Human and animal nutrition similarWritten by Rebecca Colnar Mott
Although the majority of Provenza’s talk centered around livestock and their relationship to the land, he explored the ties between humans, food and the land.
Adaptation in nutrition
Provenza said the ongoing adaptation between the wisdom body, satiety variety and cultural linkage, or the foods certain cultures eat, all play a role in the existence of humans and livestock.
“The Wisdom Body includes primary compounds, which are your minerals and proteins; secondary compounds which are phytochemicals, and flavor feedback. Flavor feedback isn’t really about the taste, but about interactions involving how phytochemicals interact with the cells and organ systems in the body,” Provenza explains. “If you eat something that provides your body with the correct amount of protein, minerals and phytochemicals, your body will satiate which leads to contentment and lack of cravings.”
Animals want to eat a variety of foods to expose the body to a wide variety of healthy food. The secondary compounds set the limit to how much an animal will eat. Cattle, sheep and goats will mix and match a variety of foods, which lead to satiety, or deep contentment. According to Provenza, humans should also be enjoying a variety of healthy foods.
Quantity versus quality
The problem with people today is their food systems are based on quantity, not necessarily quality.
“People overeat because of the destructive feedback they receive,” he explains.
He explains that just like animal young, a baby learns what to eat from his mother even before he’s born.
“The mother is a model as to what that baby is going to eat and like,” he says. “We’ve seen where obese mothers have children who are obese. This is brought on by what the mother ate when that baby was in utero and as a young child.”
Provenza, a professor in the Department of Wildland Resources at Utah State University from 1982 to 2009, believes that modern food systems are the reason for obesity in humans.
“We have created food systems to malfunction,” he states.
“When people left their diets to more processed food, their health started failing,” he says. “The lower the quality of the food, the more you want to eat to satisfy your body. Eat a variety in your diet, and satisfy your need for protein, minerals and phytochemicals and you don’t find the need to over eat. Mindless eating causes overeating.”
Not a fat problem
Provenza said studies have proven that fat is not a problem.
“There is no evidence fat causes problems with the body,” he says. “The biggest problems are refined starches, carbohydrates and sugar.”
One graphic shown during his workshop showed that in the 1830s, the average American used 15 pounds of sugar in a year; today, it’s 150 pounds per sugar.
“Sugar is half glucose and half sucrose, and that puts on fat,” he said.
Provenza also said that contrary to popular believe, exercise does not cause weight loss.
“Exercise has a lot of other benefits, but simply exercising is not going to make you lose weight,” the researcher says.
He is a strong believer in eating variety of whole foods instead of processed ones.
“Whole foods are rich in phytochemicals. When they are eaten with the primary compounds like protein and minerals, they satisfy your wisdom body. It’s exactly the same in herbivores. They will eat what’s right for them if allowed to select their diets. Eating whole food instead of processed foods are healthier not only for you, but for the landscape. Relationships evolve as soil, plants, herbivores and people become locally adapted to one another and the ever-changing environments,” he concluded.