Friday, December 25, 2015

Food, Glorious Food

If you're anything like me and my family, chances are you're going to be slumped in front of the TV at some point during this holiday season, watching some version or other of Charles Dickens' classic, "A Christmas Carol." Whether it's the 1970 musical "Scrooge" starring Albert Finney, or the creepy black and white one with Alastair Sim, or any of the dozens that have been made through the years, they all tell the same story: one miser, three ghosts, 'nuff said.

First published in 1843, it, like most of Dickens' work, paints a picture of, we've come to assume, the typical mid-Victorian life, filled with squalor, disease, hunger, and untimely death. Indeed, one of the most recognizable features of the Victorian period (named for Britain's Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 until 1901) was the incredible pomp of their burial rites, and seemingly endless appetite for the trappings of grief.

Going in style, courtesy The Victorian Mourning Blog.
So it came as a surprise to me when I read this articleIts authors claim that, based on a study they conducted in 2008 for the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, there was a period in Britain from 1850 and 1872 where even the poor lived as long as we do, and were, overall, healthier than we are, because of their diet.

Really? Oliver and I would like some more information on this, please.

From the article:
Our study … shows that the majority of the Victorian urban poor consumed diets which were limited, but contained extremely high nutrient density. Bread could be expensive but onions, watercress, cabbage, and fruit like apples and cherries were all cheap and did not need to be carefully budgeted for. Beetroot was eaten all year round; Jerusalem artichokes were often home-grown. Fish such as herrings and meat in some form (scraps, chops and even joints) were common too. All in all, a reversion to mid-Victorian nutritional values would significantly improve health expectancy today.
They go on to say that:
Charting public health from the mid-Victorian era, our worldview changes dramatically. Mid-Victorians lived without modern diagnostics, drugs, surgery or contraception. Despite that, and because of the high nutrient density of their diet, their life spans were as good as ours and their health spans significantly longer. The dietary advantages of the mid-Victorian period have been lost to us because of our more sedentary lifestyles and over-consumption of processed and nutrient-depleted foods and beverages.
Earlier in the article, a word is used that I had never read or heard before: dysnutrition. I suspect it won't be the last.
It becomes clear that, with the exception of family planning, the vast edifice of post-1948 healthcare has not so much enabled us to live longer but has merely supplied methods of controlling the symptoms of non-communicable degenerative diseases, which have become prevalent due to our failure to maintain mid-Victorian nutritional standards. Dysnutrition is arguably the largest cause of ill-health today.
I had to do a little bit of Googling, but I was able to find out what "dysnutrition" means: 
For years, we have used "malnutrition" to describe a situation where someone does not receive sufficient vitamins and nutrients. In the past, however, that lack came from a lack of something else: sufficient calories. While a lack of calories still creates malnutrition in many Third World countries, the Western hemisphere and most definitely the United States face another problem.
 Many people now eat foods so devoid of nutritional value and loaded with sugar and processed flour that they can lack sufficient vitamins and minerals despite ingesting enough calories to become overweight. Hence, the need for a new term, dysnutrition.
The prefix "dys-" means bad, impaired, or abnormal, so you can see the logic behind the new word. Dysnutrition occurs because people make poor food choices and because food manufacturers make a conscious decision to "devolve" foods, [a] term for when food manufacturers make foods nutritionally worse to make them look more appealing, last longer, or taste better simply to increase profit margin.
"Increase profit margin"--at the expense of people's health? Big mistake!

No comments:

Post a Comment