‘Some 35 percent’ of the foods we eat [and two-thirds to three-quarters of the crop foods] are derived from flowering plants and trees that depend on pollination by insects. This often-cited percentage is used to stress the importance of bees to the human food supply – and the possible severe consequences of escalating CCD, or Colony Collapse Disorder, among populations of wild bees, bumblebees and honeybees.
But perhaps that percentage does not reflect the full weight of the bees’ importance for our diets.
A new study, conducted by a team of German and American ecologists and one nutritional expert, has now looked into the relative importance to the human health of these pollination-dependent foods and concludes bees actually guide us to the best nutrition – and we should be eating more, not less, of the pollination-dependent foods, if we want to improve public health and combat modern lifestyle diseases.
The researchers – who have published their results in PLoS ONE – conclude for instance the majority of unsaturated fatty acids we consume, which are associated with lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, come from pollinated plants. The same goes for several important minerals and vitamins A and [various forms of] E and more than 90 percent of vitamin C.
Interestingly the researchers also look at some micronutrients that may not be essential to our diet, but that do offer additional health benefits. For instance various antioxidant carotenoids, such as lycopene [associated with lowered risk for various hormonal cancers, prostate, breast etc] and β-cryptoxanthin [which has been inversely linked with the risk of lung cancer] find their origin solely in flowering plants.
Of course there isn’t much new in stating fruits and veggies are good for us. But the researchers think it is important to keep that in mind when assessing CCD: “Ongoing pollinator decline may […] exacerbate current difficulties of providing a nutritionally adequate diet for the global human population.”
© Rolf Schuttenhelm | www.bitsofscience.org