All posts by Sarah Goodwin

Printing Your Own Food

This post discusses the potential for 3D printers to become commonplace kitchen objects in the next few years. It goes over the current state of 3D printing and explains how 3D printing could possibly be used in cooking. It says that, while 3D printing is not ready for cooking yet, and many foods would not be worth it, it could be helpful for certain kinds of food.

Can you envision any benefits in cooking coming from better 3D printing technology? If 3D printers were cheaper and more useful, do you think people will start using them more regularly?

Useful Donations to Food Banks

I came across this brief article about donating to food banks. It has a fun title:

Hey, Idiot, Food Banks Don’t Want Your Canned Alligator and Old Vitamins

 

But it touches on a serious issue. Apparently, unwanted donations are a problem for food banks, costing one, the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, $40,000 a year.

Donating to food banks was a common idea for fundraisers and charity when I was growing up, and I hope I’ve only ever donated useful items, but this article made me think a bit about how we talk about food banks. Do you know anyone who uses them just to get rid of old food? Do you think we advertise and discuss food banks and their purpose correctly?

Fish Food

Here is an article I found about how many owners of fish farms are switching from feeding their fish food made out of other fish to food from plants. The article points out that, while some appreciate that this will keep oceans from getting too depleted from overfishing, there are also concerns about the nutritional value of the fish changing. The article mentions omega-3 fatty acids, which provide health benefits–research suggests that the levels go down in fish being fed vegetable oil instead of fish oil.

What other ways can you think of that this might alter fish nutrition? Do you think we should prioritize nutrition or environmentalism?

GMOs, Wheat, and Celiac

We’ve had several presentations on GMOs in class, and I’ve been enjoying seeing the issue presented from different angles. I was most interested in the presentations discussing GMOs and possible health concerns, including celiac disease, so I did some research into that potential connection, curious about the science behind it. Here’s what I found.

First, GMO wheat does not actually exist. It is not sold commercially, and USDA investigations into possible use a few years ago found nothing. Monsanto, everyone’s favorite sinister corporation, is opening up exploring it after shutting it down earlier when no one was interested.

Second, the concern about GMOs and celiac seems to come mainly from this “study” (it’s actually a review). That’s what I discovered on Google, anyway; there may be more scholarly discussion that predates it, but almost everything on the common internet was dated from around this study, even if it doesn’t address it directly.

So, what did the review propose? Basically, the authors–one of whom is a computer scientist, one of whom is an independent scientist–propose that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is responsible for almost all modern disease. So the claim doesn’t actually have anything to do with GMOs–just the chemicals they’re treated with. They argue that the chemical interferes with reactions in your gut, resulting in “most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.”

I’m not going to deny that glyphosate could have negative effects, but the extremely broad claims in the paper, which isn’t a scientific study at all, set off huge alarm bells for me. Especially after reading this interview, where the author claimed “In fact, one of the people at this conference was Zen Honeycutt, founder of Moms Across America, which is an organization of moms. Her son had autism. She fixed his autism by putting him on an organic diet.” I hope it’s obvious that that sounds absolutely ridiculous.

It was hard finding sources discussing this issue that didn’t have a bias either way, but here are a couple that, even if they may have a bias, discuss the paper in detail and/or cite experts. This is a blog post, although I don’t know much about the author. This is an article citing the Celiac Disease Foundation and a plant geneticist’s responses to the review.

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If you actually read through all of this (I know it’s long) what do you think about the so-called study? I find it interesting that so much of the public interest has resulted from one work. And did any of it change your mind about GMOs? I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with GMOs themselves. We’ve been altering plant genetics for thousands of years. Any issues stem from how we use them, and the agricultural and economical results.

Exploring Trans Fats

I always heard growing up from my parents, who were interested in eating healthy and avoiding harmful artificial chemicals when possible, that trans fats were one of the bad ones. But, I don’t remember anyone telling me why, other than possibly mentioning cholesterol. Then I saw someone else had posted about the FDA banning trans fats, and I decided to use this blog post to do a bit of research about what, exactly, is so bad about trans fats.

According to the FDA’s page, there are two sources for trans fats. Naturally-occurring trans fats come from the guts of some animals, and can then show up in small amounts in some dairy products. The trans fat gaining all the attention, though, is the kind that is produced artificially–by hydrogenation, or adding hydrogen to vegetable oil to create partially-hydrogenated oil, which is more solid.

This process was discovered in 1901 and quickly seized upon as a cheaper and less perishable option to butter–by the creation of margarine and shortening. The inventors even won a Nobel prize. Research into the negative effects of trans fats–raising bad cholesterol and lowering good cholesterol, and increasing heart disease–did not begin until the 1970s. (Source).

The FDA required that trans fats be included on nutrition labels in 2006. They released a preliminary classification of partially-hydrogenated oils as not “generally recognized as safe” in 2013, leaving the decision open for public comment. The final decision, sticking with that classification and requiring that PHOs be out of products in three years, was released last June. Companies may petition the FDA to keep using PHOs for specific purposes in that time. Trans fats will not be gone completely, but eliminating PHOs will take care of most of them. The FDA estimates that doing so will prevent thousands of heart attacks and deaths each year. (Source).

I have a couple possible questions for discussion. Do you think the FDA is doing enough, or should they be stricter? Or, a couple of articles quoted people who believed the government should stay out of regulating food and leave people to make their own decisions, do you agree? And finally, are there any other assumptions you grew up hearing about food where you don’t know the science behind them? I had fun researching this and I was thinking of doing a similar thing next week, so I’m looking for topics!

Food and Sound

I found this article describing some research into how sound affects the way we taste food. For example, loud background noise has been shown to decrease the perceived intensity of salt, but increase the perceived intensity of umami. There have also been studies showing that positive accompanying sounds, like ocean waves with seafood, might make the food taste better.

This page, from the same  website, has a bit of an experiment for readers to take part in. You sit down with some chocolate or coffee and listen to two different sounds to see if the flavor changes at all. If you tried it, did you notice any differences?