In Episode #246, I’m joined by distinguished researcher Professor Daruish Mozaffarian to examine the modern food system.
“[Food-related health issues are] the top cause of death in the world. And we’re allowing this top cause of death in the world to be sold in our food.”
We’ve come a long way from the nutrient deficiency diseases of the early 1900s. But has our food system kept up? When we look to the prevalence of lifestyle diseases in modern society, the answer is clear. Largely preventable diseases are rampant in today’s world; but it hasn’t always been, and does not have to be, this way. Professor Mozaffarian joins me today to discuss how our current food system was formed, and how we can adapt it to overcome the challenges we are currently facing.
“There’s no single silver bullet to fix the food system, but we can do this. We can actually fix the food system. We created the food system we have now – from farming all the way to food manufacturing – very consciously, with the goals of addressing vitamin deficiencies and calories, over just 50 years. Over the next (at most) 50 years… we could fix the food system.”
Dariush Mozaffarian is a cardiologist, Special Advisor to the Provost, Dean for Policy, and Jean Mayer Professor at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy; and Professor of Medicine at Tufts School of Medicine. His work aims to create the science and translation for a food system that is nutritious, equitable, and sustainable. Dr. Mozaffarian has authored more than 500 scientific publications on dietary priorities for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases, and on evidence-based policy approaches and innovations to reduce diet-related diseases in the US and globally. As a world-leading expert in nutrition science, Dr Mozaffarian brings decades of specialist knowledge to this conversation.
In this episode, you will learn how our modern food system was shaped, and the rapid progress that allowed nutrition scientists to develop it. We examine nutrition guidelines, health outcomes over time, and implementation of public health measures. We also break down scoring systems of food, and discuss the radical change we need to see to overcome modern challenges.
Specifically, we cover:
- Introduction (00:00)
- A Journey Through Nutrition Science History (03:49)
- The Food Industry’s Contributions to Improving Vitamin and Calorie Deficiency and What Went Wrong (16:05)
- The Evolution of Dietary Guidelines (26:59)
- Are Food Rating Systems Accurate? (37:48)
- Is the Role of Saturated Fat in Nutrition Neutral? (44:22)
- Understanding the Algorithm Behind Tufts’ Food Compass (46:57)
- Industry Funding and Scientific Research (52:03)
- Validating the Food Compass Scoring System (57:04)
- Are Breakfast Cereals Healthier? (01:04:45)
- The Food Compass System: A Work in Progress (01:08:04)
- Exploring the Uses of the Food Compass and the Possibility of Improving Its Functionality (01:10:33)
- Takeaways (01:29:19)
- Outro (01:34:50)
I hope you found this conversation on our food system as a whole informative, and it helped you contextualise the way we are shaped and conditioned to eat. With the knowledge of where our food beliefs came from, we can better understand exactly where we need to go, both on a personal level and on a larger scale.
If you found this conversation informative, you can learn more about Dr Mozaffarian here, and read more of his work here. If you have any additional questions you would like answered in future, make sure to leave a comment on YouTube.
More about Dr Dariush Mozaffarian
Dariush Mozaffarian is a cardiologist, Special Advisor to the Provost, Dean for Policy, and Jean Mayer Professor at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy; and Professor of Medicine at Tufts School of Medicine. Dr. Mozaffarian has stepped away from his role as Dean for the 2022-23 academic year, returning on July 1, 2023, to focus on the translation and dissemination of scientific evidence into public awareness, policy, and innovation, including to help inform the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. His work aims to create the science and translation for a food system that is nutritious, equitable, and sustainable. Dr. Mozaffarian has authored more than 500 scientific publications on dietary priorities for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases, and on evidence-based policy approaches and innovations to reduce diet-related diseases in the US and globally. He has served in numerous advisory roles, and his work has been featured in a wide array of media outlets. Thomson Reuters has named him as one of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds.
Supporting studies and additional resources
- Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian – ‘A History of Nutrition Science: Research, Guidelines & Food Policy’ • YouTube
- Food Compass
- Food Compass is a nutrient profiling system using expanded characteristics for assessing healthfulness of foods • Nature
- Informing White House Conference
- Validation of Food Compass with a healthy diet, cardiometabolic health, and mortality among U.S. adults, 1999-2018 • PMID: 36414619