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Posts Tagged ‘food industry’

Our Food…smh

In health, Rants on June 14, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Confession: I’ve been bingeing on food-related documentaries.  In the past 24 hours, I’ve watched Food, Inc., Super Size Me, Food Matters, and Fed Up!, all thanks to the wonderful Netflix.  Seriously, if you haven’t invested in Netflix, it’s well worth it.  I believe I was on the later side of joining the revolution (joined in Jan of this year) and absolutely love it.  Plus, I’m a documentary junkie, so it satiates my video hunger rather well.  I know these documentaries have been out for a few years, but I kept putting them off.  Needless to say, I am happy I finally came around.

A little background from my life. Coming from a single mother home, I didn’t grow up with the healthiest foods stocked in our kitchen – we were always on the go, so “quick” was emphasized over “quality”.  Not to say we ate junk food…actually, in retrospect, I think we did pretty well considering our circumstances and the general level of nutrition knowledge in America during the 80s and 90s…I mean really, who was talking about organic back then?  We’d pick up fast food after games or practices, but we basically only drank water and milk, and had home-cooked meals whenever possible (never fried!).  Comparing my home’s food stock now to then is like night and day.  Now, we’re stocked with fresh fruits and veggies, organic everything (grass-fed if at all possible)…accompanied with much larger grocery store bills (thank you, Whole Foods).  But, my mom has made the choice that she’d rather sacrifice certain luxuries (say an extra vacation) than her health, and has thus chosen to spend more to eat better.  In sum, we did the best with what we had, and now we’re doing better.  Anywho, all this to say I’ve been blindly eating organic for a while, not really cognizant of the depths of why it is so important to do so.  Until I watched these docs…

I was truly at a loss for words after watching Food, Inc. and Super Size Me.  All I could say was “Wow!” and “Yikes!” and pull a smh.  I’m not even sure where to begin in this analysis.  I guess I’ll just word vomit points that stood out to me and highly recommend you checking these documentaries out if you haven’t already.  The entire experiment of Super Size Me was fascinating in and of itself.  I was simultaneously repulsed and spellbound by this healthy man’s 30 day transformation into a disgusting, bloated, lethargic, food-controlled mess with a dysfunctional liver!  He really made quite the sacrifice to make a point.  Granted, the man ate McDonald’s 3x/day for 30 days, but who would’ve thought it would 1) substantially increase his risk for developing Gout! (Whaat?) and 2) his liver would turn fatty that quickly from food and mirror that of an alcoholic’s.  Sad thing is the amount of people who rely substantially on fast food for most of their meals…yikes!

As for Food, Inc., it’s atrocious how our nation’s farmers are treated like modern-day slaves.  It’s ridiculous that in a country that prizes freedom above all else, politics and greed are depriving us of the knowledge needed for consumers to make truly informed decisions on our purchases that are supposed to drive supply.  Supply and demand – we all know about it.  But what’s happening is that supply is perversely dictating demand through a huge coverup.  Someone, tell me how current US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (one of my least favorite Americans) used to be an attorney for Monsanto Company (a company that basically became a monopoly in genetically engineered soy beans…enslaving and bullying soy bean farmers around the US with its ridiculous patent) and then as a Supreme Court Judge wrote the majority opinion in a case brought against Monsanto that basically supported the legal rights and entrepreneurship of soy bean farmers? What type of logic is this? What kind of “justice” are we seeing?!?  We talk a lot about minority groups such as Blacks, Latinos, and homosexuals, and their fight for equality, but if ever there was a disenfranchised group in America it’s our modern-day farmers (ok, and Native Americans), and it truly breaks my heart.

After watching these films, especially Food, Inc., I am so uncertain as to what to put into my mouth.  I’m not a meat-heavy person by any means, but I do consider it a good source of protein, and as such have included it in my diet…until now.  I honestly am not quite sure what to eat now, in good faith and out of social justice.  This documentary highlighted how mega-corporations, especially McDonald’s, own such a ridiculously large portion of all meat produced in America that even if we’re not going to MickeyD’s to eat, the meat we buy in the supermarket is subject to the same processes as MickeyD’s – Shame! Unfair!  As a consumer, where is my control? Where is my say?  Answer: eat organic, buy local, remember that every scan at the grocery counter is a vote for what you want.  Still, I feel disempowered 😦 Same goes for fruits and veggies – buy in-season produce (or else you’re supporting imports from China, etc), buy local, yadda yadda yadda.  My city is currently having an “Eat Local Challenge”.  Granted, I’m away for half of the month, but I fully intend on joining in the effort upon my return.  It’s doable.  Sure, it requires a bit more time, a little more money, and quite a bit more thought and energy, but it’s worth it – to our bodies, to our farmers, to what this great nation was built upon.

Admittedly, this is a bit tangential to what I usually post, but I feel as (future) physicians, (and this is the public health in me coming out) it is imperative we inform our patients on the nutritional component of their health that we can affect change on a larger level.  Ideally, we inform them, they take it in and make better choices, and their new purchasing patterns change the food supply in this nation.  But how do we inform others if we aren’t ourselves informed? Among this epic food documentary viewing of mine, I watched Food Matters, which was an interesting looking at the medical aspect of nutrition and fall-outs from our nutrient deficient food system.  While I don’t fully buy into all their claims about high dose vitamins in curing many ails (and this could be the skepticism of a medical education rearing its ugly head), I think they made some strong points on the lack of adequate training in nutrition during med school.  It’s interesting that as fundamental as nutrition is to building a healthy, fully operating human body, it is given so little (if any) attention in medical training.  Granted, we have nutritionists (whom we should be incorporated more into our delivery of health care…especially primary care…but that’s for another day), but physicians shouldn’t rely on them to deliver the message.  The producers of this film made some good points as to the unfounded opposition to vitamin therapy (I say unfounded because there have been research studies on the effectiveness of such treatments that the government has deliberately chosen not to archive, which flies in the face of the pharmaceutical companies) and how such treatments, originally discovered by doctors, would decrease the need for certain types of doctors and for a plethora of drugs.  Hmmm, very very interesting.  I’m not going to lie, while they were presenting their case, the thought of well, what does this mean for me as an aspiring physician??  flashed through my mind…as I’m sure it has for decades in the minds of many doctors and others involved in our nations health care system.  In all these documentaries the common thread of deliberate cover-ups and keeping people in the closet on a multitude of issues was evident.  It seems to me that our government, which is supposed to be protecting its citizens, has been protecting a minority of citizens that have a lot of $$$ and spend it to harm the majority…

I could easily keep bringing up points I found particularly interesting or disturbing, but this is getting lengthy and turning into a rambling.  I’ll just leave you to consider checking out some of these documentaries when you get the chance – the dollar or two you’ll spend on these are well worth the payoff you’ll receive in increased knowledge.