My interview with an avatar named Jimbo Hoyer on Second Life has just been posted. This was kind of an out-of-body experience for me. I like the avatar that someone created for me. It (she?) is sort of younger, thinner version with a great figure. Anyway, their (our?) interview covers a variety of food issues. Enjoy!
If you want to see the latest research on environmental influences on childhood obesity, take a look at the current issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. It has a bunch of articles from top investigators about social factors that promote overeating and sedentary behavior in kids, along with some fascinating information about the role of advertising and foods in schools in promoting junk food. Beginners: start here.
Today’s New York Times has a story on little known provisions of the Farm Bill that benefit old barns, artisanal cheese makers, and asparagus and peanut growers. Personally, I am in favor of doing anything to promote artisanal cheese and asparagus but I doubt these provisions will survive. I have to say that the Farm Bill leaves me paralyzed. For starters, it’s 1360 pages. And finding it is not all that easy. Start by going to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry (an odd combination, no?). If you click on “2007 Farm Bill Updates and Info,” you get summaries. For the real thing, click on “Final Committee Reports and Documents,” and then on “Final Reported Farm Bill.” Wait patiently until it downloads and see what you can make of it. This would be funny if it didn’t matter so much.
And now we have an MSNBC report of a study just out in JAMA. The summary is a confusing mess to read but the bottom line is that being overweight increases the risk of death from some diseases but not others. Overweight, for example, cushions against pneumonia and other infectious diseases. Obesity increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancers considered to be obesity-related but not other types of cancers. Didn’t we know this already? The headline–and my guess is that we will see more of these–seems to be that it takes more than 25 pounds overweight to do this on average. Maybe, if risk factors like blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar remain at reasonable levels.
I have long talked about trans fat as a calorie distracter. People think “trans fat-free” means “calorie-free” when it most definitely does not. Whatever replaces trans fats will have just as many calories–130 per tablespoon, meaning that each tablespoon is 5% of a day’s average calorie intake. That’s why I either laugh or cry when I see “zero grams trans fat”
on the labels of junk foods. Trans fats raise the risk of heart disease a bit more than do the saturated fats that occur naturally in foods. But trans fats are unnatural and unnecessary and it’s good to get rid of them. Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal explains how food companies are struggling to find replacements that do not increase the amount of saturated fat in processed foods. This, as it turns out, is not so easy to do. I discuss all this in the fats-and-oils chapter of What to Eat, so I’m happy to see the WSJ take it on.
KAT’s question this week: Who’s really to blame for our convenience food-dominated diet? Was the I Hate to Cook Book a progressive, pre-Friedan feminist manifesto, or a culinary cop-out?
See my response at Eating Liberally.
MSNBC has produced a nifty map of the sources of E. coli outbreaks by state, from 1990 to the present. Click on the year, and see where the outbreaks occurred. If the list seems sparse, it’s because not all are listed. If we don’t do something serious about regulating food production, the map will just get more complicated.
The FDA has released its version of the new food safety plans for imported foods. It has established a Food Protection Plan web site, an Import Safety site, and a new plan for food protection. These are linked to the import safety plan mentioned in yesterday’s posting. It’s still difficult to figure out how all this will work in practice but the idea seems to be to require countries that export foods to us to certify their exporters and allow U.S. inspectors on site. And the FDA will be allowed to order recalls. What a concept! Some progress, but will it do the trick?