Friday, February 12, 2010

Post 1: Response to "In Defense of Food," by Michael Pollan

In Michael's intro and first four chapters, the foodie and New York Times journalist provides us with the information of how "nutritionism" has damaged the food scene of America. Nutritionism is roughly defined as an ideology claiming that "food is the sum of its nutrient parts." The problem with this claim is that we don't know all there is to be known about food's nutrients.

One of Pollan's ideas that intrigues me is also one of his latent contradictions: He urges a switch to a more traditional, whole-foods diet, implying we ought eat as Americans did a century ago, and yet, on page 25 he wonders if "we should be grateful that the saturated fat interests have as yet [not] organized...(in Washington)." How is it possible that Pollan compare saturated fats to simple sugars if he is committed to urging the public to eat as their "mothers and grandmothers" did (13, Pollan)? Indeed, as Ellen Ussery says in a review of Pollan's book, "It is hard to understand how he comes to such conclusions when they contradict what he has said elsewhere in the book."
The French are famous for cooking with goose fat
And he continues to tell us to consume less saturated fats even though, “during the decades of the twentieth century when rates of heart disease were rising in America, Americans were actually reducing their intake of animal fats (in the form of lard and tallow). In place of those fats, they consumed substantially more vegetable oils (46, Pollan)."

And to drive home his famous slogan, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants," Pollan "seems to assume that the unhealthful consequence of eating a lot of meat is settled science. It is not—he makes it seem so by sleight of hand. He slips in references to research on the matter without giving it the kind of scrutiny he himself applies to nutritional studies in other parts of the book (Ussery)."

It is also interesting how Pollan compares Omega-3s found in fish oil to "a savior nutrient for (nutritionism) to sanctify (31, Pollan)," when researchers at Harvard University have determined that anywhere from 72,000-96,000 deaths per year could be prevented omega-3 fish oil supplementation (Danaei, 2009).

Following great-grandma's lead might allow us to have our cake and eat it too, at least the stuff she thought was truly "healthy."

1 comment:

  1. cute pictures....thats like monochorme one of the best moments..