How to Eat Healthy As a future medical student I thought your Jan. 23 article "The Nature of Nutrients" was really informative. You revealed so many hidden aspects of the human metabolism and also answered many questions that until now seemed to be a conundrum to many people. My parents also appreciated the article, and knowing the importance and effects of these vitamins and minerals was really enriching. There is always an underlying fear of not knowing what we eat. We all consistently need clarification about our daily diet.
Anoop Sharma Pem
As a longtime cognitive-behavioral therapist treating compulsive/emotional eaters, I applaud your article on how people should eat more healthily to lose weight. However, dieting isn't the answer, because 98 percent of people who diet and lose weight gain it back, and 90 percent regain more than they originally lost. For many, the problem is in their heads, not their stomachs. People need to change how they think about food--using it for comfort when they're bored, for companionship when they're lonely or for distraction when they don't want to do something. Only when they learn to reconnect to body signals of hunger, craving, satisfaction and fullness will they be able to succeed in making lasting change.
Karen R. Koenig
I was delighted to read Newsweek's recent article on "The Nature of Nutrients" and the vital role that a diverse diet can play in promoting human health and well-being. This is even more important for poor people in the developing world, where diets, especially of the urban poor, are becoming simpler. People are abandoning locally important foods such as legumes and cereals in favor of refined carbohydrates like white bread, rice and sugar, which are now cheaper than ever. This has led to an increase in heart disease, diabetes and cancer, illnesses that are normally associated with affluence. Adding diversity to the diet would help mitigate these effects. Research has shown that most essential nutrient deficiencies can be eliminated by small increases in the diversity of the diet. Buckwheat and finger millet, for example, reduce the risk of heart disease. The International Plant Genetic Resources Institute has launched an initiative that emphasizes the important links between agricultural biodiversity and nutrition and health, with particular emphasis on the value of neglected and underused species. The world needs to recognize the importance of biodiversity in providing us with diverse foods that can improve the health, nutrition and food security of people in the developing and developed worlds alike.
Emile Frison, Director General
International Plant Genetic Resources Institute Rome, Italy
French diet guru Michel Montignac has the dangerous audacity to claim that "quantity doesn't matter" ("A Recipe for Good Health"). Having grown up outside Philadelphia and spent the last five years living in France, I've seen no cultural difference more shocking than the levels of food consumption in France and the United States. Despite the fact that the most well-known French foods--from quiche Lorraine and foie gras to pastries, cheese and red wine--have terrible weight-gain potential, and despite the fact that the McDonald's restaurants in France are twice as crowded as in America, the French manage to stay thin because they eat less of what's bad. Pizza in the United States means a big, greasy deep-dish. In France it's a skinny little shard you eat with a fork. Fast-food soft drinks in America can reach beyond 9.5 deciliters. In France you can't find a McDonald's cup bigger than 3.5dl (that's their "Supersize"). Certainly, Montignac makes good points about the importance of eating healthy foods. But please, don't tell readers that quantity doesn't matter. They've got enough fast-food marketers telling them that already.
"The Nature of Nutrients" asks why Scandinavians, who ingest a lot of calcium through their dairy-rich diet, have a higher rate of hip fractures than in Singapore, where adults don't drink milk. The simple answer is that the roads in Scandivanian countries are covered with snow and ice during the winter but not so in Singapore, where there is no snow and no ice.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Your articles and interviews with experts regarding nutrition were interesting and informative. It is easy to advise people to eat a healthful diet and exercise, but I wonder how many of your experts actually visit a grocery store to purchase the healthy food they advocate. I suggest they try eating for a month on what one can buy with food stamps. At my local grocery store, salmon, highly touted in your articles for its omega-3 fatty acids, cost $7 a pound, sometimes more. In the vegetable section, tomatoes are $3.99 a pound. Apples and oranges are close to a dollar each. Leafy greens are also expensive. About the only "good" food one can buy cheap is chicken. My husband and I are pretty well off, yet I often go back to the store several times and buy as many as I can, then store them in the freezer. What I'd like to see is some good advice for poor people to eat well, short of growing their own vegetables. Boxed macaroni and cheese, which can feed a whole family, costs $1.99. On a public-assistance diet, which food would you choose?
Mary Gonzalez Lundy
A 'Quality Education' for All
Sudip Mazumdar's article "Grades and Politics" (Jan. 23) points out that "Some of the best brains in the world--in the fields of science, information technology, medicine and engineering"--are educated in India's private institutions and that India's public colleges "are a mess." Currently the public institutions reserve some percentage of seats for the poor and minorities, but the private schools, which charge five to 10 times more than the public colleges, do not. Some of the people Mazumdar interviewed were critical of the recent bill that mandates 22.5 percent reservation for poor and minorities in the private colleges, saying that it will bankrupt private educational institutions or it won't work. It is clear from the article that the poor and minorities go to public colleges because they offer a certain percentage of reserved seats and are cheaper, but the quality of education they receive is not on par with the rich who attend the private institutions. The government should intervene to remedy this situation. I suggest that the government subsidize 50 percent of the tuition fees for the 22.5 percent of the quota seats in private colleges. This will help the private institutions financially and help the poor and minorities get a quality education.
"Grades and Politics" rightly exposes the flip side of Indian democracy, where affirmative action in education is used to woo ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities for electoral trade-off. Even though there is no evidence to suggest that these minorities are genetically handicapped, their sense of alienation and insecurity is promised to be allayed by applying quotas. Thus, rather than pulling down the divisive barriers, they are preserved and protected. The fact that there was near unanimity in supporting the bill in the Indian Parliament for enforcing quotas in privately run educational institutions shows that no political party dared to be seen as opposed to the Dalits and to socially and economically disadvantaged sections of society. Since the quota system places a premium on mediocrity, the quality of education suffers, as does progress in science and technology, corporate management, civil administration, etc. Discounting merit amounts to blunting the edge of knowledge, the catalyst of growth.
Sharad C. Misra
Developing Alternatives to Oil
I agree with Leonardo Maugeri that "estimating oil reserves is still an unsolved mystery" ("The Saudis May Have Enough Oil," Jan. 23). At the same time there may be a change of crowns among the world's oil masters that could also affect the price per barrel. Developing alternative energy resources that can replace oil in the long run would be in the world's best interests, rather than wasting time calculating who's got more oil and the total number of barrels. Our real chance for victory is in developing alternative energy resources.
Singapore's Migrant Workers
In "Immigration: No Way to Work" (Dec. 12, 2005), your publication unjustly labels Singapore as an extreme example where migrant workers are denied citizenship and form a permanent underclass. As a small city-state of 4 million, Singapore cannot afford to grant citizenship to its 600,000 migrant workers. This has prevented long-term problems of social disintegration, which your report admits some European countries now face. Foreign workers are aware that they must return home after working in Singapore. They accept our rules and choose to work here, because of the better conditions of work and pay compared with their home countries. Their remittances help support their families and enable many to make a fresh start. What they can expect while in Singapore is impartial protection under our laws, which are vigorously enforced. All employers of foreign workers must ensure work safety and medical coverage, and provide adequate rest, meals, proper housing and prompt salary payment. The penalty is a fine of up to $5,000 and jail for up to six months. Like local workers, injuries are covered under the Workmen's Compensation Act. Employers are also required to put up a bond to guarantee the worker's home passage. Penalties for abusing foreign domestic workers are harsh--one and a half times higher than abuse against other persons. This has markedly decreased the number of abuse cases to about four per 10,000 last year.
Jean Tan, Press Secretary
Ministry of Manpower Singapore
"Mail Call; The Right Diet." Newsweek International 13 Mar. 2006. General OneFile. Web. 28 Oct. 2009.
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