Wednesday, March 08, 2006

You Are What You Eat

After coming across a few interesting news items this week I though I'd just include a general email about nutrition and food quality in the United States.

Some months ago I met a new doctor, an internist, just out of her residency and starting to work with patients. Since I had read that medical school curricula only included about 30 hours total information about nutrition, and that was spread out over all of their studies and not in nutrition courses. I asked this young doctor if that was still accurate and she confirmed it was about right. She said that she didn't buy into all this stuff about food, that people had been eating for thousands of years and people should just eat what they want. She also had an attitude that indicated that nutrition was akin to dietician or nutritionist, the lowest of the low -- she was a doctor. Wow I thought to myself, not only ignorance but arrogance about it even. I was not impressed.

Did you know that the food we eat today is not the same as what people ate 100 years ago? I don't just mean food preparations, but the nutritional value of the food has actually changed. Beef came from cows that ate grass and the omega-3 to omega-6 fat ratio was actually a lot more inline with what our bodies can handle. With the feedlot handling of today's cows/steer they eat a lot more of corn and other grains which drive up the omega-6 content. Too much omega-6 in the diet is linked to some types of arthritis and other health conditions. That's just one example that I heard about from an arthritis expert on NPR some years ago.

Then there are trace nutrients in the soil such as selenium. Wheat is usually a good source of selenium but with depleted soils in farmlands and crops grown predominently on fertilizer you likely aren't getting as much selenium in your diet as people were even 50 years ago. Selenium is one of those nutrients on the fertility supplement list -- if people dealing with infertility are having to supplement for this then you know on average there is a deficiency in the food supply on the whole.

So I wasn't that surprised when this article popped up on the ABCNews site this week, perhaps you saw coverage about it on the news this week:

Fruits, Veggies, Not As Vitamin-rich as in Past, Says New Data
Larger Fruits and Vegetables Mean More Plentiful but Less Potent Bounty

So the food you eat has 30% less vitamins than before, and it sounds like they weren't speaking even about trace nutrients, probably just the basics like Vitamin C, Iron, Calcium, etc. Does that mean that the average American is also 30% less healthy? I don't even need to say much about the recent figures about obesity in this country, I'm sure you haven't missed that.

Here's another good one:

What we don't eat can actually hurt us, Seattle Times 3/8/06

So the real deal is that if you want the best nutritional value you should buy organic. And eating local is also another way to help make sure you are getting food that hasn't been in storage for months, or ripened in warehouses with methane gas (that's what they do to those nasty pink tomatoes they sell in the supermarket).

A great couple of books you might be interested in to learn more include:

This Organic Life by Joan Dye Gussow

Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods by Gary Paul Nabhan

1 comment:

Nikole said...

Very interesting. Thanks for the updates on this. I can't believe how little attention is paid to what we eat & nutrition by the medical community. When I went in for my first pre-pregnancy visit, I asked about nutrition. The doctor looked at me like I had a third eye. Just another reason why eastern medicine & philosophy makes so much more sense to me.