2. The Supplement Approach To Nutrition
Someone once said that there are as many approaches to nutrition as there are nutritionists. There is the "protein school" of nutrition which emphasizes a high-protein diet and protein foods over all else. One group tells us we must eat meat and drink milk; another group tells us we must base our diet on grains and seaweeds. There are vegetarians, fruitarians, sproutarians, and breatharians. There are nutritionists who defend junk foods and promote fast foods. Just about every conceivable approach to nutrition has its supporters and adherents.
This lesson is about one of the more bizarre cults of nutritionists: the supplementalists, or those who advocate powders, pills, capsules, and supplements of vitamins, minerals, and proteins. There have already been several lessons telling why we don't need nutritional supplements in the diet. You have already learned about the fallacies of using inorganic minerals, fragmented vitamins, and other worthless powders, pills and potions.
Yet the supplement approach to nutrition remains a trap for the unwary and uneducated. You need facts if you wish to educate your clients, friends, family, and patients about the folly of following the recommendations of the supplementalists. This lesson, then, focuses on the school of nutritional thought, and those spokesmen, that advocate the use of supplements as a normal part of a healthy diet.
2.1 The Supplement School and Its Beliefs
The supplementary approach to nutrition is based on these erroneous beliefs:
All of these beliefs are false. Let's briefly examine them one by one.
2.1.1 Fallacy #l: We Can Utilize Inorganic Minerals and Vitamins
When my grandfather was a young man, he plowed the clay fields each spring to prepare for planting cotton. He told me that every year one of the poor women who lived in the area would come to his fields with a spoon and a bucket. She would squat down near where he had plowed and start to spoon up some of the dark black clay into her bucket until it was full.
My grandfather thought that the woman was perhaps gathering clay from his particular field to use as a poultice, since the dirt in his fields was a darker color than other farms in the area. One day he noticed that the woman was putting spoonfuls of the clay into her mouth and chewing it up. One spoonful would go into the bucket, and the next spoonful would go into her mouth.
He took his lunch pail over to the woman squatting in the field and offered her his sandwich, thinking that maybe the, woman was crazed from hunger and had taken to eating dirt.
The woman looked at my grandfather in embarrassment and refused the offered food. "I'm not hungry," she told him, "f just have a craving for this kind of clay. My body wants the salts in it."
Dirt of clay-eating was, and still is, a common practice in some parts of the poor rural South. It even has a name—pica, or the craving for unnatural nonfood substances. Many times the diet in poor regions of the country consists of, polished rice, grits, lard, white flour, and other totally demineralized foods. In a bizarre effort to compensate for their mineral-poor diet, the poor people (usually nursing mothers or older women) would develop "cravings" for clay or dirt.
Of course dirt-eating did not improve the health of these physically-deranged people; they could no more get minerals from the soil than they could get calories from the air.
Yet today there are still people who want us to eat inorganic minerals for health. The only difference is that these people have extracted the minerals from the dirt and just put them into a nice clean pill or capsule. But the approach to nutrition is the same. It doesn't matter if you eat clay with a spoon or swallow a pill from a bottle, you are still making a futile effort to get your mineral needs from a totally inappropriate nonfood substance.
We cannot utilize minerals, vitamins, and other elements of nutrition that are inorganic in nature. Our bodies are not meant to process such nonfood items. Many of the minerals and other nutritional elements that are packed into a pill originally came from rocks (dolomite), industrial wastes (fluoride), and even scrap metal (iron)! There are people today who would never consider sticking a spoonful of dirt into their mouths, yet they gulp an inorganic food supplement each day that is little more than dirt and soil that has been "prettied up."
Our mineral needs, and other nutrient needs, can only be satisfied by organic elements as found in plants. We cannot process dirt or soil into usable elements, nor can we metabolize extracts of these soils or chemicals that make up the supplement pills. We must eat plants (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, etc.) that have elaborated inorganic mineral compounds into organic compounds and chains if we want to obtain real nutrition. Plants take minerals and nutrients from the soil; we take minerals and nutrients from the plants. We cannot bypass this all-important step as the supplementalists would have us believe.
2.1.2 Fallacy #2: Nutritional elements can be used in their fragmented form instead of in total.
Every nutritional supplement, no matter how complete, exists in an unnatural and fragmented form. To make a mineral, vitamin, or protein pill, you must first destroy the natural food source it occurs in and then refine and extract a specific element from that food. By so doing, you destroy and remove all the natural co-existing elements of nutrition that accompany the extracted element. As an example, consider the mineral iron.
Iron is present in a number of high-grade fruits and vegetables, such as the cherry or apricot. Suppose a chemist wants to make an iron pill. He could take raw inorganic iron and just stuff it into a capsule, as was once done with surplus nails, or he could take some natural source of iron (such as the cherry) and chemically extract it.
The mineral iron that is present in a cherry, for example, is readily absorbed and used by the body because the other necessary elements for the absorption of iron co-exist in the cherry or food itself. For instance, ascorbic acid aids the absorption of iron in the body by helping to convert ferric to ferrous iron. The cherry has the needed ascorbic acid present with the ferric iron compounds. If you swallowed a pill that had the iron extracted from the cherry but not the accompanying ascorbic acid, then your body would simply not have the needed co-existing elements to use the iron.
Nature packages our vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional needs in complete foods. There is no chemist smarter than nature; there is no laboratory as complex as the human body. Fragmented forms of minerals, vitamins, and other nutritional elements can never be as efficiently used (if used at all) as the total, complete array of nutrients that are abundantly present in every natural, wholesome food.
2.1.3 Fallacy #3: All of our nutritional needs have been determined and are accurately known.
The supplementalists base their nutritional approach on such concepts as Minimum Daily Requirements, Recommended Daily Amounts, and Therapeutic Dosages. They believe that they can determine how much of a specific nutrient a person may need, and the best dose of that substance to give. For example, let's look at vitamin A:
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin A is 5,000 IU (international units). Of course the RDA for vitamin A, like most RDAs, is somewhat meaningless to begin with since it is based on averages, or a "typical" person. Vitamin A requirements increase or decrease depending upon the lifestyle we follow and the regular diet we follow. One of the nutritionsts who strongly believes in using vitamin supplements states that for improved health, we should take 10,000 IUs and if we need a therapeutic or megadose of the vitamin, then we should increase our vitamin A supplementation to 35,000 IUs per day.
He also warns us that 75,000 IUs of vitamin A produce toxicosis in the body and that 200,000 IUs of vitamin A daily over a period of time can result in death.
The truth is that there is no one constant, standard or safe amount of vitamin A to universally recommend. There has never been a way to experimentally determine the optimum dose of vitamin A a person should ingest each day. As long as you swallow pills containing vitamin A, you have little control or knowledge of how many IUs your body needs or can use. It is quite possible to take a continually excessive level of vitamin A for weeks or months before you realize the irreversible harm that has been done.
If you want extra vitamin A, why not play it safe and get the vitamin from natural foods that it occurs in, such as cantaloupes, peaches, carrots, apricots, or most fresh fruits and vegetables?
The supplementalists will tell you that they know exactly to the last milligram how much of any specific nutrient that you need. You should remember, however, that new vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and other co-nutrients are being discovered all the time. No one really knows the full range of nutrients that the body requires to maintain perfect health, and you can be certain that there is no pill or supplement that can contain all of these life-preserving elements.
We do know, however, that fresh wholesome foods do contain all the nutrients we need for superior health and well-being. This has been proven beyond a doubt because millions of people for thousands of years have prospered very well on such a diet without ever swallowing one pill or one supplement. No chemist, no laboratory, and no nutritionist can make such an unequivocal statement nor replicate such a convincing experiment.
To repeat: We do not yet know what nutrients we need, or in what amounts, to produce radiant health. We do know that wholesome unprocessed fruits and vegetables do contain all of these elements, both known and unknown, and we would do well to rely on these alone to supply all of our nutrient needs.
2.1.4 Fallacy #4: More is better.
The "more is better" school of nutrition has been in control since the nineteenth century. These people believe that since a little is good for you, then a lot must be better. It is surprising that intelligent people will fall for this ruse. Suppose you run five miles per day for exercise. This amount of vigorous activity is enough to keep you in good health and promote a healthy metabolism. Suppose, however, that you decided since running five miles is great, then running fifty miles per day would help you ten times as much.
If you could even attempt to run fifty miles every day, you would quickly discover that you are in fact tearing down the body and totally exhausting its resources and reserves. The same way with good food. Since we have been told that a little protein is needed for good health, we think that a lot of protein would automatically mean much better health.
It's simply not so, and any excess whether in diet, exercise, or even relaxation, will have negative effects on your health.
Vitamins, minerals, protein, or any nutrient taken in excess of the body's needs become toxic and either must be eliminated by the body or stored, which may result in a toxic overdose.
With nutrition, "more" is not "better." Enough is enough is enough, so why burden your body or empty your pocket book with needless nutritional overkill?
2.2 Who's to Blame?
Who are the people who are promoting the supplemental approach to nutrition and why are they so successful? The answer is that there is a willing, gullible public eager to take the easy way out when it comes to health and diet, and there are clever spokesmen and vested interests who do a superior job of selling hogwash to the people.
Let's see why the supplemental school of nutrition has such a strong appeal, and who its active supporters are.
Home > Lesson 86 - The Supplement Approach To Nutrition
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