Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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The Food Industry: Past and Present

The following article discusses the past and present work of two pioneers in combating deceptive practices of the food industry:  The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century Deborah Blum Penguin Press (2018) and Unsavory Truth How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat by Marion Nestle. Basic Books, 2018.

Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, emerita, at New York University and visiting professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell. She has a PhD in molecular biology and an MPH in public health nutrition from UC Berkeley.

The use of industry funding by food companies  influence academia,  the advisory committees, and “experts” that are supposedly dedicated to informing the consumer of the latest nutrition guidelines and recommendations. Their conclusions from nutrition studies often show up in misleading media headlines furthering the dissemination of nutrition misinformation.

When consumers begin to be aware of these practices, companies may alter their tactics. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to have an understanding of how the food industry can sometimes intentionally deceive  for profit under the guise of “what’s a healthy diet.”

As Michael Moss, author of Salt, Sugar, Fat puts it: “You get this riveting,  provocatively written book, which should be read by anyone who has been seduced by the words, ‘New study shows…’ – that is, all of us.”



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What’s the Difference Between Organic and Conventional Food?

Organic basil

One of the most common debates among “foodies” is whether you should buy organically produced foods or just stick with conventionally produced food. In my opinion, there is not a whole lot of difference, and it becomes a personal choice when you know the facts.

Bottom Line: Both have their advantages and it is also important when reading about this topic that we recognize the bias promoted by both sides. This article appears to take an independent approach and  may help clear up some misinformation that is needed in order to make informed choices.

There are some concerns. Personally I always felt that organic is better for children due to the differences in pesticide use. Also, the recent debate about the widely used herbicide safety (e.g. Roundup containing glyphosate) gives rise to some other issues that have yet to be resolved. So with this in mind and until there is enough independent research, in my opinion, organic may have a slight positive edge on pesticide and environmental issues.  However, the important thing is to not fear fruits and vegetables but include them abundantly in your diet whether they are grown conventionally or organically. Both are a nutritious boost for your health.

However, It is blatantly apparent that there are many diverse opinions of the American grower and consumer on this highly controversial topic. Another important factor is often the higher cost of organically grown foods but based on all the facts, the choice is up to you.


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GMO 2.0?


It doesn’t look like genetically modified foods will be leaving us soon – on the contrary, more of them are in our future. Labeling proposals abound and regulations are currently a hot topic in the many diet debates. To date, many consumers are beginning to want more information about the foods we eat and are expressing more concerns about our food choices in the supermarket. In my opinion, that choice should be up to the consumer and should include as much information about that particular food product as possible.

A lot of newly proposed changes in our food culture will ultimately determine the makekup of our future food supply. The article states that USDA consumer comments are open until October 23, but COMMENTS are closed since the article was published in Sept. 2016.


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Do We Need More Protein?


How do we determine how much protein we actually need?  There are several ways that include percentage of total calories consumed as protein, the absolute amount of protein in the diet and the amount ingested per kilogram of body weight.  Regardless of how it is presented, most Americans get plenty of protein.

Typical protein intake in the U.S. is about 90 grams a day. The more a person weighs, the more protein he or she needs for maintaining and repairing the body.  The RDA for protein in adults is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.  For example if you weigh 154 pounds (70 kilograms), the recommended intake would be 56 grams a day.  (to convert pounds to kilograms, divide the pounds by 2.2 ).  Then, 70 kg. X 0.8 equals 56 grams a day. The elderly may need more protein as we age, but the amount is still not established. The current recommendation is 1.2 g/kg. body weight for people over 65.  Based on the above body weight, that would mean about 84 grams per day.

To get an idea of how much protein is a a food, you can follow these simple rules:

  • 1/2 cup of pasta or potatoes or 1 slice of bread = 3 grams of protein
  • 1 cup of yogurt or milk = 8 grams of protein
  • 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables or 1 cup of raw = 2 grams of protein
  • 1 oz of meat or cheese or 1/2 cup of legumes = 7 grams of protein ( 1 oz. is about the size of a pair of dice.)
  • Fats and Fruits = 0 grams of protein (some fruits can contain a very small amount)

Nevertheless, the food companies think we need more.  The following article from Food P0litics illustrates the latest marketing ideas from many of these food producers.  Do you need more?


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Fighting Back the Food Industry

It’s about time there are serious attempts to prevent the food industry from its persistent tactics to try to influence the Dietary Guidelines, the consumer and our children’s health. Read what Chile did to try to combat the advertising tactics that often are directed at children by company brands.

The article has many important implications on changing the toxic food environment – which in my opinion is at the heart of the obesity/diabetes crisis. If consumers do not demand positive changes,  we may never begin  to turn around this crisis  that decidedly affects our health and the resulting health care costs. It’s a long read but carries an important message. The Comments are also very supportive of these kinds of initiatives. Kudos to Chile.


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Taxes on Meat?

We already have soda taxes in place to attempt to cut down sweetened beverage consumption. Now it has been proposed by some that in the future we need to begin to look at the impact of meat consumption on our health as well as the environment.   CLICK HERE.

For a previous post on another perspective on this topic, CLICK HERE.

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Sugar Blues?

Sugar or fat? It appears that we have not had all the  research information to decide whether sugar or fat is associated with heart disease. Shame on the industry and the academics who participated back in the 1970’s and 80’s.