Category Archives: Labels

Proposed Warning Label For Meat: “Eating Meat Contributes To Insulin Resistance And Diabetes”

SodaWarningLabelThe California Senate just passed a bill requiring warning labels on sugar-sweetened beverages:

“Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”

It’s a shame that sweetened beverages are being singled out. I would like to see a similar label on meat:

“Eating meat contributes to insulin resistance and diabetes.”

Why? Because meat-eating is a risk factor for developing diabetes:
Meat Consumption As A Risk Factor For Type 2 Diabetes, Nutrients, February 2014

Researchers evaluated studies that examined different amounts and types of meat consumption and the risk for developing diabetes. They found that meat-eaters had a significantly higher risk of developing diabetes compared with non-meat-eaters. Here’s a chart summarizing the results of one of the included studies, Type of Vegetarian Diet, Body Weight, and Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes, Diabetes Care, 2009:


Mechanisms for meat’s effect on diabetes risk:

  • Effect on body weight – “Nearly all observational studies comparing meat-eaters with those who avoid meat show higher body weights among the former group, a finding mirrored in the results of intervention studies using meatless diets.”
  • Effect on visceral fat (fat around organs in abdominal area) – “Visceral adipose tissue is associated with insulin resistance as a result of increased proinflamatory cytokines.”
  • Effect on intracellular lipid (fat inside cells) – Impairs insulin action. This would involve, in part, the glucose transporter (GLUT4), which I discussed here.
  • Effect on iron balance – “Meat provides a substantial quantity of heme iron … a prooxidant that encourages the production of reactive oxygen species, which may damage body tissues, including insulin-producing pancreatic cells.” Even moderately elevated iron stores are associated with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
  • Nitrates in processed meats – Nitrites and sodium are both linked to elevated diabetes risk.
  • Systemic inflammation – “A 2014 Harvard study reported that as total red meat consumption increased, so did biomarkers of inflammation.”
  • One they didn’t mention was presence of persistent organic pollutants (POPs): Animal Fat Is A Natural Reservoir For Environmental Pollutants. “There is now solid evidence demonstrating the contribution of POPs at environmental levels, to metabolic disorders … such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.”

Do you think a meat label could come to pass? There certainly is enough justification for it.

Does The Nutrition Facts Label Encourage Consumption Of Meat And Dairy?

Here is the NIH’s definition of Daily Value (DV). The DVs form the foundation of the Nutrition Facts label.

“A DV is often, but not always, similar to one’s RDA or AI for that nutrient. DVs were developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help consumers determine the level of various nutrients in a standard serving of food in relation to their approximate requirement for it.”

The DVs are a method the government uses to influence or perhaps correct the public’s view of healthful eating.  Here they are (for a 2000 calorie diet):


For macronutrients, the Daily Values work out to:

Fat: 30% of total calories
Saturated fat: 9%
Carbohydrate: 60%
Protein: 10%

NutritionFactsLabelNewThe %DV on the Nutrition Facts label is based on a diet that contains 30% fat, 60% carb, and 10% protein. If a food contained, as in this label, 8 grams of fat, the label would say 12% of DV, or 12% of the 65 grams of fat a person would ideally? eat in a day.

However, if 20% fat was ideal, then that 8 grams of fat would work out to 18% of the DV. If 15% fat was the ideal, that 8 grams would work out to 24% of the DV.

You can see that a food will appear either high-in-fat or low-in-fat when the DV, which is invisible to the label-reader, is changed. That 12% on the label to the right is actually 24% for a person following a low-fat diet.

A diet that gets 30% of its calories from fat, 9% from saturated fat, 300 mg of cholesterol, and 400 IU vitamin D (the DVs for those nutrients) is likely a diet that includes meat and dairy food. The %DVs on the Nutrition Facts label appear to encourage consumption of meat and dairy.  (The new line item for calcium will also do this, since people equate dairy food and calcium.) Who sets the DVs? The government, with the aid of industry.

Nutrition Facts Label Undergoing A Makeover

The Nutrition Facts label on packaged goods in this country came into being in 1994. Not much has happened to it since then. Today, the FDA proposed changes to it.

FDA News Release, 27 February 2014: FDA proposes updates to Nutrition Facts label on food packages

Some of the changes (with my comment):

  • Add a sub category under “Sugars” called “Added Sugars” to designate how much sugar was added to the product (Good idea.)
  • Require “Serving Size” to reflect how much people generally eat, e.g. 1 cup of ice cream instead of 1/2 cup. (Good and bad. Good because the calories, which are now LARGE on the label will quickly tell the story of how much you’re eating. Bad because it may push people to think the bigger serving is normal and healthful when it may not be.)
  • Require listings for vitamin D and potassium. Currently they are voluntary. Vitamins A and C would move from required to voluntary.
  • While continuing to require “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” on the label, “Calories from Fat” would be removed “because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.” (Bad because the amount of fat is as important as the type. )
  • Emphasize Calories, Serving sizes, and Percent Daily Value. (Good and bad. Good that Calories is LARGE, and so, informative.  Good that attention will be drawn to how many servings is in the package, but this is also bad for reason no. 2 above – those servings may now be larger.  As to Percent Daily Value, see below.)

I think this whole “Percent Daily Value” thing has been more confusing for consumers, not less.  I’ve said this for years, ever since the Nutrition Facts label came into being. I recall the label that existed prior to Nutrition Facts. It was called, simply, “Nutrition Information.” It disclosed the actual amount, in grams, of a nutrient. The Nutrition Facts label did away with that.

To illustrate my point, here are the current label on the left, and the proposed label on the right:


Before 1994, if you were eating yogurt, you would have been informed that a serving contained, say, 260 mg of calcium. As you can see from the current Nutrition Facts label, the amount of calcium is now listed as 20%. What does that mean? 20% of what? Do you know how many people have asked me that? Of the “Daily Value” of course, but this was just another list for people to consult.  And this “Daily Value” may not even apply to them, since it’s an average for everyone – bodybuilders, pregnant women, seniors. Ideally, you would look up the amount of calcium, in grams, recommended for your gender, stage in life, and any other pressing circumstance, then compare that to the amount in the yogurt. But how much is in the yogurt? 20%. To find the grams, You would have to calculate 20% of the daily value for calcium used as the basis for this label (which requires looking up that figure and doing math).  I think people stopped reading this paragraph after the first 2 lines.

Also, what if you want to eat more carbohydrate and less fat than the Daily Values instruct?  Or vice versa?  More math.

I have always said we should bring back actual nutrient amounts, in grams. It looks like they did, for a spattering of nutrients anyway.

After all this, I think the Ingredient list is a better gauge of a product’s healthfulness. Look for few ingredients, few to no scientific names, and keep in mind that foods are listed in descending order by weight.