ALL YOU CAN EAT"
THE PLIMOTH FEAST
FEAST OR FAMINE
THE BITE STUFF
ALAN ALDA For our ancestors, a feast was a very special occasion.
Yet today we eat like this more often than you might think.
On this edition of Scientific American Frontiers, we'll find
out how much our stomachs agree with that.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) We'll also try the recipes that made civilizations
possible... We'll reveal the secrets of the elusive morel
mushroom... We'll solve that critical pet problem, doggie
breath... And discover how the overweight hide the truth --
ALAN ALDA I'm Alan Alda. Please join me now for our special edition,
About All You Can Eat.
Almighty Jehovah, we are grateful, Oh Lord, that thou hast
given us good plenty and good harvests, that we might feast
together with these our brethren of reformed religion. We
offer up our prayers in the name of Thy Son, Christ Jesus,
ALAN ALDA(NARRATION) The year is 1627. The place -- Plimoth, Massachusetts.
The occasion -- a great feast, put on by the colonists to
impress their Dutch guests.
ALAN ALDA This smells really good.
Ah, there's the pie.
ALAN ALDA What's in that pie?
Minced Pie. It hath turkey and dried fruit and spices. Good
and sweet and we did not spare no spice. We have Dutch visitors
ALAN ALDA I'm going to stay in this century for a while.
Then you must be willing to eat your share of cabbage pottage.
ALAN ALDA Cabbage pottage. Well maybe I'll just come back on certain
days. Could I have some of that, that's venison, right? That
looks interesting. You know, I don't eat this way all the
time. In fact, not so long ago it was only kings and lords
who could expect to eat their fill of rich food more often
than once or twice a year.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Even for these settlers, who marveled at
the abundance of the New World, this meal is a rare treat
-- that is, according to my neighbor at the table, Mistress
ALAN ALDA When is the last time you had a meal like this? I mean,
this elaborate, this many courses?
I would say Master Bradford's wedding. There was a feast as
great as this but not quite so fine.
ALAN ALDA So when was the Bradford wedding?
About three years ago.
ALAN ALDA So three years ago you ate a feast like this.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) In the days leading up to the feast, everyone
in the tiny colony took time out to hunt in the forests, to
fish on the bay, to prepare the best of everything. The communal
oven was fired, to bake pies and the finest of white bread.
Ducks and geese roasted over open cooking fires in the cottages.
But this tremendous community effort was special. Cabbage
soup, or pottage, with coarse bread was a typical everyday
meal -- the kind of plain food that had been normal for most
people for thousands of years. But nowadays, cabbage pottage
is far from normal -- things have gotten turned around.
ALAN ALDA The truth is that today, most people in America -- and
throughout the industrial world -- actually do eat like this
most of the time. Maybe not such a variety of dishes, but
the quantity and richness of our food is really like a historic
feast. That may sound like a good thing, but take a look at
our first story.
back to top
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The rugged Sierra Madre mountains of northern
Mexico. A caravan of researchers is on the road, hoping to
solve a great mystery of medical science -- the case of the
Pima Indians. The destination is the village of Maycoba, home
to a tribe of Pimas. Dr. Eric Ravussin of the National Institutes
of Health has worked with Pima Indians in Arizona for many
years. Today he is extending the work to include this village.
It's part of the world's longest-running study of obesity,
begun by the NIH 30 years ago to investigate a tragic epidemic
that struck 350 miles to the north.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) These are the Arizona Pima, close cousins
to the Mexican tribe. This community suffers from the world's
highest rate of obesity and its common complication, diabetes.
Half the adults here develop it. The puzzle is that, as the
NIH study has shown, the Arizona Pima eat no more, and no
differently, than most Americans. Yet their obesity rate is
much higher -- 80 percent versus 30 percent nationally. The
challenge now is to find out why these people gain so much
weight. Until early in the century, these people were farmers.
They call themselves Akimel O'Odham -- the River People --
after the Gila River, which sustained their crops. But that
way of life, along with the river, dried up when the waters
were dammed and diverted.
RAVUSSIN This was the start of the change in life style. They
had to curtail and finally abandon totally their farming.
And they were supplied with food from the U.S. government
and also on a cash basis. And the change was tremendous, and
very rapid, over maybe two or three decades.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) We first visited Eric Ravussin eight years
ago at his Phoenix lab, where he was doing groundbreaking
work on energy and weight. To begin sorting out the different
factors, he used this respiratory chamber. It's an artificial
environment inside a box, the ultimate in controlled lab conditions.
Volunteers from the Akimel O'Odham community-- like Peter
Jackson here -- would spend 24 hours at a stretch sealed in
RAVUSSIN Hello Peter, how are you doing? PETER All right.
RAVUSSIN Everything is fine?
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Like any engine, Peter's body absorbs oxygen
to burn fuel, and breathes out carbon dioxide. Monitoring
these gases in the chamber allowed Eric to compute the fuel
that Peter burned, and the number of calories he used. Physical
activity was also monitored, and it turned out to be critical.
Even the most trivial fidgeting is important, adding up to
significant energy use. Eric also found there were significant
differences between individuals in levels of fidgeting. Jennifer
Thomas was another volunteer.
RAVUSSIN Hello Jennifer, how are you doing?
RAVUSSIN O.K. Everything is all right? Do you need anything?
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Most of Jennifer's time was spent passively
watching television. A motion sensor on her wrist, along with
the radar, recorded little movement. But Peter's fidgeting
used 600 calories a day-- like jogging four miles.
RAVUSSIN Now the problem is that it is very difficult to choose
to be, you know, to have a high spontaneous physical activity.
You are either born being a kind of fidgeter or born having
a very low level of fidgeting.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) So today Eric's latest study aims to measure
activity levels in children, and then see if low activity
could be a predictor for later obesity.
Molly, I'm going to do the bio-impedance on you today you
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Five-year-old Molly Howard is starting a
new experiment, one that will last for the next 20 years.
...as still as possible, O.K.?
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) First they measure how much fat she has now.
From this electrical impedance test, the amount of fat and
lean tissue in the body can be calculated. Right now Molly
is not overweight, and her fat is normal. But the chances
are greater than 50/50 that in 20 years she will be overweight
like her mother, Elaine. To measure Molly's activity, Eric
uses a new method called doubly-labeled water. It allows his
subjects to get out of the artificial chamber and into the
RAVUSSIN Is that good? Yeah.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The water contains tracers that will track
how much energy Molly expends over the next week. Her instructions
-- go home and be yourself.
RAVUSSIN Good girl.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Like most kids, she does a variety of things
-- from fairly quiet... to very active. After a week she returns
to the lab to be tested.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) When the sample is analyzed for the remaining
tracers, it will turn out that Molly's activity level is the
same as most American kids, although in general Akimel O'Odhamkids
are a bit less active than average. It will be years before
it is clear whether Molly is developing obesity, but statistically
it is likely. Meanwhile Eric is exploring other factors that
might contribute to obesity. It's a confusing picture because
Molly and the rest of the tribe have a lifestyle just like
millions of other Americans. They eat the same foods, even
watch the same amount of television. There is, however, one
theory that has its roots in history.
RAVUSSIN There was an interesting idea suggesting that obesity
is the expression of a gene called "the thrifty gene." And
it's possible that people being good at storing fat -- it's
a very important survival value for these people during periods
of famine. And Pima Indians went through periods of famine
and possibly maybe people, their being very efficient in storing
fat, survived these periods of famine. And now with the availability
of food and less work in the field, you know, just this, this
gene is expressing itself as obesity.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) This theory can now be tested in the mountains
of northern Mexico. The Mexican Pima have a lifestyle that
must be close to that of the Arizona tribe 100 years ago.
For Eric it's a golden opportunity.
RAVUSSIN It was like arriving in a naturally designed experiment.
We were facing two populations with a very likely similar
genetic background but living in totally different environments.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) What the researchers found was a stark difference.
Compared to the Arizona tribe, the Mexicans have lower blood
pressure and lower cholesterol levels...
RAVUSSIN 100/60, O.K.?
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) This skin fold test shows that Mexican Pimas
are leaner... The major difference is body weight. Women on
average are 45 pounds lighter than in Arizona. WOMAN (Spanish)
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The men are 65 pounds lighter. It's a dramatic
contrast, but so is the difference in life style. WOMAN (Spanish)
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The Mexican Pima are much more active --
because they have to be. Manual labor of all kinds is the
rule. When Peter goes to work in Arizona, he hops in the car
and drives. It's just one of the conveniences of modern American
life. In Maycoba it's more common to walk, or ride if you
are lucky. As in most American homes, in Arizona the TV occupies
lots of the family's spare time. But in Maycoba there are
many chores. There's no running water, no electricity, no
machines. If you want food, you must grow it yourself. In
Arizona, food comes from the supermarket shelf. In Mexico,
diet consists of just three staples -- potatoes... Corn made
into tortillas and cooked without fat... And beans. It's a
very low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. In Arizona they eat
typical American meals, that are high in fat -- 40 percent
overall, compared to 20 percent in Mexico. So there's a lesson
in this for us all -- life style matters. For the Mexican
Pimas -- in spite of their genetic predisposition, diet and
exercise are good preventive medicine. Even people susceptible
to obesity aren't condemned to that outcome. It's an optimistic
note for people like Elaine Howard, who hopes to prevent the
onset of obesity in her daughter.
She's a pretty active person right now. She is not overweight
or anything. I would like for her to learn right now that
being, to stay active and, you know, to eat the right foods
because I have seen how my parents have come along and they
have diabetes right now. It's because our, most of our people
have strayed away from the main diets that they grew up with.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The Arizona tribe is now trying to renew
its ancient farming tradition. It offers not only a better
diet and more physical activity, but also the hope that things
can turn around for the next generation. But just as the Arizona
people are starting to relearn these secrets, their cousins
in Mexico are starting to lose them. The new road that brought
the scientists in is also bringing in the modern world. A
new water supply is on its way. There's store-bought lard
in the kitchen. But the tragic lesson of the Arizona tribe
could be of some help.
RAVUSSIN I think that the message is really let's try to get
this transition as smooth as possible, and let's try to retain
some of the good things in the traditional life style. And
maybe the best thing we can retain, at least it's a healthier
diet with less fat, less saturated fat that is animal fat,
and more fibers in the diet, and more carbohydrate.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) So perhaps the future of the tribes in Arizona
and Mexico is one of hope, with each poised to learn from
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) This is farm country, in the American Midwest.
Year in and year out, there's a harvest of millions of tons
of wheat, soybeans and corn. The three crops are a critical
part of our food, either to eat directly or to feed to animals.
Yet at one time these plants were of even more fundamental
importance. In three different parts of the world, they became
the very foundations of civilizations. Exactly how it happened
is lost in time. But in the Middle East, several thousand
years ago, people learned how to cultivate wheat. The Chinese
raised soybeans. And in Central America the Maya, or maybe
their predecessors, grew corn. Yet the true genius of all
these people is not just that they domesticated crops, but
they figured out recipes that turned them into high quality
food. We're in New Mexico to track down the first of these
ancient recipes. The recipe transforms corn into a superior
food. Josephine Nahohai is working with blue corn that was
grown right here on the Zuni reservation. The color is more
than decorative. Later it's going to guide Josephine through
a critical stage in the recipe, after roasting and grinding
KATZ So would you be kind enough to do the honors on this?
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) My guide through the intricacies of the ancient
kitchen is anthropologist, Sol Katz.
KATZ Put a little bit more in here... and you can see....
ALAN ALDA How would they have ground this thousands of years ago?
KATZ Yeah, well they use a mano and matate actually.
ALAN ALDA(NARRATION) The grinding method has changed little over
the centuries. But corn flour has a fatal flaw -- the B-vitamin
in it, niacin, is indigestible.
KATZ If we were to eat this or make it into a food and eat
that food, none of that niacin would be available to us.
ALAN ALDA So if we only ate this we could survive, but what would
happen to us?
KATZ We wouldn't survive for long, because we would develop
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Probably the people of Central America first
discovered how to unlock the niacin in corn, and the secret
quickly spread. The essential ingredient is lime, made with
roasted limestone and water. The lime water that Josephine
makes is highly alkaline. Different traditions have developed
to arrive at the same result.
ALAN ALDA Is the process of burning this creating alkali?
KATZ It isn't creating the alkali yet. When we put that salt
that this ashes leaves, back in water, then it's going to
be an alkali.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) We're using the method of the Hopi who make
ashes from one particular desert bush. But we're also going
to check the recipe using a thoroughly non-traditional pH
KATZ This is the real strong alkali that we just made. As
you can see, it's jumping, look it. It's going right off the
ALAN ALDA Wow. Right up to 10.
ALAN ALDA(NARRATION) Any pH above 7 is alkali. So now we're adding
our ash water to a batter made with blue corn flour, which
is naturally a little acid. We're aiming for a pH of 8.
KATZ We're still in the acid range. So we need, it means we
need to add some more of our ash. And this is... this is the
difference between me now, and one of these women who really
ALAN ALDA How would... how would she go, would she go by the color?
KATZ Because she's going to go by the color.
ALAN ALDA(NARRATION) As lime water is added, natural dyes in the
corn turn deep blue, just as the pH reaches 8. And that's
the right alkalinity to break down the compounds which trap
the niacin. Suddenly the corn is transformed into a superfood.
And it tastes good, too. JOSEPHINE NAHOHAI When I make the
dough, when I put the lime water in to make it blue, I guess
it's for the taste, that's why we put the lime water in there.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Learning to make piki bread, as it's called,
is part of becoming a Zuni or a Hopi woman. The recipe is
passed down from mother to daughter. The superior nutrition
it offers was vital for survival, for not only the Zuni and
the Hope, but throughout Mexico and Central America.
ALAN ALDA I cannot believe I'm doing this. Well look, I got a real
thin layer right there.
KATZ Yes, that's perfect, that's perfect. And you still have
your fingers, I think.
ALAN ALDA I've got four of them...
KATZ There, perfect. Good.
ALAN ALDA See that? It's kind of small.
KATZ That's all right. That's all right. It's better than
I was doing.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Some time between one and two thousand years
ago, the Chinese developed a recipe for soybeans. The recipe
is as miraculous as the alkali treatment of corn. Raw soybeans
are effectively toxic because they contain anti-trypsin factor,
a chemical which shuts off the way we digest protein. The
recipe starts by soaking the beans.
KATZ You feel the seed.
ALAN ALDA This seed?
KATZ Yeah. Feel how hard that is.
ALAN ALDA Yeah, very hard.
KATZ Now look how soft, how much softer this is already.
ALAN ALDA Yeah, well that's easier to eat.
KATZ It's easier to start to work with. So that's one reason
that... Oh don't eat it. Don't eat it.
ALAN ALDA No? What will it do to me?
KATZ Ah, that's a good question.
ALAN ALDA Well, you better talk fast. Oh my... now you tell me.
KATZ This is loaded with an anti-trypsin factor.
ALAN ALDA No, I'm going to have a lot of trypsin in here?
KATZ No, it's going to be the opposite. Your pancreas won't
be able to --
ALAN ALDA My pancreas?
ALAN ALDA Why didn't you mention that! Why isn't there a warning
on the pot? People go around the kitchen and say test what's
in the pot all the time.
KATZ Right. Right. Right. Yes, yes, yes, well, in this case...
in this case what has happened is that...
ALAN ALDA Pfft...
KATZ Yes, yes, exactly.
ALAN ALDA Now what?
KATZ What we need to do is we need to deactivate that anti-trypsin
ALAN ALDA How do we do that?
KATZ Ah, what I could do is I could boil this up for about
the next four hours. And that's what it would take to deactivate
the anti-trypsin factor. Fortunately, one seed isn't going
to poison you.
ALAN ALDA(NARRATION) We ground up the softened beans, then brought
them to the boil.
ALAN ALDA Here it goes. Here it goes.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Next we strained out the bean residue.
KATZ What we're going to do is separate the... the beans from
ALAN ALDA Is this milk we've just made still kind of poisonous
KATZ Yeah, that's right. It still has the anti-trypsin factor.
Now if we went through a lot of extra technology we could
deactivate the anti-trypsin factor in this by pressure cooking,
modern technology, etc. But traditionally you could either
boil this for much longer, but you can see how difficult it
would be to boil this. It would just boil over on us all the
ALAN ALDA So what do we do with this to make it trypsin friendly?
KATZ So what we're going to do now is precipitate the protein.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The magic ingredient is magnesium chloride,
a component of seawater. It makes the soy protein coagulate
into a curd.
KATZ And in that process we've now basically deactivated the
whole anti-trypsin. We're separating the anti-trypsin that's
going to be left in the whey, and we're separating -- and
the protein that's going to be precipitated is going to be
free of that.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) What we're making, of course, is bean curd
KATZ Now that's the curd, and the bottom is the whey. We don't
want it to... that's right, just go ahead and put it right
in here. And what you want to do is to layer it in there really
carefully. Reach in and try not to fish it around a lot. You
know what I mean, just let it go in there and then slowly
pull it out.
ALAN ALDA When you say layers, I'm getting different kinds of curds
here as I go down...
KATZ No, actually you're not. No, it's all the same curd.
But the whole idea is to keep those pieces very large. And
they stay that way.
ALAN ALDA Oh, so that's what you mean by layers.
KATZ Right. Right. Right, exactly.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Finally, we'll squeeze out the last few drops
of anti-trypsin factor, leaving behind high-quality, easily
KATZ Now I'm going to press this, OK. And if I press this,
can you see the liquid running out the sides?
ALAN ALDA Yeah, yes.
KATZ Watch this.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) What remains was a mainstay in China, more
than a thousand years ago. Starting in the Middle East, wheat
provided one of the most important foods of all, thanks to
a simple recipe. And thanks to yeast, a marvelous ingredient
that transforms the wheat. Nowadays we add pure baker's yeast,
a descendent of one of the wild yeasts that would have been
used originally. As the yeast ferments the flour, a whole
range of transformations take place. Protein quality improves,
B vitamins increase, and chemicals which lock up calcium are
KATZ So the yeast has some beneficial qualities in getting
rid of some of the anti-nutrients. And as well, it also improves
the actual quality. So it's taken a good source of food and
made it into a superfood. So bread becomes like a superfood
ALAN ALDA So you could exist, you could exist on bread?
KATZ Almost you can do... almost...
ALAN ALDA Not quite on bread alone, but close.
KATZ Right. Almost on bread alone. And you want to treat it
a little bit more gently than that.
ALAN ALDA What do you call it punching for?
KATZ Well, that's true. They punch it down, but yeast is still...
ALAN ALDA Punch the bag like that. You know, I mean you've got
to give it a shot.
KATZ Well, it looks like you won.
ALAN ALDA This was mine?
KATZ Yeah, you definitely, you punched yours down harder than
mine. And there's no doubt about who the winner is. However
we'll have to... I guess the final thing will be in the tasting.
ALAN ALDA The taste, I think you're right.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) As a bonus, there's the wonderful puffy texture
of bread caused by carbon dioxide gas, a lucky side effect
of yeast fermentation. And it doesn't hurt the taste either.
ALAN ALDA Yours is very good.
KATZ Mmmm... the taste of that.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Our day in the kitchen was about much more
than making food. Actually we were making history. Sol Katz
believes that without these recipes, societies could not have
KATZ This is now a superfood in a sense. And... and it's delicious.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) What the superfoods achieve is to take nature's
most productive plants and tailor them to match what our stomachs
KATZ We've optimized the entire nutritional value of this.
And now in a sense you can build a civilization off of this
ALAN ALDA How long do you suppose it took us to evolve culturally
these ways of processing these foods so that we could get
such an advantage out of it?
KATZ I think that they have to co-occur, basically co-occurring
at the same time. You could say you could make these domesticated,
but in fact you wouldn't really be able to depend upon them
very much until you step through that window of the appropriate
cuisine and made a whole new thing out of it.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) So next time you take a mouthful of bread,
remember -- that's history you're chewing on.
LEE I've tried SlimFast.
LA FORTUNE I've tried drinking a lot of water.
LEE Weight Watchers.
LA FORTUNE Rigorous exercise.
LEE Overeaters Anonymous.
LA FORTUNE And going down to eating like ah, rabbit food.
LEE I don't tend to look in full length mirrors if I can avoid
LA FORTUNE And I'm just miserable.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The fashionable and healthy thing to be is
slim. Yet more and more people are finding it too hard to
keep up with this ideal. Today, 30% of Americans are clinically
obese, up from a 25% ten years ago. Chantal La Fortune is
in a program for the obese, defined as at least 20 percent
heavier than normal.
You're going to hold on to the sides and you're going to bend
down, knees onto the platform.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Here at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in
New York, she's being weighed underwater. It shows her body
is 43 percent fat, while 25 percent is normal. Another standard
test is of metabolism. That's what's going on here with Barry
Lee. Many obese complain of slow metabolism, but this test
shows that both Barry and Chantal burn normal amounts of calories,
at rest and while exercising. So maybe they just eat too much.
To investigate that, the patients are asked to keep a meticulous
food diary. It's been a traditional part of obesity research
for nearly a century. Here's how Barry records this meal.
LEE One portion of spinach pasta with mixed vegetables and
I include what vegetables I used. In this case, squash and
green and red peppers and mushrooms. I filled out the forms
as best as I could recollect. And you know, if something was
in ounces that I knew like a can of juice or a container of
milk, I put down the exact amount. If it was a fruit, I'd
say, small, medium or large. The only times it would be difficult
is when you went to a restaurant.
ALAN ALDA(NARRATION) Lauren Muhlheim, a researcher at St. Luke's,
converts the food diaries into calories using a comprehensive
nutritional database. There are 23 varieties listed just for
an English muffin. By Barry's careful records, he's eating
only 800 calories a day. Many similar results have led to
the conclusion that the obese don't eat any more than others.
So why is he overweight? Doubly labeled water may help solve
the mystery. The same as is used in the Pima Indian studies,
the technique accurately measures the body's energy consumption.
After two weeks, Barry is confronted by study leader, Dr.
STEPHEN HEYMSFIELD This water allows us to measure how many
calories you burn over 14 days. And when we did that test
on you we got a value of about 3100 calories a day. Now on
the other hand, we had you reporting approximately 800 calories
a day on your food records. So there's a big gap, 2000 or
more calories a day.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) With doubly labeled water, Barry is brought
face to face with reality. He's not losing weight because
he's not really dieting.
STEPHEN HEYMSFIELD For many years it was thought that the
obese don't overeat compared to people who are normal body
weight. And that was based on these food records and self-report
to a very large extent. And now that we have objective measures
of measuring how many calories people eat we're discovering
that there was this, what we would call, a bias in food intake
reporting. The tendency was for people who are heavier and
heavier to be reporting less and less of the actual amount
MUHLHEIM Now the question is, why are they misreporting? It
did not seem to be conscious lying. These people had gone
through many, many tests, and really seemed to be curious
to know why they were having so much trouble losing weight.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Chantal is part of an ingenious new experiment
designed to find out how aware the subjects are of their own
Are you ready to order?
Ah, yes, I am. I'll have an order of the vegetable dumplings.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Once again, a detailed food diary will be
I've ordered shrimp fried rice and steamed vegetables. And
how I would write this down is I'm not going to eat all of
this. I'll probably eat half of it, which means it will probably
be about a cup of rice. And I'll probably have three of the
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) In this first phase of the study, Chantal's
carefully prepared records acknowledge her eating 1700 calories
a day. Then she's given doubly labeled water. But unlike Barry,
who was kept in the dark, Chantal will be told exactly what
the water is for -- that it will be used to double check her
MUHLHEIM In this experiment it's not so important that patients
actually receive doubly labeled water, it's more important
that they believe that they're getting doubly labeled water.
And that they believe that we're going to be able to double
check the number of calories that they're reporting on their
STEPHEN HEYMSFIELD We had a reported intake of 1700 calories
a day during the screening period that we studied you and
we kept records, and then the second time your intake went
up to 2200 calories, that's almost a 500 calorie increase.
Yet your weight stayed exactly the same.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Chantal knew she was being checked, and her
self-reports shot up 500 calories.
STEPHEN HEYMSFIELD We were wondering, did you keep better
food records the second time, or did you eat more as far as
you know, or what happened?
Well, I was diligent both times, but I ate more on the second...
STEPHEN HEYMSFIELD If you ate more, you would have gained
more weight, but you didn't. Your weight stayed exactly the
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The strange thing is, Chantal has no awareness
that the water made her more truthful.
STEPHEN HEYMSFIELD Do you think that had an influence on you,
knowing that we really knew how many calories you were eating?
Do you think that made you keep slightly better records, perhaps?
No. I decided that if I'm going to get the true result I just
have to be the same way.
STEPHEN HEYMSFIELD The same way.
Yeah, no, it didn't affect me.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) But her improved accuracy shows that, deep
down she must know how much she's really eating. The only
person she's fooling is herself.
MUHLHEIM The important thing about getting people to be more
accurate in their self-reporting is that it would show that
the information that they're eating more was available to
them on some level. Now if they can be made aware that they're
actually eating more then they can be made to modify their
eating, and actually lose weight.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) So the greatest hurdle for the obese may
be a psychological one. They have to first learn to be honest
with themselves about how much they're eating. And then they
have to use that knowledge to eat less.
back to top
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Springtime in Northern Michigan. Time to
get outdoors -- and time to eat morels. You may not have heard
of them, but mushroom connoisseurs certainly have. There's
fierce competition hunting down this elusive delicacy.
They're delicious. I'm a mushroom maniac. Once you have one,
you're like hooked, you know.
CZARNECKI This is melted butter. I use just about --
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Chef
CZARNECKI, who specializes in mushrooms, is preparing to cook
the rarest morels of all -- ones that have never been near
a forest, the first ever cultivated morels. In a blind test,
I'm going to see if they can capture the magic of wild ones.
So here are morels, type A. And here are morels, type B.
ALAN ALDA If you found a mushroom that was cultivated and tasted
to you exactly like the wild mushroom, would that make a big
difference to you?
CZARNECKI Well, this is an extraordinarily exciting development
to be able to do this. It's been tried for at least 100 years
to cultivate the morel. These are picked and eaten in India
and Pakistan, in Mexico, in South America, they're eaten everywhere.
It's probably the most universally loved of all the wild mushrooms.
And there's been a great chase, a great hunt, if you will,
over this 100 year period, to cultivate these mushrooms. And
it's been done now here in this country for the first time.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION)
MILLS heads the team from Michigan State University that broke
the morel barrier. The key to their success has been getting
to know exactly what makes a morel happy.
MILLS In the case of Michigan, they like conditions which
are associated with springtime. Initially it starts off as
being cool weather, and also damp weather. What you need to
grow any type of mushroom, morels particularly, is quite a
bit of moisture. The more moisture you have the better off
it will be. And the temperatures are also critical. Sometimes
morels can be a little elusive. Here's one growing underneath
a tree limb.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) It's taken Gary's team ten years of work
in the lab to learn how to grow morels. Like all mushrooms,
morels have a life cycle that begins when microscopic spores
drop from the mature fungus. Normally the spores would fall
onto the forest floor. But here they're collected on a dish
containing a nutrient jelly. After a few days, the spores
germinate, sprouting tiny threads called mycelia. They're
about one tenth the thickness of a human hair. In the wild,
summer conditions promote rapid growth, so when fall comes
around the mycelia have formed underground clumps, called
sclerotia. The team raises sclerotia by taking mycelia they've
grown from morel spores, and seeding it into jars of soil.
After a month of simulated summer the sclerotia are dug out.
Now here's the key discovery. It was always thought sclerotia
were a response to some kind of abnormal stress. But in fact,
they're the morel's normal wintering stage -- something previous
researchers had missed.
MILLS They knew the importance that the sclerotia were there,
but they thought that they were just to allow the fungus to
survive, to survive adverse conditions. But in reality they
also store nutrients, which can then be used quickly to come
out when favorable conditions start again.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) So the next step is to wake the sclerotia
up in the spring.
MILLS This is basically what's happening outside in nature
during the springtime. We get the spring rains, the ground's
totally saturated, the sclerotia are picking up the moisture,
and from this then the morel will grow.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) They had to figure out a wealth of other
details like temperature, light and humidity. With that though,
they've tamed the wild morel. So now it's clear that mass
production of sclerotia is the key to cultivating morels.
They're using jars dosed with cooked wheat, to simulate ideal
nutrient conditions on the forest floor. But let's not miss
the forest for the trees. After all, what this is for is making
it easier to eat morels.
ALAN ALDA Can you tell by the sight of them which is which? Or
do you just remember what you put in what dish?
CZARNECKI Let me put it to you this way, if I didn't know
which was which and these were put in front of me, I couldn't
tell the difference. Not from looking at them. Not from looking
at them. From smelling them, I could.
ALAN ALDA Oh, from smelling them. Right now could I smell the difference?
Well, I do smell the difference.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Morels Rosenthal, on a bed of crisp phyllo
pastry. Although they were prepared the same way, the two
dishes had smelled markedly different to me. And they looked
different too. But wild morels vary a lot, and I've never
smelled one before anyway, so this was a tough challenge.
ALAN ALDA OK. OK. I have a very strong preference for this one,
because from my taste, it's... to me, this is like Mozart,
and this is like rock and roll. This has got a lot of stuff
going on, a lot of ba boom, baboom, baboom, you know. This
is very light, it's nice, it tender. But I think, I think
that that's cultivated, and I think that this is... is...
is wild but, but I don't know. What do you... tell me now.
CZARNECKI You're right.
ALAN ALDA I'm right?
ALAN ALDA On both counts. I'm right about what I like, or I'm right
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Wild morels, like these -- rare and expensive
-- are all you can get right now. But the cultivated ones
won't be long in coming.
back to top
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) America's pets eat 9 billion dollar's worth
of commercial pet food a year. These dogs are members of a
canine elite that decides what the rest of the nation's dogs
-- or at least their owners -- will be buying next. They are
taste testers at the Kansas research center of a leading pet
HAND Hi Alan, this is Tango
ALAN ALDA Hi Tango...
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) As I found out, the big trend for dogs --
as in humans -- is to healthier, less-fattening foods. Even
the newest treats are nutritionally balanced.
HAND You can eat these if you want, they're just not that
ALAN ALDA You know, this doesn't taste bad.
HAND If you would use these as hors d'oeuvres at your next
party, they won't break you.
ALAN ALDA You could just pass one around.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) There's a back-to-nature trend, too.
ALAN ALDA Before people were responsible for feeding dogs, what
did dogs eat on their own?
HAND Well dogs are omnivorous naturally. They eat plants and
animal tissue. So in the wild they tend to eat things like
small mammals, rabbits, mice, rats.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The surprise on the list was plants.
HAND Coyotes will go in and devastate melon patches and plums
and cherries, that sort of thing. If you look at his teeth
these in the front are his canines. These were adapted for
cutting and tearing. They're actually sharp on the backside.
But the back teeth are a more table-like surface for grinding.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) In the wild, tearing and chewing all those
plants and animals keep dogs' teeth in good shape. But supermarket
diets don't give the teeth that good a work-out.
RICHARDSON Let's pull up the canine tooth, the stained tooth.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The result has become a common sight to dog
owners and veterinarians. The computer reveals that the only
the tips of the teeth are clean. The plaque, stain and tartar
cause gum disease. But there is a solution.
ALAN ALDA How often do you brush a dog's teeth?
RICHARDSON It's highly recommended but it's not often done.
Most veterinarians, if not all, will recommend that all dogs
have their teeth brushed.
ALAN ALDA How often though?
RICHARDSON Every day.
ALAN ALDA Every day?
RICHARDSON Every day.
ALAN ALDA Because plaque builds up ...
RICHARDSON Within minutes.
ALAN ALDA Within minutes?
RICHARDSON Within minutes.
ALAN ALDA Now open your mouth Penny, I'm just going to brush your
teeth a little bit okay? Just open, open up your mouth.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) It's no surprise only one in six owners brush
their dog's teeth.
ALAN ALDA I think I need a little help with this. How would you
First of all you want to settle her down and make sure she's
ALAN ALDA And you do like a circular motion?
Yes. Even with positive reinforcement she's already developing
a lot of anti-brushing behaviors.
ALAN ALDA This is really tough to believe that somebody's going
to do this every day.
RICHARDSON Well that drove us toward the one aspect of the
concept of developing a diet that would be like having an
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) This is conventional dried dog food -- kibble.
It's bite-sized -- and that's it's first problem.
JENSON They're just inhaling this food, they're not even chewing
it. And so to get an active effect in the mouth we're going
to have to make the kibble size much larger.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The research team swung into action. The
first priority -- design a bigger, bolder kibble. But that
was the easy part. As the first prototypes rolled off the
production line, the bigger problem facing the development
team was to make a kibble you can really sink you teeth into.
HAYWARD But I have the feeling from a texture standpoint the
products that are out there today don't have the texture we're
looking for cause if you break this stuff it just shatters.
There's nothing left for the tooth to be cleaned with, to
have that tooth brushing effect.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) To have a tooth-brushing effect, the kibble
has to hold together while the tooth sinks in. Here's the
artificial tooth -- complete with artificial plaque -- they
use to test their prototypes. First, an old-style kibble.
Only the very tip makes contact before the kibble breaks up.
But with the eventual winning design... the tooth sinks in
and is wiped clean. The secret is inside, where a scanning
electron microscope reveals long vegetable fibers that bind
the kibble together, as the tooth slides through it. A normal
kibble, with no fiber fabric, simply crumbles. So the new
kibble works in the lab. But what about where it counts? Wendy
is having her teeth painted with the same discoloring stain
dentists use to show up plaque on human teeth. After the staining,
Wendy is let loose on a bowl of the new dental kibble. Two
kibbles later -- and most of the stain has gone.
RICHARDSON Clean right up to the gum line.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Wendy settles in for four or five more pieces
ALAN ALDA Let's take one last look at Wendy's teeth. Open up, take
a look at your teeth here. Wow, look at that, it's pretty
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The edible toothbrush had certainly done
a better job on Wendy's teeth than I had.
ALAN ALDA Good job.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) But edible toothbrushes won't work if they're
not eaten. So after a flavor-boosting spray of fat and seasoning,
the kibble is ready for the all-important taste-test. Tango
was first up, and like a good company dog made the right choice.
After that, though, on the day we came to film, things went
down hill. But of course there was an explanation. It turns
out dogs don't choose by taste alone. Where the bowl is matters
GROSS Some dogs are either right handed or left handed just
as some people might be. And in order to get around that bias
we usually run a two day test. On the first day of the test
pan A would be on the left side and then on the second day
of the test pan A would be on the right side. So with the
two days and switching the bowls from side to side on either
day we avoid that "pawedness".
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) According to the manufacturer, the verdict
by the taste tasters was two to one in favor of the new kibble.
And so a new contender will soon be entering that nine billion
dollar pet food market. But before I left, there was one more
testing panel to visit. This time, the testers were human.
ALAN ALDA What do you do in this room?
JENSEN We have developed a trained sensory panel of individuals
who are able to detect odors in dogs' breath and to quantify
ALAN ALDA You have a trained panel of people who smell doggie breath
for ... for their ... I mean that's what they do?
JENSEN Absolutely. In addition to their regular jobs they
volunteer for this.
ALAN ALDA Ahh, that's good. This is just a hobby.
ALAN ALDA Do you grade it, like one to ten, this is really bad,
or do you have names for how bad it is?
JENSEN We have a scale of zero to nine. Zero is no noticeable
bad breath. Nine is knock 'em dead.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) One of the beagles has been eating the new
kibble, the other a regular diet. After the professionals
make their choice...
ALAN ALDA Alright, put it right here Blackjack. Do I have to get
down to the dog's level? Say ahhh. How do you get the dog
What we do, the procedure is, walk up, open up the dog's lips,
get your nose right down there, and take three little bunny
ALAN ALDA Let's see you do this.
Okay. Come here buddy. That's all there is to it. Think about
it in your head, score it, rate it.
ALAN ALDA Come here. When you speak about this, and you will, be
kind. I don't know what this dog has been eating but this
is definitely a dog.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) I was hoping this one was on the new diet.
ALAN ALDA Hello. It's a better smell over here to my nose. How
did you rate them?
I would've graded that dog probably a one and this dog probably
ALAN ALDA Six out of nine. I never want to smell a number nine
ever as long as I live.
JENSEN So it sounds like you're about ready to sign up for
ALAN ALDA I think I could be a pro at this. It's been nice sniffing