On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” New York Times bestselling author Dr. Mark Hyman joins NowThis sustainability reporter Lucy Biggers to discuss how America’s food system is connected to adverse health outcomes—and environmental harm. “Food is a nexus where everything comes together,” says Dr. Hyman, who is the Head of Strategy and Innovation, Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine.
“It is the cause and the cure for most of what’s wrong with the world today—including the overwhelming burden of chronic disease, which is spreading around the world.”
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America’s chronic disease and health epidemic is inherently a food issue, according to Dr. Hyman. “Six out of ten Americans have a chronic disease, four out of ten of us have multiple, and 75 percent of us are overweight,” Dr. Hyman states. “If food is causing most of the problems, then what is the cause of the food? The food system. And what is the cause of the food system? Our food policy.”
As a practicing physician and proponent of functional medicine, Dr. Hyman calls upon better policy to treat the whole system – everything from the medical system to agriculture and food. “Functional medicine is about treating the system. It’s about the science of creating health. Really food is the biggest driver of health—and of course lifestyle,” says Dr. Hyman. “In agriculture right now, we have a very similar system to our medical system; it uses inputs like medications to manage things. In agriculture, we’re destroying our soil, depleting biodiversity, depleting our water, and it’s because of our methods of agriculture.”
When policies can’t keep up with health, the food system, and the environment, Dr. Hyman hails the efforts of consumers, activists, farmers, and other agricultural leaders changing the food system—in ways including localizing food production, advancing regenerative agriculture, and backing grassroots political action across the country. “We’re facing many threats across society, they’re all siloed—and yet food connects all these things,” Dr. Hyman states.
“It’s a very good moment,” Dr. Hyman says. “This time has really inspired me to see all the work people are doing, all the efforts that are being made on a local, state, and federal level… there’s a lot of hope.”