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Sprinkle of progress made in cutting salt content in packaged foods: researchers

SHERYL UBELACKER, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Apr 27th, 2016

A federal strategy to get Canadians to shake the amount of salt in their diets has resulted in only a relative sprinkle of change in the amount of sodium found in thousands of packaged foods commonly eaten by consumers, a study has found.

In 2010, Health Canada set out voluntary targets for the food industry to cut sodium content in processed and packaged foods, with the aim of slashing Canadians’ consumption of salt.

Excessive salt, or sodium, consumption can cause high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney dysfunction. The goal of the federal program was to gradually reduce Canadians’ average daily intake of sodium by one third by the end of 2016.

On average, Canadians’ sodium intake exceeds 3,400 mg per day — more than double the recommended 1,500 mg and well above the daily maximum of 2,300 mg set by the Institute of Medicine, a non-profit organization that provides evidence-based public health recommendations to the Canadian and U.S. governments.

“Those sodium reduction targets weren’t to get us down to the recommended level; they were to get us down to the upper level,” study co-author Mary L’Abbe, chair of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto, said in a release. “It was envisioned as the first step in a longer process of getting our sodium levels to about half of what they are now.”

But a 2013 analysis of more than 16,000 packaged food items by the U of T research team discovered that only a sixth of these foods, lumped into about 100 categories, had curtailed their sodium content.

“When we looked at those, what we found was that 82 per cent of those categories had no change in sodium and 16 per cent had reduced sodium content,” said JoAnne Arcand, who led the study published Tuesday in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

The most significant reductions in sodium — about 15 to 20 per cent — were seen in such food categories as condiments, breakfast cereals, canned soups and canned vegetables, said Arcand, now an assistant professor at the Ontario Institute of Technology in nearby Oshawa, Ont.

Bread products, which she called a top contributor to salt in the diet, saw sodium content fall by about seven per cent.

“When we looked further into the bread product category … we saw that English muffins and rolls and buns made the biggest improvement,” she said in an interview Tuesday. “But the pantry breads, which Canadians consume a lot of, they didn’t make as much progress.”

While sodium content in the sausage and wiener category fell by about 10 per cent, other deli meats saw virtually no salt reduction, said Arcand, noting that Canadians are big consumers of deli meats.

“So we would hope that between this mid-point evaluation and the end of 2016 that we would see some more progress made in the deli meat category.”

Although the aim of setting benchmark targets was to encourage food producers to cut sodium content in all their products, the amount an individual consumes depends on the types of foods they eat.

“We know that older people consume more soups and younger people, children may consume more hot dogs,” she said. “So in order for (the strategy) to be an effective, equitable public health intervention, we really should see reductions in a broad number of categories rather than in just a few.”

Dr. Norm Campbell of the University of Alberta, who holds a chair in hypertension prevention and control, said the findings show that while the food industry is making some progress in shrinking the amount of sodium in its products, it is not keeping pace with voluntary standards it set for itself.

“Further, we know that food labels have historically underestimated the sodium content of foods,” said Campbell, adding that government should be monitoring the accuracy of food labels and the food industry should be held to account for meeting reduction targets.

“Regular monitoring would send a strong message to industry about the importance of taking action to reduce sodium, trans fats and added sugar in packaged foods,” he said in a statement. “We should not have to rely on scientists alone to undertake such a large-scale, complex analysis and publish critical data about it.”

Arcand said that without such independent research, there would be no way to gauge whether voluntary targets are being met because of the way in which Ottawa set up the sodium reduction strategy.

A similar federal program aimed at slimming trans fats in foods has been largely successful, possibly because content is monitored by the government and the findings are posted online for public scrutiny.

“With sodium reduction, we don’t have that same program,” she said. “There’s no government monitoring of this overall, which is why we as researchers took this on to see how well the food industry is doing, so it can inform some next steps or at least provide a progress report on how industry is doing half-way through.”

As house prices soar, people buy with a little help from their friends

ALEXANDRA POSADZKI, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Apr 27th, 2016

As house prices soar, people buy with a little help from their friends
Jeremy Campbell along with his wife Holly Foran and dog Jake, right, shown in Delta, B.C., Monday, April, 25, 2016 bought a house together with Ryan and Christina Ingham and their two-year-old Regan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

“The initial plan was to do this short term just to get into the market, build some equity … get my foot in the door,” says Campbell, who covered one third of the down payment on a 2,000 square-foot home that’s split into two suites.

But with home prices in the Lower Mainland’s red-hot real estate market soaring, Campbell says they’re thinking of staying put.

“We’ll invest in the house to expand it versus selling and going our separate ways,” says Campbell, noting that a renovation is needed to accommodate the growing family, which now includes his fiancee, their new dog and his two-year-old niece.

Experts say an increasing number of first-time homebuyers are contemplating arrangements like Campbell’s as sky-high prices in markets such as Toronto and Vancouver have eroded affordability.

A recent RBC poll found that roughly one in four millennials would consider purchasing a home with a friend — up from only 11.7 per cent the previous year.

The number of young buyers who would consider going in on the purchase with a family member was 24 per cent, up from 14.7 per cent in 2015, the survey said.

“Particularly in some of the larger markets in Canada, affording that first home or condo is increasingly more challenging,” says Erica Nielsen, vice-president of home equity finance at RBC.

In addition to higher prices, premiums for mortgage default insurance have risen, presenting an additional obstacle for first-time buyers, Nielsen adds.

The online survey of 2,000 Canadians was conducted by Ipsos on RBC’s behalf between Jan. 28 and Feb. 4. The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

While many co-purchases involve both parties living together in the home, that isn’t always the case.

When Richard Wiebe bought a $340,000 two-storey house in Toronto’s east end with a close friend in 2012, they each paid half of the down payment and agreed to split the cost of all of expenses and any capital gains when they sell.

But only Wiebe lives in the home. For his friend, the transaction is purely an investment.

“I consider him my platonic husband because we own a house together,” quips Wiebe.

“It’s an awesome way to get into the market sooner without having to find ‘The One.’”

Experts caution that such arrangements come with risks.

“When you purchase an asset together, it’s basically like starting a business together,” says Chantel Chapman, financial fitness coach at online lender Mogo Finance Technology.

“There are going to be points in time where things might not be amazing, and you need to account for that.”

Chapman recommends working with a lawyer and drafting up a written plan that outlines everything from what happens if one party wants to sell to how the cost of repairs will be split.

“Your name and your credit file is attached to that debt, so if the partner you are purchasing with loses their job or something happens and they can’t make their part of the mortgage payments … that’s going to impact you, as well,” says Chapman.

TTC streetcar delays could mean more buses on streetcar routes

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Apr 26th, 2016

The issues facing Toronto’s 502 and 503 routes are indicative of the ongoing problem the TTC faces caused by Bombardier’s failure to deliver new streetcars on time, says TTC spokesman Brad Ross.

Back in January, the 502 Downtowner and 503 Kingston Road routes had to be converted from streetcars to buses because the city simply didn’t have enough reliable cars to run the route. Four months later, those routes continue to be serviced by buses, and while they could get streetcars temporarily in the summer as cars are moved because of construction on St. Clair Avenue, the routes will likely be bus routes again come September.

“This is a symptom of the ongoing issues caused by the Bombardier delays,” Ross said Monday.

The city ordered 204 streetcars from Bombardier back in 2009, and the Quebec-based company had promised to deliver the last of them by the end of 2019. But by the end of 2015, only 17 of the promised 70 vehicles have been delivered. After promising to deliver 37 streetcars in 2016, they revised that estimate to just 16 cars in a news release Monday morning.

Related stories:

TTC says Bombardier will miss streetcar delivery deadline, again

TTC’s 17th new streetcar now in service after tug of war with Bombardier

TTC to get estimated $850 million of federal budget’s transit money

“While making the necessary adjustments for added manufacturing capacity and to significantly accelerate production for the duration of the project, the delivery schedule for 2016 will need to be adjusted,” said Bombardier head of communications Marc-Andre Lefebvre. “Therefore, we will deliver in 2016 a total of 16 vehicles to the TTC.”

Bombardier has blamed the delays on labour and parts issues at various Bombardier plants. Benoit Brossoit, new Bombardier Transportation Americas President, says the company plans on adding capacity to accelerate the pace of delivery.

“At least this new guy is at least giving me the worst-case scenario, rather than being hopelessly optimistic or trying to be heroic in the promises that are made,” TTC SEO Andy Byford said Monday.

The TTC has filed a claim of $51 million against Bombardier for the delays. Ross says the city is spending $34 million on repair and maintenance required to keep the existing streetcar fleet beyond their expected service life.

Eglinton reopens after fatal pedestrian crash, driver in custody

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Apr 26th, 2016

A man, believed to be in his 50s, has died after being struck by a vehicle in Scarborough on Monday.

Paramedics arrived on scene near Eglinton Avenue and Markham Road just after 10 p.m.

Traffic Services tell 680 NEWS that the driver was arrested for alcohol-related offences.

Eglinton was closed between Beachell Street and Mason Road for the investigation, but has since reopened.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police.

The crash was one of several that took place on Monday evening, when the road was wet and dark. Five people and a cyclist were struck, including an 11-year-old child who was taken to hospital with minor injuries after being hit by a car in the north end.

The body’s own healing power: A primer on naturopathic medicine

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Apr 26th, 2016

A jury in southern Alberta has begun deliberating whether a couple should be convicted of failing to provide the necessities of life for their toddler son, who died of bacterial meningitis in 2012. Court heard the 19-month-old had been sick for about 2 1/2 weeks. His parents gave him natural remedies and smoothies at home and sought the advice of a naturopathic doctor. The naturopath testified that when she learned the boy might have meningitis, she advised the child be taken to hospital immediately, but the mother picked up some echinacea for the boy instead. He later stopped breathing and was rushed to hospital, where he died. Here are some questions and answers on naturopathic medicine:

What is naturopathy?

The Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors says naturopathic medicine aims to stimulate the body’s own healing power to fight underlying causes of disease. Treatment of people of all ages with various health issues can include diet and lifestyle advice, botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Costs vary and are not covered by health care.

How are naturopathic doctors regulated?

They are licensed or regulated in five provinces — Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia — although they can practise elsewhere. The five provinces have colleges and associations that set standards and handle complaints. There are about 2,300 trained naturopathic doctors in all of Canada.

How does one become a naturopathic doctor?

There are two accredited schools in Canada that provide four-year programs for those who already have an undergraduate degree. Students must complete 1,200 hours of clinical training before passing board exams. They must carry malpractice insurance.

Do naturopaths refer patients to medical doctors?

The Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors says its members are required to identify when health issues are beyond their “scope of practice” and to refer patients to physicians or other health-care professionals.

Beverly Huang, president of the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta and a naturopathic doctor in Calgary, says she tries to work with a patient’s family doctor or other specialists, such as a midwife or physiotherapist. She says her clinic will call an ambulance when needed — staff once called 911 when they recognized a client had suffered a stroke.

Child, 4, reunited with parents near Dufferin and St. Clair

CityNews | posted Monday, Apr 25th, 2016

A four-year-old girl who was found wandering the streets early on Monday morning has been reunited with her parents.

The child was found by another adult on Conway Avenue, near St. Clair Avenue and Dufferin Street, around 1:30 a.m.

The adult did not know the child and immediately called police. The child was safe and unharmed, Sgt. Mark Repa said.

“She was within half a block of her home,” Repa said.

However, when they took the child home, the parents were not there. They were eventually found.

The Children’s Aid Society has been called in and a charge of child abandonment is pending against the child’s mother. The father was at work, police said, while the mom had gone out for pizza.

The three-year-old girl has a sibling, Repa said, but that child was never missing.

There is no law in Ontario that dictates a specific age at which a child can be left unsupervised,Children’s Aid of Toronto notes on its website. However, parents are responsible for their child’s well-being until that child is 16 years old.

Correction: Police initially said the girl was three years old.

Bike lanes on Bloor up for debate again

CityNews | posted Monday, Apr 25th, 2016

The public works committee will debate a pilot project Monday that would see bike lanes installed on Bloor Street, through the downtown core.

The proposal calls for separated bikes lanes on Bloor stretching from Shaw Street to Avenue Road. It also includes a separated bike lane and one lane of traffic in each direction.

Proposed design for the bike lane pilot project on Bloor Street in Toronto. CITY OF TORONTO.
Proposed design for the bike lane pilot project on Bloor Street in Toronto. CITY OF TORONTO.


The goal is to reduce the big problem of cyclists getting doored as they find themselves pinned between parked cars and traffic.

“It’s a challenge, you have to navigate, you have to watch for doors opening, for cars making switches between lanes and so on,” urban cycling consultant Yvonne Bambrick told CityNews.

Related stories:

Bike lanes on Bloor no longer just a slogan, thanks to pilot project

Toronto considering 40 km of new bike lanes over 10 years

Video: Markham considering to allow bikes on sidewalks

Last week, Mayor John Tory said he has some concerns over the bike lanes.

“I am not averse to a pilot project. I think that in this case, as long as pilot projects mean what the word suggests, which is that you make an honest effort to objectively find out after you’ve done it, what the impact has been on business, what the impact has been on traffic, what is has been on cyclists, pedestrians, everyone involved,” Tory said.

Proposed design for the bike lane pilot project on Bloor Street in Toronto. CITY OF TORONTO.
Proposed design for the bike lane pilot project on Bloor Street in Toronto. CITY OF TORONTO.


The bike lane project is part of a plan to add nearly 41 kilometres of new bike lanes to Toronto over the next 10 years.

City council will consider the motion at a meeting in May. If it passes there, the lanes could be launched by late summer.


Blue Jays continue to swing a hot bat in downing Oakland Athletics

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Apr 25th, 2016

TORONTO – Ezequiel Carrera and Jose Bautista homered Sunday as the Toronto Blue Jays continued to swing a hot bat in a 6-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics.

It was a battle of the long ball with Oakland slugging three solo shots and both teams falling just short of the fence on several other occasions.

The Toronto attack, which was sluggish to open the season, woke up against the Athletics with 20 runs, 32 hits and six home runs to win the series two games to one. Carrera, a backup outfielder, helped trigger the offence with seven hits over the three games.

The Jays (10-10) have won two straight while the Athletics (10-9) have lost two in a row after starting the campaign with seven consecutive road wins.

Drew Hutchison, called up from the minors for a one-off start to give Toronto’s rotation an extra day’s rest, left to a standing ovation after giving up just two runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings. He struck out five and walked two, throwing 55 strikes in a 95-pitch outing.

The only blemishes on his afternoon were solo homers by Khris Davis, in the second, and Josh Reddick, in the sixth. Chris Coghlan also homered off Jesse Chavez in a seventh inning that saw two other A’s hammer moonshots to the warning track.

Roberto Osuna pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save.

There was a full house of 46,300 for Josh Donaldson MVP Bobblehead Day, with fans lining up for hours before the game to get one of the 20,000 giveaways.

Prior to the game, the reigning AL MVP was presented with his Silver Slugger Award as the best-hitting third baseman in the American League, as well as Players Choice Awards as 2015 Player of the Year and AL Outstanding Player to a standing ovation. The 30-year-old Florida native also caught the ceremonial first pitch from his mother, Lisa French.

Donaldson had the fans on their feet in the first inning when his deep drive to left was caught at the edge of the warning track in left.

Toronto sent nine men to the plate in a four-run third that opened with Carrera slamming a solo homer to the second deck in right-centre. The other three runs came with two outs on an intentional walk and three singles as starter Eric Surkamp (0-2) wobbled through a 30-pitch inning.

Carrera, making the most of left-fielder Michael Saunders’ sore hamstring, had raised his batting average by 142 points to .318 on Saturday after going 4-for-5 with three singles and a ground-rule double for the first four-hit outing of his career. On Sunday, the 28-year-old Venezuelan singled and homered (his first of the season and sixth of his major-league career).

Bautista kept the scoreboard ticking with a two-run homer to left-centre in the fourth, driving in Donaldson with his fourth of the season.

Edwin Encarnacion almost joined the long ball parade in the seventh but his drive hit near the top of the wall and was restricted to a double. There was no such joy for Oakland DH Mark Canha, who struck out four times in his four trips to the plate. Canha has just four hits this season but three of those are homers.

Catcher Russell Martin, who left Friday’s game early with a sore neck, was a late scratch after starting Saturday. He was replaced by Josh Thole.

Surkamp, called up from the minors April 8, lasted 4 2/3 innings in his fourth start this season for the Athletics, gave up six runs on nine hits with three strikeouts and four walks. The six-foot-five left-hander faced 26 batters in a rough 97-pitch outing that included 54 strikes.

On his fourth team with the majors, he has not won as a starter since Sept. 12, 2011, against San Diego.

The 25-year-old Hutchison was the Jays’ Opening Day starter in 2015, when he went 13-5 with a 5.57 ERA, but found himself on the outside looking in this season and opened for the Jays’ farm team in Buffalo. He is 0-1 with a 4.11 ERA in three starts with the Triple-A Bisons.

Hutchison (1-0) came into the game with a 29-21 record with a 4.92 earned-run average in the majors. Twenty of those wins came at the Rogers Centre where he was 20-7 with a 3.51 ERA in 34 games prior to Sunday.

Marcus Stroman will start Monday against right-hander Miguel Gonzalez as the Chicago White Sox come to town.

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