Nutrition Science and Obesity Research Turn A Critical Eye to Ultraprocessed Food

Ultraprocessed foods and drinks are designed to be ready-to-consume, with numerous additives that can include oils, fats, color enhancers, flavor enhancers, nonsugar sweeteners, and bulking and firming agents. (No specific brand has been linked to obesity.) Credit: Jamie Chung ( photo ); Amy Henry ( prop styling ); Source: “NOVA. The Star Shines Bright,” by Carlos A. Monteiro et al., in  World Nutrition , Vol. 7, No. 1; January-March 2016

Ultraprocessed foods and drinks are designed to be ready-to-consume, with numerous additives that can include oils, fats, color enhancers, flavor enhancers, nonsugar sweeteners, and bulking and firming agents. (No specific brand has been linked to obesity.) Credit: Jamie Chung (photo); Amy Henry (prop styling); Source: “NOVA. The Star Shines Bright,” by Carlos A. Monteiro et al., in World Nutrition, Vol. 7, No. 1; January-March 2016

In scientific pursuit of the never-ending question of why the world’s humans are gaining weight in dizzying statistics, the October 2019 issue of Scientific American provides a new avenue of inquiry. “Ultraprocessed” foods seem to trigger neural signals that make us want more and more calories, unlike other foods in the Western diet, writes Ellen Ruppel Shell.

Since the early 1970s, scientists and nutritionists have been debating exactly why we gain weight. Some hardliners hold fast to the calories in-calories out theory of “you are what you eat and expend in activity” theory. If you gain weight, it’s a reflection of your own lack of willpower.

Globally the prevalence of obesity nearly tripled between 1975 and 2016, according to the World Health Organization. Major changes in diet are accompanied by increased heart disease and diabetes. My unscientific impression of global weight gain is that wherever fast food comes to town, citizens gain weight.

Personally, I hold the line on carbs to 60-100 a day, and not the 225 to 325 recommended. Over years of dieting or fighting not to gain weight, carb control is the only brake on weight gain or the solution to weight loss that seems to guarantee success at any stage of my life. The questions around the best healthy diet are relevant as humans are challenged to stop eating meat to save our planet. For people living on a paleo-focused diet, the trade-off will result in eating more carbs.

Then again — how many obese vegetarians do you know?

Nutrition researcher Kevin Hall works at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, where he runs the Integrative Physiology section. His small but rigorous studies suggest that how we make the food we eat is a major contributor to weight gain.

Pulling ingredients apart and then reconstituting them into things like frosted snack cakes and ready-to-eat meals from the supermarket freezer—bears the brunt of the blame for weight gain, theorizes Hall. This “ultraprocessed” food “disrupts gut-brain signals that normally tell us that we have had enough, and this failed signaling leads to overeating.”

The man who designed the research says he is not on a messianic mission to improve America’s eating habits. Hall admits that his four-year-old son’s penchant for chicken nuggets and pizza remains unshakable and that his own diet could and probably should be improved. Still, he believes his study offers potent evidence that it is not any particular nutrient type but the way in which food is manipulated by manufacturers that plays the largest role in the world’s growing girth. He insists he has no dog in any diet wars fight but is simply following the evidence. “Once you’ve stepped into one camp and surrounded yourself by the selective biases of that camp, it becomes difficult to step out,” he says. Because his laboratory and research are paid for by the national institute whatever he finds, Hall notes that “I have the freedom to change my mind. Basically, I have the privilege to be persuaded by data.”

Halls research inquiry seems partially validated by the ongoing success and high ratings of the Mediterranean diet in maintaining a desirable weight. A Mediterranean-type diet, heavy on vegetables, whole grains and fish and light on red meat and processed foods, is usually at the top of the list of healthy eating plans. Critics note that in today’s world of working moms, irregular workplace hours, flat family incomes, and food deserts in urban areas — well, the Mediterranean Diet is for rich people.

Bottom line, though, understanding the mind-gut connection in how we eat is a critical new frontier in nutrition in health. Turning our attention to “ultraprocessed” foods — knowing how our lifestyles promote eating it — seems critical in understanding the world’s growing health epidemic and why we become “addicted” to certain foods.

Read on at Scientific American.

Could Climate Change Fuel the Rise of Right-Wing Nationalism?

Could Climate Change Fuel the Rise of Right-Wing Nationalism?

By Joshua Conrad Jackson, Doctoral Student, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Michele Gelfand, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Maryland. First published on The Conversation.

Two trends have defined the past decade and both have been on display at this year’s session of the United Nations General Assembly.

One has been the escalating effects of climate change, which were the focus of the United Nations’ Climate Action SummitForest firesfloods and hurricanes are all rising in their frequency and severity. Eight of the last 10 years have been the warmest on record. Marine biologists warned that coral reefs in the U.S. could disappear entirely by the 2040s.

The other trend has been the surge of right-wing nationalist politics across Western nations, which includes Donald Trump’s election in the U.S., and the rise of nationalist political parties around the world.

Indeed, the first four speeches of the United Nations general debate were given by Brazilian right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro, Trump, Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and far-right Turkish President Recep Erdogan.

Nancy Pelosi to Speak Saturday at The Texas Tribune Festival, As Trump Impeachment Looms

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be the keynote speaker, with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith as moderator, at The Texas Tribune Festival this Saturday.. Image via Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be the keynote speaker, with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith as moderator, at The Texas Tribune Festival this Saturday.. Image via Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune.

By Chase Karacostas. First published on The Texas Tribune

Just a few days after declaring that the U.S. House of Representatives will begin a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will appear in Austin as the keynote speaker Saturday at The Texas Tribune Festival.

This is Pelosi's third time to speak at the festival, and it's one of her first major public appearances after Tuesday's impeachment investigation announcement. The California Democrat's interview, moderated by Tribune CEO Evan Smith, will be from 7:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Paramount Theater.

Impeachment is sure to be a major topic of discussion, as is Trump's July phone call with the Ukrainian president requesting an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

Before this week, Pelosi had fended off demands from members of her caucus to pursue impeachment, even after a long-awaited report from special counsel Robert Mueller was released. Much of her hesitation lay with the desire to protect her party's hard-won majority in the House. However, her tune changed this week after reports that the call with the Ukrainian president was the reason for an "urgent and credible" whistleblower complaint filed last month.

On Wednesday, the White House released a record of the call showing Trump implored newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden's son, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company that Ukrainian authorities have investigated. While Biden was vice president, he urged Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, though the country's investigation into the company was reportedly dormant at the time.

Trump put nearly $400 million of Congress-approved security assistance on hold in the days before the call, leading some to accuse him of implicitly dangling the revocation of aid if Ukraine did not investigate Biden.

Pelosi's panel will be streamed live on the Tribune's website.

Supermodel Iman Joins CARE CEO Michelle Nunn As First Global Advocate for Girls + Women

Iman and CARE CEO Michelle Nunn

Iman and CARE CEO Michelle Nunn

Supermodel, entrepreneur, former Somali refugee, activist and Mrs. David Bowie, Iman officially became anti-poverty and humanitarian organization CARE’s first-ever global advocate. The role was created specifically for Iman by the esteemed CARE organization, founded in 1945.

The beauty entrepreneur’s new activist focus will be aiding refugee girls both domestically and internationally, including women and girls currently locked in detention centers at the US-Mexico border. The supermodel has a long history working with organizations like Keep a Child Alive, Save the Children and the Children's Defense Fund.

"This is the work that moves me. I have been involved with quite a lot of charities, but what moves my heart is women and girls. Since I was a refugee myself and because I've known the plight of women and girls myself, through my own journey in life, I was aware of what CARE does and I was aware of their long history," Iman tells The Hollywood Reporter of the agency, which originated the "care package" in 1946 during post-World War II relief efforts. "So, we came up with the global advocate role, where it's about finding out what really impacts women and girls around the world and here at home in America."

She adds, "We have to think of refugees collectively as humans. They're not nameless, they're not faceless, they're not just people who come from far away. These are people who are at the U.S.-Mexico border right now. I am one of them. People usually don't understand who a refugee is. I am the face of a refugee."

Iman will make her first public appearance as CARE's global advocate Wednesday at Advertising Week New York during an onstage discussion with Nunn. The talk will focus on the power of storytelling in the face of international crises.

In 2018, CARE worked in 95 countries, touching the lives of 56 million people globally.

Yang Gang + Swing State Dems Challenge Justice Democrats As Voices of the People

The Yang Gang rolls into action.png

The Justice Democrats may have a new competitor -- the Yang Gang. I don't have all the differences worked out in my mind, but I know I like the Yang Gang because I like Andrew Yang as a political candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Note, I have no candidate that AOC is endorsing, but Yang has definitely enjoyed far more success in his candidacy than anyone thought possible.

Jonathan Herzog, a 25-year-old former Yang staffer, announced his intentions to primary House Head of the Judiciary committee Jerry Nadler, entering an increasingly crowded Democratic race for the 10th Congressional District seat in New York

Jonathan Herzog, like his former boss, is running on a platform advocating for a $1,000 a month universal basic income (UBI), which he and Yang have both referred to as the "Freedom Dividend."

“My first priority will be to pass the Freedom Dividend,” Herzog said in a video Tuesday announcing his campaign launch.

AOC is so disgusted with Nadler's incompetency and ineffectual judiciary hearings, that I think the country would be better off with new and younger blood. NADLER CANNOT LEAD AN IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY.

Don't think House Speaker Nancy Pelosi isn't juggling that hot potato as well, but we seem to be headed toward a special impeachment committee or commission, where Nadler is only one of the key members. Rep. Adam Schiff of California, head of the House Intelligence Committee, should head the effort, as far as I'm concerned.

The moderate swing-state Dems, who came out Tuesday night for impeachment and ALL legal means possible in the matter of Trump’s actions against Ukraine, tipped the balance in the matter of making Donald Trump the third president impeached in US history.

Unlike the squad, who is always calling Trump out (we will impeach the m#therf#cker), the swing state Dem women don't even mention Trump's name. These women — also first-term members of the House of Representatives — are all about protecting the Constitution, not seeking revenge on Trump. They are not involved in a Twitter war with Trump supporters, like members of the squad. It's very interesting to listen to the swing-state women Dems take a totally different approach. Yes, the fact that they have commanded navy war ships and large real-life squads of military men inspires my confidence in them.

The contrasts among these women: Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Elaine Luria of Virginia, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan just emphasizes the wide range of women in the Democratic party. All are important, but I am happy to see the swing district women (and a few men) begin to move in unison in their own squad. Progressive media is obsessed with the squad, as if they represent the entirely of the Democratic party, when they do not.

This is another reason why AOC is learning as much as we can about the Yang Gang, as an emerging balance to the as far left as they can go Justice Democrats, who want to blow up everything. Their voices are important but the equally innovative Yang Gang can be an important addition to the political mix among our young people.

Back to Nadler, who is ineffectual toast in my playbook, the Congressman has multiple challengers for his very important House seat. Besides Herzog,

Herzog joins a race in which Nadler has already attracted three women primary challengers. They are Amanda Pearl Frankel, Holly Lynch and Lindsey Boylan, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Boylan’s campaign so far is considered to be the more formidable, writes The New York Post.

The former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo raised $264,657 during the first quarter that she was in the race.

“I welcome all candidates,” she told The Post, responding to Herzog’s entry. “A healthy democracy needs more, not fewer candidates.”

Ghana’s Copyright Law for Folklore Hampers Cultural Growth

Ghana’s Copyright Law for Folklore Hampers Cultural Growth

Ghana has a rich folkloric tradition that includes Adinkra symbolsKente cloth, traditional festivals, music and storytelling. Perhaps one of Ghana’s best known folk characters is Ananse, the spider god and trickster, after whom the Ghanaian storytelling tradition Anansesem is named.

Ghana also has some of the world’s most restrictive laws on the use of its folklore. The country’s 2005 Copyright Act defines folklore as “the literary, artistic and scientific expressions belonging to the cultural heritage of Ghana which are created, preserved and developed by ethnic communities of Ghana or by an unidentified Ghanaian author”.

This suggests that the legislation, which is an update of a 1985 law, applies equally to traditional works where the author is unknown and new works derived from folklore where the author is known.

The rights in these works are “vested in the President on behalf of and in trust for the people of the republic”. These rights are also deemed to exist in perpetuity. This means that works which qualify as folkloric will never fall into the public domain – and will never be free to use.

The 1985 Act only restricted use of Ghana’s folklore by foreigners. The 2005 Act extended this to Ghanaian nationals. In principle, this means that a Ghanaian artist wishing to use Ananse stories, or a musician who wants to rework old folk songs or musical rhythms must first seek approval from the National Folklore Board and pay an undisclosed fee.

This is deeply problematic.