Food, ‘Food,’ and Health

My Chicago friend MK observes the current debate over the medical industry and how care is delivered (my formulation, now hers) fails to address a basic topic: “how we are getting sick in the first place.” She cites an estimate from Michael Pollan, the food industry critic and author of “In Defense of Food” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” that two-thirds of the medical expenses we incur as a society are directly linked to what we eat and drink.

That reminded me of an hour of KQED’s Forum that I heard about a month ago with Dr. David Kessler, former head of the Food and Drug Administration. He recently published a book called “The End of Overeating.” It’s an attempt to expose how we respond physiologically and neurologically to processed food (i.e., fat, sugar, and salt). Borrowing from advanced neurological research, he argues that the constant availability of, bombardment with, and ingestion of foods high in fat, high in salt, and high in sugar programs us to want more and more of the same (and boy, do we get more and more). The ultimate prescription is to disrupt that programming with a focus on what Pollan and others call ‘real food.’

Pollan’s formula is deceptively simple: “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” (Written immediately after a breakfast that consisted of coffee and a ClifBar.)

3 Replies to “Food, ‘Food,’ and Health”

  1. I’m working on illustrating some of the most helpful tips unpacking Pollan’s seven words of advice. He calls them “mental algorithms to think through food choices.” My favorite: “Never eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” (There go the Twinkies.) Thanks for the KQED link, added it to my listening queue.

  2. Reading Kessler’s book right now, Dan, as I try to get to the bottom of my own food issues.
    Doesn’t Pollan have one about avoiding stuff that has more than five ingredients? I also heard him on the radio, not long ago, say, “You know, if you make it at home, nine times out of 10 it’s going to be better tasting and better for you than if you buy it.”
    Lastly: On Salon now a feminist argues that Pollan and his penis are trying to send women back into the kitchen. (And if I overstate her argument, well, see what she does to Pollan. And his penis.)

  3. That Salon column touched off quite a discussion–most of which is far superior to the column itself.
    Let me know what you think about Kessler. He was great on the air.

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