Hi, I’m Dr. Chad Larson. I just thought I’d shoot another video like I used to, out here in nature. I just passed the four mile mark on a ruck that I’m doing with a little over forty-pound pack. It’s a beautiful day here in SoCal. We have the lagoon just there in the background and the ocean beyond that. So it’s an awesome hike out here today.
Today I just wanted to give a little shout out to the parents who will be taking their kids back to school here pretty soon. Maybe in some places they’ve already actually gone back to school. And there’s obviously going to be lots of discussion around what we can do to protect kids from the virus. Lots of discussions around mask wearing, and whether they should get vaccinated or not get vaccinated. But surprisingly, there’s zero information about diet. Or it’s shocking but I guess not too surprising in the pharmaceutical dominated culture that we live in. But there needs to be some attention paid to it. And there’s an interesting study that’s really telling and unfortunate, but I want to shed some light on it and talk about what we can do to kind of reverse these statistics. It was just published a few days ago in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and it’s a study from the Friedman Nutrition Science and Policy School out of Tufts University.
This study looked at over 33,000 teenagers and surveyed them and their diets. What they found is that two-thirds of the diets are dominated by ultra-processed food. Ultra-processed food is a lot of the things that you would think of like cookies and cakes and muffins and stuff like that. But it also includes a lot of the frozen foods that kids are eating for lunch such as frozen pizzas, frozen burritos, and packaged, ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat prepared foods. I don’t even know the names of these, otherwise I’d be happy to throw out some actual names, but you know what I’m talking about. It’s these packaged foods that are highly processed. When you look at the contents of these packages, you see nothing that looks like anything that nature produced. That’s a good sign that a food is ultra-processed.
Even a food that you might think of as whole grain bread, and the packaging might describe as whole grain bread, is not. It’s ultra-processed bread. There’s no whole grain bread that grows from trees or something. You just can’t find it in nature, it doesn’t exist. It takes massive processing. It’s really the processing of these mostly grain-based foods, but you can find it in processed meat products as well.
-Dr. Chad Larson
These processed grain-based foods, we just don’t eat them in the whole form. It just doesn’t happen. If you’re eating anything that’s grain-based it’s likely to be ultra-processed. And how does that weave into the conversation of the immune system? Well, this pandemic virus penetrates through our mucosal immune system which is very directly related to the foods that we consume. And there’s zero conversation going on about this. Yet it’s two thirds of diets. And the study of these 33,000 teenagers was a twenty year study, so it’s a very robust study.
And the striking thing that they found is that, although historically this kind of diet was seen mostly among people of lower socioeconomic status, that is no longer true. This study indicated that it’s across all socioeconomic domains. So what does that mean? It means that this is actually a choice. It’s not just people of lower socioeconomic means that might live in a food desert where they have little to no access to natural whole foods, and they have to get convenience store packaged foods. This is now a choice, and it’s across all socioeconomic levels. So it includes people who have the means to purchase healthy, whole foods and fresh foods, but they’re choosing not to. “I’m choosing to give my teenager two thirds of their diet in ultra-processed food.”
And yet we’re wondering if we should mask up or vaccinate our kids? How about we just start with phase one? How about we give them the nutrition necessary to even mount an immune reaction, to help support their mucosal immune system? There are layers and layers of our mucosal immune system that are very dependent on certain nutrients that are going to be completely absent in a two-thirds ultra-processed diet. So, how about we reverse that and let’s go with a diet that is at least two thirds made up of natural whole foods? The kind of food that you can look at and go, “okay, I can tell that this was produced by nature and not by some machine.”
I’m not saying those foods should go to zero; maybe only a third or less of the diet. But two thirds of the dominant portion of the diet should definitely contain whole natural foods, especially in a pandemic situation like this where our immune systems need to be tip-top. This is not the time to go, “okay let’s eat a bunch of comfort food.” This is the time to really double down on what nature has provided for us, and eat these foods in their whole most natural form.
And we could have the discussion of whether or not these need to be organic. That’s maybe a slightly separate discussion. But at the very least, you want to eat these foods in the form nature intended. Maybe we should at least go organic on the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen.” The EWG.org Dirty Dozen are the top 12 foods that have the highest amount of pesticide residue. Just those twelve foods would be a good place to start, so maybe you should get those ones organic. Foods that aren’t on that list maybe don’t need to be organic, as far as produce, because they don’t have the amount of pesticide residue that would be concerning. But those dirty dozen would be a good start.
But even putting that conversation aside, it’s just about making an effort to have fresh, whole foods. This is so key for people’s immune systems, especially kids that are still developing and teenagers. So it’s really important to make sure that these foods are dominant in people’s diets, and it’s not that hard. It’s a choice, and hopefully people will get this message. Again this is a very robust study from the top people in the industry of nutrition science, really sounding the alarm and letting us know this information. I will keep reading the studies and bringing you the information. Until next time, keep it real.