Posts Tagged: UC Davis
But the truth is, dietary advice is nothing new. Some of our rules for eating date back to ancient times as part of religious teachings, and food traditions are central to our understanding of culture. What is new over the last century or so is the application of science to our diets, so that we can know more exactly what nutrition science tells us is best when it comes to filling our plates.
A new book by a UC Davis researcher argues that modern dietary advice is not merely scientific, but also continues to have cultural, ethical and moral messages attached to it.
“Eating Right in America: The Cultural Politics of Food & Health” analyzes how modern dietary reform movements in the United States do not just tell us how to eat right, but how to become a good person and a good citizen. Can eating a certain way make us into different, somehow better people? And who defines what sort of people we should strive to become, though improved eating? Author Charlotte Biltekoff calls for changing the way we think about what it means to “eat right.”
The book analyzes four dietary reform movements over the last century:
- the rise of domestic science and home economics,
- the national nutrition program during World War II,
- the alternative food movement, and
- the anti-obesity movement.
These reform movements cover nutritional advancements such as the science of cooking, the discovery of vitamins, the shift in emphasis from contagious to chronic diseases, and the increasing importance of diet and lifestyle as a part of health. The book examines how dietary ideals have shifted, how social ideals have shifted alongside them — and the relationship between the two. Notions of middle class identity, good citizenship and individual responsibility each have been mixed in with nutritional advice before it is served to the public, according to the author.
Rose Hayden-Smith, leader of UC ANR’s Sustainable Food Systems strategic initiative and a historian of gardening, said she can't wait to read this book.
“This whole idea of both empirical and ethical considerations of food choices really makes sense to me, rooted in the Progressive Era,” she said. “All of these scientific advances don’t matter if people don’t adopt them. So I think it’s really important for scientists to understand the cultural context into which their work is going.”
Beth Mitcham, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, was intrigued by a presentation given by Biltekoff at UC Davis recently.
“This expands my way of thinking about the struggles we have with food choices and the potential for complicating well-intentioned messages,” she said. “We can’t ignore the scientific evidence that food choices have a huge impact on our health, but we must also realize when the things we’re saying are charged with judgments."
In a recent interview on Capital Public Radio, Biltekoff pointed out how analyzing history can shed light on difficult truths.
“History is such a great tool for learning to see things differently,” Biltekoff said. “The history that I tell in the book suggests that we worry so much about what is good to eat because of the social stakes involved in 'eating right.' Because it’s not just about our physical health, but also about our sense of self and about our social standing. There's a lot at stake that we may not be conscious of, but really is part and parcel of the conversation about 'good' food.”/span>
Is there such thing as a nutritionally perfect food? Is there something a human can consume that provides everything a body needs to stay healthy?
“Mother’s milk is the Rosetta stone for all food,” said Bruce German, professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at UC Davis and director of the UC Davis Foods for Health Institute. “It’s a complete food, a complete diet, shaped over 200 million years of evolution to keep healthy babies healthy.”
German and his team are now decoding breast milk to better understand its components and why they work so well. They are discovering a wealth of information about how best to feed and protect the human body, lessons that will enhance health not just for infants but for us all.
What are they learning?
For one thing, a large part of breast milk goes into babies' mouths and out into their diapers with no digestion along the way. That's astonishing. Of the 500 calories a lactating woman burns each day to make milk, 10 percent is spent synthesizing something the baby treats as waste. If it didn’t have value to the developing baby, wouldn’t natural selection have discarded it long ago?
Turns out, it has great value. The indigestible matter is a slew of sugar polymers called oligosaccharides that feed specific bacteria in a baby’s gut. The oligosaccharides help good bugs proliferate and dominate, keeping babies healthy by crowding out the less savory bugs before they can become established and, perhaps more important, nurturing the integrity of the lining of an infant’s intestines, which play a vital role in protecting them from infection and inflammation.
“What a genius strategy,” German said. “Mothers are recruiting another life form to babysit their babies.”
So maybe when we nourish our bodies, we should think about feeding our good bugs, too.
How do we do that? Good question. Scientists can’t yet say for sure what a healthy bacterial community in our guts should look like, let alone how best to promote it. But one thing is certain, German says.
“Our good bacteria play a much more important role in our health than we realized,” German said.
So oligosaccharides might support microbial balance in our digestive tracts. Nursing babies can get them from their mothers. What about the rest of us?
Another good question, and UC Davis researchers are on it, identifying, extracting and delivering health-promoting oligosaccharides from various sources, including whey, the waste product from cheese making.
You can read all about it (and more) in this story on the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences website: http://caes.ucdavis.edu/news/articles/2013/09/title-uc-davis-decoding-mother2019s-milk-for-clues-to-lasting-health
When you think casually of “food,” you may think of your next meal or your favorite food. “World food” may broaden your thinking to include international cuisines, global hunger, or a growing population. But the academic fields related to food are numerous. Food is one of life’s basic necessities, and along with its associated issues it is essential to the health and well-being of everyone, whatever their locale, education, or income level.
The new World Food Center at UC Davis will take on a broad purview related to food, including sustainable agricultural and environmental practices, food security and safety, hunger, poverty reduction through improved incomes, health and nutrition, population growth, new foods, genomics, food distribution systems, food waste, intellectual property distribution related to food, economic development and new technologies and policies.
With rapid global population growth occurring on smaller amounts of arable land, coupled with the expected impacts of climate change on food production, understanding the sustainability of food into the future is critical.
The new center’s website notes, “The World Food Center at UC Davis takes a ‘big picture’ approach to sustainably solving humanity’s most pressing problems in food and health. By bringing together world-class scientists with innovators, philanthropists and industry and public leaders, the center will generate the kind of visionary knowledge and practical policy solutions that will feed and nurture people for decades to come.”
In establishing the World Food Center, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi said, “We did this to fully capitalize on our depth and expertise as the world’s leading university for education, research and scholarship on all aspects of food, but especially the nexus between food and health.”
UC Davis is the top-ranked agricultural university in the world, and California is the major producer of vegetables and fruit in the nation. Tom Tomich, director of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute and professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis, says of the World Food Center’s location at UC Davis, “There’s no place else that has the right mix of educational programs, research facilities, and the engagement with the state.”
The major academic disciplines surrounding food are found at UC Davis — agriculture, the environment, medicine, veterinary medicine, engineering, social and cultural sciences, and management. More than 30 centers and institutes at UC Davis will be pulled together through the World Food Center. The combination of scholarship, leadership, and partnerships at UC Davis has already established the campus as a center for food-related science and outreach. This new center will reinforce that strength and broaden the university’s ability to tackle tough global issues related to food.
Although the founding director of the center has yet to be named, Josette Lewis, Ph.D., was recently appointed as the associate director of the World Food Center. Her background on international research and development for the U.S. Agency for International Development, and director of its Office of Agriculture, honed her skills to take on the World Food Center. It was at US AID that she worked on a major global hunger and food security initiative, establishing her expertise on issues related to global agricultural development and food security.
As the new World Food Center becomes fully developed, it will be well-positioned on campus to continue to solve the major global issues related to food that are a hallmark of UC Davis.
- World Food Center website
- UC Davis video on the World Food Center
- Key facts
- UC Davis Dateline article
- Sacramento Bee article
- Invest in technology, plant breeding, soil science and seed genetics to make our finite farm land more productive.
- Increase sustainability, so farm land can remain productive in the future.
- Encourage more people to get into farming.
- Help farmers manage climate change, water supply and pest control.
- All of the above and a whole lot more.
Yep, the answer is e. All of the above and a whole lot more. Many of the challenges and solutions are explored in a new video series on YouTube called "9 Billion Mouths to Feed: The Future of Farming."
Produced by UC Davis in cooperation with University of California’s "UCTV," the four 10-minute videos provide an excellent overview of modern problems facing our food supply.
"There’s a growing population and we’re going to need to produce more food in a sustainable way to feed them all," says Genevieve Lipari, a UC Davis student featured in the videos. “And it’s not just agriculture, it’s food access, health, nutrition and so much more.”
Indeed, agriculture isn’t just about sowing the land. The videos bring that fact to life, showing the work California farmers and UC Davis students and researchers are doing to ensure an abundant food supply that’s healthy, tasty and safe.
The videos are perfect for students young and old, and anyone interested in finding innovative ways to feed the world without depleting our limited resources.
We might not have all the answers on how to feed a growing population, but the videos shine light on some of the many farmers, scientists and students working together to try to meet that growing need.
You can watch “9 Billion Mouths to Feed” at www.uctv.tv/farming
Food prepared at home is slowly getting healthier, but food prepared away from home is not, according to a new study by the USDA Economic Research Service.
- Food prepared away from home accounts for 32 percent of Americans’ caloric intake and 41 percent of food expenditures. (Food prepared away from home includes restaurants, fast-food establishments, and take-out or delivery meals.)
- Americans increased their away-from-home share of calories from 18 percent to 32 percent in the last three decades, mainly from table-service and fast-food restaurants.
- Caloric intake rose over the last three decades from 1,875 calories per person per day to 2,002 calories per day.
- Food prepared at home became significantly lower in fat content and richer in calcium over the past three decades; food prepared away from home did not.
- Food prepared away from home is higher in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol, and lower in dietary fiber than food prepared at home.
Poor diets contribute to obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other health conditions. The trend toward eating out is expected to continue, so Americans need to learn how their food is prepared, and what’s in it. Only then will they have the information to make wise food choices.
Consumers should be health-savvy when they eat away from home. Don’t be afraid to ask for nutritional information or preparation methods, and don’t assume that restaurants (even high-end restaurants) serve healthy food. Restaurants serve what consumers like — fat, salt, sugar and lots of calories. The American Heart Association offers a variety of very useful information for dining out, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest has guidelines on labeling at fast-food and chain restaurants.
Some fast-food restaurants have pamphlets available with nutritional information — it’s surprising to find how high in calories and fat some menu items are. Beware, though, of what they consider a serving size — it may be less than what is purchased as a single serving. A report in the Los Angeles Times notes that few entrees at fast-food restaurants meet the USDA-recommended limits for calories, sodium, saturated fat and fat combined.
Opt for healthier choices, and don’t feel compelled to “clean your plate” at meals. Some people routinely eat no more than half the restaurant meal, saving the other half for another meal. Ask your restaurants to serve healthier options — restaurants will respond only if consumers commit to making healthy food choices.
There is hope. Americans may be getting the message about dietary fat — consumption of fat has dropped from 86 grams of total fat per person per day to 75 grams per day over the last three decades. But, on average, food prepared away from home still has more fat (37 percent) than food prepared at home (30 percent).
Due to the increase in consumption of food prepared away from home, we may see more of a push to include nutritional and health information on menus (see the proposed FDA guidelines). Whether this impacts consumer food choices remains to be seen. But by learning some basics about food and nutrition, you can make healthier choices, even when eating at restaurants.
The University of California offers many free and low-cost publications on food, health and nutrition. Here are a few:
- Nutrition and health information sheets – free downloads on fat, fiber, calcium, cholesterol, energy drinks, and other topics.
- Lunchbox series – free downloads on healthy lunches for preschool children.
- Healthalicious cooking – free after-school curricula on food and physical activity.
- Food, nutrition, and health publications in the UC ANR catalog: some free, some with a cost.
- Free nutrition publications from the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis.