Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Food talk

Everything you are doing is wrong.
-- Janosh, Ghostbusters II

Over the summer, I tried to watch a lot of TED talks. I've been meaning to post a list of my favorites (real soon now...). I've also been reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food recently and while I'm only half finished, it has a lot in common with Mark Bittman's TED talk What's wrong with what we eat. Given the similarities, I'll cover both items here (though the book is fresh in my mind so my emphasis will be on it).

Neither author puts much faith in the nutritional authorities in this country. Pollan's book discusses how hard it is to run a nutritional study measuring the Right Things and blames scientific reductionism for giving us misinformation. To accurately study the dietary effects in complex systems like people is likely impossible (or at least extremely challenging with current technology) given the difficulty in actually measuring both the inputs and outputs. Worse, Pollan believes that nutrition science has not succeeded in making us healtheir but in fact has pushed us in the opposite direction -- ever since nutritionists have replaced parents as the authorities, this country has gotten less healthy along many dimensions. To be fair, some amount of this can likely be attributed to corporations like McDonalds and Kraft, but that's another post.

I've always been skeptical of nutrition science given its various flip-flopping studies on foods like chocolate and wine. In any event, my goal here is not to provide a review of these items, but to encourage you to read Pollan's book, or, if you only have 20 minutes and 8 seconds, watch Bittman's talk.


Ryan T. said...

I read In Defense of Food during the summer and loved it. It makes complete sense how we can never know what the "food-like substances" we artificially create are missing compared to real food, since we can only test for the few things we understand so far. Hence, the only safe thing to eat is real food!

David McClosky said...

Real food -- you mean like those Fluff sandwiches you like to eat? :) Seriously though, this book is causing me to amplify my campaign to eat less processed food.