The War against Fast Food

At this point, it is common knowledge that fast food is not healthy and nutritious food. Then, why do we continue to purchase this non-nutritious food when we know it is bad for us? Maybe it is because it is addictive, convenient, or inexpensive. Whatever the case is, we are eating ourselves to our own demise. We have entered a war against fast food and we are losing. We have gone away from our own cultures of cooking and now have decided to become part of the processed fatty food system. Over the past 30 years in the United States, the price of fresh produce has increased by 40% while processed foods and soft drinks have decreased by 30% (Keefe, 2016). Right now approximately 75% of foods found in your local grocery store are processed and have added sugar of some kind. In addition, our mothers’ homemade cooking has now been swallowed by the restaurant industry. In 1970, there were around 30,000 fast food restaurants and now there are over 263,944 locations as over 2012 in the United States (Jacques, 2014). Since 2012, I am sure that this number has continued to increase. The fast food industry has combined revenue of well over $100 billion. Not only are fast food restaurants increasing in numbers, they are doing so while targeting the most vulnerable population, children. In 2013, the fast food industry’s main target audience was children and teens. The industry spent $4.6 billion in advertising, with kids being their focus (Orciari, 2013). Scientists are also working to perfect these addictive fatty foods so that we cannot resist them so easily. Before that happens, we have to make a change in the way we think about food. The longer we wait, the unhealthier our American culture becomes.

Food Addiction

It is important to take in account the reasons we crave certain food and, in some cases, are addicted to them. Our tongue is coated with 10,000 taste buds that are used to sense four major tastes. The warning sensors to alert us if something probably should not be eaten are the bitter and sour senses, while the two pleasure taste buds are the sweet and salty ones. Fat, on the other hand, is appealing, because it is a very dense dietary energy source. Obviously, the fast food industry targets these senses, allowing them to focus on sweet. They do this by adding sugar and salt and frying things for fat. Sugar, salt, and fat are the three ingredients that food scientists use to try to achieve the “bliss point”. This “bliss point” is the idea that the food is extremely difficult to stop consuming. When eating these addictive processed foods, the reward centers in our brain are activated releasing dopamine. Dopamine releases in the brain during a pleasurable activity and is addictive. Eating food can trigger this dopamine release (Andrews, 2016).

Bigger isn’t Better

There is something about a buffet with a large arrangement of food or an entire plate filled with food that really catches our eye. The American attitude of bigger being better is something that now translates to our plates. We have decided to upsize our portions to the extent that now we can be served double the food and consider that larger portion to be the norm. In the last twenty years, we have really started adapting to the mind-set of “more for less,” not taking into the account the toll it takes on our health. When McDonalds introduced the “super-size” option, the restaurant industry changed with regard to portion sizes. This super size option allowed the consumer to receive two or three times as much food for just a few dollars more. After not much time, other fast food establishments caught onto this concept and soon the normal, large meal became today’s medium meal (Keefe, 2016). This is part of the evidence that we are eating ourselves to death. Regardless of whether we needed these extra calories or not to fuel our bodies, we expected to see the larger portion on our plates.

Food Disparity

During elementary school, we learned of the food pyramid that breaks types of foods into categories and specifies how much of each food type is optimal, but often we do not think of the economic food pyramid. Our local supermarkets can be viewed in terms of different economic tiers. Starting at the top is Epicure, which, in my mind, is the billionaire grocery store. Next, we have Whole Foods that is the millionaire grocery store. Then finally, in Florida, Publix and Winn Dixie can be considered to be the grocery store for the public whose incomes are the fifty to hundred-thousandaire grocery stores. Interestingly enough, that leaves an entire group of the general public out. Where do the lower class and middle class people shop for basic groceries? In addition, where does the entire lower class shop? Unfortunately, the answer is that most of the time, the lower and middle class consume fast food. Often, lower-income people live in food deserts and rely on little shops to get other food. Food deserts are defined as places in the country that are lacking fresh vegetables, fruit, and healthy foods. This is mainly due to the lack of farmers markets, grocery stores, and healthy options. Some people define food deserts as not having options like this within a mile. In that case, around 23.5 million people live in what qualifies as food deserts (Gallagher, 2011). Two million of these people do not live within ten miles of a grocery store. There is a direct correlation with the increase in obesity and diabetes with living in food deserts. In a way, you can identify a connection between people who live in poverty and do not have a car, with obesity and food deserts. A study conducted in ten US cities with 1,134 children illustrated that children who experienced poverty by two years old were 1.66 times more likely to become obese by the age of 15 compared to not experiencing poverty (Lee et al., 2014).

Source: “Feeding Kids Well – Food Deserts.”

The food that is available at these little neighborhood markets are often unhealthy. Fresh food does not have long shelf lives compared to packaged processed foods that can last for months at a time. Another food desert is along our national highways. This allows fast food restaurants to capitalize on both poverty and the traveling, road-trip culture we have in America.

America: Land of the overweight

Overweight is defined as a body mass index of 25 kg or over and obesity as a BMI larger than 30 kg. Being overweight or obese is no surprise to people anymore. It is part of the norm actually, with over 70% of Americans being either overweight or obese. With that said, it is not shocking that the obesity rate among youth as well as total populations has increased and that heart disease is the number one killer in America. Obesity now contributes to more healthcare costs than smoking, with an estimated 300,000 deaths each year and over $100 billion in medical expenses. (Rosenheck, 2008). On top of that, Type 2 diabetes rates have tripled in the last thirty years, reaching an all-time high of 29 million people. In addition, another 86 million people are considered pre-diabetic. One in three Americans are expected to have a diagnosis diabetes by 2050. This new American culture of bigger and more for less is slowly killing us. A fifteen-year study that concluded in 2005 monitored more than 3,000 participants between 18-30 years of age and showed a correlation between fast food and weight gain. Participants that ate fast food two or more times a week gained approximately 10 pounds. Not only did they gain weight, but also their insulin resistance was twice as great as the participants that consumed fast food less than once a week (UMN, 2005).

Lobby to be Healthier

New York has identified sugar and sodas as a prime source of obesity. In an attempt to increase health and decrease consumption, New York has tried to implement a soda tax and tried to not allow the purchase of soda with food stamps. Both bills were defeated. Soda companies spent over $10 million on advertising campaigns to help defeat the bills. Mayor Bloomberg implemented a “soda ban” in a way not allowing food service establishment to sell cups larger than 16 ounces. Unfortunately, not only did the ban not last, but it also did not affect outlets such as supermarkets, vending machines, schools, or even convenience stores (Weiner, 2013). The ban lasted a little over a year until the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, overturned it. New York seems to be the only state really trying to work on a federal level to become healthier. Though their restrictions were soon lifted, they took steps in the right direction. Hopefully, New York and other states will try to create more cautionary practices that allow people to become healthier.

What we can do

The root of the problem lies in the government. Large companies spend millions of dollars backing candidates that ultimately influence the regulations for the food industry. If we can prevent these corporations from backing candidates we can work to make a healthier society. Often we do not realize the lobbying power that people hold.

There is still is hope, by pushing restaurants to provide nutritional information. That includes more labels that contain nutritional information on their menus. In addition, by downsizing portions, we could see a difference in the impact of fast food on our health. People will continue to eat fast food; however, studies have shown that by just providing nutritional labels, consumers eat 14% fewer calories. Having correct portion sizes can cut a person’s calorie count down by 30-50% daily (Roberto, 2017). We need to take more initiative and think about the long term implication of the selection of our food at each meal on our health. Simply put, cook for yourself with fresh food and save your life.

Food Works Cited

 

 

The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2009

This article provided a very informative perspective on food security across the world.  This article was written by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2009 in order to show the progress of increasing food security.  While this article seemed outdated, many of the statistics were surprising regarding the world’s food security.  For example, in 2009, it was estimated that one billion people were considered to be undernourished.  Also, approximately 98% of undernourishment occurred in developing countries.  This statistic was surprising because it showed that the World Food Summit of 1996 had not created proper methods of increasing food security.

In addition, this article described common methods of helping areas struggling with food security.  The article stated that many aid programs do not properly help struggling areas because they struggle to see the bigger picture behind the problem at hand.  Often times, aid programs seek to provide support for food security, rather than for solving a country’s needs.  The proper way to support these areas is to create systems that are designed to help areas that could undergo unexpected events.  Because of this, country protection plans should be developed in isolation as each country presents a new and unique conflict that needs to be addressed.  This would be the most beneficial way to help a country because it would support the country for the long-term rather than short-term.

Sustainable Catch

I spent part of the summer, Thanksgiving break, as well as winter break in Lima, Peru. Something I noticed, and I liked, was that when going to different restaurants, most of them had a section in the menu called “sustainable catch.” Shrimp, salmon, tuna, and cod are amongst some of the most consumed fish and seafood all around the world.  Oceans provide many resources to humans and overexploitation of these resources could cause an imbalance of the ecosystem as well as a loss of food source for millions of people. There are several other fish species that are edible but there is no demand. I am becoming increasingly adventurous with my food choices, and I encourage everyone to be open to alternative sources of protein and nutrients. Specially if they are sustainable.

Why Sugar is Just as Bad for Your Skin As It Is For Your Waistline

While most people know that ingesting excess sugar can lead to obesity, most do not consider the ramifications that excess sugar has on the skin. Sugar however does not just mean sugar from processed foods or refined sugar, but sugar that comes from broken down carbohydrates in our system. When these foods are broken down, insulin is produced in response to the sugar, causing an insulin spike which causes overall inflammation in the body. This inflammation produces enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, which leads to sagging skin and wrinkles. Acne and rosacea can also be increased by excess sugar intake, and insulin resistance can cause excess growth of hair and dark patches on the body. The article presents what sugars you should eat (complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates) and other ways to combat sugar’s effect on the skin. I definitely think this article presents interesting information that can potentially decrease the amount of stress induced, junk -food eating breakouts during finals week!

How A Scientist Sounded the Alarm on Sugar Back in the 1950s — But Was Ignored

One of our classmates did a midterm project on the bad effects of sugar, but the concept of excess sugar as “bad” is really a more recent finding. This article actually shows why sugar was dismissed as being a health threat back in the day. British Scientist John Yudkin published findings from more than a decade of research in “Pure, White and Deadly: How Sugar is Killing Us and What We Can Do to Stop It” in 1972. However, at the time, the major health threat that people were focusing on was saturated fats, causing Yudkin and his research to be ridiculed and overlooked.

Now, the main reason behind the dismissal of Yudkin’s claims was an interesting one. The time around which Yudkin first theorized that sugar was a health hazard was when President Dwight Eisenhower had a heart attack while in office. Eisenhower’s doctor then treated him with a low – cholesterol regimen to prevent further issues, and Yudkin was very critical of this. Essentially, these two scientists had a stand-off, and in the end Yudkin lost, leading to a dismissal of his claims.

However, now findings have shied away from pointing fingers at cholesterol and saturated fat as causing health issues. Yudkin has posthumously received credit for his findings and we have learned the addictive and negative nature of sugar and the impact it has on our health.

Attention Whole Foods Shoppers Summary

Sustainability versus World Hunger

  • Current preoccupation with food in the West
    • Help local farmers
    • Fight climate change
    • Prevent childhood obesity
  • But can eating sustainably really help others?
    • Focus has been drawn away from helping feed the world’s poor to this trend of sustainability
    • “Food may be today’s cause célèbre, but in the pampered West, that means trendy causes like making food “sustainable” — in other words, organic, local, and slow. Appealing as that might sound, it is the wrong recipe for helping those who need it the most.”

 

Too Much Focus on Food Prices

  • April 2008
    • Cost of rice for export had tripled in just 6 months
    • Wheat reached its highest price in 28 years
    • “World Food Crisis”
    • Robert Zoellick
      • Warned that high food prices would be, “particularly damaging in poor countries, where there is no margin for survival”
    • April 2010
      • Rice prices down by 40%
      • Wheat prices down by more than half
    • Yet the number of people chronically undernourished has grown!

Facts about Undernourished People

  • 62% live in either Africa or South Asia
  • Most are small farmers or rural landless laborers
  • Are shielded from global price fluctuations by their own governments
    • Also by poor roads and infrastructure
    • Cut off from many urban markets
  • Poverty is the primary source of hunger in Africa
    • Caused by low income productivity
  • Food insecure people in Africa
    • Those who consume less than 2,100 calories a day
    • Will increase 30% over the next decade

Real Solution vs. Our Misguided One

Real Solution

  • Improved roads
  • Modern seeds
  • Less expensive fertilizer
  • Electrical power
  • Better schools
  • Better clinics

Our Current Solution

  • Sustainable eating!
    • Advocacy against agricultural modernization
    • Against foreign aid
    • Idea of organic, local, and slow

 

ORIGINAL SINS

Green Revolution A Failure?

  • In the present, many claim that the Green Revolution has done more harm than good
  • People claim that the Green Revolution:
    • Has brought nothing to India except “indebted and discontented farmers”
    • Has been a factor in the rise in world hunger

 

Setting The Record Straight: Asia

  • New seeds
    • Lifted small farmers out of desperate poverty
    • Ended the threat of periodic famine
  • India
    • Doubled wheat production
    • Was able to terminate all dependence on international food aid by 1975
    • Rural poverty fell from 60% to 27%
  • Small farmers took up new technology just as quickly as big farmers
    • Dramatic income gains and no increase in inequality or social friction
  • Good for both agriculture and social justice

 

Setting The Record Straight: Latin America

  • When powerful new farming technologies are introduced into deeply unjust rural social systems, the poor tend to lose out
  • Seeds
    • Increased income gaps
  • Peasants were pushed off land by absentee landlords to be replaced by commercial growers
    • Many rural poor became slum dwellers
  • YET
    • Prevalence of hunger has still declined more than 50% between 1980 and 2005

 

Setting the Record Straight: Africa

  • More like Asia than Latin America
    • Due to relatively equitable and secure distribution of land
  • “If Africa were to put greater resources into farm technology, irrigation, and rural roads, small farmers would benefit.”

 

ORGANIC MYTHS

 

Hang-ups with Industrial Food Systems

  • Focus on critiques of American and European food systems
    • But such concerns cannot be transferred or applied to the developing world

Health and Safety Issues

  • CDC has found that over the past several decades the U.S. food supply has become steadily safer
    • Industrial-scale technical improvements
  • Since 2000, E.coli contamination in beef has fallen 45%
  • Most hospitalizations and fatalities come from mishandling or improper preparation of food
    • Not from contamination
  • Example: Spinach Scare in 2006
  • Contamination still remains a major risk in the developing world
  • Africa
    • Open-air markets
    • Estimated 700,000 people die every year from food and water borne diseases
      • Compared to 5,000 in the U.S.
  • Food grown organically is NOT an answer
    • American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
      • No nutritional advantage of organic foods over conventionally grown foods
  • Mayo Clinic
    • “No conclusive evidence shows that organic food is more nutritious than is conventionally grown food”.

 

Why Isn’t Eating Organic an Answer?

  • Doesn’t organic food have lower pesticide residues?
    • FDA states that the highest dietary exposures to pesticide residues on foods in the US are so trivial that the safety gained from eating organic is insignificant
    • Exposure is less than one one-thousandth of a level that would cause toxicity
  • Doesn’t organic food protect the environment?
    • Nitrogen fertilizers created a “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico
    • BUT, having all farmers go organic would cause even worse environmental problems

 

Problems with Total Organic Production

  • Less than 1 percent of American cropland is under certified organic production
    • Would need a lot more composted animal manure
    • Would need a fivefold increase of the U.S. cattle population
    • Those animals would have to be raised organically
      • Most of the land in the lower 48 states would need to be converted to pasture
  • Organic crops have lower yields per hectare
    • Europe
      • Would need an additional 28 million hectares of cropland
      • Equal to all of the remaining forest cover in France, Germany, Britain, and Denmark

 

Smarter Ways to Protect the Environment

  • Reduce synthetic fertilizer applications
    • Taxes
    • Regulations

Modern Farming is Sustainable!

  • Many of the damaging insecticides were banned and replaced by chemicals that could be applied in lower volume and were less persistent in the environment
    • Carson’s Silent Spring
  • Drop in soil erosion
    • “No-till” seed planting
  • Conservation of water through drip irrigation
    • Also leveling of fields with lasers
  • GPS equipment
    • Starting in the 1990s
    • Precise adjustments in chemical use
  • Infrared sensors
    • Can tell farmers how much more or less nitrogen might be needed
  • Development of technology to reduce wasteful nitrogen use
    • Insertion of fertilizers into the ground
  • Also known as PRECISION FARMING

 

Statistics

  • In 2008, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development published a review of the “environmental performance of agriculture” in the world’s 30 most advanced industrial countries
  • Results
    • Between 1990 and 2004, food production continued to increase by 5% in volume
    • Adverse environmental impacts were reduced in every category
    • Land area taken up by farming decreased 4%
    • Soil erosion fell
    • Greenhouse emissions from farming declined 3%
    • Excessive fertilizer use fell 17%
    • Increased biodiversity

 

SEEDING THE FUTURE

 

Africa’s Food Crisis

  • Population versus food production?
    • Not the cause
  • Current food production versus the potential of the land
    • African farmers still use almost no fertilizer
    • Only 4% of cropland has been improved with irrigation
    • Yields are low because lack of use of scientifically enhanced seeds

 

Why Does Africa’s Food Crisis Persist?

  • Diminished assistance from international donors
  • Food -aid over development assistance
    • Can cause long term-dependency

 

Easy Alternative

  • Foreign assistance for agricultural improvement!
    • Previous success
  • 1960s
    • Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, and donor governments led by the US
    • Made Asia’s original Green Revolution possible!
  • Assistance to India
    • U.S. Agency for International Development + World Bank
    • Helped finance fertilizer plants and better infrastructure
  • Africa
    • World Bank has documented average rates of return on investments in agricultural research in Africa of 35% a year

 

Updated Nutrition Labels

https://www.forbes.com/sites/billfrist/2017/04/22/updated-nutrition-labels-can-make-us-healthier-consumers/2/#39347ec6da6f

 

In this article, the author discussed how the FDA has proposed a revision of nutrition labels on the back of food packages.  This label would be a requirement for all packages by 2019 and the main difference would be that it would designate a line for “sugar added.”  This fact is very important because current nutrition labels do not account for the natural sugar that most foods contain.  With this in mind, the added sugar is what really sets bad sugar apart from good sugar.

I feel that the implementation of this fact would be very beneficial for consumers.  Not only would it be a step in modernizing food labels, but also it would take into account the new things that people have learned about nutrition.  As new information is learned, it is important that all people have access to it, especially in something as important as nutrition.  This new food label would be very beneficial for consumers.