This week Medscape posted an article written by gastroenterologist Diane L. Barsky entitled "The Anti-inflammatory Diet's Surprising Benefits in Children." In her discussion, Dr. Barsky describes a diet that combines traditional Asian and Mediterranean food culture. This fusion diet is rich in fresh foods, fruits and vegetables, and legumes while minimizing the intake of processed foods, high-fructose corn syrup, and saturated animal fat. Research has shown that this anti-inflammatory diet benefits children suffering from allergies, asthma, obesity, fatty liver, and, even, ADD and ADHD.
From those of us who consider good diet indispensable for good health, the only thing that is startling is the fact that a medical doctor--a gastroenterologist, no less--would find the multitude of advantages of healthful eating surprising. Far from being beneficial, our standard diet today is barely even fit for human consumption. Until very recently in our history, human beings had always eaten fresh, natural foods with less meat and more vegetables. The modern inventions of trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, and chemical additives in concert with contemporary farming and ranching have led to what amounts to a long-term experiment to determine if human health can be maintained on a diet of engineered foods.
If the health of adults is affected by poor food choices, it stands to reason that children are even more at risk. Thousands of years of astute Chinese observation have revealed several important things about children and their diets. First, our children come into this world with immature digestive function. For this reason, nature provides us a sublime, nourishing food in liquid form, mother's milk. Once infants begin reaching out for solid food, it is appropriate to slowly introduce bland, digestible, nourishing food into their diets and wean them off breast milk. Finally, between the ages of 5 to 6, human beings develop the capacity to digest a wide variety of foods, and our parents can feed us more like adults. In other words, when it comes to diet, kids are especially vulnerable.
Modern life has resulted, however, in widespread amnesia, and we know longer rely on the grand legacy of human wisdom to feed our offspring. Fake breast milk, a manufactured blend of powdered beans or animal dairy derivatives enhanced with added chemical nutrients, often replaces nature's live elixir. Instead of regular meals, we instill a lifetime of comfort eating in infants by feeding them on demand. Finally, once solid food is on the menu, we rush to try out new and unfamiliar foods, delighted when an expression of happy satisfaction signals that a child has succumbed to the seduction of an adult food.
Putting our faith in food scientists, we reason that if it does not hurt us then it must be safe for our children. In a time when diet-related heart disease, diabetes, and obesity are epidemic, we are obviously in denial about the safety of our modern diet. Furthermore, we sadly see all of the negative consequences of contemporary eating most apparently in our children. The good news is that medical scientists are now gathering the evidence needed to show the dangers of engineered foods designed by their colleagues in the food industry, thus proving scientifically what any observant person with common sense should already know.