Another year has passed, and what a year it has been! Apologies to Clint Eastwood for the title of this post. I hope that he won’t track me down to make his day! Just when it looked like we would emerge from the COVID plague, a natural disaster hit! It became a very personal year for me, one in which events overwhelmed me as well as impacting the worlds of processed and ultra-processed foods. I am in transition. How will 2023 shape my perspective and the direction of this blog? Only time will tell.
The Good. It was a good year for confronting the gorilla in the room, NOVA. Almost universally accepted in the press, NOVA labelled and demonized foods they did not like. Ultra-processed foods, suggested NOVA, were responsible for shortened lifespans and most chronic diseases. At last, there was pushback from scientific journal articles, a written debate, and an oral one at the annual IFT meeting. In a surprise, the two most cogent oral debaters were an NIH scientist and a futurist. While Marion Nestle and Michael Gormley rehashed old arguments, Kevin Hall introduced scientific reason and Amy Webb pleaded for nuance in the discussion.
The Indeterminate. The White House had its first conference on food, nutrition, and health since 1969. These conferences are very important. The one in 1969 established fat as the major harmful component in food. All the king’s horses and all the king’s experts could not get carbohydrates, with specific reference to sugar, to be public enemy number one. This conference has established what constitutes a healthy food. Did they get it right? What matters is that the definition will be the government standard for the next few decades and the basis for all food debates. I confess that I have not paid this issue the attention it deserves as I was distracted.
The Ugly was personal. Hurricane Ian hit the coast of Southwest Florida and became a life-changing event for me. It left an eight-week gap in the posts on this site. It caused me anguish and led to soul searching. I still contemplate how it will affect my commitment to this site.
Themes. Hunger both at home and abroad were important themes I took on this year. As the health status of Americans remains level, lifespans around the world are catching up. Food cravings and how they lead to the consumption of a less healthy diet was another theme. Supply chains affect what is available to us with particular relevance to perishable fruits and vegetables. An emphasis on nutrients in foods captured the most posts on the site. Vitamins occupy much of what we learn about foods on the net, and almost all of what we read is either wrong or misleading. Even the questions asked are wrong. Controversy over consumption of protein from animals leads to a search for alternatives from plants, cultured animal cells, and insects. But are these sources as nutritious as those in intact, whole foods? Many posts were cast in the context of global climate change and implications for fresh and processed foods.
Milestones. The 300th post on the site appeared on June 21 titled Global climate change—a personal journey describing my switch from skeptic to believer. The number of views on the site was off this year from the high of 19,046 last year. Eight missed posts between early October and late November were only part of the reason. The trend from 2020 to 2021 showed a leveling-off effect. The site was on track to record fewer visitors and views without the Ian interruption. In addition, I wrote about topics that I thought were of particular importance rather than playing to the interests of my readers.
Best books reviewed in 2022. My focus this year was on extending my knowledge base rather than criticizing perspectives that diverged from mine. I made some very good selections. Among the top ones were
Top Ten Posts
Biggest surprise was that three of these choices were posted this year—numbers 1, 7, and 9. Last year none of the Top 10 were posted in 2021. No posts in 2021 made this year’s notables either. Ones I wrote in 2017 (3, 5 & 6) and 2018 (2 & 8) resulted in a more lasting impact.
Future directions remain uncertain. I am still interested in ultra-processed foods, but I am not sure that I have much more to say about the topic. Linn Steward, a friend and critic of my views, has encouraged me to pursue the new definition of healthiness and the effects of the food matrix on quality. There is way too much information on what makes a food healthy to distill the message down to a few, cogent posts. There is way too little information on the food matrix to go beyond a single post. I am looking for book-length materials on each topic to stimulate discussion. On specific topics I prefer books to blogs, articles on the net or in scientific journals. A book gives the author an opportunity to develop a core idea and explore its ramifications. It also reveals shallow ideas where there is little there there. I may also look beyond food to a broader science perspective.
New Year’s resolutions. Last year I resolved to comment less on LinkedIn. I utterly failed. I am too emotional. I come off as a troll in pretend discussions with predetermined conclusions. I need to avoid those discussions. I may engage in a few serious ones that encourage give-and-take. Like everything else these days, polarization rules. I may try to repost some of my more controversial perspectives on the site to see what kind of response I get.
Coming Soon: In defense of the Food Safety and Modernization Act