Michael Pollan strikes again.
I just went ga-ga over his article in the green issue of the New York Times Magazine, Why Bother?, and now I get this link from Boing Boing about his new book, In Defense of Food. Maybe I like this guy because he looks like and reminds me of my brothers, Rodd and Todd.
It’s a video almost an hour long of his discoveries about food, ranging from the disturbing reality that there is not enough convincing science (at least not as much as he expected) about food, all the way to comparing nutrients to God (which I loved as an example), as nutrients are invisible and we thus need doctors, journalists, nutritionists to tell us the right amounts we need, which is what holy practitioners do for their flock when trying to respect something as invisible as nutrients.
The idea of how we’ve SLOWLY progressed (but progressed nonetheless) from “chewing songs” urged by Horace Fletcher, who thought you were supposed to chew every bite 100 times, makes me wonder how viable the science we have now really matters.
I mean, I like to believe that scientists stand up for us. They think on our behalf for the greater good. But if anyone knows about food lobbyists, like the Egg Board and Milk Board and Cheese Board (I think those are all viable Boards) they know that they have their own scientists working on their behalf, to ensure steady and increased sales of their product/commodity. So maybe there’s a reason that for as long as I can remember there have been reports on how bad/good/bad/good again coffee, red wine, red meat, a glass of beer is supposed to be for you. His example of butter being touted as evil and margarine being the hero (for a time) until it was realized that the trans fats in margarine were WAY worse than the saturated fats in butter. So who do we trust? I don’t know, but he likes the idea of pushing to recognize cultural impact on food-health. Watching people who stay healthy from other cultures…and take notes. Makes damn good sense to me.
Carrying on, I liked how he pointed out that food is always broken into evil vs. good bits. The evil now is trans fats. The hero now is Omega 3 Fatty Acid. Carbohydrates are moving out (Thanks Atkins), and fibre is heroic now for a while. But I remember when it was protein! It was all about protein! Funny enough, I remember reading a book by John Robbins who said that there was enough protein in a glass of milk to nullify the calcium. Yes. In human chemistry, too much protein (which has been shoved down our throats for as long as I can remember) means that you will pee out your precious calcium. I don’t like it either, but it’s just science.
That said, with people eating tons of meat (adding HEAVILY to the climate change epidemic) and then having any green veggies with calcium in it, they were doing the same thing. I mean, come on people. We drink more milk than anyone else in the world. Why do we have the highest cases of osteoporosis in the world if we’re so full of calcium!? Why don’t Japanese and Chinese citizens deal with this on the level we deal with it? Hmmm. Something to be further looked into I think.
He talked about “orthorexics” which is a term for people who have an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy. Sadly, I know a few of these. Pollan also laughed about the American paradox of food. We want healthy food, and we obsess about getting healthy food, yet we are fatter and less healthy than the French counterparts who eat fatty foods and do all of the things we’re told are negative. Why is this happening? Since nutritionism began in the 70s, the overall health in America (Canada) is worse. Huh!? Yeah, nice paradigm shift Michael, I really needed that to think about.
He blew me away when talking about beta carotene and how it was thought to be the gold medal winner of carotenes (there are many more) when in fact it did nothing to improve health significantly, and in some cases made things worse. Perhaps then, because there is so much more to the carrot than we thought, maybe you HAVE TO EAT THE CARROT to get the longevity associated with it and other vegetables. Maybe there’s some mystical combination of things that happens when you eat the carrot that makes you healthier. As of now, according to Pollan, not one nutritionist knows the answer to this. Not specifically. Any idiot can say that eating vegetables every day is good for you, but someone who tries to say that nutrient X in this and nutrient Y in that is the reason for the longevity, is lying. They don’t know why.
I was shocked to hear that the science is just not there. Just. Not. There.
He blew my mind with, “You have as may neurons in your digestive tract that you have in your spinal column.” What? Exactly. Why do I have brain cells in my lower intestine. According to Pollan, no one knows. Yet. But this kind of info is fascinating to me. Not only will I be buying this book eventually, but I will be reading every column he has on the subject of healthy living and healthy planet, as he has proven to me in short bursts of information, that he is not flowing downstream like many of us. He is going against the current to ask important questions. I like that. I wish I could be more like that.
Go watch it. Then you can remember it.