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.)