Is our food increasingly less nutritious?


People believe that staple foods contain less and less vitamins and valuable nutrients. Is it true?


Many people say that the amount of nutrients in our food has decreased over the past decades. But it is true? And if so, do we have a real cause for concern?


What you can read in this article:


A study published in 2004 looked at 43 common foods and looked at how their nutritional values ​​changed between 1950 and 1999, evaluating 13 different substances in these foods.

They found that the average proportion of protein, that is, protein, decreased by about six percent, vitamin C by 15 percent and vitamin B2 by as much as 38 percent. For example, vitamin A did not experience a decrease that exceeded the statistical error. However, researchers have also observed a loss of minerals such as iron and calcium.

It sounds terrible, because the study suggests that food is becoming less nutritious.


The nutritional value of staple foods decreases. But that does not necessarily mean that we should start to be afraid.

The nutritional value of staple foods decreases. But that does not necessarily mean that we should start to be afraid.

Was it measured correctly?

However, the question of the right methodology comes into play. How well could people in the 1950s measure the nutrition of individual foods? Methods nearly 70 years ago are fundamentally different from the current ones, and even in 1999, the last measured year reported by research, this methodology may not have been truly reliable.

But regardless of whether one study was wrong or not, we should be concerned about the decline in food quality. There are several other studies suggesting such trends.

So it is most likely not a myth, but a fact that we should begin to take into account.


Why is it happening? Why does food become less nutritious?

One of the most commonly reported reasons is soil degradation, loss of its ability to supply nutrients to fruits. Plants, vegetables, fruits, trees themselves, shrubs and everything that grows from the ground draws nutrients from the soil. From clay. Intensive agriculture was considered to be the cause of soil degradation.

For some micronutrients, such as minerals, the quantity loss is natural. But farmers have always tried to use fertilizers to supply the soil with nutritional potential. However, the loss of soil nutrition may not be the correct answer to the above question, as this argument is not convincing. For today, plants grow as big or even larger than they were in the past.

Another thing comes into the matter: it is breeding, ie genetic modification. Genetic modification is considered by many to be modern, unhealthy and harmful, but in fact behind this expression is nothing but breeding. Without it, the bananas would look terrible and would not be so tasty, the melons would be tasteless and full of pips, the strawberries would be stunted.

For example, today’s corn looks fundamentally different from its ancestor 9,000 years ago.

We began to breed thousands of years in the past, when people began to grow crops for their own benefit. If they wanted more, they had to choose just those that were more resistant to pests, tastier, growing in larger quantities. Today, crops are growing faster than ever.

It is possible that over the years breeding has been more concerned with aesthetics and spreading than with nutritional values. However, recognizing breeding as the cause of poor nutrition would not be correct. Plants, fruits and vegetables are also evolving, so today’s apple cannot be compared to an apple a hundred thousand years ago. And when controlled breeding entered the game, it completely prevented the possibility of fair comparison.

But there is one plant that has never undergone any breeding. Only by natural evolution. The plant is weed.


Comparison of samples with the difference of one hundred years

The weed is also a goldenrod. It is an important protein source for bees, but not for humans. Therefore, it remained a wild-growing plant without breeding.




In the United States, there is the Smithsonian Institute, which stores hundreds of samples of goldenrod, the oldest of which are from 1842. This allowed scientists to compare the nutritional values ​​of the then goldenrod with the present. Since he had not undergone breeding, the centuries-old goldenrod could have been an ideal comparative sample.

The results were astounding. It has been found that protein loss over the entire period was up to 30 percent. Thus, it was not a consequence of breeding or soil degradation, because the goldenrod grows in areas that are not farmed by humans.

One theory suggests that the cause of this decline is carbon dioxide and an increase in its concentration in the Earth’s atmosphere.


Carbon dioxide helps plants, but not us

Carbon dioxide is like food for plants. They inevitably need it for growth and life. It penetrates into every living cell in the plant, which then transfers oxygen to the environment.

In the past few years, the share of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere has increased, from about 280 millionths to 400 millionths. It does not sound like much, but it has a major impact on vegetation. This is an increase of more than 50 percent. Interestingly, the effect of this fact has also changed the appearance of the Earth from space – it can be seen that its landscapes are greener. This is paradoxical because there is a general belief that the green planet is healthy, but in fact, greening is the result of the increase in carbon dioxide, which Europe is fighting above all.

The increase in CO2 in the atmosphere has a major impact on plants. This has been shown by experiments that you can look for as FACE – Free Air CO2 Enrichement. Experiments have been and are being carried out by adding more carbon dioxide to the local plant atmosphere to determine its impact on growth. Rice, wheat, barley and potatoes have been found to grow faster with a higher CO2 intake. This does not mean that they must necessarily be more nutritious. In short, they have more carbohydrates.

In other studies from Japan and China, scientists “pumped” CO2 into the rice to simulate the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere in 50 years. The proportion of protein decreased on average by 10 percent, iron by 8 percent and zinc by 5 percent. But a lower nutrient concentration does not necessarily correlate with a decrease in the total nutrient content, this phenomenon is called the dilution effect.

It is estimated that by 2050, 150 million people from developing countries will be on the brink of so-called protein malnutrition. This is due to lower protein content in their typical foods.

It might seem that this is the perfect time to start eating nutritional supplements in tablets. But it’s not true, we haven’t been that far. Meanwhile, we can get food into our diet to meet our nutritional needs.

However, the negative consequences of the increase in carbon dioxide share and dilution effect may contribute to the obesity epidemic.

The theory is that if we eat enough protein, we feel saturated. But if there are fewer proteins, we need to eat more food to feel saturated, including more carbohydrates and fats, to get the protein levels you need. So we start gaining weight. This is only speculation or theory, but finding that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere affects our food is a fact.


Although carbon dioxide is literally a food for plants, fruits and vegetables, it also reduces their nutritional yield, especially protein. Another reason to think more about industry’s impact on quality of life.


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