Monday, October 11, 2010

The Unhealthy Truth -- How Our Food is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It, by Robyn O'Brien

Last month I received a copy of my family tree from a distant cousin. It's a scroll covered with rows of tiny black boxes, and each box is inscribed with even tinier black letters. The thing is huge -- end to end it measures over 8 feet! And, confirming the long held family legend, the name in the box at the pinnacle of this wide pyramid holds the name of the man who is credited with starting the Hassidic movement back in the 18th century, The Baal Shem Tov.

It's not just The Baal Shem Tov that draws me in, though. All the names on the family tree fascinate me, so I've taken it upon myself to try and find out who all these distant cousins are. My most useful research tool: Facebook! I'm still in the process of searching, but I've already found at least 50 cousins, and they reside in every part of the world. I never knew I had hundreds of cousins, but now that I know to look for them, I find them everywhere!

When I read "The Unhealthy Truth," this same scenario came to mind, but this time concerning the sorry state of our food supply: the not noticing, but then discovering it everywhere once you know to look for it. Robyn O'Brien wrote "The Unhealthy Truth" after learning that her children had severe food allergies. She began addressing this issue by doing what I'm doing: research. What she found is both illuminating and unsettling. She discovered that the rates of allergy and asthma have risen exponentially is the last several years. Just like my newly found cousins, O'Brien found that kids like hers were everywhere. She attributes the rise in these illnesses to 4 factors: our highly industrial environment; our overuse of antibiotics; increased pollutants and environmental toxins; and our increased consumption of processed foods laden with chemical additives.

The parts of "The Unhealthy Truth" that intrigued me most were the sections in which O'Brien exposes how Big Pharma and Big Food have corrupted the realms of food and health. She tells the story of how, in her efforts to educate the public about food allergies, she tried to elicit support from FAAN (Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network). She thought her work would naturally into FAAN's framework, but every effort she made at trying to form a relationship was met with stony silence, until finally they ended up suing her with bogus claims. As she continued to research allergies, and the organizations in place to educate the public about them, she discovered that the FAAN web site was subsidized by Kraft Foods and peanut growers.

Another provocative issue highlighted in "The Unhealthy Truth" is the potential downside to all the genetically modified food we are eating. Foreign genes inserted into a plant cause it to produce new proteins -- and these new proteins are potential allergens. A mother might think a certain food was safe to give her highly allergic child but, if that food was made with an ingredient that came from a genetically modified plant, it could potentially cause a life-threatening allergic reaction.

These are just some of the eye-opening facts in "The Unhealthy Truth." It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the shelves of our grocery stores are filled with processed and unnatural stuff that masquerades as food. If you take even a cursory look at the state of our food supply, it is obvious there are problems everywhere, at every level. After reading "The Unhealthy Truth" I can't help but start being more mindful of the food I feed my family. You never know what you'll find out there when you take a really good look. You could find something really troubling, like the myriad issues plaguing our food supply, or you might find something that stuns and amazes you -- like constellations of cousins found all over the planet .

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