The twittersphere has introduced me to Marion Nestle, New York University Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health.
The message related in her website/book Food Politics and also in her Eating Well blog is described as:
“An accessible and balanced account. ‘Food Politics’ laid the groundwork for today’s food revolution and changed the way we respond to food industry marketing practices..This pathbreaking, prize-winning book helps us understand..what we eat and why.”
Marion, over many years, has researched what happens in the US. Given today’s global village, it’s likely that the Australian food industry follows suit. Marion writes about:
“the tactics used by the food industry to protect its economic interests and influence public opinion..
how the industry promotes sales by resorting to lobbying, lawsuits, financial contributions, public relations, advertising, alliances, and philanthropy to influence Congress, federal agencies, and nutrition and health professionals..
the food industry’s opposition to government regulation, its efforts to discredit nutritional recommendations while pushing soft drinks to children via alliances with schools, and its intimidation of critics who question its products or its claims..”
Consumers should inform themselves so as not to avoid the confusion created food companies re: distinctions among foods, supplements, and drugs, thus making it difficult for federal regulators to guard the public.
Marion advises consumers to:
“Take the humble wheat grain. It gets heated, squished, fermented and sometimes irradiated before it becomes breakfast cereal.
Low-fat yoghurt is powdered and reconstituted, then sugar is added.
Essentially what’s happened is that a big moustache and sunglasses have been added to these natural products – no wonder our immune system is a bit confused.
Deep frying food changes the proteins in them.
Apart from being created during the processing of food, advanced glycation can also take place during certain cooking methods, particularly cooking at high temperatures.
Our love of rapid cooking techniques such as frying hasn’t helped. The somewhat full-circle return of the slow cooker, which minimises protein modification during cooking and takes just minutes to prepare dishes, may offer a lifeline for our time-poor community.
So is this epidemic of autoimmunity just a case of social evolution winning a race against Darwinian evolution? Has our desire for food convenience hit a road block within our genes?
We suspect so.
The very fact that we live in a cleaner environment may be contributing to the rise in autoimmune illnesses by limiting our exposure to dirt, fungi and other natural bugs.
These bugs help the immune system to relax and allow in a more diverse range of ‘friends’ into our body.
Our genetic code (DNA) has a handbook, which instructs the immune system about all such friends we have seen over generations and how we’ve dealt with them.
In fact, our genes may instruct our bodies to prefer familiar foods containing proteins and nutrients we have eaten for a very long time.
This is a bit like having a familiar face on the dietary proteins that our immune system recognises, which stops them from being treated as foreign invaders.”
It seems people in countries with lesser wealth and less hygiene – developing nations – who can’t preserve food and sustain supply, don’t get this group of autoimmune diseases.
Do these limitations prevent increases of this group of diseases?
Josephine says there is now scientific proof that modifications of our everyday healthy food by storage and processing, can affect the incidence of autoimmune diseases.
Growing our own vegetables may be one way to eat truly healthy food.
Peak oil and support for the Transition Town way of life may be leading us down a healthier path. As Josephine suggests, it may be time we took a serious look at how we can get fresher food on our table faster, by sourcing local producers and eating seasonal foods.
“Another lesson is that we should be lobbying regulatory authorities to ensure that food labels include the physical processes which have been performed on the food and not just the additives.
Perhaps an index akin to ‘human interference factor’ should be introduced.”
Following recent research by the Victorian Local Government Authority (VLGA) with support from VicHealth, a new website, aiming to improve how we support people building community food resilience, has now been launched.
Without reinventing the wheel, it is intended to be:
Feedback on content and layout will be appreciated and also advice on what other info, new resources, conferences or training opportunities.
A lot of food for thought here!