The Health Corner Vol. 26 – Common Fallacies Concerning Nutrition I
I have been researching and writing on the principles of nutrition for a long time and have accumulated several articles filled with good information for my patients. Today, I would like to expound on five of ten basic foundational fallacies about nutrition that are commonly held by most Americans today. The last five will be addressed in the next article.
The first fallacy is the whole concept of science diets. This concept is simply man’s attempt to improve upon nature. But it does nothing but defy the ‘natural’ concept. We see science diets being proffered all the time, especially in the animal food industry. But it pervades the human food supply as well. The idea is that you can get a good balance of nutrition from scientifically formulated products, thus bringing about good health. An example of this type of thing would be Ensure, a liquid vitamin supplement. This is made of fractionated, laboratory-derived components that are supposed to be “a balanced ratio to provide for all nutritional needs.” My thought is that we humans have survived thousands of years without Ensure. Why would we think we need it now to take us to a higher level of health? And when I see how the status of health for most Americans has declined in recent decades I am confirmed in my opinion that science diets are just not necessary or beneficial to human health.
Another myth that has taken hold of America concerns caloric intake and health. I have talked to many people over the years that believe that anyone who wants to lose weight simply needs to reduce caloric intake. If we were only machines this would be well and good. However, we are not. We are vital, living organisms that must respond to the different stressors and demands that are placed upon us. As a result, caloric reduction will simply slow down metabolism and make it progressively more difficult for one to lose weight. If one is having a weight problem it’s probably due at least in part to a stressed endocrine system that is not functioning properly. Add this to a poor diet and weight loss success becomes even more elusive.
The next false idea on nutrition is that fats are bad and cause heart attacks, strokes, and atherosclerosis (or hardening of the arteries). In truth, there are good fats and there are bad fats. Unfortunately, there are very few people that I have talked with about this over the years that really understand what good and bad fats are. The whole issue has become clouded because the public has been subjected to terms that they do not fully understand: saturated fats, unsaturated fats, omega 3’s, omega 6’s, trans fats … Which are good and which are bad? The whole issue is actually quite simple once it’s understood. In a nutshell, the unsaturated fats found in nature are good. The unsaturated fats that man produces are bad, and all saturated fats found in nature are good. It really is that simple. The issue becomes one of identifying which fats are being discussed at any given moment. The rule of thumb is that if the fat is found in nature, it is good. If it is derived from an unnatural source or has been adulterated by man, scientifically or otherwise, it is a bad fat. The bottom line is, we are fat deficient in our diets. We are starving ourselves of the good fats in favor of the bad fats, which only serve to further promote ill health.
We have also been taught that omega 6’s are pro-inflammatory and omega 3’s are anti-inflammatory. While this is true, it is also true that both omega 3’s and 6’s need to be balanced in a 1:2 ratio, ideally. Due to the high consumption of meat containing mostly omega 6’s, and the consumption of omega 3’s which are primarily found in raw nuts and seeds, this ratio is dramatically imbalanced in favor of the pro-inflammatory fatty acids. Now, inflammation is a normal physiological response most of the time, but an imbalance in this series causes a chronic inflammatory response. And this is indicative of a greater problem.
This next common misconception on diet is regarding the promotion of milk for strong bones. Now, the milk we humans primarily drink in America is cow’s milk, which is specifically designed for cows, not for humans. This in and of itself is something to consider. Not only is cow’s milk not designed for the human species, but it has been pasteurized and homogenized. Homogenization keeps milk from separating and also reduces the digestibility of it. Pasteurization denatures (alters the chemical structure in space) of the milk, thus altering its nutritional benefits.
The truth is, milk can cause the human body many problems. In fact, there are studies out there showing that milk contributes to osteoporosis. If milk really builds strong bones, Americans would have the healthiest bone structures in the world because we consume more milk than any other country. And yet, we have one of the highest rates of osteoporosis instead. This is because man is not meant to drink cow’s milk all his life. Milk is a starter food, from which we are to progress to other types of foods.
And with that we stop for now…
As you can see by what I have written here, there are some real discrepancies between what has been touted as truth and what is really true concerning diet in this country. It is up to you, the public, to keep yourselves informed and act on what you learn. I hope you will take time to read part two of this topic next time, to further your education on the very important subject of diet and your health.
Until then, here’s to your good health!
Dr. Jon R. Link