- The salvation of humanity through the covid vaccines
You can’t imagine what the world’s population would be like today if vaccines against Covid-19 had not been developed. The speed at which that happened and the effectiveness of all vaccines are, when considered properly, nothing less than a miracle, a triumph of science. No one knows when the virus and its mutants will be defeated, or if they will ever be, but the vaccines have largely eliminated the risk of infection, serious illness or death. The vaccinated elderly, the sick and the obese have much less to fear than the unvaccinated. Good health is important because your immune system is only as strong as your body is healthy. Eating well is crucial. Unfortunately, pandemic and lockdown behaviors lead to poorer dietary habits.
- The food environment becomes political territory
It is inevitable that with new legislation and regulations, the government will better protect citizens against the disease-causing food environment. The incoming government will have to use other means than the current covenants with the business community to allow the population to eat healthier. Those covenants are buttery soft and without obligation, according to the critics.
Force is not nice, but necessary. Stricter demands on the quality of the food produced; extra tax on unhealthy products; restrictions on advertising, marketing and food offerings; education and information; interventions in the (new) built environment to protect children; shift in emphasis to prevention by promoting knowledge among practitioners; promote good food.
It often sounds so easy, but an integral package of measures with real impact is the only means to ensure that we do not become even sicker and fatter through our diet. Loose incentives don’t work.
Better personal nutrition is closely related to care for the environment, animal welfare, scaling down and other sustainability themes. The switch to real sustainability is a big job, but a necessary one. ‘Politics’ must be aware of this.
- Metagenomics and the road to personalized nutrition
Improved (laboratory) techniques, the accumulation of enormous databases with (patient) data and the emergence of artificial intelligence in research open up a wide field of research. Researchers can establish a reliable link between genetic makeup, metabolism (including metabolites of the gut bacteria) and specific nutrients. The metagenomics techniques are already showing how great the individual differences are in the health effects of food. Much research is still based on the statistical processing of empirical and observational data. This produces averages and rough classifications. Metagenomics offer the possibility for each individual to determine the best nutrition. Personalized nutrition (which has long been the domain of dieticians) is indispensable in the treatment of diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
- The End of the Age of Diets
Partly due to the developments described under 3., the diet wars, the battle among believers over what the best diet is. There is no best diet, it certainly isn’t a diet that bears someone’s name.
Research shows that any diet, if maintained, can lead to weight loss through the effect of calorie restriction. For some, a low-carb or strict ketogenic diet works well, with fat, meat and dairy. For another, a strict plant-based diet. The most famous diet is the Mediterranean diet, but that is an eating habit and not a precisely defined, planned eating pattern.
The focus on individual nutrients, which are said to be good or bad, has shifted to the cohesion of the diet as a whole, such as people who eat as complete meals. These nutrients are also dependent on each other for their possible effects on health. Together they determine the food matrix and strengthen or weaken each other in it.
A healthy diet consists of many fresh products, with few additives. Traditional, home-cooked meals, with vegetables and fiber-rich products. It may contain some sugar, salt and fat.
However, this departure from the diet does not mean that research into the individual (micro)nutrients has stopped or has become redundant. Basic biochemical and medical research at the molecular and cellular level continues to evolve and is useful and interesting.
- The best book of 2021 about nutrition issues a strong warning
In 2021, a number of greats from science and journalism published new books on nutrition and health. Some of these have been discussed on Foodlog.
What those books have in common is an urgent message, feel free to say a warning. Humanity is headed in the wrong direction due to poor nutrition. The obesity epidemic, the increasing numbers of patients with lifestyle diseases, the growing pressure on the healthcare system as a result and the deteriorating prospects for the future health of our children are all cause for great concern.
The book that offers the best insight into the problem, in every aspect, is Robert Lustig’s Metabolical.
Anyone who has followed the news about nutrition and health over the past year, on Foodlog or elsewhere, will notice that these five ‘messages’ have a common underlying theme. In three letters: UPF. Ultra processed food, wholly chemically prepared foods from the factory, have once again proved to be both the main culprit and the head of jut this year than before.
Critics of the NOVA classification, which categorizes foods according to the degree of processing, argue that UPF is very diverse, safe and meets the high demand for food. Food industry critics point out that UPF was developed in labs with the intention of overruling the weak impulse biological systems of taste, hunger and satiety in humans. Not all UPF, fast food and ready-to-eat, but a lot of it.
That is not an anti-industry wappie story, but a proven strategy of Big Food.
Funny book Metabolical is about it. spooned in from Tim Spector as well (discussed as Spoon Fed) also. Michael Moss wrote Hooked about how the food industry makes us addicted, a controversial word related to food.
Kevin Hall, the acclaimed researcher at the NIH, the US’s highest-status research institute, was forced to conclude against his intuition that UPF leads to overnutrition. Which confirmed the observation that anyone could make: UPF is the main cause of the obesity epidemic and (related) diseases of affluence.
An important goal of nutritional research is to find out how UPF undermines health, to understand the effects of the thousands of substances used in the manufacture of those products (refined starch, colorants, stabilizers, flavors, preservatives, fats, artificial sweeteners) .
For the state of play of UPF in the United States, read this article from Newsweek. It is a pure horror story with a single bright spot. Against the enormous lobbies of the food industry, the US government is going to take measures to reduce UPF (including fast food) in the food chain.
Next year we will have the opportunity to do the same with us.
Same approach we proposed with #NutriScore to inform consumers about ultra-processing and nutritional quality, 2 health dimensions of foods that can each affect health: to associate to #NutriScore a specific label (black edge) indicating if the food is ultra-processed (NOVA4) pic.twitter.com/spzJhVhbtN
– Hercberg Serge (@HercbergS) December 24, 2021
Introducing warnings as part of existing or new front-of-package nutrient labels on food packages would specifically identify ultra-processed foods and give consumers important information at the point of purchase. https://t.co/ToOVvvTwGT
— jacob seidell (@jaapseidell) December 24, 2021
We want to say thanks to the writer of this short article for this amazing material
Nutrition under the magnifying glass – Five messages from 2021 and one point to tackle – Foodlog