My comments on David H. Freedman’s “How Junk Food Can End Obesity” were printed in abbreviated form in The Atlantic in their October 2013 issue:
Working at the crossroads of public health, medicine, and nutrition, with a focus on dietary approaches to combat chronic disease, I took great interest in David Freedman’s recent article “How Junk Food Can End Obesity.” I think that his central thesis is quite reasonable. From a macro- and microeconomic perspective it (prodding “…Big Food to intensify and speed up its efforts to cut fat and problem carbs in its offerings….”) also appears to be a solution that makes good sense. That said, I think it is essential, and possible, for the approach espoused by Freedman to work in tandem with the approach of the Pollanites and Bittmanites. Although the latter vilify Big Food, I suspect that they would admit that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to the public health problem we now face.
I was impressed with the fact that Freedman had the courage to articulate the politically unpopular reality that there is and will most likely always be a stratified society, and that eating habits are included in that stratification. Implicit in his thesis is the fact that corner stores in poor urban areas will still only have a few apples and bananas behind the Plexiglas shield at the cashier’s counter, but that the urban poor’s needs will be addressed by Corporate America and they will get a healthier tranche of food (or foodlike substances) when they step up to the fast food counter. In such a manner, Corporate America will continue to be part of the problem, but they will also be able to claim the high moral ground and convince their shareholders that they are part of the solution.
Indeed, any dietary adjustments “Big Food” is making are being done in a systematic way because their instincts are strong, their survival skills are powerful, and they (as Freedman noted) see the metaphorical dollar signs written on the wall. Although their motives revolve around survival and profit, there could actually be a health benefit for the great majority of the populace that does not shop at high-end grocery stores.
On balance, is it then better to have Corporate America incrementally improve the health of a large fraction of the population whilst the Pollan/Bittman approach simultaneously impacts an additional, but far smaller fraction of the population? Yes. The current obesity epidemic is too massive a threat to our nation to fight over which solution is better. The Pollan/Bittman approach to obesity is probably a heck of a lot of healthier, but for those who won’t or can’t adopt it, even a reduced fat fast food burger may be a step in the right direction.
I also teach a course entitled “Food, Technology, and Health” at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Recently, I’ve had a few strong opinions on the use of the term “superfood”:
A viewpoint on “superfoods” in the Johns Hopkins Health Review.
A short feature on our Moringa work in the Johns Hopkins Magazine, that includes discussion of that word.
A scientific publication on variations in protein and mineral content between species and cultivars of Moringa.
Fahey JW, KL Wade, SL Wehage, WD Holtzclaw, H Liu, P Talalay, E Fuchs, KK Stephenson. (2016) Stabilized sulforaphane for clinical use: Phytochemical delivery efficiency. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201600766. [Article].
Bierwirth JE, KN Oftedal, GV Civille and JW Fahey. (2015) Flavor misattribution: A novel approach to improving compliance and blinding in food-based clinical interventions.
Johnson TL, AT Dinkova-Kostova, and JW Fahey. (2016) Glucosinolates from the Brassica Vegetables and their Health Effects. In Caballero B, Finglas P, and Toldrá F (eds) The Encyclopedia of Food and Health vol. 3, pp. 248-255. Oxford: Academic Press. [Link]
Fahey JW. (2016) Brassica: Characteristics and Properties. In Caballero B, Finglas P, and Toldrá F (eds) The Encyclopedia of Food and Health vol. 1, pp. 469-477. Oxford: Academic Press. [Link]
NFS Journal. 1(1): 24-30. [Abstract]
Fahey JW, SL Wehage, WD Holtzclaw, TW Kensler, PA Egner, TA Shapiro, P Talalay. (2012) Protection of humans by plant glucosinolates: Efficiency of conversion of glucosinolates to isothiocyanates by the gastrointestinal microflora. Cancer Prev Res 5(4):603-611. [Abstract]
Kensler TW, D Ng, SG Carmella, M Chen, LP Jacobson, A Munoz, PA Egner, JG Chen, GS Qian, TY Chen, JW Fahey, P Talalay, JD Groopman, J-M Yuan, SS Hecht. (2012) Modulation of the metabolism of airborne pollutants by glucoraphanin-rich and sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprout beverages in Qidong, China. Carcinogenesis 33(1):101-107. [Full Article]
Egner PA, JG Chen, JB Wang, Y Wu, Y Sun, JH Lu, J Zhu, YH Zhang, YS Chen, MD Friesen, LP Jacobson, A Muñoz, D Ng, GS Qian, YR Zhu, TY Chen, NP Botting, Q Zhang, JW Fahey, P Talalay, JD Groopman and TW Kensler. (2011) Bioavailability of sulforaphane from two forms of broccoli sprout beverage: Results of a short term, cross-over clinical trial in Qidong, People’s Republic of China. Cancer Prevention Research 4(3): 384-395. [Abstract] [Full Article]
Ng, F, H Yun, X Lei, SJ Danishefsky, JW Fahey, KK Stephenson, C Flexner and L Lee. (2008) (3R,9R,10R)-Panaxytriol: a molecular-based nutraceutical with possible application to cancer prevention and treatment. Tetrahedron Letters 49: 7178-7179.
Doerr, B, KL Wade, KK Stephenson, SB Reed, and JW Fahey. (2009) Cultivar effect on Moringa oleifera glucosinolate content and taste: A pilot study. Ecology of Food and Nutrition 48: 199-211. [Abstract]
Fahey, JW and KK Stephenson. (2007) Can fresh vegetable sprouts be produced for human consumption in areas with poor water quality? A pilot study. Trees for Life Journal 2:1. [Full Article]
Fahey, JW and TW Kensler. (2007) Role of dietary supplements/nutraceuticals in chemoprevention through induction of cytoprotective enzymes. Chemical Research in Toxicology. 20: 572-576. [Abstract] [Full Article]
Fahey, JW, PJ Ourisson and FH Degnan. (2006) Pathogen detection, testing, and control in fresh broccoli sprouts. Nutrition Journal Apr 21; 5(1):13 [doi:10.1186/1475-2891-5-13] [Abstract] [Full Article]
Haristoy, X, JW Fahey, I Scholtus and A Lozniewski. (2005) Evaluation of antimicrobial effect of several isothiocyanates on Helicobacter pylori. Planta Medica 71: 326-330. [Abstract]
Fisher, D, IJ Garrard, R Van den Heuvel, IA Sutherland, FE Chou and JW Fahey. (2005) Technology transfer and scale-up of a potential cancer-preventive plant [secondary product]: Dynamic extraction of glucoraphanin. J. Liquid Chromatography & Related Technologies 28: 1913-1922.
Fahey, JW. (1999) Future Super Foods? The Johns Hopkins Health Insider 2(1):1,4.