The issue of hunger has been prominent on our TV screens recently. Yesterday was David Cameron's world-hunger summit. The main purpose of the summit is to is to highlight child malnutrition and its resulting physical stunting as the main problem in world development. There will be discussion of how the worst drought in 60 years in the US mid-west is pushing up global food prices and increasing hunger in Africa. Wheat prices rose by 19% on international markets last month alone.
On Friday there was the first in a three part series of documentaries on ITV1 London about rising food prices in Britain and the effect on poor people. The documentary series is called Tonight: The Food We Eat and part 1 is called The Hunger Shame. It showed a mother who said that she couldn't afford to feed herself until she was able to go to a food bank. I have every sympathy with her but it confirmed what I already believed, that people spend their money on rubbish food that isn't that cheap.
What seemed to be happening with her is that she was cooking her family sausages and buttery mashed potato, and then when she ran out of money she went to the food bank to stock up on tins of frankfurters and packets of biscuits. It isn't surprising that she is overweight. The sorts of food that she is eating are not the cheapest and are full of saturated fat and sugar, as well as salt.
If you believe Michael Mosley's documentary last Monday you might think that this mother's hunger might have done her some good. Horizon: Eat, Fast and Live Longer on BBC2 started by discussing what we already know, that restricting calories can make people live longer. It showed a man in America who eats only 1,600 calories a day.
Then we were told about research into how intermittent fasting may be just as good as continuous calorie restriction. There are different ways that this can be achieved. You could occasionally have a 3-day and 4-night fast where you eat nothing. You could reduce the amount of protein that you eat. You could fast one day and eat normally the next. Or you could eat normally 5 days a week and then fast for 2, although you can have 600 calories per day on your fast days.
What this seems to do is to reduce the amount of Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) that your body produces. You will age slower and will be less likely to develop cancer. There will also be inprovements in blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol.
I'm not going to be doing any fasting. I already try not to eat too much food and I shall continue to do so especially as I had my BMI measured recently and it was on the upper limit of what is healthy. My waist measurement is a couple of inches over what it should be. Mosley said that restricting protein is one way to bring down the level of IGF-1. I already eat considerably less protein than most people. Current estimates of how much we need each day are 55g whereas what we British eat is 85g. So we eat just over one and a half times as much protein as we need.
It's a strange world we live in. Millions of people eat more food than is good for them. Millions of others could eat well on the money they have but have lost the knowledge of what normal food is. They try to continue to eat lots of processed foods high in fat and sugar. Millions have their height stunted by lack of food. The poor can't afford to buy the grains and pulses that could keep them healthy, but the affluent can afford to feed grains and pulses to billions of farm animals so that they can continue their unhealthy high-fat way of eating.