Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Future Of Food

Happy Wednesday/Hump Day/April Fools Day!

This past Saturday, Annabelle and I attended the Future of Food and Nutrition Conference at the Tufts' Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. It was basically a symposium for graduate students around the country to share current research and as well as panels and guest speakers about where the fields of nutrition and food are headed. It was a great conference, and much better than studying. These up and coming news stories are much more interesting to me than memorizing the protein requirements of premature infants (while I'm sure that will be applicable someday- I sure hope so!).

There were several presentations of note. Lorien Urban from Tufts spoke about under-reporting of calories in national chain resturants. The mean difference in actual and reported calories in 41 restaurant items and frozen meals was an 18%! Frightening, especially for those trying to lose weight. Moral of the story-if the calorie count seems too good to be true-it probably is. Solution-stay away from fast food and coporate chain restaurants, not just for that, but also for the lower quality and overal nutritional quality of their food.

Of course, the evils of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) were represented. Alicia Harvie, also from Tufts showed that because of subsidies to allocated in the 1996 Farm Bill, corn wet millers saved 97 million dollars, subsequently increasing the amount of HFCS in our food. Today HFCS represents 40% of all caloric sweeteners, the majority of which is in sodas. Fortunately Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are shifting from HFCS to sugar-its amazing that in the US companies can make a "health claim" by adding white sugar to their product! Many believe that increased consumption of HFCS is closely related to our increasing obesity epidemic because high levels of fructose don't signal the production of leptin, leading you to believe that you are not yet satiated, and causing continued eating and eventual weight gain. Also there's the potential of Mercury contamination. Best to be Avoided. For more information I highly recommend these sites: The Science Behind Fructose in the Body : HFCS Free : Alicia's Publication HFCS increase Heart Disease in Women
There were many posters and students talking about the individual projects they are working on. It was really motivating. I love being in a field that is constantly changing, evolving, shifting. This also opened me up to the possibility of research in my future-we'll see!

The conference wrapped up with a dynamic panel of Robert Paarlberg, of the USDA, Susan Roberts, a RD, and speaker on food systems, and Mark Winne, executive director of Hartford Food System and author of "Closing the Food Gap" (which I highly recommend if you are interested in hunger in our land of plenty). Things got a little tense as Paarlberg and Roberts debated their opposing views on the most "sustainable" type of agriculture-the ol' GMO vs Organics debate. It was a very stimulating conversation and forum.

My hero Michael Pollan spoke at Tufts a week ago, and unfortunately tickets to non-students went like hot-cakes before I could snag one. They did have an overflow room I could have snuck into, but I figured I'd better not skip class when I could just see it all online. Sure enough, the entire lecture and Q&A is up here. I totally agree with what he says, and if you haven't already read them-put Omnivore's Delimma and In Defense of Food on the top of your reading list!!


Scoop said...

I've been trying to learn more about the dangers fo over-consuming HFCS. What do you think about the pro-HFCS commercials? I admit, those commercials are really convincing.

Live(& Eat) Abundantly said...

That lecture sounds really interesting. I'm going to have to read up more on the HFCS literature so when someone tries to through the "its made from corn! and has the same number of calories as sugar" bs I will be ready!

Elizabeth Jarrard said...

I hate those pro-HFCS commercials. In my opinion, yes they may have the same number of calories as sugar, but as we have seen, where the calories are coming from is as important as how many there are. We know that the calories from a piece of white bread vs. whole wheat bread may be equal, but that from many aspects the whole wheat bread is a much better choice. HFCS is highly refined, and the levels of fructose are much higher than occur in nature. Thus, I avoid it. But I definitely recommend reading up on all the arguments and deciding for yourself your personal stance!

Tuco said...

Loved Omnivore's Dilemma (well, actually.. I think I sped-read through the chapter where he hunts the wild boar). Love his summary of how to eat as well...
"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

: )

Have you seen mark bittman's talk on It's pretty good.. and he's similar to Pollan in being an omnivore who thinks N. America needs to put a whole lot more thought into what we eat.