Sunday, February 21, 2010

Food Talk: Kaya mo ba 'to?

We've heard it many times before - we are what we eat. I came across two articles from a national daily and these articles made me reevaluate what I have been gobbling up and stuffing my body with.

The first article is about Presidential Candidate Richard Gordon's campaign which encourages us Filipinos to eat less rice. He equates eating less rice to more earnings for the country, and aside from that, a healthier people too.

I agree with his premise. Though I am a heavy rice-eater, I believe that eating less rice, maybe, one cup less than what most of us usually have, would, in a way, help those who have been continuously challenged to lose weight or those who are in a constant battle with the bathroom scale. Losing weight would ward us away from the problems that go with being overweight or with being obese.

But that irresistible cup of rice is actually just one of the many sources that run the gamut of obesity. Obesity, which has become a worldwide epidemic, is caused by an interplay of factors which include excessive dietary calories, lack of physical activity, and genetic susceptibility. A certain number of cases are caused by genetic disorders, endocrine disorders, medications, and psychiatric illness. Obesity is generally frowned upon by society because it increases the likelihood of various life-threatening diseases like hypertension and diabetes mellitus, to name a few. Interestingly, somewhere in the annals of history, it was considered a symbol of fertility and affluence, and it still is in some parts of Africa.

Obesity is a story that has three sides which we all need to hear. Since the genetic predisposition is entirely out of our control, we can work on the other two departments which include dietary intake and physical activity. Now the intake of rice may matter in the former but of course, cutting off on our rice intake is not everything. There is still the need to cut off on our consumption of trans fat.

Trans fat is the common name of unsaturated fat. It is one of those culprits that increase the risk of coronary heart disease by increasing the levels of bad cholesterol in the body. It is usually found in fried food, fast food, and even in baked goodies. Now can you wave goodbye to McDonald's, or KFC, or Red Ribbon? That is of course aside from resisting the temptation to add an order of extra rice while you are in the restaurant, or to add one more gantang of uncooked rice into the rice cooker.

Now on to the second article about food. It operates on the proposition that (and I quote) - "If you are what you eat, then it necessarily follows that your brain is what you eat, as well." This reminds me of the many propositions in Logic Class way back in my university days. I have to confess, that Logic is one of the few subjects (and I could not even remember what those few other subjects are) which I reviewed every night without fail, yes - even during weekends - because I was dead scared to get a low grade. I could still remember my professor emphasizing the if-and-only-if proposition. He made an effort to make us laugh during his lectures, even singing for us a few lines from his favorite song, just to send his points across. He was lanky and almost had nothing for the barber, and he has a resemblance to the villain in the movie Meet the Robinsons. Logic Class was fun, we laughed (like we were proud of our uvulas) at the professor's antics during lectures but we would drip heavily with cold sweat during exams. Now, please excuse me for yakking and straying away from my point, but the opening proposition of the article seems correct to me. Trust me, I got good grades in that subject (wink, wink).

The article tackles food preferences by some named medical professionals. They make an effort to include those food in their diet apparently because of the effects they have on the brain. What I found really striking though was what I read on the last part. The article reveals that eating much meat diminishes intellectual activity. It turns out now that my favorite pork barbecue and my ever beloved lechon will not only clog up my arteries but will also tinker with my cerebral functions. The article also mentions that excessive amounts of sugar in the diet was noted to impair frontal lobe function in schoolchildren. As if those were not enough, maybe you should start considering about not including bulalo in your list of favorites because, as a doctor divulges in the article, it contains a lot of chemicals and its DNA nature is not considered a whole food. I could not be shocked enough. Will somebody please hold my shoulders and shake me vigorously so that I will recuperate from this state of shock? Will somebody please push my jaw up too? Can anybody also enlighten me, what whole food exactly is?

As of now, I could not (yet) imagine myself not eating meat or cutting on my sugar intake. Well there is sugar in particularly every food we it! And meat is, for lack of a better word, delicious! Heavenly even, like my compulsory cup of coffee in the morning.

Maybe these assumptions have some truth in it. However, I choose to take a to-see-is-to-believe stand as of the moment. In the language of logic, an if-and-only-if rebuttal. If and only if the study that yielded these results would be cited, and the reading public would be given a way to access it, then I would believe. It is the only way to dispel the doubts of Doubting Thomases like me. How many years were the cohort studies made? What was the sample size? What were the study tools utilized? What was the endpoint of the study? How was the study analyzed? Now, this makes me feel I am carried back to my Epidemiology Class in medical school. I think it's time to go and grab a bite before I yak like crazy. I am not mad. Of course not. This in fact is the most graceful way I can conclude this article. Trust me, I am not mad. Of course not. Just a little hungry maybe. Of course. Who won't be? :-) (Wink, wink.)

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