Thursday, August 9, 2012

Food Supply and Weight (part one)

Part One  
   Continuing from yesterday, here are observations regarding the food industry.  This post is related to information in an article by Tillotson which is referenced below.  Something to consider on an individual level (with regard to energy balance) will be noted tomorrow. 
   The U.S has created a phenomenal food system based on the exceptional work of our agricultural industry.  Less than two hundred years ago, the US began its investment in agriculture.  The goal was to provide Americans with a food supply adequate to prevent (or reverse) nutritional deficiency. The government invested in farmers and land, in Universities, technology and research.  The efforts were hugely successful and continue today.  We can feed our people and much of the world.  The agricultural industry is responsible for supplying food makers with cheap commodities; beef, dairy, grains, sugar, etc and the food industry....Well they too are an American (business) success story.  
   We forget that in the late 1800s a shift occurred in our relationship with food.  We went from growing our own food or working to earn food to paying money for food.  This inspired entrepreneurs to create and sell a product (with substantial backing from investors), but it also meant we weren't working as hard in general or doing any physical work to obtain our food.
   In the 21st century, NOW, we have the least active population that has ever existed and the most abundant food supply.  We don't just eat to stay alive - we eat because its the social thing to do and because it brings us pleasure.  The food industry is happy to keep oversupplying.  Food companies work hard to shape our preferences and to earn our loyalty.  Any time, any where, tasty and cheap.
   So that's a problem.  Two systems working remarkably well and a population that (as we discussed yesterday) is unable to regulate its intake.  The same population that is quite disinterested in exercise.
   There are a number of ways to regulate the supply and the demand side, but what about regulating or restricting what an individual consumes?
   At the end of the day, the amount of regulation or limiting a person needs is based on energy expenditure.  If a person does not want to exercise, then the amount of calories they burn in a day and thus need, is going to be low.  There may come a point where the amount needed is too low to be reasonably regulated.  That is hard to explain.  It means that we need a certain amount of calories - even if that need is psychological and our limiting has limits.
   Clearly we cannot go on eating all the food that is available to us.  By doing so, we become a nation of unhealthy people.  The food supply allows over 3000 calories a day for every person.  Not everyone consumes 3000 calories a day, but it can easily be done.
   More about energy balance in a food heavy society, tomorrow.
Tillotson, J.  (2004). America's obesity: conflicting public policies, industrial economic development, and unintended human consequences. Annu. Rev. Nutr., 24, 617-643.

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