All posts tagged: nutrition

The Dietary Innovation & Disease Conference: A Debrief

Last week, I presented at a history of nutrition conference that took place on San Servolo, a small island about a ten minute boat ride off of Venice that for more than two hundred years housed an asylum. San Servolo proved a most fitting and inspiring setting for the Dietary Innovation and Disease in the 19th and 20th Centuries conference. We heard the lapping waters of the Venice lagoon, felt its cool breezes, and even saw a cruise ship or two pass by, all while listening to thought-provoking paper presentations at an academic conference. Co-organized by David Gentilcore and Matthew Smith, the well-executed event brought together thirty scholars from across the world, all working to unpack today’s nutrition issues through the study of dietary innovation and health in the past. As for me, I presented some of my new work on Fairlife milk, an “ultra-filtered” lactose-free milk with more protein and calcium and less sugar than “ordinary milk,” that just so happens to be distributed by Coca-Cola. Fairlife is a textbook example of what Gyorgy Scrinis calls “functional nutritionism,” in which the food industry seeks …

Vegemite: Advertising and the Making of an Australian Icon

Chocolate-like in appearance but with a flavor like nothing else on earth, the yeast extract spread Vegemite is essentially synonymous with Australia. Hired by the ambitious Fred Walker to create a copy of the British spread, Marmite (which coincidentally has an adorable Twitter feed), food scientist Cyril Callister developed Vegemite in 1923. Based on a mutual interest in developing a processed cheese with a longer shelf life, Walker joined forces with James Kraft, forming the Kraft Walker Cheese Company in 1926, whose Melbourne factory and head offices are pictured below (image 1). High in B vitamins during an historical moment when vitamins themselves were a new scientific phenomenon, Vegemite was from the beginning marketed by the Fred Walker Company as nutritious, particularly for children. For example, a Vegemite advertisement from the 1920s assured consumers that “there is no food richer in vitamins than Vegemite” and a point of sale advertisement from the 1930s emphasized the spread’s nutritional content and the themes of vitality, health, and childhood (image 2). Despite its vitamin content, consumers were initially slow to …

April Showers Bring May Flowers—and Thesis Due Dates

Spring has finally sprung in New England and tomorrow looks to be a great day for the Boston Marathon. Luckily, I’ll be able to take some time to enjoy Patriots’ Day because I’ve spent the last few weeks glued to my desk chair, pounding out the second draft of my thesis, which examines the marketing of weight loss programs to men. Here’s a little taste… Over the past decade, much has changed on the twenty-first century landscape of dieting, as the “low carb craze” of Atkins and South Beach made way for today’s Paleo Diet, evangelizing the diet of Stone Age hunter-gatherers and encouraging dieters to “eat like a caveman.” Perhaps no change is more notable, however, than the new target audience of weight loss programs—men. Considered a masculine food in cultures the world over (Jensen and Holm 1999), the high intake of meat in low-carbohydrate diets made the Atkins and South Beach diets more popular among men than conventional low-fat diets. While men joined these diets in new numbers (Weinbraub 2004), Men’s Health Magazine …

Forecasting a Bright Future from the 2013 Future of Food and Nutrition Graduate Conference

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending the 7th annual Future of Food and Nutrition Graduate Research Conference at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Organized and run by Friedman graduate students, the conference was as engaging and polished as any put on by a professional organization. Graduate student research dealt with a host of topics both international and domestic, ranging from food access, food prices, and property values near grocery stores to behavior change and breastfeeding. Presentations that I attended also explored childhood obesity in Indonesia, regional U.S. food systems, and the latest in molecular nutrition. Students came from diverse backgrounds, including not only nutrition policy, biochemical and molecular nutrition, public health, and medicine, but also environmental science, agriculture, economics, urban and environmental planning; not to mention food studies and gastronomy as well. Collectively, presenters brought valuable multidisciplinary perspectives to the topics of food, nutrition, and food systems. Beyond attending thought provoking panels, I participated in the poster presentation, giving two-minute power pitches on the paper I …

Meat is Bad & The World is Flat: Thoughts from the Critical Nutrition Symposium

On March 8, 2013, I had the pleasure of attending the Critical Nutrition Symposium at UC Santa Cruz, organized by Julie Guthman, author of Weighing In. The event was spawned from a roundtable discussion at last year’s Association for the Study of Food and Society conference. The symposium brought together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to critically examine what is missing from conventional nutrition science research and practice, discuss why it matters, and brainstorm how to move forward in an informed and balanced way. What follows are a few of my favorite key ideas from the day’s discussions. Adele Hite, a registered dietitian and public health advocate who is not afraid to ask big and delightfully confrontational questions regarding nutrition science, began the day by dissecting Michael Pollan’s now famous aphorism—Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Step by step, she revealed the decades of revisionist myth and shaky science on which the diet most often considered healthy (one that is plant-based) is built. For example, she argued that the recommendation to eat like our grandparents is …

Talk to Me Baby! Encouraging Dialogue between Nutrition Science and Food Studies

I’m very excited to be heading to UC Santa Cruz for Friday’s Critical Nutrition Symposium, an event that will address questions that I’ve also been pondering for a while, such as:  What’s wrong or missing in conventional nutritional practice? What are its effects in terms of human health and social justice? What other approaches might work better? What follows are some thoughts I have at this point on the current connections and future opportunities between nutrition and food studies, which I’m sure will be greatly expanded by the end of Friday’s discussions. Unlike other disciplines that inform food studies, generally heralding from the liberal arts and social sciences, nutrition science is just that – a science, thus coming from a divergent academic tradition that tends to favor statistics over narrative detail and quantitative methods over qualitative (Faltermaier 1997). In addition, nutrition and food studies contribute to one another’s fields in a more complex way because their area of focus overlaps — they both study food. Up to our current point in history, each discipline has tended …

Please Allow Me to Re-Introduce Myself: 5 Images That Summarize My Food Studies Interests

I’m a food studies student, who obviously loved Jay-Z’s Black Album when I was in college, which feels like a long time ago. As I continue my interdisciplinary studies of food, nutrition, and public health, this blog is a place for some of my finished work, as well as lots of projects that are in process or ideas that are just rumbling around in my mind. Please feel free to comment and engage! It’s okay to be critical, but please be kind. Most of my interests are encapsulated in the cover header I created for this blog… Image 1: MyPlate — Nutrition Education & Food Politics  Introduced in 2011, MyPlate is the USDA’s current nutrition education tool, replacing the 2005 tool, MyPyramid, a bit of a disaster, which built upon the 1992 Food Guide Pyramid, which anyone from my generation learned in elementary school. The plate image has been used previously, such as in the UK’s eatwell plate and the Plate Method used and evaluated in the US. While I feel conflicted about whether we should be telling, instructing, or cajoling people into eating a certain …