The skeptical cardiologist follows a few blogs/websites regularly because they provide consistently good commentary or reporting on topics I’m focused on.
Prominent among these is http://www.foodpolitics.com which Marion Nestle’* writes.
Almost every post that she creates provides me with unique and fascinating information or understanding about food and the food industry.
Let me take a few recent examples.
Farmer’s Share of Thanksgiving Dinner.
On Thankgiving Nestle’ highlighted this report from the National Farmer’s Union which revealed that farmer’s get only 11 cents from the typical American family’s Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a particularly low portion of the overall money spent on the turkey that goes to farmers because:
“The major integrators who control the poultry markets have used their extreme bargaining power to suppress the earnings of the men and women who raise our chickens and turkeys while simultaneously taking in record profits for themselves,” Johnson said. “While poultry growers take all the risk of production, they are receiving just 5 to 6 cents per pound for turkeys and chickens. The integrators take those same turkeys and chickens, process them, and then mark up the retail value nearly tenfold.”
A2 Milk: Healthier?
Nestle’ has written extensively about the pervasive influence of the food industry on nutritional research in her books including her recently published Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat.
She has long been at the forefront in pointing out that industry-sponsored research is highly likely to be favorable to the product the industry sells.
A2 milk, which has taken over a large share of the Australia and New Zealand dairy market based on shaky scientific studies which suggest it is healthier than the standard A1 milk is now being promoted in the US.
A recent Nestle’ post points out that
claims for A2 milk’s better digestibility were based entirely on studies paid for by—surprise!—the manufacturer (as I explain in my latest book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat, food industry funding of nutrition research produces highly predictable results and, therefore, is not good for science, public health, or trust)
Stripping the Healthy Polyphenols From Corn
Nestle’ wrote recently of a study sponsored by Kellogg’s which demonstrated what happens to the healthy phytosterols in corn when it is processed:
Just as processing of whole wheat into white flour removes the bran and germ, so does the processing of corn into corn flakes.
The germ and bran (hull) layers of grain seeds contain the vitamins and minerals—and the phenolics. What’s left is the starch and protein (endosperm).
To replace these losses, manufacturers fortify corn flakes with 10% to 25% of the Daily Value for 12 vitamins and minerals.
This study is further evidence for the benefits of consuming relatively unprocessed foods.
Of particular interest to me is the authors’ disclosure statement:
This work was funded in part through gifts from the Kellogg Company and Dow AgroSciences.
The authors declare no competing financial interest.
This makes this study a highly unusual example of an industry-funded study with a result unfavorable to the sponsor’s interests. The authors do not perceive Kellogg funding as a competing interest. It is. Kellogg (and maybe Dow) had a vested interest in the outcome of this study.
Beer Hops and Alzheimer’s
One of Nestle’s posts caught my eye as she mentioned a Japanese study** which showed that beer hops help mice with Alzheimer’s.
If the findings hold true in humans we should all be chugging hoppy IPAs with really high IBUs as the paper concluded:
The present study is the first to report that amyloid β deposition and inflammation are suppressed in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease by a single component, iso-α-acids, via the regulation of microglial activation. The suppression of neuroinflammation and improvement in cognitive function suggests that iso-α-acids contained in beer may be useful for the prevention of dementia.
Sadly, we must take this paper with a grain of malt, as the lead author works at “Research Laboratories for Health Science & Food Technologies, Kirin Company Ltd.” Kirin being a prominent Japanese brewery.
Nestle’s posts are short, well-referenced and consistently high quality.
I’m going to update my “blogroll” (something I’ve failed to do for several years) with Food Politics and I highly recommend signing up for email delivery of her posts if you are interested in food, nutrition and the interaction between the food industry and nutritional science.
*Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health, emerita, at New York University, and Visiting Professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell. She has a PhD in molecular biology and an MPH in public health nutrition from UC Berkeley. She lives in New York City.
**Nestle’s post actually references a different Kirin sponsored study in mice (Matured Hop-Derived Bitter Components in Beer Improve Hippocampus-Dependent Memory Through Activation of the Vagus Nerve) than the one I reference above which was truly related to Alzheimer’s.