Monday, June 13, 2011

Bottled Earth is Good For You

Ever wonder what happened to the Biosphere 2 Experiment?

For those who don't know, or are too young to remember, Biosphere 2 was an experiment to see how self-supporting stations in space might work.   Starting in September 1991 a group of self-proclaimed "bio-nauts" lived in a sealed, self-sufficient, three acre complex for two years.

As part of the experiment, the Bio-nauts had to grow and raise their own food.   The complex was equipped with an area to grow crops, and their were food animals such as chicken and fish as well.  But, because the bio-nauts were scientists with little back-ground on growing crops or animal husbandry, there was less food available then originally expected.
Between the diminished calories and the hard labor needed to raise that food, all the bio-nauts lost significant amounts of weight.  They were described as "starving" and "guant."

But although the Bio-Nauts starved their health actually improved.   Their health was closely monitored, and, in the end:

When the crew emerged from the experiment after two years, the project was judged by the media to be a failure. Early in the second year, carbon dioxide levels had risen so high (twelve times that of the outside) that the crew were growing faint and Walford asked for more oxygen to be pumped into the structure on two occasions. The Biosphere had proved not to be a self-sufficient, autonomous world as it would need to be if it were to become a base station on another planet. In 1999, by which time the Biosphere had been taken over by Columbia University as a research center into the effects of climate change,Time magazine judged it one of the hundred worst ideas of the twentieth century. But Walford’s experiments with diet, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in December 1992, were judged a success. The bionauts not only showed dramatic weight loss (stabilizing at an average of fourteen percent overall), but also lower blood pressure and cholesterol, more efficient metabolisms, and enhanced immune systems.

Now, as the article showed, these people were pretty much always hungry, and actually resorted to things such as stealing food.   It's interesting to note, however, that despite the fact that they all came out "gaunt" they were actually in better health then when they weren't "starving."

Now, I wouldn't recommend sealing one's self up in an hermetically sealed, self-contained, eco-system as a way to lose weight, but it does demonstrate that part of the problem today is not lack of food, but the over-abundance of it.

We can survive on less food (although constant starvation is not a state anyone wants to be in), than we think we need.   But food is being overproduced in this country and because we over-produce food in this country, those excess calories have got to go somewhere.   The somewhere has turned out to be our hips, thighs, and stomachs, to the detriment of our overall health.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting indeed! I agree with you 100%. We live in a obesegenic society where food is everywhere. And mostly processed, salted and sugared up varieties. Even though I live a pretty healthy lifestyle, I know my own home environment still provides a fridge and pantry full of temptation each day. Our brains are hard wired to eat food when we see it (old survival mechanism) and it takes a lot of practice and conscious effort to change that...especially in a McDonald's ridden culture!