December 2009 Archives

Ending World Hunger

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Taylor Nordstrom

Norman Borlaug was one of the most respected men of our time.  He tripled wheat production and increased yeilds in other crops as well by breeding crops together.  He is someone who is credited to have saved the most lives of anyone due to feeding people. 

Borlaug is defending work in crop breeding in this peice and showing that to feed people for years to come we have to keep moving forward with our new breeding techniques.  Borlaug believes that biotechnology is our future, but that right now there is a bad reputation especially with the name GMO.

Borlaug claims through here that genetic crops are going to happen anyways, and that we are just speeding up the process.  I believe this to be true, yes there are some discrepencies with combining things like parts of animals with plants, but I do not see any harm that has resulted.  I did get to meet Norman Borlaug once when he visited the University of Minnesota and I was very impressed with his knowledge and I respected him highly.

 

Food and an Increasing Population

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T. Adam Wichelmann's Blog

As the human population continues to grow, the food shortage problem becomes increasingly more severe.  With our food unit, we have routinely discussed the impacts of a growing population and the subsequent demand for more food, especially from the meat industry.  As I was checking out the seed magazine website I stumbled on an article that directly touches on this issue and the discussion revolved around it.  This particular article was entitled Carnivores Like Us and focused specifically on China's changing appetite.

With a changing world comes a changing demand for food.  As China's population has increased its raw demand for food has subsequently increased.  A further change has been the type of food that China is currently demanding.  As the Chinese culture has developed per capita income has also increased.  Similar to the United States, China has increased meat consumption with increased wealth.  This increase in meat demand has lead to many potential problems becoming increasingly more real, such as a meat/food shortages, an unhealthy society (the article states that China's obese population is increasing), more water contamination from livestock, and controversy surrounding grown animal products.  These problems need solutions, but how do we effectively control the food for our growing population?

The discussion around providing answers to the food shortage problem have almost all been linked to agriculture.  As mentioned in class, I think we really need to improve our means of distributing food because countries like the US and China have more than enough food.  Distribution of food will help curve food shortages.  Developing ways to improve agriculture seem like a prime example of a "technological fix" to a bigger problem.  Almost all of the solutions to a food shortage problem have focused on catering to this increasing population.  Rather I think we need to see the bigger picture and develop ways in which we can address the population problem rather than the food shortage problem which results from too many people.  This planet can only sustain so many and I think we need to really focus efforts on halting the increasing population.  Although I don't have solutions to curbing the increasing population, I think we should put our effort into developing solutions because this will subsequently solve a lot of problems discussed in our class.

http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/carnivores_like_us/P2/

A makeover for Food labels

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According to New York Times, the congress has passed the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act that require the Food companies give more detail nutrition facts on the label when packing the food products. For the most part, the label need to list amount of calories, serving size and ingredient, and giving more the food facts label a makeover. Makeover is meaning the highlight important parts of the label because it will prevent unnecessary and misleading words from confusing consumers.

The change to the food label should be include putting calorie and serving size information in the larger type at the top of the label so the customers will know immediately how much they are eating. The labels need to make the ingredient list easier to read by printing it in regular type, not all capital letters. Also using bullets separate ingredients instead of allowing them to all run together. The labels need to list minor ingredients and allergens separately from the main ingredient list and highlight allergy information in red. The labels need to list similar ingredients together and show the percentage by weight, for example sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup and grape juice concentrate are all forms of sugar, and those should be listed in parenthesis under the catchall heading "sugars". The companies should use the red labeling and the word "High" when a product has more than 20 % of the daily recommendation for fats, sugars, sodium or cholesterol. The labels need to be clear which sugars are added to the product vs those that occur naturally.

I think that is a good idea to make the Food labels more clearly, so we will know what in the food we buy. I like to see how much calories, sugar, and serving size I can get from the food because that help me to avoid eating unhealthy food or eating much sugar. Some people like to have more sweet or less sweet, they can see better and quickly if the label was highlight in red. As we discuss in class last week about sweeter in corn syrup, label reading is very important to let us know whether it is artificial sugar or natural sugar, we will know exactly how much sugar in the corn syrup so we can make the choice better. More important that you will know how much fat on the food if the label using the word "High" you will know more than 20% fat you will get from this product, you may not want buy this product if you are on diet.

 

Seed Magazine: Sweet Obesity article

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Sweet Obesity
I picked the article called, Sweet Obesity, on Seed Magazine because it is related to what we have been discussing in class.  The author cites an obesity researcher and health editor of Obesity Panacea that there has been a link between artifical sweeteners and obesity over the past 30 years.  The researcher also suggest that sugar "disrupts the metabolism and makes you hungrier."  In addition, lab rat who were fed artifical sweetener food ate more than rat who consumed sugar-sweetened food.  Therefore, they gain more weight than they would if they ate sugar.  

In our class readings and in some of my research, I have found that letpin and ghrelin levels changes in sucrose, table sugar, and HFCS are similar.  Those hormones are responsible for regulating appetite and hunger.  When I said similar, I don't mean it in a good way.  The researcher cites a report from the American Heart Association (AHA) that excessive sugar is dangerous and should be considered as a toxic substance.  HFCS is much sweeter than sugar but contain less calories, therefore it could be beneficial to dieters.  That is only if dieters can maintain the amount of food intake, then sweeteners can be effective in weight loss.  Nevertheless, HFCS is hard to moderate because everything is made from it, such as soda, canned food, yogurt, etc.  Most of us aren't aware of what we consume and how much we consume.  We don't really ask if HFCS is dangerous until we read about them in class.  There are readings that are for and against HFCS.  I cannot conclude that sugar and HFCS should be considered as toxic ingredients.  I think industries are to blame since they are the ones adding HFCS to a variety of food we eat daily.  However, we, the consumers, are getting what we demand for, that are cheap and convenient foods to suit our lifestyle, like McDonalds.  We should be aware of what food and how much we intake.  We should also maintain a balance between diet and exercise, since lack of them contribute to obesity and other health issues.  We should be responsible for our own actions and do what is necessary.

I have found an interesting video in regard to HFCS and want to share.  I've learned many things about HFCS that I haven't learned before.  I think it is worth watching.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yfIMbv_f0Q (Part 1)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dukOVHLcrk0 (Part 2)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2vARSdg7bw (Part 3)

Poverty Makes You Fat?

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By: Michael Lent

This last food unit has been really interesting for me. Food has been a big concern for me personally some time between when I turned 18 and 20. I stopped drinking soda at 18 and swore off fast food around the same time. Weight has never really been an issue for me but I've seen how it affects America. It is such an important issue regarding health care and a not-so-distant energy concern I've come to realize thanks to the readings and class discussion.

Critser's "Let Them Eat Fat" really made me more cognizant of how poverty is such a contributing factor to obesity. In cases of extreme poverty, without access to basic, healthy food and/or a kitchen, fast food quickly can become the only alternative. However, I don't think that is a large percentage of those who are obese in America. Low income cannot just be disregarded, however; it cannot be ignored because education of what is healthy food and eating habits at early ages in life shape what one enjoys eating.

That is the larger problem: one's eating habits. America is a nation of
go-go-go. We need to get to soccer practice; we need to get to school and now; however, what we don't need to do is eat right apparently. Apparently, there is no time for that. This self-imposed need to economize time such an extent has reached unhealthy proportions.

The reason it affects the lower class is because time becomes scarcer for those who make bad choices. Bad choices like not wearing a condom and having a kid out of high school or in college and not being able to either attend or finish college. Then, one has to work multiple minimum wage jobs and has no time to cook. Time becomes economized by not cooking and in turn, not eating right. Ones health declines. It's an all too common occurrence; maybe, not this particular situation but similar bad choices ending up in one having to economize their time leading to poor health in the long-run from eating fast food and such all the time.

America needs to make healthier choices. Should it start at the dinner table or the other choices surrounding it? What about those with parents who make bad choices? I'm not sure.

Bioplastics Man from seedmagazine.com by Justin Schwartz

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            The article that I read, Bioplastics Man by Maywa Montenegro on www.seedmagazine.com, ties right in with what we have been talking about all semester and what we are talking about currently. Bioplastics Man dives in to the world of bio plastics and what is happening in the current industry. Oliver Peoples has developed a new bio plastic which he has named Mirel.

 

            Mirel is produced from corn, much like other bio plastics, but is leaps a head of all the competition. Current bio plastics do seek to create a cleaner environment, but are only good for certain purposes and can not be used along side water or liquid such as hot coffee. Mirel is the offspring of years of research and development which allows it to live along side liquids. Peoples goes on to explain that Mirel is able to hold things such as shampoo for up to five years because it needs the microbes that are in soil, fresh water, and salt water to break it down. This means no more hot coffee and bio plastics cups melting on your lap while on your way to work.

 

            The process according to Peoples takes the sugar from corn or ethanol. It is then put through a process much like a brewing process which hardens the sugars. Once the hardening has occurred it is then strained out in to the product known as Mirel.

 

            Mirel, the "wonder plastic of the near future," promises to be the technological fix. Peoples realizes that initial costs will be high, but just as any other new industry, the costs will decrease and inevitably decrease our footprint on the earth. Sea life would no longer choke or die from our plastics, our land fills will no longer be stacked high with unused plastics, and we will still retain our love for plastics through Mirel the new bio plastic.

 

            Currently under construction, and in the finishing stages, is the first Mirel plant which is located in Clinton, Iowa. The Clinton plant will almost be a self contained plant. It is located in the heart of the Corn Belt which means long shipping to plant will not be needed, the wet mill is located on site, and all the energy it needs to start and continue to run.  The plant will be producing the first 50000 tons of Mirel soon after the finishing according Peoples.

 

            Mirel seems to be a promising fix for our current bio plastics which waste away in liquid and will take the place of the environmentally hazardous hard plastic. It is no question that we a people do need a fix. We cannot continue mass produce hard plastics that do not break down in the environment. Peoples has been developing for years now at his Cambridge laboratory and believes whole heartedly he has found the answer and I can't wait for him to be proven right.

Tetyana Navalyana- Blog #5

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It is unbelievable how much we have learned in this semester thus far. The food unit is the most interesting unit that I personally learned a lot from. Since we have many farmers in our class, it was also very interesting to see their perspectives as well as how they feel about different arguments posed by the authors. From Pollen's chapters, we learned about corn, and artificial sweeteners. From Taubes' chapters, we learned about obesity in the U.S. and how so many people have illnesses such as heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and cancer. From the "Let Them Eat Fat" article, we learned how traditional diets are being replaced by processed, high-fat diets and so on.

The reading that interested me the most however, was the "Let Them Eat Fat" article that we read recently. It is true that two thirds of Americans are considered overweight or obese. Meaning they have a BMI- Body Mass Index between 25-29.9 if they are overweight and BMI of 30 and more if they are obese. Since I am taking a nutrition class as well this semester, it helped me to better see what is going on in this world, and what different food options people are making. In this article, the author mentions that traditional diets are being replaced by processed high-fat diets, and therefore this is leading to obesity, and illnesses such as diabetes and heart diseases.

I remember when I lived in Ukraine. We never had obese or overweight people. Of course there were few, but not like here in America. It seems that wherever you go, you see people that can barely move, or need equipment to help them get around. This is a very serious issue! Perhaps the food choices that people make in America have to do something with their health? People are used to fast food, and frozen foods that are microwavable and are ready within ten minutes. What happened to cooking at home? A normal meal takes about an hour to prepare. Yet many people decide to save time, and instead go to fast food chains and have their meal ready within seconds, never realizing how dangerous that food is for their health.

Also when discussing these issues in class, I realized how wasteful Americans are. They throw away leftovers and make poor health choices. They never realize how thankful they must be for what they have, since other countries may not even have bread or clean water to drink. Americans must appreciate things in life, and not waste food.

 

 

 

Protein Power

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Biochemistry is undeniably one of the coolest fields of study. Protein engineering is a practical application of biochemical technology that can be used in multiple ways. Michael Eisenstein's article entitled, Protein Power, discusses the usefulness of protein engineering in modern science and the significance of its application in research and development. These techniques allow physical biochemists to generate an increasing appreciation and understanding for the usefulness of biochemical engineering. As mentioned in the paper, these discoveries can be used as a form of cancer treatment

: "synthetic antibodies have been designed to bind tightly to specific targets, such as tumor cells, and then label them or even mark them for destruction". However, proteins are unimaginable complex in nature and numerous steps are crucial in ensuring that artificially manufactured proteins are safe enough for human use.

Rosetta and Foldit are only two of the several computer software systems used to establish protein shape, chemistry, functionality and folding capability. These "computer algorithms are giving scientists the power to redesign proteins", allowing them to test their usefulness in various fields of industry. Computational design techniques are promising a bright future for protein engineers, most particularly in artificially produced enzymes (biological catalysts). Various modifications are likely to be implemented into the public health issues concerned with the study of antibiotics and pathogenic activity.

Eisenstein also mentions the usefulness of protein engineering in environmental preservation - "it may soon be possible to build enzymes that can recognize and destroy environmental pollutants, transform plant matter into energy, synthesize revolutionary biomaterials" - how cool is that!

 

Despite the significant amount of money, time and energy invested into the study of protein engineering, this article, as well as many other publications, prove that it's worth drawing attention to. Our knowledge of the tie remarkable intervention has provided leeway for aspiring biochemical engineers and biological researchers.

 

- Lilian Keraka

Blog #5

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I thought the Norman Borlaug article "Ending World Hunger" was interesting because he provides ways that we can help potentially feed the world by using genetically modified organisms. To potentially crate new crops that are resistant to pests, more nutritious, environmentally friendly etc.  In many ways it was interesting because GMO may be the only way that we have to create more and more food for a growing population. If don't have any real alternative solutions, we may not have a choice but to use GMOs.

Some the issues I have with Borlaug was that he didn't adequately approach the negatives of GMO's.  He says that no credible science reports have said there is a negative health effects to GMOs.  That may be true as of right now, but we just don't know. For instance, since GMOs are a relatively new technology what happens when we eat genetically modified foods during a full human lifetime?  We just don't know yet. Just because there has not had a negative effect on humans-doesn't mean that there won't be. Even though crossing over genes in organisms may occur in nature, it certainly not at the rate we are doing it.  Since GMO's are relatively new we are in essence being experimented on. Also, what about using the pesticides used kill bugs that are normal predators to the crops. Over time wouldn't these bugs become resistant to the pesticides? Wouldn't we just be creating some sort of super bug?

Even with these negatives, there is a lot of potential in GMOs and it may be part of a solution for countries less fortunate then us who may not have a choice.  Also it's important to look at other important issues with food such as food distribution rather than say the GMO's will solely solve hunger in the world.

 

Blog Entry 5

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Politics of Hunger

            I find it interesting how Collier relates the food crisis to three major issues, the first being the upper class obsession with organic farming methods. I agree that many people have become obsessed with the organic way and the need to only eat organically grown foods rather foods that are made through commercial methods. There really is no way to sustain the world's population without the commercial farming techniques used today. If the population continues to grow exponential and food production keeps on growing linearly, then eventually the population will not be able to be sustained.

            The second issue Collier brings up is the misconception of science in producing genetically modified crops. GMOs are important in agriculture. They have provided away for higher yields and more efficient use of land. Countries, that have banned the use of GMOs, especially in Europe were there is a lot less land, should be utilizing the GMOs instead of worrying about the possible side effects that have yet arise.  I also find it interesting that in the article from Borlaug, that some individuals believe that GM crops should not be given to countries suffering from a famine. I

            The final issue Collier brings up about America trying to cut its dependence on foreign oil is all to true. Ethanol is not the answer for the whole energy crisis. Wind and solar power are often ignored when it comes to sources of new energy. If sugar cane from Brazil would be a better option than ethanol, then the US government should be allowing importing of this and allow American crops to go onto the market as food. If really want our reliance on oil to decrease than we also need to decrease our consumption. Americans are some of the most wasteful people on the planet. It really comes down to whether or not we are willing to make the change as a society. 

Maybe too Convenient

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Charlie

I have enjoyed hearing everyone's opinions about the various topics we have covered thus far in class!  After thinking about this semester and what we have covered in this course, I believe most of the issues and dilemmas in our society we have discussed have a lot to do with how much we are willing to pursue our conveniences given the potential risks and costs involved.  We have a lot of options in our society that claim to make our lives more enjoyable as we go about our day-to-day tasks.  However, some of the conveniences we have adapted over the years may be more of a risk to our health than they are worthwhile. 

Some examples are the fast food options that require a great amount of throw away items.  I believe we have become too comfortable with our throw away item usage.  Our wastefulness has increased over the years, and we have to search for ways to become more "green friendly" as we move forward into the future.  In general, we have adapted to eating more fast foods as they have become a convenient way for us to simply get more things accomplished every day.  We have also become further away from what we are putting into our mouths because we are adapting to eating more processed and on the go type foods.

I was thinking the other day about how much trust is involved in our food supply.  I believe the U.S. does have the safest food supply in the world, but how much regulating can we actually do?  We can only regulate so many things to certain extent before they are out of our hands.  Maybe we should concentrate on things that are more at the source of our problems.  I read an interesting article titled Benign by Design in Seedmagazine written by Elizabeth Grossman and she brought up some really good points in her article.  I believe we have to become more sustainable in our products we are using, and that might be the bottom line issue. 

How are we going to do that?  I believe it all starts by discontinuing the usage of some of our synthetic chemicals that are becoming more apparent in our everyday products.  We have to because they are becoming more of an increasing dilemma.  We have to start looking at ways we can minimize our usage and exposure to some of the harmful chemicals that are even showing up in the bloodstreams of new born babies!  I believe we currently use too many synthetic chemicals in our society to speed up our productivity which are harming us too much today, and they will only continue to have a negative impact on us in the upcoming years.  We need to start implementing more Green Chemistry technologies into our everyday lives.  Don't get me wrong, we still have to enjoy and live our lives to the fullest, but at what costs are we willing to potentially sacrifice our health for some of the conveniences we have in our society?  

 

blog post #5

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 One concept regarding Pollan and the large amount of unhealthy processed foods is how grade schools lunch room can be a large factor in developing an individuals eating habits. Our nation is faced with increased obesity in todays youth as well the diseases and ailments that are caused from obesity. As this growing concern amounts to epidemics most public schools are still 'teaching' their students to eat unhealthy. Dating back to elementary school, I attended a public school system thats lunch program was run by a company called Sudexo. Sudexo ran every lunch room in every elementary school, two middle school and our one senior high school. Elementary school we were given one of two options usually ranging from cheap, unhealthy, hight fat, high carbohydrate filled food, with a small selective salad bar that was installed by angered parents claiming there isn't any healthy alternative. The middle school and high school lunch room would only grow in the variety of unhealthy food and provided a healthy alternative that was usually two to three dollars more and the line was usually empty. I can say for one, after eating so much junk for two years in middle school I would change to having my parents make my lunch alongside a lot of other students.

              This personal example relates to America's growing obesity epidemic and the massive amount of processed foods, thousands of schools around the country have provided a mass variety of unhealthy foods that were cheaper and readily available, given a grade school student attends school over half of calendar year and the majority consumes deep fried food and other unhealthy alternatives reflects how those students eating habits develop in later years. I believe in order to help prevent this growing obesity epidemic grade schools need to provide varieties of healthy alternatives that appeal to students. This concept has gained momentum recently and has some schools adding new healthy alternatives more appealing to students as well making them less expensive then the high fat, high carbohydrate filled foods.


          Overall it comes down to an individuals decision on weather they are going to eat healthy or unhealthy processed foods. This is where I believe the education of the benefits of healthy eating as well the consequences of having a unhealthy diet should be apart of every students education. Students that are simply educated on healthy and unhealthy eating habits are more able to develop a healthy diet without unhealthy processed foods.


Dan Leach   

Blog post #5

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The conversations in class that have taken place recently have made me look at things in a different way; this class as a whole has broadened my views on certain issues.  Most recently, the words "technological fix" came up in class today (by Annie I think).  The statement made me think harder about what the purpose of processed foods really is.  Nowadays, it seems as though the general population is in such a rush to complete tasks in a timely manner.  This rush has caused many people to lower their standards for the food products they consume. 

According to page 123 of In Defense of Food by Pollan, "only 20% of American children and 32% of adults eat the recommended five daily servings" of fruits and vegetables.  I believe this deficiency is due to the availability of processed foods and (mainly) the decisions of its consumers.  Processed foods have made it easier for most people to prepare and eat a meal in about 20 minutes.  The creation and innovations concerning processed foods is a reason why "two-thirds of (Americans) are overweight or obese" (Pollan, p. 135).  Originally, processed foods were meant to preserve food and have a longer shelf life, and now, eating processed foods is the "normal" thing to do. 

I am not sure if anyone really thought that preserving our foods would lead to such problems.  These problems resulted from the "technological fix" of foods that are not eaten in their natural state.  "The practice of refining carbohydrates is implicated in several of these chronic diseases - diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers," Pollan writes on page 109.  I believe that the idea of preserving and altering our foods was a good idea at the beginning but has taken a wrong turn and lead us down a road that will not end for quite some time.  It is going to be extremely difficult for us to overcome our way of life, but it needs to be done.

Lisa Breuninger

The conversation in class today about fiber in Fruit Loops, left me with a few questions: first exactly what chemicals are the "chemical fibers" in fruit loops made from? And if we are capable of ripping bits of food down to the molecular level and are capable of reconstructing them (into things like fruit loops) exactly what nutrients AREN'T we getting? Pollen says, and much of my own research has shown, that corn and soy beans are the money crops which provide for carbohydrate energy, fat, and protein.  However these three elements does not a healthy diet make. On the contrary, it seems we are crafting a food pyramid which merely satiates hunger and that does not necessarily provide other essential nutrients and enzymes our bodies do need.

When we use the surpluses of corn and soy to feed our meat animals (and subsequently ourselves), we are as Pollen suggests "simplifying their diets in unhealthy ways." Cattle are meant to eat mostly grasses, and minimal to no amounts of grain. Chickens too are by nature, programmed to eat bugs and gravelly bits they find around the farmyard.  We are not even tasting what these animals are supposed to taste like when we eat them!!  We are just ingesting more, likely fattier, meats.

Reading this information has made me seriously consider switching to vegetarianism however even this is bound to be a failure, because of how limited varieties of available vegetables are.  A major reassessment of how and what we are eating must take place on an individual before any major changes can be made. It is unreasonable to expect our government to regulate what we are putting on our tables. In this free market economy the government can go so far but ultimately, consumer demands will win out, that is if enough people speak out.

Someone please just tell me what should I eat!

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For the past week or so, the topic about health and diet has occupied much of Writ3152W, and has brought to light the issue of American obesity in general.  The correct diet that should be followed, the cause for such outrages increases in childhood obesity, and the rise of unhealthy Americans has been interpreted in many ways.  In the article titled, "Let Them Eat Fat," once again the author gives his understanding and advice on why American's weight is spinning out of control.  According to Critser the economy and the types of food that are now available, to not only the poor, but to the public as a whole are what is harming the average American's health.  The fact that obesity is increasing unhindered, and no evidence of any concrete solution to this problem, has raised issues of concern.  If the foods that are consumed now are so harmful then why are there no seemingly strong movement against them, and why are such lifestyles allowed?

The author Critser brings up an interesting topic about the rise in insulin production and profits.  Companies and marketers seem to be profiting off of the lifestyles of many.  Changing ones unhealthy diet may be an easy issue if they were not so in-tuned and focused on matching the lifestyles of specific individuals.  The growth and profit rise in insulin seems to hint that rather then solving and educating people about the problem, making the problem into something that is negligible is the proper solution and the most profitable.  In addition, rather then providing healthier foods to combat the issue, companies are benefiting from those scenarios where an unhealthy diet is the only available diet.  Diseases and issues caused by obesity seem to be a gold-mine for big industries to profit from by creating new products that make those ailments something that can be ignored for a little longer. 

The author makes a good point in that while experts are arguing about the correct solution in combating the growing issue of obesity and American health, these problems are continuing to grow and that no amount of discussion will change anything.  The Pollan chapters also seem to hit on the issue of how no true solution is being provided.  Deceptive lables, that seemingly attempt to make their product healthy, are really covering up for the thousands of other chemicals that are harmful within the product.  The issue of a healthy diet and foods seem to have become a jumbled mess, and companies are trying to benefit off of the confusion the best way they can, anyway they can, before someone finally figures something out.  Yet, until then good luck!      

Blog Post #5

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The topic of the American diet has been an interesting one to cover in class.  From Taubes' discussions about the government recommending the wrong kind of diet to Americans, to Pollan's concerns over too much corn and processed food, we have been bombarded with different diet recommendations and theories.  Although I believe all this information is a good resource to help make a informed, healthy decision when it comes to what we should eat, the problem lies with the choices that the majority of Americans are making. 

The American economy runs on the basic principle of supply and demand.  Simply put, if there wasn't such a high demand for fast, cheap, and unhealthy food, then businesses wouldn't be selling them.  The majority of American's tend to enjoy indulging in foods that they know are bad for them.  Obviously the best tasting foods are usually the ones that are the worst for you, so we gain pleasure out of eating foods that we know aren't good for us.  This taste preference, along with the convenience factor of fast food and processed food, is what I believe has lead towards the rise in obesity and related health conditions.

How could this problem possible be solved?  It is unreasonable to think that the government would ban foods that are unhealthy from the market all together, so a social change is in order.  If we stopped buying the McChickens and Triple Stacks and demand that these fast food restaurants offer a larger variety of healthy choices, then they would be forced to adapt to stay in business.  In the end it comes down to the individual making informed and conscious decisions about the foods they put in their body. 

-Dan

FAVREAU: The American Diet

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Over the past few weeks of class we have focused on different claims addressing the problems of the American diet.  Taubes was introduced first with his proposition to turn away from the diets that are high in carbohydrates, and instead fill your diet with meats and vegetable (a controversial turn to a high fat diet). The readings by Pollan point out American reliance on corn, and how this is refined to be contained in so many of the processed foods that also make up American diets.  Both of these articles are scrutinizing the failing American diet, and trying to re-establish standards for our society.

This is a very important issue for the public to stay informed on because it directly affects all Americans.  There is an abundance of obesity in our society for both adults and children.  The problem of obesity leads to chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, which leads to an increase of medical spending.  After being exposed to the arguments of Taubes and Pollan, I begin to question the American diet.  I feel that there are many contradictions in our country revolving around our relationship with food.  We are dependent on foods that provide a quick and convenient meal (example fast & frozen foods).  These foods are made from processing, which is outlined by Pollan that it reduces the nutritional value of food.  So we are filling up on calories that have less nutritional supplement than eating whole foods.  To fix this problem, we rely on food scientists to induce these processed foods with supplementary vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber to make them more healthy.  Therefore foods nutritional value is basically "watered down" when it is processed, so as a technological fix we chemically add nutrients back into the food.  I feel that this is a technological fix to the problem of the American diet, and it would be more effective to be less reliant on these processed foods, and like Pollan advises switch back to whole foods. 

Another contradiction that I think appears in the American diet is that we are the "most health conscious, and richest people in history" yet we continue to have a growing obesity problem (Crister).  We invest money in both the companies that promote our unhealthy eating habits, but then at the same time value the fitness centers, new diet trends, and are spending more and more money in the medical field looking for solutions to our obesity problems.  In Critser's article he argues that the pharmaceutical companies are profiting from the increase of type 2 diabetes, by producing more insulin.  The article "Big Food vs. Big Insurance" addresses the relationship between the food industry and the health insurance industry.  I believe that to fix the problem with American diet we need to start piecing these parts together.  By realizing that fast food corporations cost the insurance companies more money, hopefully changes will be made to push the American diet into a better direction.  National health care policies could be one of the first steps to connect these pieces, and start reforming the policies to make changes in the American diet.

I think that inorder to find a solution to the American diet problem, all contributing parts need to be addressed.  American culture (focus on convenience), fast food corporations, agribusiness, health insurance companies, and food scientists all need to be looked at to see what the most benefical solution is.  There needs to be balance between choosing what is convenient and choosing what is healthy.  I think that if these groups work together they could create an American diet that is healthy, yet fits into American culture.

Green Chemistry article by Grossman

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The article Benign by Design, written by Elizabeth Grossman for Seed Magazine (She is also the author of the readings our class has read from 'Chasing Molecules'), is explaining the importance and practicality of incorporating Green Chemistry into the design and production of all products.  Grossman states that the science to benefit only one generation can not continue because we can no longer afford it.  The detrimental designs of synthetic compounds are showing up in more than the products they were used to make.  The Centers for Disease control have found dozens of synthetic compounds in the bloodstreams of the majority of Americans and even in new born babies.  

Grossman also points out the the switch to Green Chemistry will benefit the industries that currently rely heavily on the toxic compounds used.  The hazardous materials used to create and what the final products are made out of are extremely expensive to clean up and to store, so a switch to Green Chemistry would save many businesses money in the long run.

The switch is being made slowly; several Universities are beginning programs to teach scientists the difference between hazardous and non harmful synthetic compounds, which is different from before because most scientists have not had training on what may affect them or nature negatively.  Also, a few companies have begun to offer green friendly cleaning products, textiles, and building materials.  So far progress has been slow and on a small scale, but changing the current ways of manufacturing is our only option to sustain a healthy way of life.

I believe Green Chemistry will be successful because it aims to fix the problem as a whole. There are many specific problems facing science, but the switch to Green Chemistry would be a big step in solving the many problems brought on by the current ways of manufacturing like the hazardous conditions scientist and production workers have to work in to produce traditional products, the harm caused inflicted to ecosystems all over the world, and the costly clean up and storage of products that don't degrade. 

Lyndsie Kaehler, Blog Post #5

 

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