Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Why am I doing this nutrition research?

The first time I went outside the USA for more than a day trip was when I was 16 years old. My father took me out of school for a week (my grades didn't matter much because I was dropping out early to go to college the next fall anyway) so he could have a traveling companion on a trip to Cancun, Mexico. We went snorkeling, saw American college students get drunk, and visited Mayan ruins. But one of the things I found more intriguing than anything else was the local supermercado. Yes, I found the foreign grocery store to be an attraction. It had things I'd never seen before like fruit-flavored shelf-stable milk and bread with a giggle-worthy brand name ("Bimbo").

As years went by, I managed to get abroad a bit more. Germany, Poland, Austria, Philippines, South Korea, and then some countries in South America. And I continued to find the food stores one of the most interesting parts of my sojourns. I didn't care much about doing many typical touristy things, for beach outings left me sunburnt, but I loved seeing how the local people lived and learning about how they shopped for and ate food.

For the past three summers, our family has focused on learning about different countries: Russia, China, Germany, Lithuania, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Philippines, Japan, Peru, Mongolia, Canada, France, Italy, Senegal, Greece, Brazil, and Chile. For each country, I've read up about its cuisine so I could prepare meals for my family using typical foods from it. An unintended result for me was that I widened my knowledge of global eating patterns.

About a year ago, I took a free online course on vitamins from Wageningen University through EdX. My purpose in signing up for it was to learn information that would help me feed my family healthily. Not that I wasn't already feeding them fairly well, but I thought it would be good to know more about why fruits, vegetables, and whole grains were good for them.

Then about 10 months ago, I saw something talking about L-methylfolate being a better source of folate than folic acid. Due to a timing parallel between folic acid food fortification and the US's rise in autism, I'd been a little wary of folic acid supplementation for years. I still took folic acid during pregnancy, but my "regularly" wasn't the same as what my OB probably considered "regularly." 

So I looked into methylfolate and found myself falling down a rabbit hole of nutrition and medical research that I have yet to leave. And I don't want to leave it. The explosion of scientific knowledge in modern times and the unprecedented access that the internet gives us to even very recent findings has made this a great time to look at unsolved health problems from new angles, and my acquaintance with recipes and culinary preferences from other countries makes it easier for me to put together nutrition and epidemiology findings. I feel as though I'm doing math proofs, or at least connect-the-dot puzzles, with access to newly-discovered axioms and new data points. This is fun.

And that is why a stay-at-home homeschooling mother with degrees in law and math is posting what you find on this blog. No one pays me for it. Rather, someone would have to pay me to get me to stop.

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