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Great Wealth Poor Health: Contemporary Issues in Eating and Living

Great Wealth Poor Health: Contemporary Issues in Eating and Living

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Great Wealth Poor Health: Contemporary Issues in Eating and Living

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530 pagine
7 ore
Pubblicato:
Nov 1, 2010
ISBN:
9781907284694
Formato:
Libro

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Unique and straightforward, this reference introduces many of the current issues that relate to the environment, nutrition, food, well-being, and health in contemporary society. Highlighting the role that wealth has played in creating substantial waste and unhealthy behaviors, this thorough record offers simple guidelines—and recipes—that support a healthier lifestyle. Including information on the sugar, fat, and fiber levels in foods as well as on the energy expenditure of various activities, this account will interest students taking courses in nutrition and human health as well as those attempting to improve their dietary habits.

Pubblicato:
Nov 1, 2010
ISBN:
9781907284694
Formato:
Libro

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Great Wealth Poor Health - David Farrell

CHAPTER 1. PROSPERITY

As bird ’flu and swine ’flu march westwards, we are told that a pandemic outbreak of a lethal form of the influenza virus, one that transgresses species, is imminent. But the real long-term threat to the Western world is not conventional flu, but ‘affluenza’.

Affluenza is a term coined in a recent book¹ of that title and defined in part, as ‘an unsustainable addiction to economic growth’. We are simply too wealthy a nation for our own good.

We are not alone. Macquarie Bank is a prime example of a company in which affluenza is endemic. The top 13 executives for the financial year 2006-2007 collected $207 million between them. Alan Moss, the CEO, took $33.5 million, and Mr No. 5, $19 million. In May 2008, Alan Moss doffed his cap to the shareholders, and walked away with a remuneration package of $50 million. Even Peter Costello, the then Treasurer, was angered by the breathtaking culture of greed and arrogance, in an economic climate he helped to create.

Af-flu-en-za (n)

1.The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses.

2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the Australian dream.

3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth.

Clive Hamilton¹

In Australia, life has changed dramatically. In the past eleven years, we have lived through an unprecedented economic boom under John Howard, putting into reach unheard of wealth and high home ownership levels. Disposable income has escalated and unemployment is at an all-time low. In order to achieve this, both parents almost invariably have to go out to work.

Gambling turnover here was almost $15 billion in 2006. Online gambling on over 2,000 web sites² allows anyone privacy, anonymity and a means of disposing of some of their present per capita worth of $467,626 and surplus time.

Surplus money, a net foreign debt of $648 billion and a household debt of $1 trillion, including a national credit card debt of $42 billion in 2008, up by 16 per cent in twelve months, has allowed us to indulge ourselves in material goods, a wide choice of foods, and a lifestyle envied by the rest of the world.

Compulsive shopping and consumerism are addictions of the 21st century. And so is wastage. Planet Ark of Australia found that, in 2005, $10.5 billion was spent on goods and services that were never, or hardly ever, used.³

What is happening to all of this food you may ask? Much of it is being wasted. In Australia 3.3 million tonnes of food each year valued at $5.3 billion are wasted.⁴ Of this, $2.9 billion is fresh food, $876 million is leftovers, $596 million is unfinished drinks, and $241 million is frozen food. ⁵

Despite this economic growth and high employment, are Australians any happier? A recent survey found that four out of ten Australians felt that life was getting worse and not better.

Affluence and food seem to be irrevocably intertwined. Our culinary skills have grown, so that we have restaurants that serve some of the finest dishes in the world. We also have our share of fast food outlets. Our supermarket shelves are laden with foods, many imported, to meet the needs of a changing ethnic population, a bewildering array of endless choice exists and, compared to many European countries, meat is still reasonably priced.

But important foods such as fruit and vegetables have become expensive and mostly out of the reach of those who most need them. Only seven per cent of Queenslanders eat the recommended daily intake of vegetables and about 50 per cent of the recommended intake of fruit.⁷ With the ever popular bananas fetching $12/kg in Brisbane in early 2006 because of the effects of Cyclone Larry, and still up to $3-4 kg, fruit consumption has decreased alarmingly.

The unprecedented wealth experienced by us and by many other western societies, with endless lines of credit and rapid economic growth, is largely the basis of our food choice and the problems that go with it.

Dining out was once an extravagant adventure; today it is the norm and has spiralled into a vast industry. Newspapers and magazines devote pages to recipes, culinary delights and evaluating restaurants and the foods they serve. Some of the most popular shows on television are those of celebrity chefs strutting their stuff. Speciality magazines such as Food Service have sprung up to meet the needs of restauranteurs, caterers and advertisers. The grocery industry has grown out of proportion to the wealth of the nation. Food prices are rapidly increasing, not so much because of escalating farm prices but partly because of fuel costs, ethanol production from grain, bureaucracy and cost of traceability.

Today, despite the economic downturn, there is so much surplus money available that the pocket money doled out by parents to very young children not only pays the account of a mobile phone but allows the purchase of ‘junk food’ in almost unlimited amounts.

Even those parents who realise the shortcomings of such generosity can do little to control it. They perceive consequences that may range from a disturbed adolescent to ridicule by their peers if parental restraint is practised. It is becoming an impossible situation and clearly there is no easy solution. Because both parents are probably bread winners, they may feel guilty that they are neglecting their children and as a result, reward them generously.

Children have not really changed over time in their basic eating preferences. They now have more money to satisfy them. American children spend over $30 billion/year of their own money on junk food.

When I was growing up in Ireland, then one of Europe’s poorest countries, my favourite drink was lemonade; it had a much different and a more genuine taste of lemon than today’s artificially-flavoured and coloured soft drinks. Sweets and chocolate were my passion. Later Smith’s potato crisps were invented and with a decent sprinkling of salt. They too became addictive.

Today, choice has no boundaries. Like just about every child and youngster of that distant era, pocket money was so restricted that we could afford these luxuries only once or occasionally twice a week, and then in limited amounts. Fat children were a rarity and, for those, ‘glandular problems’ was the standard explanation given.

In 2002 in the UK, school children aged 7-15 years spent over £1/day on their way to school, and 74 p on the way home.⁹ Today, this will be a great deal more.

There is no argument that affluence brings with it many benefits. Our standard of health care has improved immeasurably. But the health system is still not good enough, nor will it ever be, as our expectations increase with rapid advances in medical science.

So in many ways affluenza breeds discontentment. It also brings with it increased stress and mental problems which have almost doubled over the past ten years. Many of the diseases we now suffer from are not infectious diseases, but diseases of prosperity.

A snapshot of our health status in 1995 and 2005 (see over page) shows that, despite massive funding, it has declined.¹⁰

Of particular concern is that, despite the concerted effort of government and non-government organisations, and the expenditure of millions of dollars to reduce smoking in the Australian population, there were more people smoking in 2005 than in 2004. The tobacco industry has quietly repositioned itself to effectively market the youth of today with the message that smoking is sexy and ‘cool’.

Spreading the message are thousands of videos, some home-made, that appear on the website YouTube, of sexy teenagers smoking. There is a sneaking suspicion that it is not just teenagers that are driving this website on the YouTube.¹¹

Our standard and affordability of housing is such that Australians have one of the highest levels of house ownership in the world. Take a look at some of those many unsightly, palatial houses (MacMansions) often built on a small area of land with no room for a garden and just an arm’s length from the house on either side.

There are usually two cars in the garage. Invariably one is a four-wheel drive. Recent importations of The Hummer, a US military-like vehicle, have failed to keep up with demand. Despite the escalating price of fuel and, with it, loud complaints, Australians are buying more big, fuel-eating cars than ever before.¹²

Sydney’s culture of the relentless pursuit of property, perfect bodies and status has psychologist Oliver James worried. He described Sydney as ‘the most vacuous of cities …’¹³

Many blue collar workers are now so wealthy that they frequently have more than one house; the second one may be a ‘shack’ at the beach, or an investment property often acquired using borrowed money.

There is no denying that some poverty exists, although the line of demarcation that defines poverty rises each year. Thirty years ago, to live just below the present poverty line was considered to border on luxury.

The volume of information on what we should and should not eat has led to confusion. The public is becoming increasingly sceptical and fed up with the barrage of information on health issues, much of which is contradictory, and most without scientific backing.

The omega-3 and omega-6 fats were pivotal in helping me to appreciate that there have been such radical, yet subtle, changes in our food habits and food supply, and how differently farmers now produce food from the past, especially livestock products. It was many of these changes, and the politics that go with them, which, instead of improving our health, sometimes caused serious deterioration in the wellbeing of many.

No longer does common sense play a significant role in food choice. The food industry is dictating our thinking and playing an ever increasing role in the foods we select.

Take-away food outlets have been expanding at a worrying rate. Advertising has also been playing a major role in our food choice and, as always, the bottom line is the dollar.

Words such as ‘freshness’, ‘healthy’, ‘organic’, ‘local’, ‘green and clean’ and ‘unprocessed’ have entered our vocabulary as we speak about food with new authority, and with a greater awareness of food contamination and hazards, it is a favoured topic. Functional foods have appeared on shelves of supermarkets together with a legion of health products promising great things, delivering little while often merely adding confusion.

It is against this backdrop that we discuss food and diet in this book and investigate the many claimed beneficial effects of some foods and the disadvantages of others. The enormous influence that the food industry holds on what we buy and what we eat is examined. The science and misuse of science, behind claims that some foods are good for our health while others are bad, are investigated. The health, medical and pharmaceutical industries come under scrutiny, particularly here in Queensland. The source of dietary advice is questioned, and why it has been shown to be singularly unsuccessful in recent years given the heavy investment in funding and manpower and the current health of the nation.

Christmas 2006 saw Australian shoppers spend $23.7 billion (over $1,000 for every man, woman and child) largely by cashed-up baby boomers, DINK (double income no kids) and empty-nesters, not so much on children’s toys but on high-end market material goods. VIP shopping nights, by invitation only, made sure that those seeking self indulgence were well catered for.¹⁴

Good food habits also require discipline, something that seems to be declining in direct proportion to the rise in affluenza. Wealth creation and consumerism are the driving forces in most people’s lives but rarely do they bring happiness, good health or peace of mind, as has been documented in the recent rapid economic growth of Ireland,¹⁵ once the second wealthiest nation on earth. That country is now an economic basket case.

REFERENCES

1 Hamilton C and Denniss R Affluenza (2005) Allen & Unwin, Australia

2 The Times August 5 2006

3 The Courier-Mail May 9 2005

4 Duffy M (2005) Sydney Morning Herald May 28-29 2005

5 Fynes-Clinton J (2005) The Courier-Mail May 11 2005

6 Horin A (2006) The Australian September 16-17 2006

7 Sommerfeld J (2006) The Courier-Mail February 24 2006, 3

8 Nestle M (2006) New England Journal of Medicine 354, 2527-2529

9 National Statistics (2002) Special Focus on Children in Brief: Children National Statistics (UK)

10 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2005)

11 Lee J (2006) Sydney Morning Herald November 18-19 2006

12 The Australian Financial Review June 5 2007

13 Delaney B (2007) Sydney Morning Herald January 20-21 2007

14 Canning S (2006) The Australian December 19 2006

15 Douthwaite R and Jopling J (2004) Growth: The Celtic Cancer, Feasta Review no. 2, 2004 Feasta, Dublin 6

Footnote: It is only recently that the Author became aware of Northern Rock, Lehmann Bros, Bear Stearns and Bernie Maldoff. Freddie Mac could have been married to Fannie Mae for all he knew. However they all did have some things in common: first, all were connected in some way with sub-prime mortgage funds, and second, all were unbelievably greedy.

CHAPTER 2. THE ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY

Living is about expending energy. Eating is about gaining energy. So everything from keeping slim to keeping fit and healthy is about how we use energy. One authority on the subject titled his book, The Fire of Life. The main purpose of this chapter is to introduce the broad concepts of ‘energy metabolism’ in a simplified way. It is a gigantic topic but not daunting. The generation of energy in its many forms is intertwined with the environment, and when abused, with its destruction. Even if we ignore food energy, energy in all its many other forms (oil, coal, electricity) is such a critical part of our life, that we are unable to live without it and are now grappling with the consequences. The rapid deterioration of the environment, associated with gaseous emissions, is now such a contentious political issue that it is important to discuss it here and its consequences, and with many more yet to emerge.

ORIGIN OF FOOD ENERGY

Photosynthesis is the starting point of plant life. Plant leaves contain the green pigment, chlorophyll. This absorbs sunlight and is used to manufacture carbohydrates (sugars and starches) by combining carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) and hydrogen. These are the only elements that are found in carbohydrates. Their combination results in the freeing of the unused oxygen when hydrogen is taken from water. Until recently there has been a perfect balance between the amount of CO 2 in the air and the amount of oxygen, and both remained about constant for probably millions of years.

Plant proteins were manufactured when nitrogen was drawn from the soil into the leaves and then combined with simple compounds in the leaves to form complex proteins. Minerals are also drawn from the soil and stored in the leaves and the seeds. The highly complex vitamins and oils are also manufactured in the leaves and stored there and in seeds. Plants provided our immediate predecessors (probably African apes) with all the nutrients necessary to grow and to reproduce. This required a wide selection of fruits and vegetables that were available in relatively recent times. So mankind (homo sapiens) has evolved over the past 250,000 years from vegetarians. They almost certainly had a much larger digestive system than we have today.

Early plant life was high in fibre necessary to support plants to keep them rigid and upright. Micro-organisms were needed to ferment (digest) this fibre so that when animals started to evolve, they had to have a permanent colony of micro-organisms in their digestive system. These plants, that were mainly grass species, could then be utilized but only by animals with a paunch, such as ruminants, or those such as elephants that had developed a vast fermentation vat elsewhere in their digestive tract. They were then able to graze the extensive pastures that had evolved over large areas of land. In very recent times, some of these animals were included in the diet of homo sapiens because our predecessors did not have the ability, or perhaps the inclination, to hunt animals, so that humans have only been carnivores within the past 100,000 years or so. Again, this change in dietary habits needed modification to the digestive system to cope with the highly digestible proteins in meat and milk.

Domesticated animals also provided humans with traction, manure, wool, vellum, leather and other useful by-products critical to their development and wellbeing, and eventually to establishing permanent settlements.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Until recently, the process of photosynthesis has kept the global balance between O2 and CO2 constant but the removal of our forests and pollution of the environment have upset that delicate balance. CO2 is increasing in the atmosphere at an alarming rate and with dire consequences. It is now at its highest level in 400,000 years.

In the past 300 years, CO2 levels have increased alarmingly from 288 parts per million (ppm), at the start of the industrial revolution, to over 370 ppm¹ and are continuing to increase at about 0.4%/year.² The worst offender is the burning of coal; the most potent, transport (40% of the total). For every litre of petrol burnt, 2 kg of CO2 are produced. Now consider the number of cars, trucks, buses and aircraft in motion at any one time, and you begin to realize how serious the situation really is. CO2 emissions now contribute about 60% to global warming.

Methane, 23 times the warming potential of CO2, produced by ruminant animals (cattle, sheep, goats and wild herbivores), garbage dumps, and oil/gas extraction processes, has increased from 850 parts per billion (ppb) to 1,720 ppb in 300 years. Nitrogen oxide, 296 times the warming potential of CO2, from power stations and plant fertiliser applications, sulphur hexafluoride and hydrofluorocarbons, are all contributing to global warming. Australia is one of the worst offenders, where these green house gases increased by 22% between 1990 and 2002 and are 15.8% higher than the emission the government had promised by 2012³.

Our annual per capita production of greenhouse gases is 27 tonnes per year compared to 13 tonnes in New Zealand and 21 tonnes in the US.3 It is little wonder that we have only recently signed the Kyoto Protocol and only because of a change in government. George W. Bush pronounced at a recent G8 summit in Scotland (July 2005) that signing the protocol would ‘wreck’ the US economy. Global warming will have severe economic and social impact, especially on Australia, according to the Stern report.

CSIRO measurements at Cape Grim show that CO2 concentrations are increasing here by 1.6 ppm/year. Antarctic Peninsula, which has 90 per cent of the earth’s ice, is melting rapidly and lost 75 per cent more ice in 2006 than in 1996. The Greenland ice shelf is now disappearing at 10 metres/year; the rate was one metre in 2000.⁵ Consequently the polar bear population is predicted to decrease by 30% in the next three to five decades.⁶ The decline has happened so rapidly that the bear has just been declared an endangered species.

In his visit to Australia in early 2005, David Suzuki, a world leader in sustainable ecology, commented in an interview, ‘Your Prime Minister [John Howard] and George Bush are holding the environment hostage; they’re no better than terrorists’.

The Great Barrier Reef, under increasing threat from these emissions and water pollution, gets a mention only when a ship runs aground on the coral. It may not be alive in the near future.

A 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 in Australia, necessary to combat climate change, would cost $75 billion in new infrastructure, and double the cost of electricity.

Food production will be affected. A 1ºC increase in average night time global warming is predicted to reduce rice yields in Asia by 10%⁹ and likely in some other food crops.

Recent heat waves in the UK increased the amount of nitrogen dioxide in the air to reach dangerous levels in urban areas. Sulphur dioxide, with water and oxygen, produce sulphuric acid; ozone (O3), formed when polluting chemicals react with sunlight, and particulates belched out of diesel motors play havoc with our health - not only those who already have respiratory problems, but also for those who don’t. Oxygen radical production is greatly increased as a consequence of inhaling this foreign material and for those people, the need for dietary antioxidants will increase substantially. And we pose the question as to why our rates of cancer are increasing alarmingly?

‘The poorest developing countries will be hit hardest and earliest by climate change even though they have contributed little to causing the problem.’

The Stern Report

Some environmental pollutants are chemical irritants that affect our breathing system right down to the tiny alveoli in our lungs so that those with pre-existing lung conditions are particularly at risk. The previous heat wave in the UK was in 2003, when at least 700 died through poor air quality.¹⁰

What are the sources of generating power that minimise production of greenhouse gases? Geothermal power, solar, wind and tide are friendly solutions but cannot possibly meet the predicted increase for energy of 50% by 2020.¹¹ Nuclear power, opposed by many ‘green organisations’, produces only 10% of greenhouse gas emissions and little health injury compared to coal.

‘If humans keep doing things the same way for the first half of this century, I believe the collapse of civilisation due to climate change is inevitable.’

Tim Flannery¹²

With two notable exceptions, nuclear energy has been shown to be safe with over 440 power plants in 30 countries¹¹ and 30 reactors under construction. It is the only immediate practical way forward to meet Australia’s emerging energy crisis.

The difficulty is not mining the uranium (although that has a significant environmental cost) but getting rid of nuclear waste. Although this has yet to be resolved, it will be much easier when compared to trying to repair the ongoing damage to the ozone layer. And in the meantime, there is apparently no harm in selling uranium to the Chinese or Indians (India has yet to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 1968) for peaceful purposes, or whatever other use they may decide to use it for.

There are other concerns which relate to the food we eat and the air we breathe. Persistent organic polluters (POPs) (aldrin, toxaphene) are endocrine disrupters particularly in low concentrations and tend to accumulate in fat tissue. They are man-made and persist in the environment long after they are banned (e.g. DDT). Several of these chemicals are still used in some countries. Residues can be found in the fat tissue of polar bears that exhibit both male and female characteristics.¹³

Particulate emissions from burning fossil fuels (especially diesel oil) are now the largest threat to human health in our cities.¹⁴ Many organic solvents and paints are also affecting our respiratory systems and, in total, these emissions may shorten life expectancy by one to two years.

As we continue to tinker with nature on the assumption that mankind knows best and has the solutions to problems large and small, the evidence is that the world we now inhabit will become less and less liveable. Our environment is deteriorating by the year and almost certainly food production will suffer. The award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore for his Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, is a wakeup call to politicians, that climate change is at the top of the agenda of global problems.

ENERGY IN PRACTICE

It is not easy to discuss energy and how it is used without going into great detail and is really beyond the scope of this book. This section will attempt to simplify and summarise the salient points. For those wishing to delve further into the topic, there is an expanded section in Appendix 1 with references.

The human body is not unlike a motor car. We are a combustion engine. Our fuel is food. Our need is oxygen to combust that food, and the exhaust gases are carbon dioxide and water vapour. The residues are faeces, urine and methane. Like the automobile, we produce heat in direct proportion to the amount of food we burn. This is now measured in kilojoules (kJ). It used to be in the larger kilocalorie (kcal). Both are given throughout this book (1 kilocalorie = 4.18 kilojoules).

Basal Metabolism (BM)

Our idling speed is when we are at rest. This is our basal or minimum metabolism. When sleeping, BM is marginally lower. The value varies depending on age. It gradually decreases as we get older. A fat person has a lower BM than a lean person of the same weight and age because fat has a much lower rate of metabolism than lean (more active) tissue. Also, a heavy person has a lower BM than a light person when expressed on a kJ per kg bodyweight. This is because heat is lost mainly from the body surface. The shape of the human body is closer to that of a sphere especially when a person becomes rotund. As a sphere increases in size, surface area of the sphere increases at a lesser rate than its weight.

A woman has normally a lower BM than a man of the same age and weight. This is partly due to a woman normally having more body fat than a man and fat has a much lower metabolism than lean tissue.

Activity

When we increase our activity we expend more energy. The further a car goes the more fuel it needs. When a car travels fast, the less efficient it becomes and the more fuel it requires per km travelled. When we increase our activity level, we also need more food energy, or meet it from our body fat and carbohydrate (glycogen) reserves. We also tend to become less efficient in utilizing energy. Different activities and their energy costs are discussed in detail in Chapter 18. They may be expressed as an increment (%) of BM. Activity has an enormous effect on total daily energy expenditure. For heavy, manual work, the daily energy expenditure can be two to three times BM, and cycling in the Tour de France almost five times. For a very sedentary person, daily energy expenditure may be only 25% above BM. Detailed calculations of the energy needs for activities of a hypothetical housewife is given in Table 1 (Appendix 1). Her calculated increment is 71% of BM.

Growth, Pregnancy and Lactation

Our analogy with the car must temporarily stop here since the car stays the same size and can not reproduce. Energy is deposited as protein and fat during growth. Energy in fat is about seven times as much as protein because lean tissue contains almost 80% water and fat tissue only 10%, additional energy is needed to transform food into tissue energy. This is much greater for protein than for fat. Rate of growth is also important in determining how much energy is needed as are the proportions of fat and lean tissue. It is relatively high in a baby but declines rapidly so that on a daily basis, the extra energy for growth is only about 5% of daily food energy intake for a 10-12 year old child, and 1% when an adolescent.

The early stages of pregnancy will have little influence on maternal, daily energy needs but after about five months this will start to become substantial until birth. The energy requirements are for both the foetus and the contents of reproduction (uterine contents). Obviously foetal weight and numbers will determine energy requirement during pregnancy but near term the requirement for pregnancy increases to about 35% of BM.

Lactation is a large additional demand on energy supply. The quantity and composition of breast milk changes with time but the transformation of food energy to milk energy is very efficient -about 80%. The average increment is normally about 30-35% of the mother’s total daily energy expenditure at peak lactation, usually 3-4 months after birth.

When the car has been in use for many kilometres it goes to a garage for a service; after many more kilometres, it is ready for a tune up. We rest up by going to sleep at night. And when very tired, we take our annual holidays to recover.

One way that one can lower BM is by meditating. This is not only giving the system an unusual rest but there are documented benefits, not least are increased life expectancy and reduced rate of mortality due to cancer. (See references 23, 24)

Food Energy

The quality of the fuel determines how efficiently the car will perform. There are also additives to fuel in order to improve car performance. These will also determine how quickly the car can accelerate and its maximum speed. So there are different octane fuels for different engines and different purposes. So too do we need a mix of different foods depending on our lifestyle. That mix may be of foods providing various nutrients and different amounts of fat, carbohydrate and protein. Those few, now doing heavy work, may need energy-dense foods and some containing fat. Elite endurance athletes appear to thrive on a readily-available source of carbohydrate in either liquid or solid form. A high carbohydrate diet has been shown to extend time to exhaustion compared to a high fat diet.¹⁵ The energy in 1g of fat is twice that in the same weight of carbohydrate and protein, although protein is too precious to use as an energy source instead of being transformed into lean tissue. If used for energy, there is substantial loss of protein nitrogen as urea in urine; this is a very wasteful process.

Not all of the energy in foods is available; some is lost in digesting the food and the undigested residues appear as faeces. The widest variation is in carbohydrate because it often contains important amounts of dietary fibre (see Chapter 6). This we are unable to digest although some is fermented by micro-organisms in the colon and some of the end products are absorbed. There are further losses of energy depending on whether these macronutrients are used directly to drive the body’s metabolism or stored as tissue. Irrespective of which, protein has the largest loss.

It is beyond this discussion to introduce additives in the form of micro nutrients (mineral and vitamins) and numerous other products on the market that claim to enhance performance. Although some may have a beneficial effect, the scientific evidence supporting their use is thin (see Chapter 14 Functional Foods).

The 18th century English scientist Joseph Priestly,17 observed that, ‘in an enclosed space: (a) a flame makes air unfit for a flame, (b) a mouse makes air unfit for a mouse, (c) a mouse makes air unfit for a flame, and (d) a flame goes out at about the same time as the mouse dies’.

These simple observations are the basis of our understanding of the energy metabolism of humans and animals.

APPENDIX I

AT THE START

Before Lavoisier was beheaded on May 8, 1794 during the French Revolution, he had demonstrated with Laplace in 1780 that a guinea pig, when placed in an insulated chamber surrounded by ice, melted the ice at a constant rate.¹⁶ By measuring the amount of water produced, and knowing that to melt each gram of water, there was a need for 355 joules (80 calories) of heat, Lavoisier was able to determine the guinea pig’s heat production over ten hours.

Later, the two scientists collected the carbon dioxide expired by the guinea pig, thereby demonstrating that a fundamental relationship existed between heat produced, oxygen consumed and carbon dioxide expired. Lavoisier had measured heat production by direct means (melting ice), and also by indirect means (respiratory gaseous exchange), now the most commonly used method in research.

HOW ENERGY IS TRANSFORMED

There is one natural law which keeps the whole global system in balance, and that is the Law of Conservation of Energy. This states that: ‘energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but only transformed from one form to another’. Although we have seen that man has disrupted the important balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide, the Law of Conservation of Energy still holds true.

The forms of energy that we are interested in are:

1. mechanical for activity,

2. energy to maintain a constant body temperature,

3. energy to ‘drive’ the system, and

4. energy deposited in growth - mainly lean and fat tissues, and in

5. body secretions such as milk.

The four forms of energy in our foods and beverages are:

1. carbohydrates,

2. proteins,

3. fats, and

4. alcohol.

Dietary carbohydrate is usually our immediate source of energy. It normally comprises about 40-50% of our food energy intake.

BASAL METABOLISM

A colleague has told me that the partitioning of energy is a dated concept and is now only used as a convenience. That may be so, but it is still a useful way of explaining the main purposes of how energy is used and in what form it is stored in the body.

The first demand on our energy supply is to meet our basal or minimum metabolism (BM) or ‘idling speed’. The liver and brain account for almost half of BM. But the heat lost from the brain is fairly constant, irrespective of level of activity, and is normally fuelled by glucose.

Although basal metabolism is our minimal requirement for energy, it is usually the largest component of our energy expenditure because it is with us 24 hours a day.

Heat produced is normally equal to the energy used. This used to be measured in calories but more recently in joules. A calorie (c) is the amount of heat necessary to raise the temperature of 1g of water from 14.5 to 15.5oC. It is too small to be of any significance and a kilocalorie (c x 1000 = 1 kcal) is more common. A megacalorie (Mcal) is one million c. Today the official term for energy is the joule (j) which is c x 4.184, or kilojoule (1000 x j) where 1kJ =1 kcal x 4.184. Both figures are provided throughout this book.

Conditions under which basal metabolism using oxygen consumption is measured are specific. The subject, without food for twelve hours, is lying down and awake; the room temperature is comfortable. It is akin to resting comfortably in bed.

However an individual’s basal metabolism depends on several factors: age, weight and the amount of fat and protein in body tissues. As people get heavier they lose more heat and need more food to provide energy equivalent to that lost as heat. We lose heat from our body surface and as we grow bigger and get heavier our surface area does not increase at the same rate as our body weight, but at a lesser rate.

For example, if an elephant had the same heat loss per kg of body weight as a mouse, it would burst into flames. Nature has taken care of this for mature animals with the Surface Area Law, or metabolic size (body weight ⁰.⁷⁵). This means that the metabolic size of a 40 g mouse is 90 g and a 1000 kg elephant only 178 kg. So relative to its size, the mouse must spend a lot more time searching for food than does the elephant.

If I weigh 70 kg my metabolic size is 24.2 kg but if my brother weighs 120 kg (71% heavier), his is just 36.2 kg (51% greater).

For all warm-blooded adult animals, from mice to elephants, including man, there is a general equation (293 kJ or 70 kcal x body weight in kg ⁰.⁷⁵)¹⁷ by which basal metabolism can be calculated approximately over 24 hours.

This is a very important concept, because if I increase my body weight (70 kg) to that of my brother (120kg), my basal metabolism increases from 7,091 kJ (1694 kcal) to only 10,606 kJ (2,534 kcal)/day; that is an increase of only 51%, but my weight has increased by 71%. This has serious consequences for the obese who need to eat less food per kg to maintain themselves as they get heavier.

This general equation needs to be refined for humans. From 18 to 60 years of age, basal metabolism at the same bodyweight declines slowly but after 60 it declines rapidly. In younger people, below 18 years, it is at its highest (see Table 1).

Table 1. Basal metabolism (MJ and Mcal/day) of males and females at different ages but at the same body weight of 65 kg using the prediction equations of Schofield:¹⁸

From data in Table 1, those over 60 have a much lower basal metabolism than that predicted using our general equation. The main reason for this decline is that muscle (lean tissue) has a high rate of metabolism. It usually contributes about 30% to basal metabolism¹⁹ and is generated mainly by the rapid turnover of amino acids, the building blocks of tissue protein. Turnover is especially high for gut tissue protein.

When we get older, amino acid turnover declines, and we are usually losing muscle mass particularly if we don’t exercise regularly. Also, as people age, they tend to put on weight. This is mainly fat tissue.

In contrast to protein, the turnover of adipose tissue (fat) in the body, compared to lean tissue, is very slow. It is therefore assumed that the heat produced by fat tissue is also low. So the effect of body fat on basal metabolism is of great significance to those overweight and obese.

Also, females have a lower metabolism than males at the same weight (see Table 1). This may make it easier for women to put on weight than it is for men. One explanation for gender difference in metabolism is the tendency for women normally to be fatter than men. A plump man is considered to have 15% body fat; this amount is taken to be ‘thin’ for a woman. An obese man is 20% fat and an obese woman 30% body fat.²⁰

The low metabolism (heat production) of fat tissue is not accepted by everyone, but a study in 1994 confirmed this. It was found that the basal metabolism of 16 normal (15% body fat), 16 overweight (22% body fat) and 14 obese (36% body fat) children aged 9-10 years was similar even though their bodyweights ranged from 32 kg (normal) to 46 kg (obese).²¹ Clearly extra fat contributed little to their metabolism otherwise their BM

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