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3.08.2011

A Nutritional Prediction

I have been thinking a lot lately about the direction this country is going.  It had not exactly been a warm and fuzzy line of thought.  Perhaps that is due to a combination of the kinds of things I normally read (the blogs, articles, and non-fiction I read- sustainability, homesteading, etc) and the news coverage of all the political happenings of late- the possible elimination of CPB and Planned Parenthood, the "unbiased" newscasters and their interviewees stating that teacher need to "make sacrifices... for our children" (ie for their pocketbooks, while they refuse to raise taxes a few percent for wealthy Americans).  Part of me wants to stop watching, but I know that ignorance is never the answer.

But on a slightly more positive note, nutrition has made a few gains.  While I don't necessarily agree with what her idea of "healthy" is (she would probably drop dead if she saw the way I feed my kids- lots of full fat dairy, meat, butter, and coconut oil), Michelle Obama seems to actually be starting to make some strides in her nutritional campaign.  While her bill, which would have provided funding for school nutrition improvements and more free and reduced lunches, failed in the Senate, the task force remains and she continues to advocate for healthier meals both at home and in school.  And probably the best part of her approach is that she isn't vilifying any certain food (as I would), so she remains approachable to everyone.  As she says:

"We don't have to be 100% perfect," she says. "My kids eat dessert. My kids watch TV. ... I love burgers and fries, and I don't want to live a life where I can never have them again. And if we told families and children that that was the answer, we'd never get there.  The beauty is we don't need to be 100% of the way there. If we get 20% of the way there, we will change the health status of our kids for a generation."  USA Today

And she's right to be concerned about the health of our children's generation.  If the predictions are correct, our children will be the first generation in over a century facing a shorter average lifespan than their parents.  While there aren't a lot of dissenters to this cause (despite the vote in the senate, which was likely due to financial issues), individuals (like my best friend Sarah Palin) who oppose this push for better nutrition for our kids say its just a way for the government to tell us how to raise our children.  Really?  Then go ahead and keep feeding your kids donuts, sugar cereal, and soda.  We need fewer extreme conservatives anyway (I'm sorry, was that too harsh?).  But really, how can we oppose anything that makes life better for our children?  There is no longer any debate about processed and fast food being unhealthy.  No one argues that their children shouldn't eat vegetables.  And no one in the big, bad, scary government is going to come to your house and spank you for feeding your kids junk.  This is America- you're totally free to set your kids up to live a life with the various illnesses that are directly linked to a life of eating junk.  But what kind of a parent fights for this right?  (oh wait... Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman).

On this front the only things I can really do are feed my kids the way I know, from sound research, is the healthiest, and to adjust it according to their reactions.  And when they start school I can fight for better school meals (even though my own children will probably bring their lunch, due to the push for low and fat free foods in school lunches).  This way I can rest easier knowing that my children won't spend their adult lives reliant on medicines that cause more harm than good.

But I digress- my aim today was some nutritional predictions.  As I said, these steps are positive because they are better than a diet rich in processed and junk food, but simply eating whole grains is going to cause potential problems as well until we can figure out, as a society, how to prepare them properly, and sadly this has become a lost art.  Also, the continued use of homogenized milk and vegetable oils (other than olive, coconut, and palm) will result in the rate of heart disease NOT changing, despite diet changes.

My prediction concerning whole grains- I have a few, actually.  First, there will be more cases of nutritional deficiency, most probably B vitamin deficiency and anemia.  These will probably not be widespread in the U.S. since we live in a relatively affluent society (assuming it continues to be affluent...) and most people will be able to get their iron and B vitamins from other sources.  Those the most likely to be affected by these deficiencies, in my educated opinion, will be children and anyone with underlying health issues, particularly those that affect absorption of nutrients.  Further, we will continue to see rises in gluten, wheat, and corn sensitivity due, in my belief, to the fact that most people only eat three grains- wheat, corn, and oats.  We are also more susceptible to wide food shortages if we continue to only cultivate wheat as a primary food source and that nasty (and as of now impossible to combat) wheat rust works its way into the states that produce the majority of our wheat.  And lastly, I am worried (although I haven't been able to find proof of this as a possibility) that the crops that we continue to grow on such a large scale in the same fields (even with crop rotation) will begin to decline in nutritional value, at least in the areas of vitamins and micro-nutrients.  We have seen this is true to some extent with conventionally raised produce, so why wouldn't it happen with grain as well?  With the exception of food shortages, however, I have hope that once these issues are seen to be widespread we will change our practices.  Because I am still an optimist.  

And concerning fat and dairy, my prediction is that assuming the country continues to improve it's diet, the medical community will be confounded by the fact that heart disease rates don't improve, or only improve a little.  Because I don't believe saturated fat or cholesterol (at least not on their own) cause heart disease.  And there is science to back this up.  Did you know that, when the EKG was first invented it was laughed at because heart disease was extremely rare, this in an era where everyone ate liberal amounts of eggs, butter, lard, and suet even if they didn't eat much meat.  But shortly thereafter pasteurization and homogenization of milk became common, and heart disease began to rise.  By 1924 the EKG was seen as a revolutionary piece of equipment at the doctor who invented it won a Nobel Prize.  And as processed vegetable oils began to be introduced these rates continued to skyrocket.  My fear concerning this prediction (which I'm not as optimistic about) is that, unless we get over our fear of bacteria, the medical community will in some way misinterpret it and vilify yet another healthy food.

The most difficult hurdle in the fight is going to be the food industry.  Neither of the healthy ways of eating I have spoken are friendly to the food industry- the eat less of everything movement (Michelle's Obama's push) means people will be buying more, and buying less processed (which have higher markups, thus higher profit margins).  And the traditional foods movement (my way of eating) pushes local, small, organic, natural (really natural, as in beef raised on pasture, not simply a box of something that says "natural!"), whole, and sustainable... all of which are in direct opposition to the food industry.  And because the food industry has some of the most active lobbyists, we won't see a lot of improvements in policy.  If there are improvements (and I truly believe there will be), they will be grassroots improvements- they will come in response to consumer demand.

1 comment:

Brandislee said...

I just want to add that I wasn't even considering population growth in this equation, which is also a huge factor in this.

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