FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD: GMO skepticism isn’t anti-science, Pubmed takes on conflicts of interest, and how parents encourage emotional eating

by | Apr 28, 2017

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Next week’s Mindful Meal Challenge will start again on Monday. Sign up now to join us!

This week GMO skepticism isn’t anti-science, Pubmed takes on conflicts of interest, and how parents encourage emotional eating.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

  • Skepticism About Biotechnology Isn’t Anti-Science – As a trained scientist I’ve long been skeptical of the idea that the way to fix our broken industrial food system (that it killing people in ever greater numbers) is to add even more industrial food products. Yet I often get chastised by other scientists for this viewpoint as being anti-science, as if the only relevant data is whether or not GMOs or pesticides directly hurt people. I’m happy to finally see someone pointing out that there’s more nuance here than just pro vs anti-science. (Slate)
  • The Struggles of Writing About Chinese Food as a Chinese Person – I dare you to read this and not start fantasizing about a trip to Taiwan. Also, really great essay on the racism and politics inherent in food. (Vice)
  • Too many studies have hidden conflicts of interest. A new tool makes it easier to see them. – This is fantastic! Pubmed, the search engine for scientific articles in biology, has started listing conflicts of interest in the abstracts of scientific articles. Until recently you had to have access to the full article to read the conflicts section, which meant you needed either a subscription to the individual journal or to pay for the individual article. (Vox)
  • Parents’ use of emotional feeding increases emotional eating in school-age children – Emotional eater? Blame your mom! Seriously though, it looks like emotional eating is learned at a young age and may be something that is avoidable. (ScienceDaily)
  • The Best Thing to Eat Before a Workout? Maybe Nothing at All – At least in the morning. Interesting new research suggests exercising in a fasted state may help improve metabolism, though at the cost of burning fewer calories during the workout itself. (NY Times)
  • The Best Exercise for Aging Muscles – Super interesting. Looks like there’s a large benefit of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for older adults. (NY Times)
  • ‘Diet’ products can make you fat, study shows – It’s worth reading this whole thing. To me the most interesting finding is that both groups ate the same amount of calories, yet the low-fat/high-sugar group stored fat twice as efficiently as the regular, balanced diet group. This was in rats, not humans, but still very interesting. (ScienceDaily)
  • How Gut Bacteria Tell Their Hosts What to Eat – The bacteria in your gut significantly contribute to your nutrition status, and can compensate for nutrient-poor diets. Sadly, nutrient-poor diets also decrease the diversity of your gut bacteria. It stands to reason that eating more pre- and pro-biotic foods can make you more resilient nutritionally, offering a substantial health advantage. (Scientific American)
  • Mission control: Salty diet makes you hungry, not thirsty – This is one of the most interesting nutrition stories I’ve read in years. What’s better than mixing space exploration and human nutrition studies? (ScienceDaily)
  • Sugary Drinks Tied to Accelerated Brain Aging – Again, sugar isn’t just a problem for your waistline. Ween yourself off the stuff and save your indulgences for when it’s really worth it. (NY Times)
  • How to get adults to eat their vegetables? Study explores potential of spices and herbs use – Revolutionary new study shows that people prefer to eat foods that taste good. LOL (ScienceDaily)
  • The Next Gluten – Just in case this lectin trend really takes off, I want your skepticism to start now. Tomatoes and beans are bad for you? Pfffff. Give me a break. (The Atlantic)
  • A Clever Trick for Roasting Nuts – So simple and so brilliant. Definitely trying this for my next party. (Stone Soup)

What inspired you this week?

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6 Responses to “FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD: GMO skepticism isn’t anti-science, Pubmed takes on conflicts of interest, and how parents encourage emotional eating”

  1. Michael G Beckwith says:

    I appreciate you being a scientist, and it’s one of the main reasons I follow your site. The problem with the Slate article you posted, though, is that it’s high on “What if” type of fears and very low on actual consequences.
    That’s a lot of the issue that people take with the whole “anti-science” movement. It’s based on fear, uncertainty, and doubt. I know that alleviating those fears is the responsibility of the scientific community and developers of these biotechnologies, but legitimizing fear instead of addressing it is not the answer.
    We live with 7 billion other people on this planet with dwindling farmland and climate change. Feeding this population on existing organisms isn’t sustainable. We need biotechnology to continue to thrive in the future.
    I think the dialogue is important, but we do need to frame concerns as directly and provide as much information about them as possible.
    The ‘what if’ arguments really don’t solve anything. The dialogue on *both* sides really need evidence and facts, not fear.

    • Darya Rose says:

      Hi Michael, thanks for your thoughtful comment. I don’t see the critiques (at least the ones I have) as mostly of the “what if” nature, although I don’t see those as totally invalid depending on the magnitude of the “what if” (ecological devastation of an entire crop like what is happening with bananas comes to mind, not GMO but overly industrialized monocultures. I haven’t seen any indication that these biotech companies are even testing for stuff like this, which seems insane). That said, I agree “What if it mutates and we all get cancer!” is pretty ridiculous.

      More often than not the pro-GMO argument I hear is “We need more food and there’s no evidence eating them is dangerous so shut up.” There are assumptions and lack of nuance here that as a skeptical scientist I find very frustrating.

      One issue I have is the assumption that we can’t make enough food. In fact there’s compelling evidence that food scarcity isn’t a production problem and that we already produce plenty of food to sustain our growing population. The issue is distribution and waste (here’s a brief summary with some references). The assumption that we need a lot more food and that that food cannot come from existing plants should itself be subject to rigorous scrutiny. I’d like to see that someone has at least thought about how necessary it is to introduce novel organisms into our environment and food supply given how risky such actions can be (we don’t even let natural fruits and vegetables cross boarders for risk of upsetting delicate ecosystems).

      Another issue is that the main foods that are produced (corn, soy, wheat, other commodities) are high in calories, but low/incomplete in nutrition. Generally these discussions revolve almost exclusively around calories, which is another huge and shaky assumption in my view. Calories (or even protein, fat, carbs, etc.) are convenient measure, particularly when it comes to commodity foods, but I question the value of just pumping out more nutrient poor foods at the expense of soil, climate and human health.

      These are just a couple of the issues that I almost never hear discussed in the GMO debate.

  2. Kara says:

    I am loving your weekly posts with all the helpful links. Learning a lot through your site and loved the mindful meal challenge. Thank you for sharing your information with us and guiding people in the right direction!

  3. Laura Morrison says:

    I’ve read about the benefits of exercising before eating… but the quality of my workouts suffer if I don’t eat first. I also noticed that the breakfast provided in this study was mostly carbohydrate foods. I wonder what the results would be if it was a breakfast higher in protein. It’s interesting research and I hope to hear about more studies like this.

  4. Yael says:

    Regarding the GMO concerns, I would argue that the general public still needs a better education regarding transgenics and their own landrace lines (these are varieties that are created through traditional breeding methods). The regulatory process for GMOs exists in order to evaluate the safety of these crops for release and sale. However, most people don’t realize that new varieties created based on traditional breeding methods are not regulated and introduce significant genetic diversity that is undetected and often not researched. I would encourage you and your concerned readership to learn more about the regulatory process, GMOs and introduction of genetic mutations using traditional breeding methods so that we can work together to meet the nutritional needs of the global population while protecting our natural resources and existing species. If someone has a better ideas for the regulatory process, they should advocate for a change in the procedure or criteria for approval. It’s important to remember that the regulatory process can only make an evaluation based on it’s mandate. If, as in the Slate article, someone wishes to argue that the mandate is too narrow, then sound rationale for changing the scope of the mandate should be offered.

    Here are two articles to get you started. The first two articles give an overview of the regulatory process and the third is a scientific article from the journal Plant Physiology that evaluates the proteins created in a landrace line and a transgenic line derived from the same parental lines.

    Personally, I think GMO’s offer a lot of opportunities, but I think they should continue to be heavily regulated. I think the most concerning aspect of this whole discussion is that the general population does not have faith in the scientific advisory board that has set forth the criteria for passing or failing a potential GMO product.

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