Future of Foods: Harmonization of Eastern and Western Food Systems
CHANG Y. LEE1, CHERL-HO LEE2 and TAI-WAN KWON3
1) Department of Food Science & Technology, Cornell University Geneva, New York 14456 USA
2) Graduate School of Biotechnology, Korea University Seoul, Korea
3) Institute of Food Science, Inje University Kimhae, Kyungnam, Korea
An advanced food/nutrition system is the cornerstone upon which modern societies and economies have been built. A proper food supply frees a nation and its people to pursue goals that improve the human condition. The former Under Secretary of United State Department of Agiculture, Eileen Kennedy, who made introductory remarks for the book American’s Eating Habits, stated that "A nation whose basic nutritional needs are met is healthier, more productive, and can focus its energies on educational attainment, improved housing, enhanced medical care, and the provision of goods and services associated with a highly developed society" (Kennedy et al., 2000). On a related subject, Nobel Laureate Dr. Robert W. Fogel, introduced a new term "technophysio evolution" in the preface of the same book (Fogel, 2000). He stated that "The studies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries point to the existence of a synergism between technological and physiological improvements that has produced a form of human evolution that is biological but not genetic. . . "
Unlike the genetic theory of evolution, the theory of technophysio evolution rests on the proposition that during the past century, human beings have gained an unprecedented degree of control over their environment. He pointed out that this new degree of control enabled Homo sapiens to increase its average body size by more than 50%, increase its average longevity by more than 100%, and improve greatly the robustness and capacity of vital organ systems. Fogel also stated that the most important aspect of technophysio evolution is the continuing conquest of chronic malnutrition due mainly to a severe deficiency in dietary energy.
Today, no country in the world has a more bountiful food supply than the United States. However, in modern America, the past problems of low caloric intakes and inadequate consumption of vitamins and minerals have been supplanted by poor diets of a different scale and with different implications. Mean while, in some of the Eastern countries, where the traditional food system was based mainly on plant sources, GNPs are rising rapidly, populations are becoming more urban, and societies are entering different stages of what has been called the nutrition transition from diets high in complex carbohydrates and fiber to more animal-based diets with a higher proportion of fats, especially saturated fats, and sugars. The resulting adverse health effects and the growing Westernization of eating habits are known to be responsible for the rising rates of obesity and associated chronic diseases in Eastern countries.
Throughout history, human societies have developed varieties of food systems that fit specific individual regions and countries and are based on available plant and animal foods that successfully supported growth and reproduction. Therefore, there has been a large difference in food systems between Western and Eastern countries. The diversity of the global population and the existence of a complex and technologically and traditionally sophisticated food system allow for a wide variety of eating patterns throughout the world.
As economies changed from scarcity to abundance in the U.S. and other Western countries, principal diet-related diseases have shifted from nutrient deficiencies to chronic diseases related to dietary excesses. This shift has led to the increasing recent scientific consensus that eating more plant foods and less animal foods would best promote health. This consensus is based on research relating dietary factors to chronic disease risks, and to observations of exceptionally low chronic disease rates among people consuming traditional Asian and Mediterranean diets. It has been known that some Asian countries, as well as Mediterranean, lead the world in several important indices of health–low rates of coronary heart disease and certain cancers. However, with increasing Westernization, this traditional pattern has been changing in recent years, and some unhealthy signs are starting to show in the statistics. This article will discuss the differences in food systems between East and West and to identify the mix of Western foods of animal sources and Eastern foods of plant sources, so that future global foods prevent nutrient deficiencies as well as chronic diseases and improve the worldwide human condition.