I wouldn’t even ask such a silly question if the American Journal of Preventive Medicine wasn’t going to publish a paper arguing just this point. Along with one of the editors of that journal, I wrote an editorial commenting on the paper, to which its authors added a rebuttal to our editorial. The authors argue that the government has no business issuing advice based on weak evidence. I would agree except that evidence will never be as good as we wish it would be because research on human nutrition is really, really hard to do. And when it comes to diet, dietary guidelines are not exactly radical; the basic advice hasn’t changed in 50 years. I summarize it like this: “eat less, move more, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and don’t eat too much junk food.” Michael Pollan gets it down to 7 words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The Dietary Guidelines published in 2005 may take 70 pages, but in general, they say pretty much the same thing.
Mars, which owns Snickers, brings us Snickers Charged, a line extension with more caffeine than a soft drink, taurine (an essential amino acid for cats), and a bunch of B-vitamins. Why do we need this? According to the public relations folks, “This new product responds to current marketplace trends and satisfies two need states craved by consumers who seek hunger satisfaction and a boost of energy.” Food, anyone?
As of March 31, the NYC Health Department will require chain restaurants with more than 15 outlets to prominently display calorie information. I can’t wait to see how this will look and whether it will have any effect. Stay tuned! And check “calorie labels” to see previous posts on the history of this decision.
I guess the world needs this. I know that lots of people think glucosamine helps relieve their arthritis pains, especially in the knees, but the science on it is really iffy. Any number of reviews conclude that glucosamine is ineffective but safe as a placebo. Well, at least you can get it now from vegetarian sources, made in China. Reassured? The manufacturer says “Most of the world’s glucosamine is manufactured in China anyway. What we’re doing is supplying a safer and purer glucosamine coming from the same geographical location.”
Thanks to Ellen Fried for sending the latest info on energy drinks. I will never cease to be amazed by the money and effort that goes into designing “energy drinks,” in quotes because energy comes from calories and that usually means sugars of one kind or another accompanied by lots of caffeine.
So here’s Amp, in line to become PepsiCo’s “energy drink of the masses” or at least “goal-oriented males 18-34.” Would you like to see what $10 million in advertising buys? Take a look. One of the draws will be a line extension of the drink that contains L-theanine. This compound, new to me, is an amino acid of some kind, but one that has nothing to do with body proteins. It is something found in tea leaves. Will it give those guys energy? Only if they think so.
Ellen also points out that kids with $199 can buy Mountain Dew and Amp jackets. Cool.
The Cabinet of Rural Affairs and the Environment of Scotland has just released a gorgeous pamphlet that requests public comment on how the government should develop a national food policy for the country, one that makes Scotland “wealthier & fairer, smarter, healthier, safer & stronger, and greener.” I’ve never seen anything like this before and I’m envious. Couldn’t we do something as smart as this?
Today’s Observer (London) lays out the causes and consequences of what’s happening to global food prices. Not pretty. The bleak forecast: price increases of 10% to 50% leading to “a war between the 850 million chronically hungry of the world and the 800 million motorists – all fighting for the same food crop.”
About the previous posting on animal cloning, rj asks: What are the possibly negative consequences from consuming say cloned poultry? Does it have to do with abnormal gene expressions which may somehow impact the composition of said food item? This also makes me wonder about why genetically modified foods fire off alarms with some people…with respect to genetically modified foods [studies]…have concluded GM foods are safe…you could infer that GM foods are safe for humans too. What are your thoughts on this, Marion?”
Easy. Just because–or even if–a food is safe, it does not necessarily have to be acceptable. I am willing to grant that GM and cloned foods are probably safe, but so what? I devote the first chapter of my book, Safe Food, to a serious discussion of this question. To summarize: if you have concerns–moral, ethical, religious, social, or political–about the way food is produced, you might choose not to eat GM or cloned foods. But you don’t have a choice, because neither is labeled. I think they should be.