The future of food is the food of the past. This is the message from scientists, who urge us to eat organic as much as we can, to turn back to the eating habits of our forebears. Data from the WHO indicate that one out of three people worldwide suffer from one or more forms of malnutrition, including obesity, and by 2025 this ratio is expected to be 2 to 1. What is worse is that obesity among children and young people is on the rise in Europe, considering that one out of three in this category is obese. Compared to previous generations, European youth, including Romanians, consume a lot of fast food and sugary drinks, use the Internet hours on end, and travel by car. Lygia Alexandrescu, nutrition expert, warns that this leads to numerous health problems, and provided some advice to this end:
“The solution right now is eating whole foods seasonally. We used to eat tomatoes in the summer, grapes in the autumn, watermelon in August and September. Now we eat watermelon in April, cherries in September, which is unnatural. It affects us negatively, and we are wondering why we are ill, why our children are sicker than we are. We have children coming in with weight problems, children with illnesses that only our grandparents used to have. We have children with gout, with high cholesterol, with articular conditions because of being overweight, and that is all because we have forgotten about nature, about that balance that maintains what is natural.”
In the near future, genome studies will provide information on genetic inheritance and the likelihood of certain conditions, which will allow for custom menus to be generated, Lygia Alexandrescu told us:
“The future is in DNA research. There will be tests that will tell us what to eat, at what hour, or how many times a week we need a given food. We should eat as our body demands. Our children will eat based on their genome. If we talk about local foods, that means making friends with our nature, stimulating local production and economy. We should go regularly to our local farmer markets to get our produce. Also, in the future we should expect to have foods based on insects and worms, which provide good quality protein. One thing is certain. The future is not in dairy and meat, those are running out, there are no more resources to provide them. By 2028, apparently, we will be eating a lot of meat imitation products, foodstuffs we don't know about yet.”
Until then, however, Dr. Gheorghe Mencinicopschi recommends getting back to local whole foods. He warns that we have to be more aware of what we are eating, and the hidden risks involved:
“This talk of insects and worms is a diversion, as far as I'm concerned. I believe that because there are too many of us, and we cannot produce food for everyone. But we should ask ourselves if it is better to make a lot of bad food and make everyone sick. It would be better if we had a culture of healthy food, for the sake of our children, than to make huge quantities of bad food that makes everyone sick. This involves large scale economic issues. Everyone wants to get a return on investment fast, and don't care about quality. The focus is on profits, not the health of consumers. Why should we believe that store shelves are stacked with healthy foods? Profit is king. Children in Romania are more and more obese, which used to be an adult condition, but now it appears in children as young as three. The disaster started in the early 1970s, when meat, eggs, milk, and animal fat were declared public enemy no. 1. That was the beginning of grain being pushed to the forefront, which led to what we are seeing nowadays.”
Statistics show that 15% of Romanians are obese, and that a third are overweight. Many young people are struggling with this problem, because of food filled with chemicals and poor in nutrition. Teodor is a 25 year-old who is happy that he is now free of the burden of obesity:
“I was declared morbidly obese by age 11. In 6th grade I weighed 80 kilos. A balanced nutrition basically saved my life. In addition to the fact that I will live longer, this gave me something I never thought I would have, an improved lifestyle that I could not imagine before.”
Tatiana is 36 years old, and is embarrassed to tell people how much she used to weigh.
“Too many additional kilos, unhealthy eating, and an unhealthy lifestyle, this is how it all begins. But after a year and three months I managed to lose 40 kilos. I regained balance. I cannot say that I keep a diet. It is about a lifestyle. I eat almost anything, with some ground rules, I have a meal schedule that I adhere to, two snacks and three main meals. Once you lose that extra weight, you manage to regain balance, to regain self-confidence, you change completely, and feel 10 or 15 years younger. I am 36 now, but I used to look 46.”
Experts believe that many of these problems can be overcome with well defined nutrition education in schools. By 2020, a new subject will be on school curricula in Romania, Education for Health and Nutrition.