New Finnish Study Suggest Link Between Children with ADHD and Obesity

Reblogged from Science Daily:

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to become obese and sedentary teenagers, according to new research.

Previous studies have suggested a link between ADHD and obesity, but whether one leads to the other is unclear. One way to better understand the link is to follow children through to adolescence.

The new study, which followed almost 7000 children in Finland, found that those who had ADHD symptoms at age eight had significantly higher odds of being obese at age 16. Children who had ADHD symptoms were also less physically active as teenagers.
Researchers from Imperial College London reported the findings in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

ADHD affects two to five per cent of school-aged children and young people in the UK and is related to poor school performance. The main symptoms are inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. ADHD is complex to diagnose, but screening questionnaires can give an indication of a probable diagnosis, based on a child’s behaviour.

Conduct disorder, a condition related to ADHD and linked to tendencies towards delinquency, rulebreaking and violence, was also found to increase risk of obesity and physical inactivity among teens.

The nine per cent of children in the study who had positive results on an ADHD screener at age 8 were at higher risk of obesity at age 16. Senior author, visiting Professor Alina Rodriguez, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, said: “Obesity is a growing problem that we need to watch out for in all children and young people, but these findings suggest that it’s particularly important for children with ADHD.

“It appears that lack of physical activity might be a key factor. We think encouraging children with ADHD to be more physically active could improve their behavior problems as well as helping them to stay a healthy weight, and studies should be carried out to test this theory.”

Furthermore, children who were less inclined to take part in physically active play as 8 year-olds were more likely to have inattention as teenagers. Binge eating, which was also investigated as a possible factor that could contribute to the link with obesity, was not more prevalent in children with ADHD.

According to Public Health England around 28% of children aged 2 to 15 are overweight or obese. Obesity in childhood and adolescence is linked to a wide variety of short- and long-term health risks, including type 2 diabetes, heart and circulatory disease, and mental health conditions.

The study used questionnaires completed by parents and teachers to assess 6934 children for ADHD and conduct disorder symptoms at ages eight and 16.

Body mass index was calculated based on parents’ reports of their children’s height and weight at age seven. At age 16, the participants had health examinations that recorded their height, weight, waist and hip measurements.

12 Simple Rules to Live By That Will: Eliminate Reductionist Thinking and Help You Take Control of Your Nutritional Fate

In the scramble to make more dollars and benefit their bottom lines, food companies thrive on the reductionist values we have come to embrace as a nation, taking advantage of America’s grasps at “the next best thing” or “cure-all” that hops up to greet us with our morning advertisements. I think somewhere deep down, we mostly know it’s not true, but sometimes it’s hard to tell. It’s so easy to get swept up in the promise of enriched kids cereals or gummy vitamins. Here are some rules to live by that will help you avoid being a reductionist and generally better your health.

 

1. Don’t fall for quick-fix, infomercial diets

 

I’m not saying that diets don’t work for people. But… diets really don’t work for people. They don’t address the issue that caused the weight gain in the first place – they are a temporary solution. The recidivism rates make numbers out of our desires to eat just one more Ho-Ho, and they are showing us that we just don’t have great willpower. While the argument is there for biochemistry and our pleasure centers reacting to sugars and other substances in an addictive and (sometimes) primal way, you can go a long way by getting rid of the idea that quick-fixes are actually going to work in the long-term.

 

Americans tend to have big dreams with happy endings that come quickly and yield high results. And although that happens in certain senses (heh), it rarely happens in terms of diet, especially if you want to be healthy your whole life. We all need to work on how to break down those big goals into little stepping stones that lead to those big pie-in-the-sky goals (non-fat pie-in-the-sky?). If the goal is “I want to be able to run a 5K without stopping,” and you’ve never run 5K (3 miles), would you start by running a 5K? Any personal trainer will tell you no. Unless they’re terrible.

 

Same thing with our diets – you have to work up to the big goal. And allow yourself to feel good about the little things you see along the way. No pill will do that for you. (Unless you have some crazy hormonal imbalance, but we can talk about that later.)

 

2. Reduce sugar intake

 

Sugar is crazy. It’s crazy bad for us. And the biological response to it is also crazy. It’s addictive at a biochemical level and sometimes is as hard of an addiction to kick as other crazy addictions!

 

Long story short, sugar can: aggravate incontinence, jack up your leptin resistance, create/sustain addiction, relate to hormonal influxes and mess with your brain’s ability to think. It’s also associated with hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

 

And it’s in EVERYTHING.

 

One extremely simple way to cut out sugar is to give up sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, sweet tea, energy drinks, vanilla lattes, juices). Another is to read labels. Read and read labels.

 

That may sound daunting, but if you pay attention, you’ll see that so much food with long shelf-lives have sugar in it in some form or another (aspartame, HFCS, cane sugar) – that’s because it minimizes microbial spoilage, which allows the food to keep longer. Which brings me to the next piece: if you avoid foods with long shelf-lives, you’ll be further avoiding excess intake of sugar.

 

3. Ignore “enriched” or “supplemented” foods (a.k.a. designer foods).

 

Once, enriched foods had a place in foods in America – from the cure to Rickets in the 1930s to curbing the rates of spina bifida in the late 1990s. As a result of widespread approval and marketability of these particular “designer” foods, companies are now adding more than the daily recommended amounts of specific nutrients into foods that are terrible for you and selling them as health foods.

 

With some exceptions, if you are eating your minimum daily amount of vegetables and getting out in the sun enough (Vitamin D – added into milk), you shouldn’t need fortified foods. Which brings us to the next point:

 

4. “Supplement” with nutrients from vegetables

 

Eat your veggies! I know the 5 year-old in you is stamping its feet unless you love your veggies. But there is just no way around it if you don’t want to be a reductionist. Eat them. Within living foods, there are so many micronutrients and chemical interactions happening, that they can’t possibly be perfectly recreated in a multi-vitamin. A multi-vitamin can help people in certain ways, but they can’t make up for a poor diet.

 

5. Don’t try to “make up” for a poor diet with exercise

I won’t spend a lot of time on this – I think it’s simple. A calorie is not just another calorie when you’re eating (meaning a calorie from a burger is not the same as a calorie from a piece of broccoli), and a calorie burned is not a calorie earned.

Even if you’re slim, you can be fat in other ways (I’m talking about visceral fat). And if you’re “overweight”, you can potentially be healthier than a slim person who doesn’t exercise.

I’m talking about nutrition, here, and overall health. If you don’t  eat well, the concept of exercising away a poor diet is the same as a poor diet with a multi-vitamin: it’s just not going to cut it, and you won’t see or feel the results you want.

 

6. Eat less meat

 I know. I know. Meat is delicious. Bacon! Beef! Turkey! Yep. I hear ya. But the truth is…. 

It’s not just less red meat… it’s less meat overall. Yes, there are better meats than others, and if you do decide (or have already decided) that animal protein is the way you wanna go, it’s easier to say: just eat less. You don’t need it for every meal, and you certainly don’t need as much as the national average (195 pounds of meat per year per capita), which is 3 times more than the global average and contributes to more than 15% of our daily caloric intake.

 

A recent study has shown a correlation of a diet high in animal protein to higher rates of cancer and deaths from Diabetes. It suggest that most people would do well to reduce their animal protein by half (or less than 10% of their daily caloric intake).

7. Feel it out.

 

Have you ever stopped to feel how your body feels after eating something? Been aware of a sugar rush? Had the caffeine sweats?

 

Do yourself a favor and experiment a little with things we should know are good for us. Drink a little more water today and see if you need that 4PM coffee. Eat a little less dairy and see if you feel less sluggish. Eat an extra serving of vegetables and see if going to the bathroom later takes a little less time.

 

The bottom line: Which things make you feel good and which things leave you with a crash at the end of their journey through your body?

 

8. Eat more fiber – in the form of veggies and fruits

 

Fiber is key. Did you know that the average American is only getting ~50% of their daily recommended intake?

 

More than anything, do you know what fiber does for us? From slowing the uptake of sugars in the bloodstream (preventing diabetes!) to easing our bowels, fiber does a lot for us. And supplements don’t cut it.

The best fiber to eat is found in all kinds of veggies – not only because it contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, but because of the nutrients hiding inside each tasty bite. Hidden in those delicious minimal calories, sugars that are in the veggies are blocked by the fibers also contained inside – and your mouth gets a front row seat.

If you’re a little finicky with veggies, just experiment/try new things. You’re not going to like everything. But you can at least find some standbys that will do you until you find another thing you can add in. Just don’t eat too much of any one thing. Try to diversify as much as possible.

9. Ask yourself: Do I really need all that dairy?

 

Yes, cheese is delicious and cream cuts the bitterness of coffee, but how can we make things delicious without adding all this extra stuff into our foods? In addition to making it difficult to truly keep track of our calories (especially if you’re on a restricted diet of any kind), constantly adding dairy (and more specifically, cheese) onto everything racks up our totals of saturated fat, protein and carbohydrates. And you remember from before that we should be at a 10% or lower daily intake of animal proteins.

 

And, in the end, you’re really just adding sugars into your diets, because lactose (found in all dairy) is just another carbohydrate.

 

10. Re-define what “every-once-in-a-while” is

 

How often do you eat fast food? Drink sugar-sweetened beverages? “Every-once-in-a-while?” Take a second to be really honest with yourself and answer how often you really eat/drink those two things. Every day? Every other day? Once per week?

It’s not like dietitians and nutritionists don’t talk about what that phrase means, but I’d simplify it to this: don’t do it. Soda? Worthless. Fast food? Worthless. Unless you want to get all your sodium, saturated fat, trans fat (see #11) and sugar daily upper limits in in one sitting, you should be heartily trying to avoid those beautifully glistening french fries.

In the end, once per year might truly be “every once in a while.” Anything more is “regularly.”

 

11. Reduce certain fats and eliminate trans fats, but be aware that we NEED dietary fats

Dietary fat does so much for us. It lends flavor to food, helps intestinal absorption of lipid-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), is a building block of all cells in the body, regulates cell function and provides metabolic energy. We need fat… just not as much as you might think.

There are 4 types of fats: saturated, trans, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Three of these are the good ones… one is the bad one.

I’m sure, if you are at all aware of the news that you know I’m talking about trans fats – found in fried foods and foods with long self-lives (including in the frozen section). These should be eliminated completely. Easy, unless you love french fries… but don’t worry – you can make those at home without it!

The other ones are a little trickier to understand, but basically remember that you can eat ALL of these to include fats in your diet (as long as it makes up 20-35% of total calories):

Monounsaturated Fat Sources Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fat Sources Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fat Sources
Nuts
Vegetable oils
Canola oil
Olive oil
High oleic safflower oil
Sunflower oil
Avocado
Soybean oil
Corn oil
Safflower oil
Soybean oil
Canola oil
Walnuts
Flaxseed
Fish: trout, herring, and salmon

Yum! (This is where I found this handy chart!)

 

12. Carbs are good for you – just not the white ones

 

I cannot stress this enough: fiber. Eating vegetables (carbs) is good for you. Unless you are on a medication that causes a reaction when you eat greens (some do, and you should check with your doctor), you should be eating vegetables (and fruits!).

 

Your brain needs 120 grams of glucose (carbs) per day just to function. And that’s just a portion of your total energy requirements to keep you going. The key is to eat the RIGHT KIND of carbohydrates: all the colored veggies your heart could desire and a little less, but still plenty of fruits. The key is to pay attention to starchy/refined carbs. Like: refined sugars, white rice and pastas.

 

The scrumptious delivery system that is these “white” carbs don’t offer any nutritional benefits except for filler (read: empty calories). Again, carbohydrates are sugars in your diet. The key is to eat those carbohydrates with included fiber. Things like: salad greens, bitter greens, tomatoes… etc. You see what I’m getting at.

Last but not least: DRINK WATER. C’mon. You can do it. And your body will thank you for all of this.

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What does starvation look like?

During the Bush Administration’s push to enter Afghanistan, our hearts were twisted as we heard stories of women being burned alive by Taliban men in a rush to prove their power. Our eyes poured over images of women with bruises and cuts incurred by disobeying the law of the land. It felt, at least for me, that the hijab became the symbol of the outrage of the Taliban rule – how dare these men mistreat these women? Don’t they know better? Can’t we help them?

 

As so often happens in our world, we see stories like this that tug on our heartstrings in all the right places. From the pictures of little brown kids with bloated bellies and flies in their eyes you lazily encounter while sifting through piles of magazines you find on side tables in the doctor’s waiting room to stories of those women in Juarez that go missing as you cozily listen to the nightly news, we are suckers for issues abroad. You know that feeling – of guilt. And I don’t blame you – it is indeed terrible and sad.

 

I’m not sure if we Americans feel completely blameworthy about our successes as a nation, but we sure do love to watch others’ misery and speculate on how to help. As someone who identifies with this (possibly) altruistic behavior, I do also feel acutely aware of issues we address abroad rather than domestically, especially in regards to our nutrition.

 

Because: there are people being mistreated here in America. There are people who are starving. We have people with bloated bellies. And we have flies.

 

Yet what is the state of our people here? Aren’t some of us hungry too? Why is it easier to look outwardly to help others than to help ourselves? Do we understand the complex dynamics of any other country better than ours? Is our cultural fluency that much better to be able to help people overseas better than we can ourselves?

 

And more to the point: who or what politicizes starvation?

 

We all do.

 

In a fabulously poignant piece, Global Food Politics points out that we are in search of a new food politics – one where our food production is applied to our hunger rather than simply matching it with production. “Talking about increasing food production is part of a long tradition of offering technical solutions to social problems. The more difficult challenges—reducing poverty and inequality, ensuring access to food, and enabling communities to address the problems they face—are political and social in nature.”

And I’ll talk about something political, here: 1 in 6 Americans face hunger. 1 in 5 of those are children. Does that tug at your heartstrings?

In last week’s post, I talked about the idea that it’s hard to come into a community and implant an idea –  that the social aspect of nutrition is why we have such an issue with malnutrition here. I’ll argue that the reason we have such a hard time looking domestically is because we don’t know how to empower people in a way that encourages behavioral shifts. How are you going to change someone’s mind about “freedom of choice,” when you’re so busy telling them that what they’re doing is wrong? If you’ve ever felt the sting of someone’s unsolicited advice, you know what I’m talking about.

 Obese-mcdonalds-300x272

The truth is that it’s definitely easier to give other people advice rather than follow it yourself. That fact is so well-touted that it has become a cliché. Yet here we are on the precipice of this generation living shorter lives than their parents (a first in human history), with 1 in 6 people going hungry and with our country’s health going right out the window.


If you need to ask yourself what hunger looks like, look around you. You might be surprised by what you see. And if you want information on how to better your community, look here.

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How are Public Health and Food Deserts related?

I’ve been wanting to talk about Food Deserts for a while. The idea fascinates me and I just want to know everything about them. Sound weird? I know. I’m a nerd.

 

The concept of the Food Desert came around in the mid/late-’90’s in the UK to describe populated areas with little to no food availability, generally seen in poorer neighborhoods. And then a miracle happened: the sky opened up, raining hamburgers to cure this ill! Thus, the book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was born. Just kidding. Rigorous study of the multifactorial nature of obesity’s link to poverty happened, resulting in what was recently published in Health Affairs: a study revealing that adding a supermarket with healthier food options had no significant impact on improving residents’ obesity or vegetable/fruit consumption.

 

But why?

 

The results of this study remind me of the worst/best teacher I’ve ever had: a tenured professor at the University of Colorado in the Ethnics Studies Department. He attended class maybe 10 times that semester (that may be overestimating), but set the class a semester-long project that he called the “Community Development Project.” It was a fake assignment that intended to show us (the class) the effects of implanting a government project into an impoverished, ethnic area. About once every two weeks, he finally would show up to class, see what we had accomplished within his parameters and added a new set of them, saying things like “You have this (read: super low) budget… work within that,” or “1 out of 5 people have a car and/or have reliable transportation – how will they attend regular visits to the hospital?” or “The community distrusts organizations handed down by the government. How do you get around this?”

 

The lesson learned was that language barriers, cultural barriers, habits, mistrust and this entire idea of “From the top-down” are all at play here in the multifactorial world of health issues and how to change a nation’s relation with… anything.

 

Apply this to food. How would you feel if someone planted a store in your neighborhood and expected you to shop there? Would you like it if someone told you – in an unsolicited way – that your diet was no good? That you needed to change? That you were too fat?

 

What we are coming to realize as a country is that health problems related to our food intake are multifactorial. We are dealing with social, environmental and biological problems that encourage the symptoms we see daily, and even though the AMA defined obesity as a disease last year, the health problems associated with our poor diets are what concerns me.

 

This is a concern for a lot of people – clearly Michelle Obama cares and clearly this study was carried out. The economic burden on our healthcare system of people who suffer from the ills of our sit-down, eat-this society have been made clear many times over. We have all (or most of us, anyway) heard about hypertension, diabetes, visceral fat, and fat people definitely know how this culture feels about fatness in relation with their health. They hear it every day.

 

So where do we start?

 

If I learned anything from my worst/best teacher, I have several questions:

  • Which communities want to change?

  • What pieces of their diet are cultural and which pieces aren’t?

  • What can we do to encourage communities to work within themselves to encourage healthy eating?

  • How can a government structure/organization lend a hand without being intrusive?
  • What are the systemic (within the system) barriers nation-wide to a collectively better nutrient density of our food?

  • What combination of branding, marketing, pricing and promotions would be effective in implementing change long-term?

  • How do we address cultural issues that root people to their diets?

  • Who – within each community – do we talk to about issues like this?

  • How do others (community leaders, countries, people) work within their communities to encourage positive change?

I really want to hear your ideas!

The Obesity Affairs

I was in the process of writing a post about a new study released by Health Affairs, detailing a supermarket in Philadelphia’s effect on healthier eating (Food Deserts, HUGE topic), and I just began to think to myself that I really don’t want to talk about it. What I want to talk about this week is the issue of obesity. Not in a clinical sense nor a sense like Michelle Obama’s initiatives, but in the sense that all this talk about obesity seems rather… reductionist.

 

Certainly, we can argue that obesity is an important barometer of our current situation in the United States (and now, world), but it is more than a disease, as classified last year by the AMA. I personally am frustrated with the rhetoric that repeats itself over and over in every study – that obesity is the cause of and answer to the world’s health problems – and that they can be measured by it.

 

I understand that this is an easy way to quantify nutritional reality. But it’s kinda bullshit. How do we measure obesity? Are we measuring it with the racially-biased BMI as our yardstick? More importantly, what are we doing with that information? I would argue that, more than anything, we are using the measurements of obesity and poverty to shame people into changing their behavior under the guise of health. AND, we aren’t taking a close look at the multifactorial issues that play into and along with that. Shaming people isn’t going to work. In the same way that studies show that happy workers are harder workers, happy people work harder to achieve goals. If we can all work together to encourage a common good and create a cultural shift starting from the ground-up, we’ll all be happier. And healthier.

 

Go ahead and throw stats at me like “studies show that obese workers are less productive,” or that “obese people put a burden on the healthcare system.” It all may be true (the second one definitely is), but the point is not about blame: it’s about what you do with that information.

 

Instead of simply discussing our weight, overweight or our increasing body size, let’s look at things like: the heart healthiness of a vegetable-rich diet? Let’s talk about the nature of “enriched” foods and how not great they do in terms of nationwide overall health? Sure, we saw the incidence of Rickets decline after the idea to introduce Vitamin D back into foods… but what do we see here? That the previous intake of those same processed foods didn’t contain Vitamin D, which caused the Rickets in the first place. That’s not a real change. And can we PLEASE talk about the amazing power of soluble fiber and insoluble fiber working in concert with one another?


We need to be looking deeper than the surface for our realities. At this point in the game, it’s really not paying off for us to be reductionist in our thinking – even some of the famous foodies are guilty of it. What is the best for us as a nation? What kind of studies could we do that would focus on health but not exclusively on obesity? What would you do to encourage a community to be more healthful? In the end, asking the people this problem affects is going to be the most thorough answer we’ve gotten yet – and the most effective. All, hopefully, done without shaming anyone.

Farm bill may snip $90 a month from food stamps

What an interesting development in our food world – what can we do to stem the flow?

Eatocracy

A group of bipartisan lawmakers on Monday agreed to a deal on a farm bill that would end direct subsidies to farms in favor of crop insurance.

The deal could trim as much as $90 a month from food stamps for 850,000 recipients.

The farm bill would last five years and needs to pass both chambers and then be signed by the president.
The bill could be passed before the spring planting season. That’s significant because farmers need to know early how it might affect prices and what to expect for their corn, wheat or tobacco yields.

The bill changes the current agricultural subsidy system. It ends direct payments to farmers for planting crops and replaces it with a revamped, beefed-up crop insurance program.

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Does Nutrition Matter?

I’m making the leap that nutrition matters. Over the years, I’ve been struggling to figure out how to connect this with overall health – because seemingly so many experts eschew the idea that nutrition is a major component of your body working smoothly (what, with the argument that has been made for exercise, exercise, exercise). But how could it not be important? The differences between a Ho-Ho and an organic carrot are…… worlds apart. It’s like putting mashed up corn juice into your car engine instead of 93 octane – one is indigestible and will leave your engine sputtering (with minor explosive releases out the back end) and the other burns hot and leaves considerably less “residue” in its wake. Would you ever take the risk to feed your car the corn mash?

 

Definitively saying that nutrition packs a punch is tough because we have such a limited understanding about our bodies in this sense: what kind of nutrition/long-term diet is best, what impact exercise has, and what safeguards our bodies have in regards to all kinds of diets (and what we don’t have a safeguard against). An example: we – the American public – look on as scientists find evidence that long-distance runners have increased risk of heart attack due to a thickening of the heart muscles, just as we read the reports of high-sodium diets causing this same myocardial fibrosis. What should we believe? Is it exercise, nutrition, moderation, meditation, spiritual awareness, counting our steps or pledging 10% of our annual income to the Church that makes us have a long and healthy life?

 

I’m gonna say that nutrition matters. A lot.

 

Last week, NPR’s All Things Considered did a piece about pregnancy and its relation with predisposing our children to obesity. A major takeaway from the piece was that mother’s weight does, in fact, have serious implications for their children. One study cited that “high pregnancy weight gain is associated with increased body weight of the offspring in childhood.” Another, subtler conclusion was drawn in a quote from Dr. Ludwig, the researcher for that study, that “maternal weight gain… is a good proxy for the quality of diet during pregnancy.”

 

It’s not a monster leap to make that diet is related with weight, although the posit I’m making is that diet relates with biochemistry and epigenetics, not just with being fat (if that were the case, this issue would be much simpler). Attacking fatness is an easy way out, and rarely examines the real issues behind childhood illness and the way it translates into adult illness.

 

In a book “Fat Chance” by Dr. Lustig, the argument is made for “developmental programming,” a burgeoning field in medicine that studies the developmental origins of health and disease, assuming that the intrauterine environment in which a fetus is developing can have an effect on how the fetus later relates to the world biochemically. In the words of the author regarding a fetus’ epigenetic response to stress, nutritional and other stimuli: “It’s a tough world out there, kid; best be ready for it.” This book in its entirety examines the relation biochemisty has with behavior, but how does developmental programming play into that? The author alleges that a hostile intrauterine environment, in a wide variety of situations, can drive issues like metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance for the fetus later in the life. These are real-world correlations that have been studied in various contexts (1,2) and have astounding possibilities in terms of what our DNA does regarding its outside propellants.


This is FASCINATING research, and heavily implicates the mother’s environment (chosen and not chosen) in the overall health of coming generations. The main piece here is that unhealthiness begets unhealthiness. And this nation is unhealthy. More to come on issues like this, but the message here is simple: nutrition does matter.

What do GMOs and MCHM have in common?

For me, the notion of GM products’ potential is incredible. We could potentially unlock the secrets of: more nutritious food, tastier food, medicinal foods to be used as vaccines or crops that would lessen a farmer’s economic burdens (drought-resistant plants, reduction in the need for fertilizers/pesticides, faster-growing plants). Think about it! There is, however, a reason that I eat organic, non-GMO food right now – which I’ll explain as I discuss why the idea of GMOs is still nerve-wracking.

 

We humans have such a history of using products without testing their safety first.  See: Norian XR or Agent Orange (and soon, I predict: hydrofracking). The analogy I’ll make is that our notion of safety testing (globally and historically) is the equivalent of jumping off a cliff and your friends yelling, as you’re falling: “See? Told you it was safe.”…. only to land and break your leg.

 

Humans are brave, it’s true. But we are, at once, so smart and too dumb for our own goods. We make decisions without thinking of the long-term consequences – for us or for our future generations. Look at the water contamination in West Virginia right now… MCHM (the chemical the coal-washing plant dumped into the water supply) is virtually untested, and West Virginia American Water president Jeff McIntyre is pushing people to drink the water, having pulled a media stunt of drinking the tap water in front of reporters. Boom, safe.

 

But back to GMOs.

 

While skimming through a piece on the John Templeton Foundation website labeled “Can GM Crops Help to Feed the World?“, I found this quote: “a variety of political and perception issues have led to restrictions on the production and use of GM crop plants (“green” biotechnology), particularly in rural areas of less-developed countries, where need is the greatest and where small-scale agriculture constitutes the main economic activity. And although primary scientific research in GM crops is well funded by government, industry, and the philanthropic sector, investigation of the optimal practices and policies for implementing GM technology has received much less attention and support.”

 

I would argue that GM crops have actually garnered much attention and that the support they seek comes in at least one form: in the financial return the companies that generate and sell GM crops to American consumers are enjoying as they seek to maintain and expand growth in bio-engineered crops, the fastest-growing sector of agriculture in the United States. The crazy part is that, with all that said, we are still dealing with an uneducated American public and nation-wide apathy and disbelief serving to confuse the public even more.  GM products, representing the difference between the “fruits” of recombinant DNA  labor versus non-GM products that are attained as a result of selective breeding, are a heavily-discussed topic that is très importante.

 

More than anything, the science-based established consequences of GM crops in terms of nutritional, social and environmental implications are, thus-far, fairly unknown. In a 2008 EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) review of GM plant and product safety, the authors plainly state that: from a scientific risk assessment point of view, there are currently no detailed test protocols by which to assess the safety of GM foods. This, coupled with very recent studies merely beginning to scrape the surface of what proteins are allergens, what good nutrition is and what we should expect in the face of a multifactorial environmental interaction… we have no idea what to expect.

I’d argue that GM production has gotten a lot of attention – it’s just the attention it doesn’t want. I’m all for science – all for experiments and breaking our barriers of what we know. I do, however, think we do need to be stricter about the regulation of GM products, especially in America, where, if you’re not paying attention you are likely to have eaten a GM product every day. We just don’t know yet. GMO products are widely available in stores across America, with as much as 60-70% of processed foods containing at least one GM product.

Take action towards our collective greater health. Mostly, ask for better and more in-depth testing to be performed on a burgeoning new field in science that is mostly untested. Think for yourselves.🙂

New Year’s Resolutions and our Health Care

I think in this new year, I want to talk this week about America’s self-image and promises we should all make to ourselves about how we can all – as a society – improve. Things we can all do to work on systemic issues that are interrelated and cause great harm. What am I talking about?

 

The issues of physical and mental health that we as Americans face are multifactorial, tied in with income levels, community support, gender, race, opportunity, predisposition (social and genetic) and the invisible barriers that are created for all these things.

 

The issue of how these things are related is complicated, but it’s not hard to see why they are linked: pressure influences our choices, pure and simple. Break down the pressures people feel  like food insecurity, money insecurity, body insecurity, stereotypes and complications of/with being a minority (race, gender, identity), expectations/restrictions from family and/or culture, and we have a large, complex picture that is hard to explore. These factors are huge, however, and carry weight.

 

Unfortunately, we have dug ourselves into a hole – food is so cheap that if you have the pressure of money, it makes it hard to turn down. And, unfortunately, cheap food is cheap. Encouraging this cheap for cheap exchange are food subsidies for families like SNAP and WIC that don’t cover 100% of food costs – economic concerns are still in the periphery for poor families. On top of that, we have issues of access to information regarding proper nutrition (internet availability, internet competence of the user, proper knowledge of what to look for, etc.), the information regarding nutrition itself (conflicting at best), cultural standards of seeking information, knowledge deficiency… And that is just IF you WANT to know. What about if you are totally ok with the standard of food? If your status quo is completely acceptable to you?

 

The point that I’m making is that there are so many damned concerns relating to elevating our nutritional understanding and output (and intake) in the U.S. that simple things on the ground floor like marketing juice cleanses, imposing sugar taxes or regulating the size of sodas can not be effective without a massive overhaul of the way things are done within our government. The issue with measures like this are that they fall in line with the idea of consumer responsibility. On a certain level, this is fair. We are technically the ones driving up to the Wendy’s window and handing over our own money… but what isn’t fair is that this is our status quo. The perception of the public is that we are making a choice between satisfying our very real food addiction/sacrificing health/choosing affordable food/picking “taste” and getting healthful food.


We don’t have a regulatory agency that is a consumer protection agency in the same way some countries do – I think that’s a huge first step towards taking care of our people; to take care of ourselves. For our (somewhat late) New Years Resolutions, I think we should all be shifting our gaze towards an empowering image of ourselves, and towards taking care of our affairs. Why not help the health of our nation and of ourselves? More on this later.