Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Rise of Nutritionism

Weekends go by far too fast. And given that I work just about every single Saturday, they often feel non-existent.

Now, as I push myself to finish grading all 36 essays, I'm torn between going to bed (I need sleep), finishing grading (I work until 8pm tomorrow, and class meets Tuesday morning), and reading more descriptions of the BENGALS' WIN OVER THE STEELERS!!!

(Clearly, I've shoved all three options aside and chosen instead to update my blog: Priorities.)

This afternoon I went to see Michael Pollan speak at Xavier University. Author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, Pollan lectured on nutrition--nutritionism was his term--and agriculture in American society. He rightly asked why America, so obsessed with health and nutrition, is so unhealthy. We think of food, he said, as nutrition delivery instruments. They carry vitamin C, protein, and cholesterol. But food is much more mysterious. He described a group in Australia, Aborigines, who had moved to the city and ate "Western-style" meals -- a meat and two vegetables; processed food; fast food--and developed heart disease and type-II diabetes. They went back to the land, getting their food by hunting and gathering, and the symptoms went away. While food packagers seek ways to tinker around the edges -- get rid of trans fast, replace sugar with Splenda -- Pollan notes that the whole way Americans approach food is broken; tinkering won't do.

The most important thing he said applied to the amount of money we spend on preventable chronic illnesses (heart disease, type II diabetes). By changing the way we consume food, we could significantly alter how much is spent treating these. He said: "'Health care crisis' is just a synonym for the catastrophe that is the American diet."

1 comment:

george rede said...

I think history will show Pollan was one of the most influential people of our time. He wrote a piece for the NY Times recently that we also published in The Oregonian. The theme echoes exactly what you've described in your post.