teens more than it does children, study finds

“In Ontario, community health centres have been serving a very diverse population for many years, and many of them have embarked on asking these questions. But outside of community health centres, it’s very rare,” Pinto said. 

“Organizations need to be able to set the stage appropriately, which involves the appropriate training for staff and signalling to patients that their organization is an LGBTQ2S+ positive space.”

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Ideal CV Health Components Linked to Dose-Dependent Reduced Risk for Diabetes

Lower risk for diabetes seen for those with normal fasting glucose, not impaired fasting glucose.

HealthDay News — For individuals with normal fasting glucose but not those with impaired fasting glucose (IFG), a higher number of ideal cardiovascular health (CVH) components correlates with a lower risk for diabetes, according to a study published online Jan. 15 in Diabetologia.

Joshua J. Joseph, M.D., from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, and colleagues conducted a secondary data analysis in the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke study. Incident diabetes was assessed among 7,758 participants without diabetes in 2003 to 2007; participants were followed for 9.5 years. Participants were characterized based on the number of ideal CVH components (zero to one, two to three, and four or more).

The researchers identified 891 incident diabetes cases. For participants with four or more versus zero to one ideal CVH components, the risk was reduced significantly among those with normal fasting glucose (risk ratio, 0.20; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.10 to 0.37) and reduced nonsignificantly with baseline IFG (risk ratio, 0.87; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.58 to 1.30). Compared with African-Americans, white participants had a stronger magnitude for the association between ideal CVH components and lower diabetes risk (P for interaction = 0.0338).

“The lower magnitude of risk reduction with ideal CVH among those with IFG warrants further investigation and suggests this group requires higher intensity interventions to lower long-term diabetes risk,” the authors write.

Two authors disclosed financial ties to Amgen.

Abstract/Full Text (subscription or payment may be required)

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Why I’m thinking about my mental health on Blue Monday

Rola Dagher is president of Cisco Canada

The other day, I found myself trying to recall the last time I saw the sun come up on my drive to work or enjoyed the deep hue of pink it casts across the sky when it sets this time of year. These days, everything seems to be cast in grey.

The arrival of holiday bills, coupled with the cold weather and lack of sunlight, can make this a tough time for a lot of people. And while Blue Monday – the third Monday of January – has been called the most depressing day of the year, for many people, it is just one of many dark days.

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According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), one in five Canadians experiences a mental illness, including addiction, in any given year. And young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group.

Years ago, we didn’t have these statistics. Mental health was talked about in hushed voices, or behind closed doors. In fact, in my home growing up in Lebanon, it wasn’t discussed at all.

I was born and raised in a small village called Dahr el Maghara. As the second eldest of six girls, I played a large role in helping raise my younger sisters. My childhood memories are of civil war and living in a series of bomb shelters. At one point, my bed was a cement floor in a deserted hospital.

By the time I was a teenager, I had witnessed the murders of some of my family members and had lived most of my life on the run. We were a very close family, but rarely paused to talk about our worries and fears. Admitting that I was dealing with mental-health issues was never really an option for me.

By the age of 16, I was in an arranged and abusive relationship, and had a new baby. My parents and sisters had left for Canada. I felt abandoned. Alone.

Thankfully, my story didn’t end there. With my infant daughter in one hand and a suitcase in the other, I fled Lebanon and reunited with my parents and sisters in Canada. I had arrived in a country of hope and opportunity. I finally felt free. Physically, I was okay. In fact, on most days, I was smiling. But looking back on those days now, I realize that, mentally, I was struggling.

That’s the thing about mental health. We don’t wear our pain and wounds on the outside. We carry the weight of them on the inside, hidden to those around us. Maybe it’s that we don’t want to burden our family and friends, or perhaps it’s that we’re having a hard time articulating what we are feeling.

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I am very fortunate to work for a company that provides extended health coverage for registered psychologists, counsellors, social workers and behavioural analysts as part of our benefits package – at no cost to employees.

But how do we improve access for the thousands of people across Canada who do not have these benefits? How can we connect them with the services and support they need, when they need it?

We recently teamed up with CAMH and Deloitte to help connect mental-health patients with physicians faster using our collaboration technology. We believe this technological innovation will improve patient outcomes, deliver enhanced care and increase the scale and scope of mental-health services for Canadians.

More and more of us are realizing that mental health is health, period. And for those of us who are having a hard time getting through the dark days of winter, CAMH offers these tips:

  • Take an inventory of your lifestyle habits to see what simple but effective changes you can make to  improve your mental health
  • Get proper sleep
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Be physically active
  • Set up a budget to manage your spending habits

Every day, people around us are struggling; struggling to understand and come to terms with how they are feeling; struggling to find the courage to reach out to someone and ask for help. We have come a long way in removing the stigma around mental health, but we still have a long way to go.

While it may not have an official spot on our calendars, Blue Monday is a gift. It’s an opportunity to raise awareness and have open and candid conversations about mental health.

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Think about starting up your own conversation. I just did.

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