Overfed and Undernourished

During the Second World War in the UK, the Ministry of Food believed good nutrition was a prerequisite for good health. Expectant mothers were provided with orange juice and cod-liver oil along with their daily pint of milk to secure the health of the next generation. Moreover, the food and nutrition policy resulted in a fall in the incidence of heart and other chronic diseases despite the severe stress to which the population was being subjected.

So where did it all go so wrong? The latest statistics predict that more than half of all school-aged children in Great Britian will be obese by 2020. Apart from the enormous psychological burden, today's overweight child faces an increased risk of premature death from heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

"It's too easy to shift the blame entirely onto the individual," says Professor Michael Crawford, director of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition at London Metropolitan University. "Changes in our lifestyle and eating habits have an important part to play," explains Crawford, "but a major reason for the obesity epidemic is the intensification of agriculture."

After the 1939-45 war, the food, nutrition and health policy was sacrificed at the altar of intensification, with the emphasis on the production of cheap, plentiful food. The result was more quantity but less quality - and when the
nutrient quality of food becomes diluted and replaced by salt and other taste factors, the typical response by the body is to eat more, with predictable consequences.

The rise in obesity has led to the popularity of low-fat diets, but Crawford has been warning for decades that the low-fat message is flawed. He says that long chain omega 3 fats are critical to the growth of the brain, immune system, blood vessels and internal organs such as kidneys, lungs and intestines. Their decline in our diet is contributing to heart disease and other degenerative conditions, as well as an explosion of mental health problems.

Our main source of omega 3 fats is from oily fish and from meat of animals grazing on grass (such as cattle and chicken). In recent times, however, the saturated fat content of both beef and chicken has risen more then 4-fold,
whilst essential omega-3 levels have declined in at least the same proportion.

Crawford's message needs to be heard, at the very least as an alternative to officialdom which seems to be little more than a sales and PR department for the agriculture and processed food lobby. Since many of the animals we eat are, by design, clinically obese, hormone enriched, depressed and deficient in essential fats, we shouldn't be surprised if we suffer a similar fate. We are what we eat.

Professor Crawford chairs a conference called Overfed and Undernourished on Tuesday, 12th April in London. Leading nutritional scientists and clinicians will explain how the impact of our technological age on food and environment leads to childhood obesity, and how it may be reversed using a range of dietary and lifestyle strategies.

For more details of this event, please call Pavilion on 0870-161-3505, or visit http://www.pavpub.com

Martina Watts is a qualified Nutritional Therapist at the Crescent Clinic of Complementary Medicine and the Dolphin House Clinic, Brighton or visit http://www.thehealthbank.co.uk

Posted March 2005 | Permanent Link

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