I will be discussing Let’s Ask Marion with Clark Wolf as part of the Fales Library Critical Topics Series at 5:00 p.m., via Zoom. It’s free but registration is required—here.
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I’ve been following the story of Hillary Clinton’s Wikileaked e-mails (which John Podesta says the Russians released to sway the election) but never dreamed that I would turn up in them.
But Crossfit’s Russ Greene sent me his blog post yesterday and there I am [the photo comes from an article in the Sydney Morning Herald].
Coke’s Surveillance of Marion Nestle
Strangely, the DC Leaks database does not include any Coca-Cola emails from August 2015, the month that the New York Times first exposed the Global Energy Balance Network. Nonetheless, it does reveal that Coke sent a representative to attend and take notes on Dr. Marion Nestle’s speech at Sydney University in January.
Dr. Nestle, an NYU professor who most recently published “Soda Politics,” spoke on conflicts of interest in health science and government food policy. She mentioned the GEBN as a case study in soda-influenced science.
Nestle moderately concerned Coke. They mentioned the need to “Monitor social media,” but stated that Nestle achieved “very limited pick up from yesterday’s presentation – #sodapolitics.”
Of course the pick up was limited. This was a private, invitation-only meeting with Sydney nutritionists deliberately kept small so as not to compete with my subsequent public lectures (see below for the media list).
Who was the Coca-Cola note taker? I have no idea but the notes seem fine.
Coke’s Surveillance of CSPI
I also turn up in the e-mails related to Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Evidently, Coca-Cola was tracking the social media response to a CSPI report on its marketing to children.
The most shared tweet was this one – https://twitter.com/CSPI/status/732239510138949633, which was mainly because Marion Nestle re-tweeted it.
By now I assume that someone from Coca-Cola is taking notes at every talk I give and reporting in to headquarters.
What does all this have to do with Hillary Clinton’s campaign?
As Russ Greene explains, the emails reveal that Capricia Marshall, who is working on the Clinton campaign, is also working for Coca-Cola’s communications team.
Just to make things easy for Coca-Cola, here’s my Australia media list
March 10 ABC 7:30, TV interview with Sarah Whyte on Coca-Cola’s funding of research: Sweet Talk
March 2 ABC-FM interview with Margaret Throsby, Classic FM, on Soda Politics
March 1 Lecture to Sydney Ideas: Soda Politics: Lessons from the Food Movement, U. Sydney
March 1 ABC News radio and print interview with David Taylor, on Soda Politics
Feb 29 Interview (online) with ABC Sydney on Soda Politics
Feb 27 “At Lunch With” column in the Sydney Morning Herald: “the powerful foodie”
Feb 24 Podcast of lecture on Soda Politics at the University of Melbourne
Feb 22 Lecture at symposium at Deakin University, Melbourne (this is an mp4 file requiring a lengthy download)
Feb 19 Radio interview with Mark Colvin, ABC News (Sydney) on Soda Politics
Feb 19 Podcast interview with Colvinius, ABC News (Sydney) on Soda Politics
While we are endlessly waiting for the release of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, Tamar Haspel and I thought we would jump the gun and write up for the Washington Post what we think most makes sense: How to eat more healthfully, in 6 easy steps.
Here are our Rogue Dietary Guidelines:
Go through the fine print of the omnibus spending bill just passed by Congress, and you’ll see that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, scheduled for release in — you guessed it — 2015, have been pushed out to 2016. You wouldn’t think that the government’s efforts, every five years, to help Americans eat more healthfully would turn into a political football. But when its appointed scientists reviewed the literature on meat and health, for example, they did something quite radical. They said what they meant with no equivocations: Americans should eat less meat.
As if that were not radical enough — previous committees had pussyfooted with such euphemisms as “choose lean meats to reduce saturated fat” — this committee insisted on an additional reason beyond health: environmental considerations.
The result? Uproar.
Arguments like the ones over the Dietary Guidelines, fueled by lobbyists, politicians and agenda-driven groups, make diet advice seem maddeningly inconsistent, but the fundamentals haven’t changed much at all.
It’s time to take back the process, so we’re going rogue and issuing our own Dietary Guidelines, untainted by industry lobbying, unrestricted by partisan politics. Here, in six easy steps, is our advice for the new year: what we think dietary guidelines ought to say.
- Eat more plants. You heard it from your grandmother. You heard it from Michael Pollan. Now you hear it from us: Eat your vegetables. Add fruits, beans and whole grains, and the wide-ranging plant category should make up most of your diet. Variety is the key. Plants offer us such an astonishing range of roots, stems, leaves, flowers, buds and seeds that there is bound to be something even the most jaded vegetable skeptic can love.
Vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains: Plants should make up most of our diet. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)
- Don’t eat more calories than you need. Although on any given day it’s hard to tell whether you’re doing that, over the long term, your scale is a sure-fire indicator. If the pounds are going up, eat less.
Let’s pause here for the good news. If you follow our first two guidelines, you can stop worrying. Everything else is fine-tuning, and you have plenty of leeway.
- Eat less junk. “And what’s junk?” we hear you asking. We have faith that you know exactly what junk is. It’s foods with lots of calories, plenty of sugar and salt, and not nearly enough nutritional value. It’s soda and sugary drinks. It’s highly processed, packaged foods designed to be irresistible. It’s fast food. You know it when you see it. When you do, don’t eat too much of it.
- Eat a variety of foods you enjoy. There is research on the health implications of just about any food you can think of. Some — such as fish — may be good for you. You should eat others — such as meat and refined grains — in smaller amounts. The evidence for most foods is so inconsistent that you should never force yourself to eat them if you don’t want to, or deny yourself if you do. If you love junk foods, you get to eat them, too (in moderation, of course). You have bought yourself that wiggle room by making sure the bulk of your diet is plants and by not eating more than you need.
This is an appropriate place to talk about a phrase that has been thrown around a lot in the Dietary Guidelines brouhaha: “science-based.”
As a journalist (Tamar) and a scientist (Marion), we’re very much in favor of science. But in this situation, the food industry’s frequent calls for “science-based” guidelines really mean, “We don’t like what you said.”
Arriving at truths about human nutrition isn’t easy. We can’t keep research subjects captive and feed them controlled diets for the decades it takes many health problems to play out. Nor can we feed them something until it kills them. We have to rely on animal research, short-term trials and population data, all of which have serious limitations and require interpretation — and intelligent people can come to quite different opinions about what those studies mean.
Which is why “eat some if you like it” isn’t a wishy-washy cop-out. It acknowledges science’s limitations. We do know that plants are good, and we do know that junk foods aren’t, but in between is an awful lot of uncertainty. So, eat more plants, eat less junk, and eat that in-between stuff moderately. That is exactly the advice science demands.
What we eat and how we eat go hand in hand. We’ve all been there, sitting in front of a screen and finding that, all of a sudden, that bag, box or sleeve of something crunchy and tasty is all gone. We’re so focused on what to eat that how to eat gets short shrift. So:
- Find the joy in food. Eat mindfully and convivially. One of life’s great gifts is the need to eat, so don’t squander it with mindless, joyless consumption. Try to find pleasure in every meal, and share it with friends, relatives, even strangers.
- Learn to cook. The better you cook, the better you eat. There are days when cooking feels like a chore, but there are also days when you find profound satisfaction in feeding wholesome homemade food to people you love. And foods you make at home are worlds apart from foods that manufacturers make in factories. No home kitchen ever turned out a Lunchable.
If you go out in the world armed only with these guidelines, you’ll do great. Sure, there’s much more to know, if you want to know it. We’ve forged careers writing about food and nutrition, and either one of us could talk micronutrients until your eyes glaze over. But these few basics are all you need to make good food decisions. Choose foods you like, cook them and enjoy them.
It really is that simple.
Haspel is the James Beard award-winning writer of Unearthed, a Washington Post column devoted to finding out what’s actually true about food.
Nestle is professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University and is the author, most recently, of “Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning).”
Vanessa Domine. Healthy Teens, Healthy Schools: How Media Literacy Can Renew Education in the United States. Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.
Here’s my blurb:
If you are not concerned about the effects of exposure to electronic media on the health of teenagers, you should be. This book presents a well-researched, highly compelling case for the urgent need for media literacy education to be incorporated into school wellness programs as soon as possible.
Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) also has resources about online marketing to kids (scroll down for a list).
Frederick Errington, Tatsuro Fujikura, and Deborah Gewertz. The Noodle Narratives: The Global Rise of an Industrial Food into the Twenty-First Century. University of California Press, 2013.
How did it happen that lots of people subsist on instant noodles? As the anthropologist authors explain, Ramen noodles are ubiquitous, quotidian, tasty, convenient, cheap, and shelf stable. The industrial (cheap) versions are loaded with MSG and palm oil. But then, there’s the David Chang Momofuko version, “cosmopolitan and classy,” requiring pounds of meat and taking hours to prepare (not cheap). This book is about the commodification of instant noodles, starting from small Japanese markets and ending up as the world’s most widespread industrial food: “a capitalist provision that provisions capitalism.” But will they feed the world? “Our hope is that the future will provide at least a modest mosaic of choices—a mosaic in which competing orientations toward food, with an emphasis either on security or sovereighty, will continue to challenge one another in a socially and environmentally productive way.
Yoni Freedhoff. The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work. Harmony Books, 2014.
Ordinarily I don’t pay much attention to diet books but this one comes from the Canadian obesity physician, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, whose Weighty Matters blog is fun to read and well worth following.
The key to healthy dieting, he says, is to avoid dieting’s seven deadly sins: hunger, sacrifice, willpower, restriction, sweat, perfectionism, and denial.
This sounds hopeful.
Instead, you are to reset your relationship with food forever, starting with a 10-day preliminary experiment in which you get ready, keep a diary, banish hunger, cook, think, exercise, indulge, eat out, and set goals. Then you move forward, one day at a time.
“You absolutely CAN do this,” he says.
This is a seriously mindful weight-loss program that works well for his patients. It ought to.
Give it a try?
The book even comes with recipes.
Ed Behr. 50 Foods: The Essentials of Good Taste. Penguin Press, 2013.
Just got my copy. Here’s my blurb for 50 Foods:
Ed Behr’s 50 Foods extols the pleasures of his favorites from anchovies to walnuts, with plenty of handy advice about how to tell the difference between a great pear or cheese and one that’s not so great, and what wines make good foods taste even better. He knows the ins and outs of delicious food, and you will too after reading this book.
Darin Jensen and Molly Roy, eds. Food: An Atlas. Guerrilla Cartography, 2013.
This is fun. It’s a book of big maps on food production, distribution, security, exploration, and identity, mostly American but some international. Take a look at such maps as those for rooftop farming in New York City, global imbalance of food availability, the rise of British food banks, and Taco trucks of East Oakland.
It reminds me a lot of:
Erik Millstone and Tim Lang. The Atlas of Food: Who Eats What, Where and Why. Earthscan, 2003.
This one is British and more overtly political. Its maps cover such things as over- and under-nutrition, food aid as power, genetic modification, trade flows, advertising, and “Citizens Bite Back.”