Saturday, September 25, 2010

Carrot Schtick... Schtick

I just watched the @maddow 'Carrot Schtick' segment from her 9/23 show and had some thoughts. Before I begin, let me preface by saying that I subscribe to her video podcast version of The Rachel Maddow Show. I think the material presented is fair and factual, and she brings a level headed demeanor to our polarized world.

First of all, let's give the floor back to the experts. Nothing fries my melon quicker than scientifically illiterate people soap-boxing science. We take food education and advice from college journalism professors who never interview food scientists for his books about food (I'm talking about you, Pollan). People who graduated from college with a liberal arts education(I wrote about this before), tend to approach learning about science in the same way they learned about the classics and humanities. What I notice about these people is that they come from an environment where everything is abstract, so everyone can have an opinion on anything. Science isn't at all opinion friendly. I can believe that one giant cheeseburger and cheese fries will give me a heart attack, but it doesn't make it true. Eating this every day for years will give you an increased likelihood of a heart attack, but not the one and not even for several a month. I can say that the plastic bottle I drink water from will make me sterile from the BPA and give me cancer, but that doesn't make it true. The truth is a lot less exciting and sensational than that.

Trans fats are bad for you, but not to the extent it's been made out to be. A lifetime of far above avg consumption may cause problems.

My thoughts on Child nutrition:

1) Health is a relative term. What is healthy for one person may be too much for another and depends on what else that person ate the rest of the day/week/month

2) School lunches require a certain amount of calories and schools can't possibly be expected to be responsible for what the student's parents give them at home.

3) Calories aren't good or bad, only too few or too many are bad. A zero calorie diet is not a better diet than a 2,500 calorie diet. It's death. We need calories, just not too many... but it depends on the situation... again, not very exciting or sensational.

4) Fats are over-consumed, but not inherently bad. Fat is stored energy that also protects our bodies and keeps us warm. We shouldn't demonize a food just because it has a high fat content. We don't know what else the person ate that day or week. Maybe they're at an acceptable level when their whole diet is observed.

Don't conflate what some lobbyist says with what the science is. A Food Hysteric and a lobbyist will both sensationalize food to the same degree, just in opposite directions. Remember; the truth is very boring and 'blah'. I love food science and even I yawn when reading research.

So Glenn Beck talking about people taking fries away is nutty, but it doesn't make fries evil as well. Fries aren't evil, they're fries. Everything has a place with moderation. My food processing professor at OSU was an expert in dairy and had been teaching at the university level since the late 40's. He was in his mid 80's when I was his student. He drove to school, held office hours, and still ate ice cream every day. He wasn't fat or diabetic or any of that. He always said, 'everything in moderation'. To my knowledge, the only thing he had to cut back on was was pecans, because he found it harder to digest in his later years.

Honestly, even the things we agree aren't good in high amounts(fat, mercury in fish), still takes prolonged exposure to very high amounts of anything legal and not good for you to actually make you sick. This of course, is by design, because the amount's allowed per serving of things like BPA is set at a tiny fraction of the minimal amount it takes to cause illness.

For example:

Additive X causes illness @ 2 grams per kilogram of body weight(toxicity).

FDA sets the highest allowable amount @ 20 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.

Food Y contains 100 micrograms of X per serving & 2 servings per can(16 oz ).

Food Y then contains 200 micrograms of X per can.

So you'd need to eat 100 16oz cans of food Y to get ill from Additive X... and X metabolizes in 3 days, so you have that long to eat 100 cans of Food Y.

But that isn't exciting. It 's roughly in the ball park of how toxicity levels work for everything allowed in our food.

I think I got off track here, but let me restate a few things. I like The Rachel Maddow Show and I understand that her larger point for this segment was pointing out that the GOP may be testing the waters for a culture war. I'm just concerned that science will get lumped in with a political party, and because of that, people on the left will only grow more cynical about science and write off everything as 'Big' [fill in the blank].

To have a real science based discussion about anything in our society, especially food, requires people that, quite frankly, know what the hell they're talking about, not journalism Prof's or lobbyists. I would ask anyone affiliated with The Rachel Maddow Show that is reading this to look into utilizing food science experts in the same way you utilize astro-physicists to discuss space. Some great resources for interviews would be colleges with top food science programs, such as: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Cornell, Penn State, and UC Davis. Also make use of IFT(Institute of Food Technologists).

Above all else, we need a renewed interest in science education in this country so well intentioned ppl can spot sound science and recognize the frauds and misleading correlation studies.

[I apologize for the rambling nature of this post. It was late(or early) and I felt like saying some things that weren't all under much of a unifying theme.]

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