Top Questions in Nutrition (Part II)

March 26, 2014 Elle Alexander, Johanna Goetzel

To wrap up Nutrition Awareness Month, here is the second half of this blog post, answering questions 6-10:

  1. Which sweetener is the best for human health and has minimal environmental impact?
  2. How can eating behaviors change to support health?
  3. How have prepared and packaged foods changed in the last decade to promote nutrition?
  4. Is yogurt a health food?
  5. How useful are currently serving size recommendation?
  6. Should energy drinks be marketed to kids?
  7. Where in the world does our food come from?
  8. What lessons can we learn from abroad?
  9. The other, other white meat?
  10. How have food companies shifted their products to promote healthier options?

6. Should energy drinks be marketed to kids?

The WHO has warned that marketing fast food to kids has been “disastrously effective,” and has ultimately directly contributed to the global obesity epidemic. The American Academy of Pediatric recommends that children and teenagers never consume energy drinks, citing high levels of sugar and caffeine as unhealthy for children while providing no nutritional benefits. In spite of that, Yale University Rudd Center reports that 31% of American youth (age 12-17) consume energy drinks, many of which have on average more sugar than soda and are not required to disclose information on caffeine content.

7. Where in the world does our food come from?

Tracing our food items from production to consumption helps to understand where things really come from. Sourcemap visually displays the journey of products, with some examples having no less than 16 stopovers from source to shelf.

8. What lessons can we learn from abroad?

Brazil has introduced new food based countrywide guidelines, now open for comment, to promote health.  The rules they propose can be applied to the US and other countries:

  • Make foods and freshly prepared dishes and meals the basis of your diet.
  • Be sure oils, fats, sugar and salt are used in moderation in culinary preparations.
  • Limit the intake of ready-to-consumer products and avoid those that are ultra-processed.

9. The other, other white meat?

Fish are a tremendous source of protein and consumption is growing; to meet the demand in the US means importing 91% of the aquaculture. NOAA address questions about healthy eating and sustainability best practices. Concerns about health, safety and global ecology all come to play when eating fish and equally important is purchasing seafood from reliable sources. Greenpeace ranks retailers based on environmental practices.

10. How have food companies shifted their products to promote healthier options?

Food companies are shifting their portfolios to address the regulatory pressure and consumer interest in healthier items. Smaller portion sizes of classic items can be seen in stores and stealth strategies include product reformulation to reduce sodium or replace refined flour with whole grains, or developing ingredients to increase satiety and flavor without the calories (read more about these trends here). Interestingly, the Hudson Institute found that food and beverage companies with more sales of healthier products were more financially successful than companies with lower sales of healthier items.

When addressing these questions it is essential to consult credible sources, investigate credentials of authors, and recognize source bias.

A few of our current favorite places for nutrition updates are below – or just check back here for future posts on the subject!

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/

http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/

http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/education/medical-school/departments/center-human-nutrition/index.htm

http://www.foodpolitics.com/

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