One of my sons recently emailed me and said “I’d be interested to know what you think of this.” and attached the article linked to directly below:
So, I wrote back -
Good morning. :-) Did you ever read my blog about nutrition? You probably remember my basic approach, but just for the sake of review: Simple Nutrition for the Barefoot Runner is Based on a Solid World View
As for the particular article that you referenced, I think he makes some interesting suggestions. The idea that people have succumbed to a “fad” disease is certainly nothing new. It has always struck me as odd how much people want to “have” a particular fad diagnosis. Of course, they don’t put it in those terms, but I’ve seen cycles of these popular diagnoses my whole life (and in history from studying nutrition for nursing school.) It is convenient, many times, to say one has a disease or nutritional deficiency, to make excuses for other questionable habits such as lack of sleep or bad temper or over eating. I do think it likely that every body has it’s own particular food sensitivities, much like which foods people find agreeable varies, but rarely to the extremes that people need the drugs and supplements that are being marketed to them.
His list of symptoms that correlate with scurvy is thought provoking. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a number of people were either not getting good nutrition or were accidentally causing the body to discard vitamins because of high levels of other additives they are eating in highly processed foods. (By processed, I mean altered more from their original cellular form and content. Preparing food for packaging or transportation may or may not include this kind of processing) You know me. I’m not a purest, but the more total processed food a person eats, the more difficult it is going to make attaining appropriate nutrients. (Ironically, the much politicized government school-lunch programs end up being from a lot of processed and pre-packaged foods.) However, I have also observed that symptoms tend to overlap in many diagnoses and diseases. It makes sense, since it is all interconnected. This is why I believe it is usually folly to try to pin-point one nutritional factor to adjust. At the risk of sounding repetitive: Eat mostly unaltered food.
There is also reason to believe that a body adjusts to certain amounts of vitamins available to it and/or is harmed by too large amounts (particularly taken as supplements, i.e. non-food forms) For instance, I remember reading about studies that showed that when people ate relatively low amounts of vitamin C, the body learned to hoard it. When people ate a lot, it passed through the system very quickly or they had stomach trouble. Of course, there is always a lower limit of a nutrient which the body needs to function properly and continue in good health, but who is to say that is the same for all people. Plus, the studies that are used to “set” such guidelines are constantly being revised. What?! They were wrong the first time? How do we know they are correct now?
For another aspect of how people accidentally don’t eat what is good for them: Do you remember reading that Captain Cook made his crew eat sauerkraut to avoid scurvy? Captain James Cook That would have been raw, meaning non-pasteurized, such as is NOT sold in most grocery stores. The heating process of pasteurization would destroy most, if not all, of the vitamin C. So people can think they are eating a food that is supposed to have certain nutrients, but fail to consider how much it has been processed. Another example of this would be canned foods. The nutrients in canned green beans is going to be hugely less than fresh or frozen. Sometimes frozen might have more simply because they were captured in the freezing process, whereas it is difficult to tell how “fresh” fresh produce is sometimes!
A lot of the medical misinformation and subsequent marketing of “low cholesterol” or “bad cholesterol” foods comes to mind. This article about cholesterol is a good example of how studies are always changing what people think they know. I happen to think this study is onto something, being that the basic conclusion is that all the micro-managment of cholesterol levels was unnecessary and quite possibly harmful. It sounds like lowering cholesterol can actually speed up aging! But if you just eat as much unprocessed food in variety as makes you feel good about eating and leaves you feeling good after you eat, you will not have to worry about all these studies!
Beth and I have a theory that when most people follow these fad nutritional diets, what often happens is that they end up eating more home prepared meals from scratch. They begin to feel good because of basic nutritional principles, not because they are now excluding or including some “newly discovered” nutritional factor that no one has known about before. They might also feel better because they are simply spending more time at home (cooking and being with family) than running around with a crazy schedule! It can be so impossible to isolate factors that effect our health, not to mention subjective feelings of well-being. Some studies show that people just feel better when there is change and variety in life!
I hope that this in some way is what you thought you would get when you asked about this article. :-) I think I may have to post this on my blog, too, since I wrote so much. Let me know if I missed something you were particularly interested in hearing about.