Monday, November 13, 2006

Diet of the Future

Remember the Woody Allen movie, Sleeper? The health food-loving hero is frozen, and wakes up hundreds of years in the future, only to find that he was all wrong about junk food.
Dr. Melik: [puzzling over list of items sold at Miles' old health-food store] ... wheat germ, organic honey and... tiger's milk.
Dr. Aragon: Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.
Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or... hot fudge?
Dr. Aragon: [chuckling] Those were thought to be unhealthy... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.
Dr. Melik: Incredible!
ABC news recently had a features on what nutrition will be like in 2031. Unfortunately, fried chicken and cheesecake probably won't be on the "nutritious" list, but there will be some good eatin':
Dark chocolate, long recognized as both a rich indulgence and a health food, will dominate stores and homes alike. Milk chocolate will be largely a historical curiosity.

The optimal dose of red wine will be known, and its health effects relative to other libations will be fully elaborated.
The assumption is that,in 25 years we will know and understand the health benefits of all of the vitamins, minerals and organic molecules that make up our food. Of course we will also have deciphered how each individual's genetic makeup responds to different diets, with the result a perfectly tailored diet for each individual. Let's just say I'm skeptical that 25 years is long enough to understand both the complex chemical composition of the foods we eat and how those chemicals interact with each other in our diet to affect our health. However, I'm willing to start eating dark chocolate now, just in case.

In other nutrition news:
• The food museum blog notes a report in the New England Journal of Medicine on nutritional information coming out of the Nurses' Health Study. After looking at the diets of more than 80,000 participants over the course of 20 years, they concluded:
Our findings suggest that diets lower in carbohydrate and higher in protein and fat are not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease in women. When vegetable sources of fat and protein are chosen, these diets may moderately reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
They also found that "A higher glycemic load was strongly associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease". Sadly, that means less bread and more veggies. You can get more information about the glycemic load of commercial and prepared foods from around the world in this article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Foster-Powell et al. (2002). Needless to say, a "French baguette with butter and strawberry jam" has a much higher glycemic load than dry pumpernickel, alas. There are also some unusual results. For example, the "GL" of rice varies considerably, depending on the variety and possibly by cooking method. The effect of food on the body is complicated, and studies like these are part of the reason why I'm skeptical that there will be a "scientific diet" in the near future.

Alpha Psy has an interesting post on caffeine and cogition. A study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology has shown that a dose of caffeine makes you more persuadable by strong arguments, or as the study concludes, "caffeine can increase the extent to which people systematically process and are influenced by a persuasive communication." The next time you are involved in a political debate, be sure coffee is available!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm sounds to me like Hershey's had a hand in that report LOL.

I struggle with being told that bad foods are "good" because they contain flavenoids or other goodies in them, when the message about the accompanying fat and sugar is conveniently overlooked by marketers.

I've never seen that movie but I like the idea of examining our paradigms.

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re the caffeine - that suggests that salesmen and marketers could increase their sales by offering coffee or soft drinks containing caffeine to potential customers. The applications are scary...

1:19 PM  
Anonymous sammyig said...

I definitely won't be upset about the dark chocolate- I love dark chocolate.. Of course I love any chocolate but oh well *l*. I can tell that you spend alot fo time making the posts for your blog- I admire that.

7:27 PM  
Anonymous D.T. Kelly said...

A major problem, in America anyway, is portion control.

We're growing up with less of a sense of what we need and more of s sense of how much can I get.

Too much of anything isn't good, but if one doesn't have sense of WHAT the limits are then how does one know when they've reached (or exceeded) those limits?

And going with Talia's caffeine comment...Places like car dealerships offer complimentary coffee. Coincidence? ;)

9:14 PM  
Anonymous Gillian said...

Let me sort this one out. Caffeine makes me less stubborn (must tell my mother) and chocolate is an essential part of a healthy existence. Just as well I found a cheap supplier of rather good dark chocolate macadamia nuts today :). I found my dream supplier of coffee years ago. I'm doing well!

9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The diet of the future holds a few hopes. Dark chocolate is great. Don't care for the red wine, but maybe they can brew something up like it. I hope they are mistaken on the baguettes with butter. I can't be a well designed study :) I don't know about you, but I think I'd avoid caffeine if it caused to be unduly influenced by a politician!

9:55 PM  
Blogger Bk30 said...

yeah! I get to keep my chocolate!

6:27 AM  
Anonymous Heather said...

I'm all for anything with chocolate in it. You say "chocolate" and I am sooooo there!

6:59 PM  
Blogger Simran said...

Dark chocolate? Did someone say dark chocolate? Can you tell I've had tooooooooo much caffeine today? lol

Great article Peggy.

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


How could I not resist replying to this post. is good for you to drink after all. (grin)

8:42 PM  
Blogger Marilyn said...

I LOVE dark chocolate! I agree with DT Kelly on portion control, I think that's a big problem. Unfortunately I just find that I can't keep up with all of the trends of whether this or that is good or bad for you. It just seems that everything will become bad after a while and you just can't avoid some things. Moderation is key.

5:41 AM  
Blogger Peggy said...

Talia: If you like Woody Allen, I think you'd find Sleeper funny. It does look pretty dated, though, since a lot of it spoofs 70s culture.

DT & Marilyn: I agree that portion control and moderation are the keys to a healthy diet. I don't think that french fries or chocolate would be so bad if people at them every so often, rather than as a major component of their diet.

Harbormaster: The key is to drink red wine with your baguette, just like the French! I'm sure the nutritionists will eventually find a way to put the active ingredients in red wine into a pill (taking all the fun out of it!).

9:32 AM  
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10:39 PM  

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