For No Baloney, 2013 will be the year consumers demanded to know more about their food – where it came from and what was in it. There were also more crazy “miracle” supplements, awful marketing strategies and suspect science. Will 2013 mark the beginning-of-the-end of food and nutrition apathy? We hope so!
Here are some of the highlights (and lowlights!) in food,-nutrition and health from the last 12 months.
1. The ethics of what we eat. Perhaps it was the XL beef recall or finding out that chicken nuggets don’t really contain much chicken, but consumers in 2013 seemed to embrace making more ethical and sustainable choices when it comes to their food. The demand for locally-sourced food continued to dominate in 2013 on the National Restaurant Association’s annual poll.
From Chipotle’s “The Scarecrow” to the push from Canadian grocery retailers to eliminate pork gestation crates, the food industry *seems* to be responding to consumer demand. As we always say, create the change you want to see by voting with your dollar! Check out our Earth Day 2013 post, Eating Our Way to a Healthier Planet, and Thanksgiving Future? for some easy tips to vote with your dollar.
2. Sayonara, (added) trans fat! Okay, so it is not a done deal…yet. But we are cautiously optimistic. It may have taken 30 years to usher these unhealthy, manufactured fats out of the diet BUT better late than never! What foods are likely to feel the pinch most as a result of declaring hydrogenated fats as illegal food additives? Microwave popcorn, cookies and crackers, prepared dough and crusts, hard stick margarine and non-dairy creamer.
3. Promising obesity trends? For the first time in decades, pediatric obesity rates in the US appear to be declining in some regions. Mississippi – declared the most obese state in the US – reported a 13 percent drop in child obesity rates this year! Obesity rates among adults may not be dropping but appear to be plateauing.
How is Canada doing? Overall the US still has higher absolute rates of obesity (35.7% of US adults were obese in 2010) than Canada (25.3% in Canada) but the US has a few programs that could be viewed as templates for Canadian initiatives. Check out our A Tale of Two Countries for our take on how the US and Canada are attempting to combat obesity and unhealthy lifestyles.
4. Just say no to GMOs. With the passing of the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act”, the world was (briefly) abuzz with commentary on GMOs. There have been arguments going for decades regarding the safety of GMOs and the evidence is still suspiciously absent, particularly regarding long-term safety of consuming GMOs.
In North America, about 60 – 70% of food sold in stores includes genetically modified ingredients. Why is this number so high? Because corn, soybeans and canola are so pervasive in our food supply – as processed food ingredients and components of animal feed – and they happen to be the top genetically modified crops. We agree with Marion Nestle that “consumers have the right to choose” and appropriate labeling should be required. While MANY other countries have mandatory GMO labeling rules in place (such as Europe and Japan), Canada and the US do not.
5. 2012 repeat superstars: microflora and brain health. Sure, probiotics and eating for brain health made our top list is 2012, but new research released in 2013 has kept these topics in the news. From promising research regarding mental health and diet to chocolate and cognitive function and fish as brain food, the role of diet in maintaining your brain prowess has shown that “healthy diet, healthy aging” impacts head to toe.
The importance of keeping your friendly gut bacteria humming along was again demonstrated in the research this year too (see Four More Reasons to Love your Flora). We cannot wait to see what revelatory gut-brain axis research will emerge in 2014 further linking your gut microflora and brain health!
Stay tuned later this week for numbers 6 – 10 in our review of the top nutrition stories of 2013.