Archive for the ‘Food and nutrition’ Category

By Virginia Jewell

As a public health advocate and nutrition and health enthusiast, I have been studying the obesity epidemic in America for years. Last week, in a Boston University Introduction to Nutrition class, Professor Joan Salge-Blake ran a straw poll. “Raise your hand if you know one person who is obese.” Nearly every hand in the room shot into the air. “Keep your hand raised if you know five people who are obese” The majority of the hands stayed in the air. Even in a straw poll in an introductory level college class, it is clear there is an obesity problem in America. According to the CDC Fact Sheet on Obesity and Overweight, 35.1% of Americans are obese (2015). One of the leading causes of obesity is poor food and beverage intake, but what is the US government doing to combat the American diet? (more…)

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By Mateo Zambrano Navia

Over the last decades the American public has grown increasingly concerned about the effects that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) may have on health. Organizations such as Non-GMO Project warn the public about the potential threats of genetically modifying our food and the impact that this could have on our health and the environment. They question the safety of consuming “franken-foods” and disclose stories of how agricultural giants, such as Monsanto, have used GMOs for profit and to the detriment of many.[1]

This increased concern has led to massive rallies and protests around the world, asking governments to implement policies against the use of genetic modification in foods. While the United States has yet to implement policies banning GMO agriculture, many European nations have taken a strong stance against production and import of GM crops.[2] These institutional responses to the GMO scare have further solidified the publics concern.

The scientific evidence overwhelmingly suggests that GM foods are not only safe to consume, but they may bring a great deal of progress to modern agriculture.[3] These same mechanisms of genetic modification are being used and have been used for decades to perform research in almost every area of biology, and have been invaluable tools in discovering disease pathologies and treatments in the last decades.

The GMO debate has received a massive amount of media coverage and the connection between agricultural giant Monsanto and GMOs has been heavily engrained in the public eye. This may dissuade companies, universities and even governments from funding or performing future GMO research. Although not all GMOs are favorable to the public, the potential benefit that GMOs could bring to the future of agriculture is too great to pass up. By bringing such a negative image onto genetic modification, we may be preventing scientists from finding solutions to agricultural problems we are desperately trying to overcome.

There are three central issues that humanity is facing that could be addressed using GM crops: we are expected to experience a great food shortage in the coming century, climate change is making farming conditions more severe and unpredictable, and a large portion of humanity relies on one or two crops for nourishment, leading to malnutrition.

The first two reasons go hand in hand. The UN expects that with increasing global population we will need to produce approximately 70% more food in much more efficient ways than we are doing currently by 2050.[4] Additionally climate change has had a pronounced impact on agriculture, making weather patterns more unpredictable and severe than they have been in the past.

Developing nations and impoverished populations are expected to suffer the most from the effects of climate change: nations and people who rely heavily on agriculture.[5] Not only does the loss of a crop impact the farmer who has lost his primary means of food and income, but it also impact all of those who could have purchased it. Large scale flooding or droughts lead to rising market prices of food, preventing families from buying the food they need to stay healthy. By introducing genes into an organism that allows for better survival in adverse conditions, geneticists may be able to produce a more resilient crop that will survive through a longer summer, or rain season, empowering of farmers to continue working and helping provide food for millions of people in need.

The second issue can be briefly summarized in a case study of “golden rice”, rice that has been engineered to be more nourishing than its traditional counterpart. In the developing world millions of children and adult go blind every year from lack of vitamin A. The work of genetic engineers has resulted in a strain of rice that produces beta-carotene, the source our body uses to produce the essential vitamin.[6] By inserting this vital nutrient into a staple food and making it food accessible to those who need it, we may be able to save the lives of millions.

Plant geneticist Pamela Ronald makes a strong case for genetic modification of food in her TED Talk, in which she present other examples of how GMOs can be used to decrease the use of pesticides and prevent disease in an entire plant species.


[1] http://www.nongmoproject.org,

[2] Bello, Walden. “Twenty-Six Countries Ban GMOs-Why Won’t the US?” The Nation. Foreign Policy in Focus, 29 Oct. 2013.

[3] Freedman, David H. “The Truth about Genetically Modified Food.” Scientific American. N.p., 1 Sept. 2013. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.

[4] Freedman

[5] Goldenberg, Suzanne. “Climate Change: The Poor Will Suffer Most.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 30 Mar. 2014.

[6] Charles, Dan. “In A Grain Of Golden Rice, A World Of Controversy Over GMO Foods.” NPR. NPR, 7 Mar. 2013. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.

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-By Sarah Esselborn

The consequences of the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010 are still felt today. Specifically, the cholera outbreak brought by U.N. Peacekeepers from Nepal in October of 2010 has had serious effects on the people in Haiti (NBC News 2014). As of March of 2013, more than 650,000 cases had been identified and 7,441 deaths (Grandesso 2014). By contrast, in the United States, the average number of cholera cases per year is 6 (and these are non-fatal). I have spent time in Haiti, my last visit returning the day before this devastating earthquake. These Haitian people getting cholera and dying are people I deeply care for. I want to bring hope to this seemingly devastating situation. (more…)

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-By Sarah Boyd

The Inuit population is an indigenous group inhabiting Greenland, parts of Artic Canada, and the United States (Alaska). Following centuries old tradition within harsh and chilling conditions, the Inuit obtain food through hunting, fishing, and gathering. This includes hunting fish, seal, caribou, whale, walrus, polar bear, musk ox, fox, and wolf (1). “Because the Inuit in Canada and Greenland eat top predators such as beluga whales and seals, they are among the world’s most contaminated human beings” (4). (more…)

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-By Daniel Neilson

Broccoli or french fries? Take your pick. If you are like most, french fries are the overwhelmingly more appealing choice. Sure you might say, “But I’m such a healthy eater! I’ve seen SuperSize Me and I know how bad fast food is for me.” Unfortunately, you are still in the minority. A recent study shows that the majority of the US population did not meet recommendations for all of the nutrient rich food groups(Krebs Smith, Guenther, Subar, Kirkpatrick & Dodd).  Despite glimmers of hope from successful interventions across the country, recent data shows that more than one third of US adults are obese and that obesity afflicts 17% of children and adolescents(Ogden, Carroll, Kit and Flegal). Why is this and why does it seem like the healthy decision is always the hardest one to make? (more…)

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-By Kara Lubeck

It should come as no shock to anyone that the obesity epidemic has been increasing on a worldwide scale.  A recent study published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization has found that there is a relationship between food regulation and obesity- the less food regulation a country has, the greater the increase in obesity has been over the past years1,2.  The study looked specifically at regulation of the fast food market, and per capita fast food transactions compared to body mass index (BMI).  While the average number of fast food transactions and BMI did increase per capita in all 25 countries in the study, countries where there are stricter food regulations, such as Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, and Belgium, saw a much lower increase in both areas.  The countries with the largest increases were Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland1,2.  The researchers on the study are now urging governments to enforce stricter food regulations in order to slow, and hopefully reverse, the obesity epidemic.  Recommendations have included banning all unhealthy foods and sugary drinks from public places (schools, hospitals, etc.), taxes on fats, incentives for growers to grow healthier and fresher produce, and a reduction in unhealthy food marketing (specifically to children and teens)1,2. (more…)

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By Lyse Barronville                                                                                        

Most developing countries aim for one thing: to be more like the United States and other more industrialized countries.  However, it is easily forgettable that with these industrialized countries also come with their own kinds of problems; reminding us that the grass is not always greener on the other side. A major problem experienced by these countries, especially the United States is the obesity epidemic.  Until fairly recently people did not realize that consuming too much food (and being over-nourished for that matter) is not necessarily better than malnutrition. Currently, developing countries are still dying from what industrialized countries consider “ancient diseases”. Things like tuberculosis and cholera, acute infectious diseases usually associated with extreme poverty, are not diseases people casually worry about in America (besides diseasess such as sexually transmitted diseases, influenza, and other less morbid diseases).   However, we still have many chronic health issues to worry about, many of which are connected to overweight and obesity.  Apparently, as developing countries get richer, they begin to assimilate in the lifestyles of industrialized countries.  This would normally be a great thing, but the problem is that these countries now have to deal with obesity and other similar health issues even though they have not gotten rid of “ancient diseases” yet (more…)

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