Food Fix: How to Save Our Health, Our Economy, Our Communities, and Our Planet — One Bite at a Time by Mark Hyman

Turns out my brother and sister-in-law are friends with Dr. Hyman out in L.A., and they have been urging me to read his stuff over the years, so I picked this up when it came out. Arguably, I learned as much from this book as I did with any book I read over the last year — and it might not even be close. Hyman urges all of us to truly try and understand how our food system works, where our food comes from, what is in the food we eat, and how this whole messed up system is completely destroying the environment around us. The system is in fact broken, but it is not broken beyond repair, and Hyman does offer many practical tips that we can all follow to do our part and make the world a healthier and more sustainable place. Probably the most impactful thing that I took from this book was to sign up for a local compost service, thereby reducing our family’s food waste and contributing to food regeneration in our surrounding community. Hyman is a wonderful writer and doesn’t preach — he simply thinks that there is a better way. And there is.

  • Our diet is the number one cause of death, disability and suffering in the world
  • Lifestyle caused illnesses such as heart disease kill nearly 50 million people a year, more than twice as many as die from infectious disease
  • Food industry — largest collective industry in the world, 15 trillion, 17% of world economy
  • 95 trillion dollars, estimate of the burden put on our economy by chronic disease over the next 35 years in both direct health care costs and lost productivity and disability
  • 2 percent of our farmland is used to grow fruits and veggies
  • 59% of our farmland used to grow commodity crops (corn, wheat, soy)
  • Congressional Research — by 2025, 48% of our federal spending will be for health programs such as Medicare, Said
  • Starbucks spends more on health care than on coffee beans
  • 1 million farmworkers in america — die at 7x rate of other workers
  • most of our food comes from just 12 plant varieties and five animal species, threatening food security
  • in all ecosystems, complexity is health; simplicity makes systems vulnerable
  • all the costs of food need to be quantified and measured/what’s measured is managed
  • true cost accounting — direct health care costs, damage to climate and environment, social justice impacts
  • consolidation and centralization of seed production means that we have less food biodiversity and resiliency, which threatens food security
  • dent corn — used for food oils (99% of corn produced)
  • 27% of cropland is used to grow food for humans; 67% used to grow food for factory farmed animals
  • we have lost a third of all of our topsoil (which took billions of years to create) in the last 150 years
  • difference between dirt and soil — dirt requires massive inputs of fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, and water just to grow food; soil is the biggest carbon sink on the planet
  • paris agreement didn’t mention food system is bigger cause of climate change than the energy sector
  • 5% of water on the planet is fresh water
  • soil, not oil — 2019 UN report, 300B invested in regenerative agriculture would be enough to restore 900 hectares of the 2 billion hectares (5 million acres) of degraded land in the world, build soil, slow down CC enough to give us more than 20 years to innovate solutions
  • one fifth of fossil fuels are used for agriculture and our food system; more than all the transportation from cars, planes, and ships combined
  • nitrogen rich fertilizer — runoff destroying seafood
  • telling americans to eat less and exercise more just blames the victim
  • water is more than 4x cost of soda
  • 40% of food wasted — food waste is the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet, after the U.S. and China
  • 2050–200M to 1B climate refugees
  • high fructose corn syrup — sugar sweetened beverages kill 186,000 people a year from heart disease, diabetes, cancer
  • fast food burger and soda are more expensive than a grass fed steak and a glass of water when true cost is taken into account
  • SNAP is not leveraged to improve nutrition or health of recipients
  • Global Burden of Disease Study — diet without enough healthy food accounted for 11M deaths and 255M years of disability and life years lost (study covered a 27 year period)
  • 70% of death worldwide from noncommunicable diseases
  • the most obese adults and children are the most malnourished
  • 800M people go to bed hungry and 2B nutrient deficiencies; 2.1B go to bed every night overweight
  • 78% of worlds population does not eat minimum of fruits and veggies every day
  • US life expectancy on the decline 3 years in a row; for 4M years of human evolution life expectancy increased
  • children born today will live shorter, sicker lives than their parents
  • Regeneratively raised animals — prevent eco and climate harm but restore ecosystems and reverse climate change
  • Listen to your body — whole food, aspirational, not perfect, whole plants, colored veggies, healthy fats, no till organic, regeneratively raised animals, pasture raised eggs, sustainably raised fish, low mercury fish, high omega 3 fish, unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, beans (FYI grass fed beef is more sustainably grown than beans which require a ton of irrigation and water)
  • 75% of the world is lactose intolerant — a2 casein, goat or sheep products instead of cow dairy
  • food that is good for you is also good for the environment
  • patients that show up at hospitals are largely nutritionally vulnerable — sickest 5% of patients account for 50% of overall health care costs in the US
  • Food policies must be aligned with health care policies
  • Reimburse food as medicine — giving people good food instead of drugs saves money — food savings account — reimbursement to pay for functional medicine — integrate nutrition into health care (changing licensing exams to include nutrition, forcing medical school curriculums to change
  • 80% of our health is determined by our lifestyle our social environment and our genes
  • Western diet — worst diet on planet and we shipped it to everyone
  • Yum brands — 60% of profits come from outside US
  • obesity rates have doubled in more than 70 countries since 1980 and tripled in children; two thirds of the worlds obese live in low and middle income countries
  • more overweight people on earth than there are people who are hungry; overweight and malnourished
  • Cuba — no one overweight (no chains or big brands)
  • in poor countries, fast food companies market their brands as “aspirational”
  • india is now known as the diabetes capital of the world; 73M people, heart disease as India’s number 1 killer
  • 2030–130M people in china will have diabetes; 30 years ago it was 1 in 150 people, so 1 in 10
  • one in 10 children in mexico have diabetes
  • half of all buddhist monks in Thailand are obese and 10% diabetic because they sip on soft drinks all day
  • Chile has had success fighting big foods and big companies — warning logo’s, less marketing, restrictions for kids
  • israel — warning labels for junk food, positive logos for nutritious foods
  • warren buffet — rising health care costs “tapeworm” of business
  • tobacco taxes were successful — taxes on soda can help
  • summers/bloomberg — people are price sensitive, better to tax things we want to discourage
  • government has a responsibility to protect the health of it’s citizens
  • poor pay a higher share of their income on them (junk food taxes) but they also suffer a larger share of the adverse consequences for health
  • taxes on bad food are combined with incentives and price reductions on healthy foods — benefit
  • reasonable regulations are good for society
  • quality of calories matters more than the quantity — big gulp of 750 cal is not the same as 21 cups of broccoli
  • junk food tax can also pay for programming, parks, rec, etc (Philly)
  • soda taxes work — tiered for based on the amount of sugar a product contains — incentivizes companies to avoid the highest tax by reformulating their products so they contain less sugar
  • mexico — one year after tax, sales of soft drinks went down 12 percent while sales of bottled water went up 4% — first hard evidence of taxes nudging people in the right direction
  • save almost 19,000 lives
  • give companies incentives for marketing, ads and developing healthy foods
  • Marion Nestle — excise taxes that increase the price of soft drinks by at least 20% and linking revenue to support of health, activity, schools, community benefit
  • eight agencies oversee governments food policies and they work in silo
  • people who use SNAP have high rates of heart disease, diabetes and death compared to rest of population
  • 10M people per month — lower quality diets, lack of good calories
  • companies time their junk food marketing on SNAP recipient days (when they get money)
  • soft drinks far more profitable than fresh produce — SNAP has no nutrition standards
  • $40/week — you buy cheap food that comes in large quantities (chips) — can’t buy hot foods!!!
  • need healthy incentives and junk food prohibition — eliminate worst foods while making the best foods more affordable and acessible
  • this would also increase business for small farmers
  • prevent at least 1.93M cardiovascular disease events and at net savings of 40B in health care costs
  • true number of lobbyists working in washington is 100,000
  • 97% of the time the soda industry took positions antagonistic to public health, opposing limits to marketing junk food to kids or for better child nutrition
  • lobbyists spent time to pass laws shielding them from obesity related lawsuits
  • industry has learned from tobacco that litigation is a powerful public interest tool
  • genetically modifying crops has little to no benefit to crop yields — bad for environment — GMO plants are the most pesticide and herbicide laden crops — 3/4 of food in supermarkets contain them
  • food and biotech industries together spent a combined 143M lobbying against GMO labeling between 2013–2015
  • Grocery Manufacturers Association — 50M between 2005–2016 lobbying — astroturfing = creating fake grassroots campaigns against policies and regulations to dupe the public
  • almond milk — orchards draining aquifers in Cali and require large amounts of nitrogen fertilizer
  • Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers — highly processed foods whose raw materials are grown through extractive, not regenerative agriculture
  • Non GMO seal/USDA Organic Seal/Non GMO retailers, locally sourced meat
  • Farm Bill — doles out billions in subsidies and crop insurance for farmers
  • Hegstead — Harvard physician, got paid 50K in New England Journal of Medicine to give sugar a pass
  • 1992 food guide pyramid — bread, rice, cereal, pasta — epidemic
  • Trump — limited research that can be reviewed to establish new guidelines
  • We heavily subsidize soybeans, wheat, rice, sorghum, milk, meat — between 1993 and 2013, farm billed doled out 170B to farmers and large agribusiness to finance production of these foods — commodity prices go down and junk food is cheap and plentiful, sugary drink costs go down and fruit and veggie costs go up
  • 1% of american grown corn is sold and eaten as whole corn
  • Big AG grows 500 more calories per person per day than it did 25 years ago
  • if farmers want to diversify and grow fruits and veggies they lose government support
  • as a result of farm subsidies, taxpayers foot the bill for the epidemic and underwrite production of junk food
  • CDC — people who had highest intake of federally subsidies foods had a nearly 40% greater likelihood of being obese
  • 2% of land is used to grow fruits and veggies vs. 59% for commodity crops
  • Food Czar? subsidies system — farmers need incentives to grow more nutritious foods using regenerative practices
  • kids today are fatter than ever/spend more time at school than any other place besides home
  • School Nutrition Association — watered down criteria for what could qualify as nutritious and pushed for a clause that allowed schools to opt out of standards
  • 70% of elementary and middle school students in America see ads for fast food, candy and soft drinks in schools
  • Coke and McDonalds spend 1.8B marketing products to children every year; average child sees between two and 14 years old sees 10 to 11 ads prepay
  • children under age 8 don’t recognize the difference between TV commercials and the programs their watching
  • stealth marketing — embedded advertising in movies and TV
  • exposure to just a single 30 second fast food commercial is enough to instill brand and product preferences in a child, and repeated exposure can set the stage for that child to become a lifelong customer — dysfunctional eating and impulsive behaviors
  • slight increases in the amount of time kids spend viewing junk food ads can increase their odds of becoming obese by 20%
  • 10% of children in US have fatty liver disease
  • Boston — Jill Shah, “Hub and Spoke” model — no prepackaged food in schools, schools that have full service prep kitchens would prep food for nearby schools/combi ovens — saved $3.41 per meal, eating school meals increased by 15% — My Way Cafe
  • Salad bars/no junk food on menus/wellness in the schools NYC — recent culinary grads in public schools for 3 years to help cafeteria workers how to make nutritious meals from scratch/ban chocolate milk/farm to school programs/school gardens/basic cooking skills classes
  • junk food ads for kids need to end — would reduce the number of overweight children and adolescents in america by 14 to 18 percent
  • UK — strictest standards in the world
  • limit screen time — linked to ADD, second biggest driver of obesity after sugar sweetened beverages
  • if you can’t pronounce an ingredient it’s probably not something you need
  • companies deliberately make ingredients hard to read
  • often use five different sugars in their products so they don’t show up high on a list
  • GRAS — generally recognized as safe
  • Industry ties in the review process
  • Today more than 10,000 additives allowed in food — america consumes 3 to 5 pounds every year
  • many chemicals and medications used in agriculture are banned in europe and other countries but still allowed in US
  • took 50 years from the time scientists found trans fat were harmful for the FDA to remove them from the GRAS list even after a lawsuit
  • NYC — 2006 trans fat ban 7% drop in hospital admissions for heart attacks and strokes
  • Nestle — Sustainable Food Policy Alliance with Unilever, Danone and Mars — doing good things
  • antibiotics accelerate growth in animals — bigger and fatter with less food so they are more profitable — resistant bacteria can survive and multiply
  • between now and 2050 cost of antibiotic resistance is estimated to climb as high as 124T
  • when FDA tries to restrict, congress threatens to shut down funding — must ban antibiotics in “disease prevention” in livestock
  • FDA — stoplight system for food labels, list ingredients by %, restrict health claims on package labels, regulation of chemical food additives
  • Coke Chief Scientist Rhona Applebaum — funneled millions in payments and funding to more than a dozen scientists and they published dubious research that benefited soft drinks and the message of “energy balance”
  • coke provided more than 120M to universities health organizations and institutions between 2010 and 2015
  • food industry spends 12B year in funding nutrition studies (NIH spends 1B); studies funded by food industry are 8 to 50x more likely to find a positive outcome for their products
  • borrowing tactics from tobacco
  • industry sponsored food studies have a 30% greater likelihood of reporting conclusions favorable to sponsors
  • sugar execs acknowledged a link between consumption and chronic disease back in the 50’s and 60's
  • trade group paid harvard scientists to influcen review in NEJOM dismissing the idea that sugar caused heart disease, real culprit they claimed was saturated fat
  • glycemic index of sugar is 65 and that of whole wheat bread is 75
  • below the neck, no difference between sugar and whole wheat bread, bread is worse!
  • who funded the science? if one sensational new study contradicts a large body of research and it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
  • government funding for scientific research is already scarce and continuing to dwindle year after year
  • need a firewall between industry and science
  • observational studies can be easily manipulated — they simply generate a hypothesis for future research, and to asses whether correlations are real or noise — never prove cause and effect
  • subject to data dredging — scientists run repeated analysis on a data set to extract insignificant findings that might otherwise be meaningless and then amplify them
  • need large randomized control studies — can prove cause and effect/observational studios can only suggest causality
  • who funded study? what are conflicts of interest? correlation? if not, is the increased risk or benefit over 100 percent?
  • black and hispanics have highest rates of obesity and diabetes in america — junk food industry preys
  • Coke gave NAACP 1M in 2010–2015
  • Philly — soda tax worked, rate of daily consumption of soda was 40% lower, energy drinks 64% lower
  • national penny per ounce tax would save 25.6B in health care costs and produce 12.5B in revenue for community based programs or programs to address obesity
  • diet drinks linked to obesity as well for effect on appetite, hormones and gut
  • more than 17 reviews of all the data on saturated fat and heart disease found no link
  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics — AND, 40% of funding from food industry
  • have allowed food corporations to actually teach dieticians
  • every 10% of your diet that is ultra processed foods your increase for risk of death goes up 14%
  • needs to be guidelines that will sort out worthy food companies from junk food peddlers
  • many universities do not have rigorous conflict of interest policies
  • get info from independent nonprofits and public advocacy groups such as Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Working Group, Sustainable Food Trust
  • Structural Violence — social, economic, political and cultural factors that determine disease
  • Hopi chief — ancestors had no obesity, now 80% of his people have diabetes by age 30
  • America moved their tribe, slaughtered bison and then they received government supplied commodities — internalized racism
  • 70% of deaths, 1.7M a year are caused by chronic disease such as heart disease, cancer, strike
  • Paul Farmer — Partners in Health — structural violence perpetuates disease
  • Community is treatment — access to clean water, food, support “acoompaniment” — neighbors accompany one another to health
  • zip code is bigger determinant of health than your genetic code
  • difference in life expectancy between richest 1% and poorest 1% of population — 15 years for men and 10 for women
  • US has worst infant mortality rate of the world’s top twelve richest industrialized countries
  • 23M americans live in food deserts/food swamps — communities filled with fast food chains and bodegas plying highly processed addictive foods
  • one in 4 americans visits a fast food restaurant every day — americans spend more money on fast food than on movies, books, magazines newspapers videos and music combined
  • black communities have almost twice as many fast food restaurants as white neighborhoods
  • food apartheid — embedded social and political form of discrimination that recognizes these areas of food disparity are not a natural phenomenon like deserts
  • 2017 — less than 2% of farmers are black and less than 2% are native americans
  • preterm labor and infant mortality decrease if we provide housing and food to pregnant mothers, and this reduces the overall health care costs — homeless, provide housing and food, health care costs plummet
  • children on malnourished diets -stunted, delayed, learning disabilities, behavioral and emotional issues — food insecure, twice as likely to be diabetic
  • cost of food insecurities is estimated to be 160B a year, not including 70B in snap
  • from 2013–2017, food advertising on black targeted TV increased by 50% — need same reforms we did for smoking
  • Link between diet, mood, behavior and violence
  • adults with many types of mental health issues and children with ADHS have very low levels of antioxidants
  • diet quality effects mental illness
  • years of life lost to disability and loss of productivity from mental illness are more than eight times those of heart disease, in part because it effects younger people
  • junk food creates moderate to severe psychological distress
  • achievement gap — link between poor nutrition and academic performance
  • kids inattentive, disruptive, late, absent
  • effects thinking, mood, behavior, linked to changes in behavior and violence/food insecurity and highest rates of incarceration
  • kids who improved diets showed an 80% reduction in violent crome — violent behavior for incarcerated juveniles dropped 47% with supplements
  • depression, suicide, ADHD and violent behavior are all linked to food
  • military — more than 70% of recruits are rejected as unfit to fight
  • 72% more medical evacuations from Iraq and Afghanistan for injuries related to obesity and poor fitness than for combat wounds
  • link between food and mental illness
  • farmworkers and food workers are the largest sector of workers in America, numbering more than 20M
  • seven out of 10 lowest paying jobs are food industry, all paying less than $20K/year
  • fifty two % of fast food workers require food stamps and other government assistant costing taxpayers 153B/year
  • processing a chicken every 2 seconds for 8 hours with one 30 minute break
  • Fair Trade Products/Fair Food Program
  • UN food and ag report determined that we only have 60 harvests left before we are out of soil
  • 1980’s, 37 cents out of every dollar went to the farmer/today, take home is less than 15 cents on the dollar
  • sustainable farms account for only 1% of AG
  • farm policy, changes in tech, unchecked power for corporate business
  • get big or get out
  • dust bowl — trend was to rely on more and more synthetic inputs to remedy the follow up
  • economic political and tech factors started trend towards large scale agribusiness
  • us produces more cheap grain and meat than ever, despite using substantially less labor and paying farmers less
  • 1992 agri census report, small diversified farms produce twice as much food per acre as large conventional farms
  • vast majority of farmers do not benefit from federal farm subsidy programs and most other subsidies go to largest nd most financially secure farm operations
  • average farmer loses 1600/year
  • Green Revolution? made progress in 20th century but pollution, runoff, depleted soils, loss of biodiversity
  • real problem is overproduction/glut of junk food keeps prices low for grain traders and processors of animal feed and junk food/lousier food
  • green revolution = 200% increase in need for irrigation
  • scale of genetic engineering tech and proprietary profit logic that underlies it
  • american children under the age of 5 have lost 17M IQ points because of harmful effects of pesticides
  • regenerative AG//real food — food system accounts for 43 to 57% of human created greenhouse gas emissions
  • need reforms to crop insurance, incentives and support for regenerative. AG, research, good soil
  • only 60 harvests left before soil is too depleted to grow food
  • ag practices are turning soil into dirt — dirt is dead, soil is alivel
  • matter retains water, feeds microbial life
  • dirt causes climate change, soil reverses it
  • estimated that the US will run out of soil by end of century
  • industrial AG has trip mined our rich organic soil — photosynthesis needed!
  • regenerative AG — no till methods, use of livestock
  • un climate scientists if we spend 300B to restore 2.2 billion of the degraded acres through RA, we could stop the rise of greenhouse gas emissioins
  • 70% of human use of freshwater is for food
  • dryland — growing crops without irrigation — leaves the stubbled in the ground and plants a new crop in the residue — reduces soil erosion and decreases evaporation
  • soil rich in organic matter can help farmers make land more resilient to floods by improving the health and spongelike qualities of their soils
  • much of drinking water is contaminated
  • Biggest Little Farm — biological elements of soil health, critters living there
  • more microbiobes in a handful of soil than all the humans that ever lived/the soil food web is the whole life cycle of the earth
  • biodiversity is essential to grow nutrient dense food
  • bees, butterflies, and other insect pollinators contribute 29B to us farm income
  • even small organic farms that don’t use regenerative practices can contrubute to the problem
  • RA is more profitable for farmers and produces higher yields, better quality food, reverses climate change conserves water and increases biodiversity
  • limit soil disturbance, no bare soil, integrating livestock
  • triple bottom line: ag must be ecologically, economically and socially viable
  • silvopasture — raising animals in forests or trees
  • integrating animals trees plants in a natural ecological resorative cycle
  • ecosystem services — transitioning farms could produce a 67% return and 21.4 m in benefits
  • study of 163M farms show that with RA they are more productive than agrochemical dependent farming
  • increase productivity, reduce soil and water loss, reduce fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide and antbiotic use and promote production of healthier foods and creating healthier ecosystems
  • end ethanol mandate, compost, nitrogen tax
  • famers in six midwestern states shifted some of their cropland to fruits and veggies it would create 6,724 new jobs and 336M in additional income
  • 75% of our food comes from 12 plants — 60% comes from just rice, corn, wheat
  • incentives, Regenerative Organic Certified Label, farmers markets, home gardens community garden, Good Money digital banking, avoid GMO foods, \
  • food system as a whole is the biggest contribution to climate change, more than energy sector
  • only 12 years to cut emissions in half and 30 years to cut to zero
  • expansion of bad meat production would be catastrophic for climate change even if we reduce the energy sector
  • “its not the cow, it’s the how” — livestock responsible for 14.5 percent of human GHG emissions, more than all transportation — worlds’s top five meat and dairy producers emit more than oil companies
  • grass fed beef, managed the right way, is good for animals, humans, environment, climate
  • holistic management — adaptive multi paddock grazing — mob grazing — regeneration
  • properly managed grasslands remove carbon from the atmosphere
  • one 100% grass feed burger to offset the GHG emissions produced by one impossible burger
  • can’t totally ditch meat, need alternative protein sources — they also generate high quality nutrient dense protein, and restore ecosystems and biodiversity and store large amounts of rainwater and carbon, creating a cycle of fertility, food and environmental restoration
  • Regenerative grazing restores the land and supports livestock and all forms of wildlife — ecological cycle
  • 52.9 million grass fed head of cattle a year, which is almost double feedlots (regenerative grazing)
  • cornfield is much more destructive than a grass fed beef regenerative farm or ranch
  • eating less meat and better meat is good for you and the planet/meat can be responsibly raised and ideally should complement a plant rich diet
  • food related solutions collectively were the number one solution to reduce global warming — Project Drawdown, Paul Hawken
  • food waste around the world 1.6B pounds worth — waste is responsible for 8% of global emissions
  • americans throw out 35% of the food in their fridge/$1800 a year
  • compost is applied to rangelands the compost increased production between 40 and 70 percent

I love books, I have a ton of them, and I take notes on all of them. I wanted to share all that I have learned and will continue to learn. I hope you enjoy.