Chocolate reduces stress. Fish stimulates the brain. Is there any truth to such popular beliefs? The findings of researchers around the world say yes: It appears we really are what we eat.
A study in a British prison found that inmates who took vitamin supplements were less prone to violent behavior. And in Germany, a psychologist at the University of Lübeck has shown that social behavior is influenced by the ingredients consumed at breakfast. But what really happens in the brain when we opt for honey instead of jam, and fish rather than sausage? Scientists around the world are trying to find out. Neuro-nutrition is the name of an interdisciplinary research field that investigates the impact of nutrition on brain health. Experiments on rats and flies offer new insight into the effects of our eating habits. When laboratory rats are fed a diet of junk food, the result is not just obesity. The menu also has a direct influence on their memory performance. The role of the intestinal flora has been known for some time, but scientists are currently discovering other relationships. So-called “brain food” for example: The Mediterranean diet that’s based on vegetables and fish is said to provide the best nutrition for small grey cells. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, for example, protect the nerve cells and are indispensable for the development of the brain – because the brain is also what it eats!
Dr. Barbara Gemmill-Herren is an agroecologist who lived and worked in Africa for over 25 years and is currently working as an agroecology consultant for the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). She is a chapter author of the new Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Agriculture and Food (TEEBAgriFood) report focused on evaluating our agriculture and food systems while considering a range of social, human, and environmental dimensions across the value chain.
Dr. Gemmill-Herrin served as the Delivery Manager for the Major Area of Work on Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). She implemented a global Pollination Services project for the FAO and worked on the FAO’s Ecosystem Services in Agriculture production. Gemmill-Herrin was a key contributor to the “Beacons of Hope” initiative for the Global Alliance for the Future of Food and served as the Director of the Environmental Liaison Centre International.
Food Tank talks to Dr. Barbara Gemmill-Herren about her chapter in the new TEEBAgriFood report about today’s realities, and tomorrow’s challenges in the eco-agri-food system.
It is hardly surprising that the first thing Bayer did after completing their takeover of Monsanto earlier this month was to announce that they were dropping the Monsanto name, merging the two companies’ agrichemical divisions under the Bayer Crop Science name. After all, as everyone knows, Monsanto is one of the most hated corporations in the world. But Bayer itself has an equally atrocious history of death and destruction. Together they are a match made in hell.
As Canada has urbanized over the past couple generations, we’ve moved further away from food production — or any significant hands-on knowledge of it. One result of this: more than a quarter of Canadian children are overweight or obese.
The same is true at the global level. A recent World Health Organization study found a ten-fold global increase in obesity among children and adolescents over the past four decades.
Federal policymakers should take note of these grim statistic as they finalize Canada’s first national food policy that will aim, among other things, to increase access to nutritious (and affordable) food.
One way to address this growing problem is to make it easier for Canadians to grow their own food.
July 1976, the Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs:
“The simple fact is that our diets have changed radically within the last 50 years …,” McGovern said when the report was released. “These dietary changes represent as great a threat to public health as smoking. Too much fat, too much sugar or salt, can be and are linked directly to heart disease, cancer, obesity, and stroke, among other killer diseases. In all, six of the ten leading causes of death in the United States have been linked to our diet.