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What Kind of World Produces Deadly Food?

Two studies released this weak point in the same direction: Unhealthy foods point to an unhealthy way of life.

One study indicates that people who live in neighborhoods with fast food restaurants are more likely to have strokes caused by blood clots than people who live in neighborhoods without any fast food restaurants. The other study finds that the mineral content of vegetables has decreased over the last 50 years. (Another study about 4 years ago found the same thing.)

These studies leave a great deal to be explored. What factors are most to blame for the reduced mineral content in vegetables: Where vegetables are grown, how they are stored and sold, or the varieties of vegetables that are used? What is it about neighborhoods that have fast food restaurants that makes it more likely for people living there to have strokes: The fast food itself, pollution in the neighborhoods, or the kind of people who live in the kind of places where fast food is sold?

Still, what both studies indicate is that the methods we have developed for feeding our growing population over the last century may keep our bellies full, but they aren’t so healthy for our bodies. That’s part of a very long historical trend that goes back far beyond just the Industrial Revolution. There is strong archaeological evidence that revolutions in food production, going all the way back to the development of agriculture may have supported larger populations through lowered death rates, but created degraded health among those who survived.

You could say that the average health of humans has remained the same throughout history, I suppose, if you count death as the the ultimate malady. Is it possible to improve our overall health at all, or can we only shift between a relative emphasis on mortality and quality of life?

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