Our previous blog (or below if you’re viewing this on Tumblr) examined the importance of a balanced diet and good nutrition on our overall cognitive performance as well as our general health. BUT, how easy is it to actually achieve the right nutritional levels?
If you have been living in a cave in the Himalayas for the last nine years or have never seen something we like to affectionately call; the newspaper, then you may have missed that we are in the middle of an ‘obesity crisis’. For example, recent studies tell us that 2/3 of British adults are overweight and one in four of us are considered to be obese. Whilst the use of the word ‘crisis’ may sound dramatic (we are yet to see the streets littered with overweight bodies crawling like the living dead to their nearest Burger King Megastore), there is an undeniable struggle between man and its waistband.
However, it appears that even eating the right kinds of food may not be enough to give you a nutritionally adequate diet anymore. Research by numerous Universities and Organisations in the United States suggests that over the last half a century, the nutritional quality of conventionally grown fresh fruits and vegetables has declined significantly. Data collected showed median declines in nutritional content of fruit and vegetables over the last 50 years of between 5-40% and, alarmingly, even more in some cases. Research by the Washington State University show today’s food produced 10-25% less iron, zinc, protein, calcium, vitamin C and other nutrients. A prime example of this can be seen in broccoli: Widely grown varieties in 1950 had around 13 mg/g of calcium. Compare that with today’s 4.4mg/g average and it’s clear to see that maybe we shouldn’t have slept through all of our older generations daily ‘back in my day’ speeches.
The declines are an accidental side effect of the increasingly intense farming techniques used to ever boost crop yields. Farmers today can grow 2 to 3 times as much grain, fruit and vegetables as they could do 50 years ago, but at what appears to be the serious detriment of the quality of the produce. Today’s vegetables may be larger than they used to be, but that is because selective breeding techniques have filled them with what’s known as ‘dry matter’, which is 90% carbohydrate and has the added effect of diluting mineral concentrations.
Furthermore, thanks to the growing (no pun intended) rise in the use of chemical fertilisers modern crops are growing faster than ever before. However, again, this has proved to be detrimental as it means produce has less time to absorb nutrients from the soil as there is less time to develop robust, efficient and aggressive root systems.
Therefore, since nutrient deficiency in humans has been linked to accelerated aging, perhaps we should stricter with our 5 a day for the fact it might stop us aging Mark Hamill. Ironically then, it seems like our attempts to grow our way out of a food shortage crisis has lead us into a nutrient deficiency.
With all of this in mind and not taking away from the obvious and undeniably positive implications that increasing crop yields has had in reducing global calorie deficiencies, perhaps it is now time to shift investment away from researching ways to further increase output and instead ways to bring nutrient levels back up to what they used to be and in combination with current techniques.
Let us know what you think! Or if you would like to hear more or have any feedback or enquiries please do not hesitate to let us know.