Good Food Slows Population Growth

Good Food Slows Population Growth

Feb 19

Great public speaking is not a skill a can claim to possess, which is probably why I have always held very high regard for those who can. When I see a compelling lecture or presentation, I want more. I recently found my new favorite public speaker — Hans Rosling. Laura and I watched a Ted Talk he presented in July 2010 on global population growth. The content was no divine revelation, but it aligned perfectly with what I already know, and it gave me a new way of looking at the issue. It’s like that moment when you’re looking at what’s clearly a drawing of a young woman and someone next to you says it’s actually an old woman. More importantly, though, Hans Rosling’s delivery was enthusiastic, informative and cleverly simplified.

His assertion is that A) population growth needs to slow and eventually stop, because the Earth’s resources can not sustain an infinite amount of people, and B) according to the trends of the last 50 years, population growth goes down in proportion to Infant Mortality Rate. So, logically, the way to slow global growth is to lower the worldwide Infant Mortality Rate, especially in developing countries.

I realized after I watched this presentation that food has to play an important role in Infant Mortality Rates. After all, whatever a pregnant woman eats goes to her developing child, either directly or indirectly. High-fat and high-sugar foods may not be as deadly to unborn children as cigarette smoke or alcohol, but neither are they helpful. Just the same, undernourished and underweight mothers (like those in developing countries) produce undernourished and underweight children.

Comparison of Infant Mortality Rate trends.

Eating for health (and enjoying it) is something Laura and I strongly advocate. It’s more feasible and more likely to happen with education, community and diverse local food sources, which developing countries and the United States both lack. (I was surprised to find that the U.S. ranks 30th among developed nations in Infant Mortality Rates.) Aside from that, though, current industrial food production methods in the U.S. and other developed nations are leading to privately developed monocultures, making it very hard to distribute food to those who really need it. So, although this seems like an off-topic issues, it’s actually very relevant to everything we write on this blog.

Hungry for some more information, I came across an in-depth article entitled Maternal Nutrition and Infant Mortality in the Context of Relationality. It discusses nutritional issues in pregnant mothers and infants as symptoms of a greater problem — broken relationships — citing “the lack of support for breastfeeding, the decline in family meals concomitant to the rise of fast food, the marketing of junk foods to children, and the prevalence of food insecurity in a land of plenty.” The summary of the article asserts that the authors “found good evidence linking poor maternal nutrition to several leading causes of infant mortality, including birth defects, preterm birth, fetal growth restriction, and maternal complications of pregnancy…Most pregnant women in the U.S. start off pregnancy overweight or underweight, and had inappropriate weight gain during pregnancy.” Not surprisingly, there is a disparity in Infant Mortality Rates between economic classes: “Approximately one of every three low-income women is anemic in the third trimester of pregnancy.”

If you’d like to read this entire article (or just skim over it), you can find it here, published by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Also, check out this simple graph comparing Infant Mortality Rate trends among many different countries, published by Google Public Data (with information from World Bank).

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