Food science, Nutrition, and Diet

By: Chia-Yu Liang

I. Abstract

Food is an important element to maintain our daily life. It plays an extremely important role in both physiology and psychology parts. Eating the right food not only can make us feel full of energy but also can refresh our feelings. Why do good foods have great influence on the human body? For example, most of people have breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Some of them might have some snacks between meals. In biological view, the amount of food that people consumed one day is enough for a snake to hibernate many winters (Carpenter, 1953). We have no idea how many foods we eat in our daily life.
Nutrition is a necessary material to support our daily life. Good healthy habit is able to prevent diseases (Shimokata, 2007). Nutrition is essential for health and a useful element in the human body (Saito, 2007). It provides body heat, promotes growth, maintains body functions and repairs tissue. Good health comes with a balanced diet. We have to know the importance of diet in order to maintain our health. A variety of diets can get more nutrients to maintain the proper functioning of the body and operating effective.

II. Introduction

The human body needs over 45 different nutrients every day. These nutrients can be divided into five classes: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins (Nowicka, 2005). We can get these nutrients from food and cannot get them from other sources. Carbohydrates help our body translate food into fat and provide energy, such as sugar, fiber and starches. It is the only source of energy for the brain. Fat provides body energy and heat. Two common fats are saturated fat and trans fat (Harvard Health Letter, 2007). Trans fat cannot be absorbed by the human body. Most fast food contains lots of trans fat and harms health. Protein includes 22 amino acids. It promotes blood circulation and enhances metabolism. Minerals are calcium, iron and sodium. It helps body structure and regulates body function. Vitamins are a catalyst and work with other nutrients.
Consumers have more and more knowledge to choose their food. Reading the food label is a new way to learn about your food (Caswell & Mojduszka, 1996). In the US, food label is required to be listed outside the package. Nutrition facts indicate that it allows consumers to know what food contains and shows how much nutrition per serving. Percent daily values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie need. However, the calorie total only shows the amount per serving. The serving size is not the whole package of food. For instance, a bag of potato chips label 150 calories but the size of serving is 1 ounce (approximately 16 chips). A package of chips contains about 5 ounces. If you want to know how many calories are in a bag, you need to calculate 150*5=750 calories.
Many customers do not know how to read this and sometimes misunderstand the information. There is also a new system for rating the nutritional value of food (Jacobson, 2009). It rates the food from 0-100. The good nutrition of food gets the higher score. The bad nutrition of food gets the lower score. Example: fat-free milk is 91and chocolate milk is 24. People can be more aware of their daily diet and avoid an over intake in their nutrition. Those technologies are helpful and easy to understand. The study showed that people successfully limiting their fat intake use nutrition labels (Neuhouser, Kristal & Patterson, 1999).
A farmers market is also a great place to get fresh and cheaper organic foods. People grow their own fruits and vegetables. They bring their produce and get together every week. Consumers come to the market and pick their products. Most produce is organic. It means natural without using any chemicals. There are other benefits of a farmers market. You not only can promote local community but also reduce the pollution from transportation. You can get fresh food without the extra package and transport fees.
There are some local food organizations. You simply join the membership and sign up for food delivery by schedule. Some people do not have time to shop at a farmers market. This is an easy way to get your food and support to communities. Angel food is a non-profit organization across the United States. Your food comes with a box, and it is fit for a family per week. The price is cheaper than retailers, and you can get higher quality. You can also visit to find your local farmers markets. The nearest one to UCO is Edmond Farmers' Market on 2nd street and Broadway, Edmond, OK 73003. The schedules are Saturday from 8am to 1pm (May & October) and Wednesday & Saturday from 8am to 1pm (June-September).
Different cultures have different notions about food. Western culture eating patterns are very different from Eastern culture (Kearney, Hulshof, & Gibney, 2001). Food behavior becomes a huge determinant in our society (McNaughton, 2006). People tend to consume extra foods with high calories and fat in the West (Rangan, Schindeler, Hector, Gill, & Webb, 2009). People have fast food and soft drink frequently especially in the US. Environment has a great influence on consumption (Rose, Bodor, Hutchinson, & Swalm, 2010). We can easily get food in a convenience store, grocery store and drive thru. You do not even need to get out of car and you can have whatever you want. Alternatively, you can just stay at home and order food delivery. These kinds of eating patterns caused many health problems rapidly.
The food environment is an important link between access and consumption. In the developing world, lots of countries still suffer from malnutrition and do not have access for food, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and in South East Asia (Jaron & Galal, 2009). People there are undernourished and have health inequality. They presented the highest rate of illness and death in the world (Müller & Krawinkel, 2005). They do not have much access or choice for food. Their eating patterns are simple and lack nutrients. Severe acute malnutrition (SAM) affects more than 19 million children under age five in low and middle-income countries (Fabiansen, Christensen, Eklund, Michaelsen, & Friis, 2010; Collins et al., 2006). Children with SAM are at a high-risk death rate in developing countries (Chisti, Tebruegge, La Vincente, Graham, & Duke, 2009; Seccombe & Hughes, 2009). Food shortage and lack of health resource are the most serious issues there.

III. How the food industry influences our health

“Food, Inc.” is a movie directed by Robert Kenner in 2008. This film exposed the surprising truth about how the food industry detriments human health in order to make more money. Did you know that it only takes 48 days for a chicken to go to market? The true natural growth period for chicken is three months. The farmers fed their chickens food mixed with antibiotics, and the chickens lived in a dark and crowded place. It is all because this is a way to save their time and money.
“The Botany of Desire” on PBS channel is based on the book by Michael Pollan. It stated how researchers altered the genes of potatoes in the 90s. They added some kind of protein to potatoes to avoid the bugs. This was done to cut down the spraying and to provide the most widely used potatoes for french fries. When the public found out about this and how this potato was served in McDonalds, it caused a huge problem and all the potatoes had to be recalled and changed.
Food industries try to do everything possible to persuade people to eat more and more food (Nestle, 2002). The more often we eat and the larger portions we consume are the most important things they consider. A cow has four stomachs, but people only have one. We are not meant to spend our whole day eating. That is why food companies came out with the small pack snacks. They are easy and convenient for people to get anytime, anywhere. We do not need to wait for our meal when we hungry. We can just simply get it from a vending machine. Food companies also vary the food-name labels to attract customer. The study showed people tend to like the fancy name of food more than the normal name of food (Okamoto et al., 2009). For example, ice cream shops name their ice cream “very berry strawberry” instead of strawberry in order to get people’s attention.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported, “Burgeoning consumer interest in organically grown foods has opened new market opportunities for producers and is leading to a transformation in the organic foods industry”(Dryer, 2003). Organic food is a fast rising and developing industry nowadays. Organic product sales are growing almost eight times faster than conventional products (“Seven natural,” 2007). Many people tend to pay more money to purchase organic food. What is organic? It means grown and raised naturally without chemicals. Organic vegetables and fruits never use pesticides. Organic meats do not use antibiotics and hormones. Organic farmers are promoted as environmentally-friendly even though it has low agricultural productivity (Azadi & Ho, 2010). The abuse of chemical materials caused high damage for soil, water, and produce. Choice organic foods also present an environmentally friendly behavior (Magnusson, Arvola, Hursti, Aberg, & Sjödén, 2003). The more natural way used to grow our produce, the less pollution caused.
Most companies advertise their products as organic food. In general, food only can be labeled as organic when it is totally made by nature. For example, if you shop for a pasta sauce, one sauce is labeled as made with organic tomatoes and another one is labeled as all organic. The partly organic pasta sauce could not be approved as organic, but the company might label it as organic to confuse their customer. The easy way to verify an organic food is to see if the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) certifies the product with organic labeling. The USDA seal or mark will appear on the product package (United States Department of Agriculture [USDA], 2008).
Taste and price are the largest influence for customers to purchase organic food (Dahm, Samonte, &Shows, 2009). Because organic fruit and vegetables do not use any artificial flavor, they taste fresh and more nutritious. “Fresh organic produce contains on average 50% more vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other micro-nutrients than intensively farmed produce” (Spevack, 1999). Joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or visiting your local farmers market are the best choices for people who want to get fresh and seasonal foods. If you cannot afford it, you can try to grow your own organic foods in a garden. Tomatoes and string beans are the easiest for freshmen to plant. You can also make your own noodles and bake your own bread.
Lots people choose to spend more money on organic food to avoid genetically modified food. Genetically modified (GM) food is food where someone has transferred an isolated gene into the DNA of another food (Paarlberg, 2000). Because of socio-economic and environmental considerations, the demand for genetically modified foods is highly increasing. Farmers are also encouraged to accept and implement GM crops because of the higher productivity (Azadi & Ho, 2010). For instance, China develops new rice technology for farming system to fulfill people needs (Shen, 2010). In Asia, rice is the staple food so people have a high demand for it. Genetically modified rice is easier to grow and allows people to get crops of rice all season.
The GM food problem is still a huge debate. Some people think it has a great impact on global warming and is unsafe for consumption (Skancke, 2009). Genetically modified tomatoes can live 45 days without refrigeration (Rao, 2010). It seems unnatural and stale for customers. This research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science journal (Meli et al., 2010). Some people think GM foods could potentially help solve problems such as food shortages and malnutrition. Many countries are in the grip of emergency food shortages(Antelava, 2008). How to increase the agricultural productivity is an important issue in the world. However, better education of what is involved in the production of GM foods is needed. With more information provided, the public would be more willing to give these products a chance.

IV. How media misleads us

Food commercials may cause a big influence on us, especially children. “The US food system is the second largest advertiser in the American economy (the first being the automotive industry) and is a leading buyer of television, newspaper, magazine, billboard, and radio advertisements” (Story &French, 2004). Children misunderstand that eating fast food is a very popular behavior. Food commercials always impress on people that fast food is such a fantastic thing in the world. Everyone looks so happy and enjoys it; advertisements mislead children to copy this behavior (Udell & Mehta, 2008). Younger children’s exposure to food advertisements promotes over-consumption (Halford, Boyland, Hughes, Oliveira, & Dovey, 2007). Research found that children tend to intake less snacks when they watched natural commercials than children who watch either energy-dense food commercials or light food commercials (Anschutz, Engels, & Van Strien, 2010). Watching television wastes too much time and causes inactivity. It has a negative effect on child’s health. Eating snacks and lying on the sofa will make one become a couch potato. It also causes the sedentary lifestyle.
Some research found that people exposed to commercials using slim models and diet-related products ate less food (Anschutz, Van Strien, & Engels, 2008). It acts like a reminder for people to be more aware of their eating behavior. Young women felt anxiety after watching commercials with slim models (Anschutz, Engels, Becker, & Van Strien, 2009). Watching TV can change our mood and behavior. For example, if you watch a comedy, you laugh and feel happy. If TV showed a yummy hamburger all the time, you might be motivated to purchase it. Other people and the environment affect others easily.
Advertisements created an environment and are presented in public. They use someone with great influence such as, celebrity, typical consumer, CEO or expert. Turning on the TV or opening a newspaper, you can see there are many advertisements about how to lose weight and become slim. Therefore losing weight is a present popular hot topic of discussion. Models present their perfect body shape and recommend a diet pill. Many people believe in the power of the miracle diets advertised on TV. The latest diet pill or exercise machine promises a miraculous solution to lose weight. Women thirst for losing weight because they think it is fashion. Many weight loss advertisements on television are unrealistic. As a matter of fact, most of people in the commercial never use it. The pictures (before and after) are always edited by photoshop. Pay attention to lose weight fast advertising because it is propaganda.

A. Our misunderstanding of nutritional science

There are many mistakes in the information around us in modern society. We obtain information from a variety of sources, but we do not have enough knowledge to distinguish right or wrong. Michael Pollan wrote a book called "In Defense of Food" in 2008. The entire book talked about the widespread confusion about how to eat. He summarized the main points in a couple of sentences: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. He emphasized eating meat as a side dish and eating plants as a main dish. You should eat fresh foods instead of processed food products. Food science is around us. We need to be more aware of the packages with health claims because they indicate those are not really food and not good for us.
Many people have busy lives so they do not take good care of their nutrition at present. The food was insufficient for our needs. Taking a multivitamin became very popular and was an easy way to maintain basic human nutrition. People think they can get most of their nutrition from a multivitamin without any real food. This is wrong because a multivitamin plays an auxiliary role, and is not a substitute for real food. Overuse of any artificial nutriment may cause negative problems for human health.
No drink can replace water. People consumed lots of beverages such as coffee, tea, and soft drinks. “American children and adolescents consumed more than two-thirds of their daily beverages with main meals” (Kant & Graubard, 2010). The total intake of water was generally less than the adequate intake per day. In fact, water is the only liquid and essential nutrient for body hydration (Jéquier & Constant, 2010). For example, juice includes high calories and more sugar. Eating real fruits is healthier than juice. The ideal total water intake is 1500 c.c per day. Water is the best drink for everyone, and it is necessary for us to drink every day
A cup of coffee a day keeps you awake the whole day. Ninety percent of adults must have a cup of coffee in the morning to clear their head (Lovett, 2005). Coffee shops are springing up everywhere. Many reports are having different views for its pros and cons. Consuming too many caffeinated beverages will cause dehydration because caffeine increases urination(O'connor, 2008). relationship of coffee consumption with mortality (de Koning Ganset al., 2010; Lopez-Garcia, van Dam, Li, Rodriguez-Artalejo, & Hu, 2008). “Coffee may be protective specifically against alcohol-induced hepatic inflammation” (Maki et al., 2010). All of these statements are not true and show no significant evidences of research. As long as you avoid excessive consumption, coffee is just like any other beverage we have.
Freezing is a good way to keep food fresh. The best way to keep your food fresh is to finish your food the day you buy or cook it. Most people think freezing and storing food is a good way to kill the bacteria. Actually, many bacteria are able to live when frozen. “At least eight salmonellosis outbreaks from 1998 to 2008 have implicated undercooked frozen chicken nuggets, strips, and entrees as infection vehicles” (Dominguez & Schaffner, 2009). Frozen food is convenient and common in the supermarket. It is easy to get and fast to eat. The evidence show lots frozen food contain high calorie and sodium diet (Kadey, 2006). Read the food nutrition label and choose a light frozen food to make a smarter choice (Hurley, Liebman, Jones, & Weinberg, 2005).
People become vegetarian for lots of reasons. Some people want to pursue a better health; some people tend to protect the environment. A vegetarian is a person who does not eat meat and seafood. A strict vegetarian refuses to eat anything from animals like eggs and dairy products (Simon, 2009). Benefits for vegetarian included lower risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes (Sticher, Smith, & Davidson, 2010; Craig & Mangels, 2009). Vegetarians are less likely to be obese and have longevity of life. However, it considers some nutritional deficiencies for vegetarians. Most vegetarians are not aware of gaps in their nutritional needs such as protein, vitamin b12, iron, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids (Harvard Women's Health Watch, 2009). Meat-eaters can easily get those from meat. To be a healthy vegetarian, you need to watch your nutritionally sufficient. “Food and nutrition professionals can play key roles in educating vegetarians about sources of specific nutrients, food purchase and preparation, and dietary modifications to meet their needs” (Craig & Mangels, 2009).
Diet coke and coke zero became very popular soft drinks in the 21st century. The Coca-cola Company found out that people tend to look for lower calorie food to have better health. People in the US are aware of the obesity problem and want to pursue a healthy lifestyle. Lots of products labeled as diet or low fat in the supermarket. Diet food is the current trend and special phenomenon in Western society. Diet coke uses artificial sweeteners called aspartame. Acesulfame potassium and aspartame are also used in Coke Zero and sell all over countries. It tastes like sugar but it is 180 to 200 times sweeter(Nutrition & Weight Control for Longevity, 2004). Drinking the beverage with this kind of chemical ingredient is not really a good idea to maintain body health. Coke zero not only contains acesulfame potassium and aspartame, but also uses sodium benzoate (E211) and sodium cyclamate. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned sodium cyclamate since 1969 (Crowley, 2008). It claimed that it caused cancer (Hickman, 2007). Although it was removed from the US coca-cola marketing, it is still used in coke zero and sells in many countries. Those artificial ingredients became a major concern for customer.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) has been used in Asian culture for a long time (Sand, 2005). It is very common in Chinese restaurants as a flavor enhancer. MSG was tagged as a toxin and removed from many foods (Moskin, 2008). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeled MSG as a safe food ingredient, but it remains controversial. This research provides human data that MSG intake may be associated with the increased risk of being overweight and total energy intake (He et al., 2008). Now many restaurants have a sign that says “NO MSG”, because MSG needs to be labeled if it is added to food. This policy is required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In fact, most restaurants are still using MSG and telling you no MSG. Your food will taste better after adding MSG. However, you might feel very thirsty and drink lots water after your meal if your food has MSG.
A fast is not a good way to lose weight. Fasting means stop eating food for a period of time. This action has potential health effect. The human body needs food to maintain their function. Body heat is transferred by fat. If you do not intake any food, you will lose body heat. People eat more and higher calories after fasting (Goldstone, et al., 2009). Food inhibition is also not a good way to keep health. You might feel hungrier if you strictly inhibit the temptations of palatable food(Nederkoorn, Houben, Hofmann, Roefs, & Jansen, 2010). After you fast for a while, your body will need more time to adjust. On the other hand, you want eat more and more to satisfy. Many people fast because of religion. If you consider a fast, you need to prepare well before and after the fast. You will reduce the amount of food and your body will have couple time to prepare before fast. After a fast, you do not intake food suddenly. Gently ingest some fluid first, and then you can eat regularly after awhile.

V. Obesity vs. healthy diet

Spmallare's photo of a Nutrition Pyramid via Wikimedia Commons
Spmallare's photo of a Nutrition Pyramid via Wikimedia Commons

Obesity is increasing and has become a serious disease in the United States nowadays. Many people suffer from obesity and health problems, especially children. There are many reasons that cause Americans to be overweight, such as eating too much, less exercise and going to restaurants instead of cooking at home. Preadolescents tend to intake calcium-rich food and beverage when they are not eating at home (Cluskey, et al., 2008). Lack of time resulted in people often skipping breakfast and eating out more frequently. Research found that younger and higher- income women prefer consuming the greatest intakes of energy, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium (Haines, Hungerford, Popkin, & Guilkey, 1992; Guthrie, Lin, & Frazao, 2002). On the other hand, middle-class women have the most healthy eating pattern because 70% of them eat at home (Haines et al, 1992). According to the research, people in America spend a great deal of money in fast food restaurants. The study shows that people eat out more than at home (Hejazi & Mazloom, 2009). The number of consumers eating food away from home has increased dramatically (Hochradel, 2008). If you eat out often, you will get more fat and calories. In America, we always can find a variety of fast-food restaurants everywhere, such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC, etc. “The frequency of visits to fast-food restaurants by children is associated with increased intake of soft drinks, cheeseburgers, pizza, French fries, total fat, and total calories and decreased intake of vegetables, fruit, and milk” (Brownell, 2004, p. 132).
Nutrients and calories are essential for childhood and adolescence to support their growth and development (Mayo Clinic, 2006). Keep body composition balance is more important than weight loss (Jéquier & Tappy, 1999). We can use the Body Mass Index (BMI) in order to examine if you are underweight or overweight. The BMI also allows comparison with children of the same gender and age. When calculating BMI, the unit is kg / m2 .The ideal BMI is from 18.5 to 25. If your BMI is over 25, you must be overweight.
Staying away from fast food is the most important thing for healthy lifestyle. “There are several dietary factors in fast food that may cause weight gain, namely massive portion size, high energy density, palatability (appealing to our taste preferences for fats, sugar and salt), high content of saturated and trans-fat, high glycaemic load and low fiber content” (Nowicka, 2005, p 24). Every fast food restaurants recommend their consumer to buy the super-size meal. You can get the bigger meal after you pay less money. Insidiously, you eat larger portions and get fatter. Soft drinks also increase the risk of obesity. They provide much sugar and artificial additive.
A high-protein diet is another way to treat childhood obesity (Soenen & Westerterp-Plantenga, 2008). A standard diet is containing 1750 kcal, 31% fat, 15% protein, 54% carbohydrates. High-protein diet is containing 1750 kcal, 31% fat, 19% protein, 50% carbohydrates (Nowicka, 2005). Humans need basic calories to support their body need. Because of that, we can change what kind of energy they get from food. Disease often follows malnutrition. Eating a healthy diet also plays an important role in our lives. Parents have a great responsibility to choose their child’s food. Following the food pyramid can help guide your choices and give you good advice.
Increase physical activity is a part of healthy lifestyle (Caprio, 2006). It not only can promote the body mass, but also can improve psychological well-being. There are some differences between physical activity and exercise. Physical activity can focus on any type of body movement. It is carried out by skeletal muscles and requiring energy. Exercise can focus on planned, structured, repetitive movement of body designed to improve or maintain physical fitness. Set up the FIT formula to help to lose weight. The FIT is including frequency (how often?), intensity (how hard?), and time (how long?). Aerobic exercise is a good activity for everyone. A short-term benefit is it can improve the burning of calories. A long-term benefit is it can reduce the risk of becoming obese.
Reading the food label, eating at home and having regular exercise are good way to track your health. We can start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives, enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy, and bring pleasure back to eating.


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