FEB 16

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10. FEB 16

Assigned Work

  • Pollan, Michael. Part 2: The Western Diet (pp. 101-136) (35)
  • Alfino, Taxonomy of Successes and Failures of the US Industrial Food System (in shared folder)

In-class

  • Resisting Industrial Foods

Pollan, Part II of In Defense of Food

  • Part II : Western Diet and diseases of civilization
  • Chapter 1: The Aborigine in all of us
  • Summer 1982 - W. Australia aborigines study -- "metabolic syndrome" -- defined, theorized as signature disease of western diet. A visual for metabolic syndrome.
  • O'Dea's results p. 87. Note that she didn't look for a silver bullet, a single factor. Just the diet change.
  • Major premise: Compare us to many traditional diet populations and the difference in diseases profile is stark. It might be the "whole diet pattern" rather than a single imbalance. (The imbalances are symptoms.) [Lots of evidence that as cultures move toward industrial food brands and more female labor market participation, they start to acquire more dietary disease.]
  • Chapter 2: The Elephant in the Room
  • Group of early 20th c intellectuals/doctors (bot 90) noticed absence of chronic disease in populations they traveled to.
  • British doc Dens Burkitt: "Western Diseases" -- diseases attributable to western diet and lifestyle.
  • Pollan chooses the story of Weston Price from this group.
  • Two objections to hyp that Western diet is to blame: disease/race theory (but evidence from mixed ethnicity/race cultures like US suggests not), demographic theory (we live longer, so we get more disease). In both cases, the evidence refutes the claim.
  • Weston Price -- b. 1870. diseases of teeth are effects of Western diet. 1939 major work after global travels looking at teeth. Lots and lots of teeth. kind of an amateur scientists, but collected important data (and seen right by later dental research). hard to find control groups. Price found big differences in Vit A and D. (Note comment about Masai -- . Multiple successful diets for omnivores.) p 98: note comparison of groups with wild animal flesh and agriculturalists.
  • First to make comparisons of grass fed / winter forage fed animals to find vitamin differences. Example today from grass fed cows. Pure Eire Dairy Better 06/03 ratios.
  • Decline of nutrition in current vegetables and fruits: [1]
  • Albert Howard 99 -- "father" of organic farming movement; early 20th century; similar time period, making argument against synthetic nitrogen (more later). both pioneers in what would later be seen as an ecological approach to food production.
  • Important: Among first to see a connection between dietary diseases of the food system as part of an "ecological dysfunction". (This is a theme that will occupy a lot of our attention in our discussion and reading about the history of agriculture.)
  • Chapter 3: The Industrialization of Eating
  • Thesis: Calling for a more ecological way of thinking about food. Think of food as mutual adaptation of plants and animals to humans. Propagation/place in ecology of food chain.
  • Example of fruit: ripeness, transportation, high nutrient state. Corn vs. corn syrup. (Note point about possible future humans who could use HFCS.) Also true of milk in history of agriculture. Pollan doesn't quite give the details on milk. Not like a light switching on. [Textbook example of gene-culture co-evolution. Selective advantage for those who keep lactase expression going past breast feeding. You can always leave it to natural selection to favor those who can get on with the new diet.]
  • Types of Changes that Mark the Western Industrial Diet
  • 1. From Whole Foods to Refined
  • prestige of refined products: prior to roller technology, white rice and flour would be labor added, story of grain rollers 107, Refined flour is the first industrial fast food. Fresh flour lasts days. 108: specific details germ/endosperm, but also local mills, water power. Fortified bread. B vitamins added back in to reduce pellagra and beriberi.
  • 1996: added folic acid.
  • Jacobs and Steffen study: epidemiological study showing effects of whole grains, but also that groups not eating whole grains, but getting equivalent nutrients did not enjoy benefits. alludes to possible holism in effects. Sugar intake since 1870's. Sugar data
  • 2. From Complexity to Simplicity
  • The flip side of food degradation is soil degradation. Nitrogen fertilizers. simplification through chemical processing. Control. Documented nutrient decline in foods (also article above). Note on the Haber-Bosch process for synthetic NPK.
  • Simplification of plant species in industrial foods. Again, appearance of greater variety in industrial food store, but products actually represent a small variety plants and animals. 116 for details. Decline in nutrition levels in foods since mid-20th century.
  • details on loss of food crop diversity. [2]. Industrial publication on loss of crop diversity. (Examples from intact food production cultures like Italy.)
  • Corn and soy are very efficient plants for producing carbs, but now supply sig % of calories in Am diet (about 800).
  • Conclusion: there may be a false economy in industrial food production. Varietals, soil, diversity of food have values that are lost in assessing costs at the retail level.
  • 3. Quality to Quantity
  • Industrial food system has favored cheap macro-nutrients over cheap whole foods. (whole foods in Italian significantly cheaper.)
  • Decline in nutrient content (118-119: review), "nutritional inflation," interest in "phytochemicals" -- seem related to anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
  • False food value lesson from "nutritional inflation" : You get a larger variety of X fruit or veg with less nutrition, but it's cheaper. Problem is that you have a limited volume of food intake, so you lose value in the end and possibly compromise nutrition. Simplification of species diversity and monoculture of ag. corn and soy are very efficient producers of carb calories. but then we draw less food diversity by focusing on these two.
  • Decline in food nutrient content from food grown in impoverished soil. Some details on how soils matter: Growing time affects mineral and vitamin levels (bio-accumulation). [Note on negative examples of bio-accumulation: mercury in fish.] Some evidence that organic plants have chemicals related to immune responses.
  • "Overfed and Undernurished" - Industrial ag succeeded in growing more calories per acre, but at a cost.
  • Cites Bruce Ames, serious researcher interest in micronutrition and cancer. Interesting theory (unproven) that "satiety" mechanisms are tied to nutrition such that a malnurished body always feels hungry. [Note that we have more theory about this now - Microbiome research.]
  • 4. Leaves to Seeds
  • Shift from leaves to seeds decreases anti-oxidants and phytonutrients in our diet.
  • Mentions Susan Allport's The Queen of Fats
  • More seeds tilt in the fat profile of the food product toward O6. Less healthy fat. O3 fats spoil faster, so tend to be removed from industrial food. Nutritional advice to move toward seed oils didn't originally distinguish O3 from O6.
  • Lipidphobia led us to shift to seed oils (give up butter --which has some 03 fats and move to corn -- which is high in 06 fats) and that led to a change in ratio of O6/O3 from 3:1 to 10:1. note the connection p. 129 between fat profile and sense of "food security" -- interesting digression here. Could we have a deep fear of hunger that still leads us to choose overeating, especially of caloric foods?
  • O3 decline also related to mental health. 130
  • 5. From Food Culture to Food Science
  • Shift from reliance on national / ethnic food cultures to science. Lots of wisdom and nutrition understanding in traditional cuisines.

Resisting Industrial Foods

  • You can reverse each of the trends Pollan identifies in his discussion of industrial food and the Western Diet that it supplies.
  • From Refined to Whole foods / Simple to Complex
  • Apple confections to apples, Starbucks muffins to a home made muffin (digression on Bob's Red Mill muffins,
  • Orange juice to oranges to fruit salads (note on ascorbic and citric acid).
  • Mac and cheese to pasta primavera, pasta e ceci.
  • Cook with brown rice when possible. Treat flour as a fresh food.
  • Quantity to Qualtity: "Pay more eat less".
  • Comparisons of taste (and nutrition) between industrial and non-industrial foods. Taste (in a basic food) as guide to soil quality. (Often associated with organic, but conceptually quite distinct.)
  • Nutrients lost in poor soil. Synthetic fertilizers don't address soil quality.
  • Industrial foods often large, but water logged. (50cent egg lessons here.) "nutrition deflation" - For the same volume of big industrial produce you are getting less nutrition.
  • From Processed Seeds to whole Seeds and more Leaves.
  • Omega 6 and 3 issue. Fiber and microbiota. How do you get more plants in your diet? "Trade up" dishes that are carb/fat based to dishes that incorporate leaves and vegetable fiber.
  • Mac and cheese to pasta primavera, pasta e ceci.
  • Industrial products with corn syrup and corn based chemistry to, well, corn!
  • Engage in local food culture, which is often more diverse and fresher.
  • Markets
  • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Locally "Linc Foods".
  • Nutrients lost in the supply chain transit time.
  • Connect with traditional ethnic cuisines.
  • Ethnic cuisines have a long history of creating nutritious and tasty diets (not just dishes) under conditions of food scarcity. Italians refer to "cucina povera". High and low (humble) cuisine. Pre-urban cuisines had greater use of higher quality oils (digress on Italian oil buying habits), access to fresh herbs (expensive in urban food culture, but part of "cucina povera"). In terms of practicality, traditional cuisines often create diversity of dishes from common patterns of herbs, spices, and cooking methods. Compare to stocking and supplying an international/global cuisine kitchen. Food waste. A foodie could have a very austere yet satisfying and practical kitchen modelling cooking on a traditional "cucina povera".