Non-Nutritive (Artificial) Sweeteners

I was asked the other day what I thought about sugar substitutes. I agree with Mr. Horse.

mr horse

I figure if you’re gonna have it, might as well have the real thing (this line of thought is indeed applicable to most aspects of life in fact). 🙂

OK, deep and meaningful moment gone. After all, my opinion isn’t even level V evidence

‘Non-nutritive sweeteners’ (NNSs) is the label given to low-calorie sweeteners, artificial sweeteners, sugar substitutes, and non-caloric sweeteners.

Are they safe? Well, the FDA has given the label “GRAS” (Generally Recognised As Safe) (SO reassuring!) to five NNSs:

  • Aspartame (NutraSweetÂŽ and EqualÂŽ)
  • Acesulfame-K (Sweet OneÂŽ)
  • Neotame
  • Saccharin (Sweet’N LowÂŽ)
  • Sucralose (SplendaÂŽ)

As for Stevia (TruviaÂŽ and PureViaÂŽ), the leaf itself isn’t GRAS, however “certain highly purified steviol glycoside is GRAS and are generally referred to as Rebaudioside A).

Um, considerably less natural-sounding than the ads…!


Pic @

Concerns about the relationship between NNSs and cancer started in the 70s, when saccharin was linked with bladder cancer in (poor furry little) lab rats. It is now classified as ‘a substance known to cause cancer’.

Then came the 80s when a link between aspartame and brain and blood cancers was queried (earlier than mesothelioma explained with asbesos exposure, and the official declaring what are the symptoms of mesothelioma in that case). The data and studies showed some inconsistencies but ultimately the current statement is that ‘aspartame-containing drinks are not associated with the development of lymphoma, leukaemia, or brain cancer”. Oh phew.

(Although I must say the very fact that you need to put that on a drink makes you wonder if you should drink it. I say this from my position as a born-again… I used to drink a LOT of Diet Coke. I will let you know how my brain and blood turn out…)

Cancer aside, any other problems with NNSs?

  • They can make you ‘prefer’ artificially flavoured food over unaltered, nutritious foods;
  • They make you crave sweet foods. Studies have found that people who drink diet soft drinks are more likely to become overweight and obese than people who don’t;
  • Even the American Heart Association’s website is rather hilarious in this regard “we don’t know for sure if using NNSs in food and drinks makes people actually eat or drink fewer calories every day. But reducing the amount of added sugar in your diet? That we know for sure is a good thing.” That’s the best you can do?
  • NNSs aren’t just a problem with adults; increasingly kids are being exposed to NNSs and a recent study looking at NNS exposure in pregnant women, infants, and children under age 12 years found that increased NNS intake was significantly associated with increasing weight gain and fat mass accumulation.

Well darn, and just as I was about to pump my kids full of diet soda.

I jest. It’s beyond sad that parents give their kids this crap, whether it be due to a lack of education, fear of childhood diabetes/ dental caries/ obesity, or sometimes, just general stupidity. The movie Idiocracy springs to mind. Often.

Yeah… artificial sugars, still don’t like them.


Organ Meat… Good or Bad?

I know, the topic has strayed from what I usually discuss…

My dear relative told me recently that she wanted to increase her intake of organ meats. After swallowing the bile rising in my throat I promised I’d look at what the research out there says. As a doctor, we’ve been told to use the available dietary guidelines and to avoid organ meats in certain populations (eg. heart disease, obese). Beyond that I didn’t really know…

Her comment also reminded me of something my dear Dad said when we were younger. We were at the dinner table and he was chowing down on some kind of organ meat and invited me to do the same. I politely declined.

He went on to tell that “In times of food scarcity, war and starvation, people used to eat organ meats.”
Me in all my adolescent wisdom (and I cringe to think about it now) retorted “Well, we’re not at war now.”

Sorry Dad. 🙁


Fancy some kidneys?

Anyway, organ meats… What do the national nutritional guidelines say?

  • Australia: no specific guidelines exist. Apparently the most commonly consumed meats in Australia are poultry (45%), beef (39%), lamb (9%) and pork (7%). Consumption of organ meats is ‘negligible’. Er, I guess therefore it does not warrant being in our guidelines. Away with you, negligible meat.
  • US: the AHA advises that while liver is rich in iron and vitamins, it is very high in cholesterol, therefore it is not advisable to have more than 1 small serving (3 oz) once per month.
  • UK: no specific guidelines but quite a few of their sub-guidelines for specific conditions recommend avoiding organ meat altogether.
  • WHO: nothing on organ meat. Just the recent release that meat in general is carcinogenic.

Fancy some liver?

What about Dr Google?

  • Once you get past all the “Feed Your Pet” pages (!) there are quite a few sites recommending an increased intake of organ meat. These sites are run it seems by mostly Camp Paleo people who give two main reasons for chomping down on a bit of heart/ kidney/ liver…
  • When cavemen used to hunt animals (exercise), we used to eat the whole animal (diet).
  • Many traditional cultures believe that eating a particular meat (eg. brain) will help the corresponding organ in your own body… One of the reasons my Chinese uncles used to nag me to eat pigeon brains. And look, I ended with a pigeon brain. Wait… Or is that because I had two babies?
  • The only problem with said reasoning is that in the modern world we no longer hunt and kill our own animals – in fact we just sit at our desks slowly killing ourselves and get our animals from feedlots, where they’re all packed together, standing in their own faeces, force-fed with fuel (grains) and meds (antibiotics, steroids), all while breeding the new superbug. Delish.
  • Those traditional cultural ‘recommendations’ were also formed long, long ago… Probably when animals got to run around and stuff…

Fancy some goat head? Holy shit they look surprised.

OK, what about the research?

  • Surprisingly there is not much out there – here’s what I could find…
  • Heavy metals are significantly accumulated in the internal organs of oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops (especially cadmium) – therefore you should remove their internal organs before eating them. I wouldn’t even know where a clam’s internal organs were…
  • In animals, normal ‘meat’ cadmium content is 1 ng/g (wet weight). In the liver it is 100-500x greater, and kidney it is 600-2000x greater.
  • Organ meat consumption is associated with a greater risk of contracting sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (“Mad Cow Disease“).
  • In chickens (ooh, Australia’s favourite meat)… internal organs carry the highest concentration of the pathogen Campylobacter, such that it sticks and breeds on live broilers and processed carcasses. Wow, also delish.

In case you were wondering…

So what should you do?

  • Ah no-one really knows but ? common sense would suggest that…
  • If eating organ meats, do so in moderation (can’t give you more than that unfortunately given the lack of definitive evidence-based guidelines) and
  • Know where it’s coming from. Avoid organ meat from animals that have been grain-fed, grain-finished, or raised in confined animal feeding operations.

All this talk has seriously made me consider turning vegetarian.


Totally unrelated, but really quite hilarious.

Mok JS, Kwon JY, Son KT, Choi WS, Kim PH, Lee TS, Kim JH. Distribution of heavy metals in internal organs and tissues of Korean molluscan shellfish and potential risk to human health. J Environ Biol. 2015 Sep;36(5):1161-7.
Davanipour Z, Sobel E, Ziogas A, Smoak C, Bohr T, Doram K, Liwnicz B. Dietary Risk Factors for Sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease: A Confirmatory Case-Control Study. Br J Med Med Res. 2014 Apr 21;4(12):2388-2417.
Berrang ME, Buhr RJ, Cason JA. Campylobacter recovery from external and internal organs of commercial broiler carcass prior to scalding. Poult Sci. 2000 Feb;79(2):286-90.
Narres HD, Valenta P, NĂźrnberg HW. Voltammetric determination of heavy metals in meat and the internal organs of slaughter cattle. Z Lebensm Unters Forsch. 1984 Dec;179(6):440-6.
Bakir F, Al-Shahristani H, Al-Rawi NY, Khadouri A, Al-Mufti AW. Indirect sources of mercury poisoning in the Iraqi epidemic. Bull World Health Organ. 1976;53 Suppl:129-32.


When Nature Fails…

Geez, if only Mother Nature had provided a portable, environmentally friendly, easy access form of packaging for fruit and veg…

Lucky for the world we have us humans to think up smart solutions.



Can you hear the bananas singing? “I’m so ronery.”



Thanks Sainsbury’s not only for the ‘healthier lunchbox’ but also the healthier planet, haha JOKING. Nice that you put a picture on the packet of a whole apple though. Just in case we didn’t know.



I think that actually says “Sealed for freshness”. This is what happens when the dang banana skin just doesn’t do its job properly.


Ooh Melissa… Not just pre-packaged and pre-peeled but pre-cooked as well. The only thing that would make this better would be if you could pre-digest it for me as well, and then vomit it into my mouth. YUMMY!



I know… It does look like a bunch of dicks. Just like the guys that thought this up.



Mr Orange has peel to keep him fresh. Mr Orange is peeled. Mr Orange is put in plastic container to keep him fresh. Mr Orange is confused and feels there’s something wrong. Mr Orange speaks to Mr Supermarket about his fears. Mr Orange is eaten… A message to all the other oranges.



Totally Realistic Parenting Photos



“I love cleaning our already-clean kitchen with my daughter. Almost as much as I love our matching outfits.”



“I love being able to sit here uninterrupted using my laptop while my son lies quietly, playing with a blue cushion. He would never dream of wrestling the laptop from me and having a tantrum until he was able to watch Madagascar.”



“My little toddler is such a good girl, sitting quietly without making a noise while I have this important work call. She would never try to scribble on my work notebook or grab the phone to yell ‘I DID A BIG POO POO’… Never.”



“I know sweetie… Toilet training is SO enjoyable and SO much fun! Let’s re-live these happy feelings by holding on as long as possible to this germ-encrusted toilet seat… together.”



“It’s so easy doing my makeup and putting on my mascara while my toddler calmly observes without reaching out to grab anything. She would never dream of causing irreversal ocular damage by piercing my eyeball with the mascara wand.”



“Hey, look at this tower that we clean, tidy and racially diverse toddlers just made by sharing our toys and cooperating together. Let’s not knock it down ever!”



“I love sharing these headphones with my best toddler friend. I would never use them to try to strangle him/her. Let’s just lie on this pristine white carpet and share. I love sharing.”



“Yes Mummy, I love it when you use the shower spray so that the water stays inside the bath and there are no splashes on the bathroom floor.  I definitely won’t grab the shower and spray you up the nose / hit you in the eye / swing it around like an Olympic hammer throw.  I love you.”



“I love grocery shopping with my kids! They always stay close to the shopping trolley, which only has healthy, fresh green produce in it. They never lunge and grab for low-lying sugar-laden crap. They always do what I say. I’m so happy.”



“That’s right darling… You’re so clever taking fruit from the top of this precariously build-up pile – never from the bottom, because otherwise the pile would collapse and all the fruit would fall on the floor, bruise, then roll in all directions out of your reach, all while shocked shoppers stared at you because you used the F-word… More than once.”



“See Mum how good I am at calmly sitting still, mouth open so that you can easily brush my teeth without having to use a half nelson.”



“My son loves watering just the plants with such accuracy so that no water ever gets on my clothes. Oh, and his sister is perfectly happy to just watch and never tries to grab the watering can / wrestle him onto the flower beds / fake tears or waterboarding for sympathy. My children are so clean. Gardening bliss.”



“My little angle is so cute in the kitchen rolling pastry on the neatly circumscribed floured area. She would never smash the heavy rolling pin down on the glass bowl(s) in the foreground.”



“Our family loves making dishes with tomatoes in our all-white clothes.”



“My little baby is so cute smearing it on my nose, and not in my hair/ ear/ eye. She would never attempt a frontal lobotomy with a forceful finger up my nose.”



“Don’t be silly darling, of course Mummy knows what she’s cutting. She doesn’t need to look.”


Doctors & Coffee

Coffee. I never used to drink it. I even made it through medical training without it.
Everything changed when I had children. It is no longer simply known as coffee.

It is “God’s sweet nectar of life.”


So. True.

I’ve previously blogged about my love for coffee, and also the effects of caffeine during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Yes, I drank coffee throughout both my pregnancies. Both my kids are fine. Apart from that occasional weird twitch thing. I just slap it out of them.

Anyway, back to doctors… Someone actually looked at which doctors drink the most coffee per year. I would have guessed some type of surgeon (long hours, physical endurance) or psychiatrists (the poor things have to stay awake listening to someone ruminating about their ruminations).

Definitely not paediatricians… Apparently caffeine can help your hearing… Definitely NOT what you want around crying kids. In fact, you would pay big bucks to have someone painlessly remove all your auditory cells.
Definitely not plastics or ophthalmology.  Caffeine can also cause shaky hands… Oops, sorry about your nose / face / complicated flap / eyeball.
Definitely not gynaecology. Unless of course you’re THAT kinda girl.


Turns out that orthopaedic surgeons drink the most (in this particular study, 189 cups per person per year). Anaesthetists drink the least (39 cups). (Er, both these amounts seem inappropriately low don’t you think?)

The authors conclude that either (1) These specialties work-play-drink hard OR (2) They have nothing to do so they’re always hanging around the hospital canteen…

I know what I think… 😉

BMJ 2015;351:h6446


GM-mosquitoes to fight Zika (WHO)

The WHO is looking to release genetically-modified mosquitoes in an attempt to halt the spread of the Zika virus.

What a great initiative!  I mean, when has the introduction of a foreign species EVER gone wrong?


A snapshot from inside WHO’s conferences


Sickness, Sadness & Stupid Songs

So last week was a tough week (in a first-world problem kind of way)…

  • A dear relative passed away (R.I.P)
  • I started back at work
  • 6-month-old baby girl started daycare and acquired the requisite pestilence in the form of roseola (40 deg temps, hello?)
  • Baby girl decided that roseola was not hard-arse enough… so she cut her first tooth as well
  • 2-year-old boy started toilet training
  • And got gastro
  • And gave it to me
  • Husband remained unscathed

So unfair! Until I realised I had absolutely no capacity (sympathy) to deal with man-flu as well…

Anyway, made it to the end of the week…. Feeling pretty down and beat… I thought of all the people around the world who have it worse off than me… And felt even more pathetically sad…


… Aw, thanks!

Nothing like some bedtime nursery rhymes with my little man to perk up my spirits.

Pick of the Week: “Old MacDonald Had A Farm” (he picks the animals in his ‘cute’ 2-year-old-thousand-decibel voice):

“And on the farm he had a…”
LIZARD!” (WTF noise does a lizard make?! I do this strange growling gargling noise. I am Kimodo Dragon incarnate. Yeah baby, I’m feelin’ it.)

“And on the farm he had a…”
FISH!” (I do the facial expressions, apparently not good enough… “No Mum, I wanna hear. The. FISH. NOISE!!!!” I start gargling again, while doing the kissy lips.)

“And on the farm he had a…”
LADYBIRD!” (I’m feeling kind of disheartened by the choice of animals – but the psychohosebeast won’t take no for an answer. I buzz half-heartedly and flap my imaginary midget wings.)

“And on the farm he had a…”
MUMMY BIRD!” (I tweet and chirp. Uh noooo, he wants a MUMMY bird… I start doing the retching-regurgitation noise and actions, while flapping my wings and doing a Bollywood head bob, ending with a big fake vomit into his mouth. He laughs. We move on…. Weirdo.)

“And on the farm he had a…”
RHINO!” (OH I’m SORRY! I didn’t realise we were singing “Old MacDonald had an effin Safari”… Nevertheless I do my best rhino impression… Unfortunately it sounds what I imagine to be a rhino in heat.)

“And on the farm he had a…”
RABBIT!” (OH COME ON! Now he’s just messing with me.. I pointedly ignore him in a good-parenting-kinda-way. You know, when you ignore them, but in a way that THEY FEEL LOVED AND SECURE.)


The animals that NORMAL children pick

I’m feeling pretty pathetic on the animal-noise front by now. Fast forward to when our boy is all grown up, in therapy because he’s got a stupid hipster beard, no girlfriend, and has a whole menagerie of exotic animals in his 200 sq ft flat and stars on “Hoarders” all because “my mother couldn’t do proper animal noises”.

“Come on. Pick some proper animals…”
“OK, Old MacDonald had a farm… and on the farm he had a…”


Damn you Madagascar.

BTW… ever seen when merch doesn’t really look like the original?



King Julien XIII…



… Mardi Gras version…



… Ebola limited edition…



…Ataxic Julien… (tee hee, doctor nerd joke)


And because nothing in this world is complete without reference to Bon Jovi and/or Top Gun…


JBJ Ken Doll. Seriously WTF, so inaccurate!! (Haven’t they noticed Jon has cut his hair?!)



Iceman (apparently). What did they do to your FACE? Val, I’m so sorry…


Is it OK for parents to…

… clean their kid’s poo-covered bum in the hand-basin of the parents room?

OK, so we’re in the parent’s room of your standard shopping centre. A Dad and ? Grandfather are between them washing the crap-covered bum of a (looks like) 1-year-old in the hand-washing basin. Shit is everywhere in the basin. It’s not your regular clean. Quite honestly it’s like they’re giving the kid’s bum a spa treatment.

Call me crazy, but I figured that the hand washing basin was for, you know, HAND WASHING…

Maybe the poor parents don’t have wipes?

I offer wipes. Offer of wipes rejected (“We have wipes.”)

OK, this bugs me. Surely shitty nappies and bums are for the ‘shitty nappy and bum’ section and the hand-basin is for the washing of hands after dealing with the aforementioned shitty nappy and bum.


I know you’re probably thinking (eyeroll) ‘First World Problems’ but NO!.. The separation of faeces from water and clean areas is but a single part of the difference between developed and developing nations.

Am I being ridiculous? Too OC? Or were they justified in what they were doing?


Speaking of Justified…


Abandoned baby. Apparently.

OK. Still 6 months post baby #2. This 6 month mark feels like it’s been going for a really… long… time…

Sick of jogging. Sick of gym. Sick of Tabata. Feeling crap and unmotivated.
I know. Boo hoo. Poor me.

So today… Slapped myself around the face (“MAN UP!”) then went and did some hill sprints. My level of enthusiasm was akin to that of a squashed hedgehog.*

* I know. Not the example I would have used either. But not uncommonly used it seems… Personally I like the bizarreness of it.

2km run to hill
12 hill sprints (pic)
2 km run (crawl) home


It is a hill. Honest. My crap photography skills make it look flat. Sigh.

Put baby girl down under a tree on the hill (what is it about babies and filtered sunlight through trees? They’re like The Beatles in their latter days).

Sooo, as you can see from the pic, there aren’t many people around. Actually there isn’t anyone else around.
I’m doing sprints, and each time I come down the hill (recovery) I smile/ wink/ wave/ pant/ have a coronary to baby girl.

Then this couple (turn out to be American – just being mean, just factual) are walking down the hill (SURELY they have seen the interaction between bebe et moi?)

Apparently not.

The man comes towards me, shouting and waving his finger angrily “IS THIS YOUR BABY?”
“Er, yes.” (Dude, I don’t make a habit out of entertaining other peoples’ kids. I can barely entertain my own)

“Yes.” (The man’s a genius)

“Um, oh. Nope, she’s mine.” (OK, this is getting weird)


Whatever you say, fool.



Does TENS Reduce Labour Pain?

Did you use TENS during your labour? Or perhaps you know someone who did? Did you/they find it effective?

(In case you didn’t know, TENS – Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation – is the use of electric current produced by a device to stimulate the nerves for therapeutic purposes – eg. Pain relief).


Calmly smiling therefore clearly NOT in real labour


A recent study in the Journal of Physiotherapy looked at whether TENS was effective and whether it delayed the need for analgesia during the active phase of labour.

It compared an intervention group (TENS) vs a control group (no TENS) and found that TENS reduced pain severity and delayed the need for analgesia by approximately 5 hours.

Makes TENS sounds awesome doesn’t it?

Well, read the article more closely and it seems that the control group didn’t have sham TENS. Which means that the study was hardly controlled/blinded. Er, hello? Major bias?

Cogito (TENS works) ergo sum (TENS works)


Santana LS, Gallo RB, Ferreira CH, et al.   Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) reduces pain and postpones the need for pharmacological analgesia during labour: a randomised trial. J Physiother. 2016 Jan;62(1):29-34. doi: 10.1016/j.jphys.2015.11.002. Epub 2015 Dec 11.