National Institute of Nutrition and Food Health

Establishment of the National Institute of Nutrition and Food Health (NINFH) is envisioned, with a mission to seek fundamental knowledge about food and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability. This mission would be distinct from other public institutions that serve various food system functions.

One way to establish the NINFH is within the National Institutes of Health (FY 2017 budget $33.1 billion) as the 28th institute and center. Another way to establish the NINFH is as an independent institution—similar to the founding of the National Cancer Institute (FY 2017 budget $5.4 billion) through the National Cancer Act of 1937—that requests budget directly from the United States Department of Health and Human Services (FY 2017 budget $1.1 trillion).


  1. Connection between Food, Illness, and Health
  2. Funding Gap
  3. Separation of Duty to Agriculture and Duty to Public Health
  4. Trusted Authority for Public

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High-Alignment Food

The single most important thing that has changed about your food is the alignment of interest. Until modern times, your food was provided by kin with a vested interest in your well-being. Today, food is provided by counterparties (food companies, restaurants, etc.) who profit from your consumption. They compete among themselves to bait you with food coloring and salty, sweet, and fatty flavors while using chemicals, antibiotics, preservatives, pesticides, substitutes, and additives that increase profits, irrespective of their long-term effects on your body. There is a never-ending food fight in society about what constitutes healthy food as counterparties game every healthy food trend to their advantage. The future of food will be about managing counterparty risk, understanding food chain provenance, and restoring alignment between you and your food provider.
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Caffeine and the Age of Enlightenment

Was caffeine the fuel that enlightened the European Age of Reason (17th–18th centuries) after the alcohol-fueled haze of the Dark Ages? Christopher Columbus’ 1502 encounter with a Mayan trading canoe in the New World led to the introduction of cocoa into Europe on a large scale. Tea arrived in Portugal, and coffee through Italy, in mass scales later in the century. The coffee bean, tea leaf, cocoa bean, and kola nut are naturally bitter, but the lure of their psychoactive properties encouraged their recombination with fat (often milk) and sugar to render more palatable foods and drinks such as coffee and chocolate. To trace the introduction of psycho-stimulants such as coffee, tea, cocoa, and sugar into Europeans is to trace the history of colonialism and imperialism. I don’t remember this being mentioned in history class.

Without the six pots of coffee a day that filled his mental tank, would the world today still remember Voltaire (1694–1778), a key figure of the French Enlightenment who anchored the greater European Enlightenment?
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Ethylene: The Most Important Molecule You’ve Never Heard Of?

Ethylene is a gaseous hydrocarbon with the molecular structure C2H4. It is commonly produced when hydrocarbons are exposed to oxidative stress, such as that found during lightning, volcanic eruptions, forest fires, and photochemical reactions on the ocean surface. Plants coopted ethylene biosynthesis during evolution to manage their response to oxidative stress from biotic and abiotic sources. Further exaptations of ethylene include modulation of plant life history events such as development, transformation, senescence, and death.

Due to a number of factors described below, humans may be subject to increasing ethylene exposure. The potential health consequences of ethylene exposure are not part of the public consciousness and warrant further exploration.
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A Balanced Diet

The concept of the importance of eating a balanced diet took on major cultural significance in this country when the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its first Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 1980 — a response to an increase in heart disease amongst Americans in the 1960’s. The Guidelines are updated every five years to incorporate the latest advances in medical and scientific research, based on the recommendations of the 11-member Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a group of widely recognized nutrition and medical experts. The U.S. government directly or indirectly feeds approximately 54 million people daily according to these guidelines — including over 25 million school children. These numbers are not lost on those in the food, agriculture, and diet industries, who are all busy promoting their particular points of view. They work to install members to the committee whose support they can count on, ostensibly in order to ensure that the committee itself has a ‘balanced’ view of diet and nutrition. In such a politically charged environment, what do we end up with? A ‘balanced’ diet indeed, with a little something on everyone’s plate.

While the experts disagree on what constitutes a diet balanced for optimal health, most presume the need for ‘balance’, and the importance of consuming a wide variety of different foods. The guidelines have changed over time, with the recent addition of an emphasis on physical activity to offset caloric consumption. The debate remains largely centered, however, over which foods reside at the top and which languish at the bottom of the food pyramid, rather than the validity of the approach itself.
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Darwin in Medical School

Some scientists call for a bigger dose of evolution in doctors’ educations


Joon Yun, MD, began considering how evolution applies to human health a decade ago when his first heart disease patients died. These cases disturbed Yun, then a Stanford radiology resident. But they also intrigued him.

Having studied evolutionary biology in college, Yun tried fitting these medical failures into that framework.

His mind wandered to the early days of humans when heart disease was a rare trigger of death. In the prehistoric era, a more likely cause of death would have been an attack by a predator. The human body’s response to trauma handles this type of assault by immediately springing to action: The blood forms clots and the blood vessels tighten, together with slowing blood loss, and inflammation kicks in to combat infection. The genes governing these responses to trauma presumably were favored during evolution and have become the “factory setting” in modern humans.
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