DAILY DOSE: Head of NIH to step down; Assessing the effectiveness of color-coded nutrition labels.

Another round of Nobel Prize announcements are in the bag. Again, a nod to sustainability took center stage. Per the Associated Press, “Two scientists won the Nobel Prize for chemistry Wednesday for finding an ‘ingenious’ and environmentally cleaner way to build molecules that can be used to make everything from medicines to food flavorings. The work of Benjamin List of Germany and Scotland-born David W.C. MacMillan has allowed scientists to produce those molecules more cheaply, efficiently, safely — and with significantly less environmental impact.” https://bit.ly/3DmvFD3


Francis Collins has announced that he will step down as head of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Per Nature, “‘This is the right time, it’s the right message, it’s the right decision,’ says Collins, who has led the US$41-billlion biomedical agency through a historic and deadly pandemic. Picked for the job by former president Barack Obama in 2009, Collins has had the role for longer than any other presidential appointee and served under three administrations. It’s time for the agency to benefit from new leadership, he says, adding that he considered whether his leaving the role would upset the NIH’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘I’m not worried that if I walk away by the end of the year, that will do any serious harm to our contribution to fighting this pandemic.’” It’s difficult to imagine that the absurd politicization of the Covid-19 pandemic didn’t play even a small role in his decision. It must be exhausting trying to address all the social-media-geniuses out there. https://go.nature.com/3oDvrTC


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Malnutrition doesn’t need to take the form of famished children eating porridge morning, noon, and night. In its more deceptive and insidious form, overweight individuals can be equally nutrient deprived due to poor eating habits, often due to structural issues in society. Nutritionists have grappled with how to ensure people eat well balanced meals for decades. A recent journal paper looked at the effectiveness of color-coded labeling. Per PLOS Medicine, “Our systematic review provided comprehensive evidence for the impact of colour-coded labels and warnings in nudging consumers’ purchasing behaviour towards more healthful products and the underlying psychological mechanism of behavioural change. Each type of label had different attributes, which should be taken into consideration when making front-of-package nutrition labelling (FOPL) policies according to local contexts. Our study supported mandatory front-of-pack labelling policies in directing consumers’ choice and encouraging the food industry to reformulate their products.” The struggle continues. https://bit.ly/3oBgAcm


It’s no secret that plastic pollution is a major problem around the world. Tons of ocean plastics have been shown to come from South East Asian countries, especially the Philippines. A recent study shifted focus to the presence of plastic pollution in the Mediterranean. Per FrontiersIn, “A team of researchers has developed a model to track the pathways and fate of plastic debris from land-based sources in the Mediterranean Sea. They show that plastic debris can be observed across the Mediterranean, from beaches and surface waters to seafloors, and estimate that around 3,760 metric tons of plastics are currently floating in the Mediterranean.” Global plastic production has been increasing each year since the 1950s. A high proportion of plastic waste ends up in seas and oceans, with estimates suggesting more than 250,000 tons of plastic debris are currently floating around in oceans all over the world. https://bit.ly/2YkTz2o


This week’s podcast spotlight is on Outrage + Optimism. In their most recent episode, they look back on Climate Week and the United Nations General Assembly that took place in New York City. Specifically, they delve into how climate organization funding works by looking specifically at the Bezos Earth Fund and 8 other organizations that bledged $5 Billion to the 30×30 campaign. There’s an interesting anecdote about pushback one of the presenters received after doing interviews regarding China’s pledge to bring forward their net-zero date. “I was sort of gently critical of the fact that China hasn’t gone further than I have been in the media before. And, you know, it was fascinating. Within a few hours, I received five messages by email on LinkedIn and other things that all contained exactly the same phrasing. They all said: Dear Mr Rivett-Carnac, we saw your comments in the media today. We’d like to communicate that we are deeply disappointed in you, that you do not recognize the leadership of the People’s Republic of China. These people have never met each other. How on earth did they all write to me with the same phraseology in the same day? It’s kind of alarming quite what’s happening there. But to move on from that and not to delve too far into conspiracy theories.” It boggles the mind how sensitive governments can be sometimes.

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

IMAGE CREDIT: NIH.


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