Individualized Nutrition for the Complex Person
By Sarah A LoBisco, ND
There’s been a lot of attack recently on “health foods”, even regarding the “pure stuff”. In fact, a study discounting organic food benefits recently went viral over the internet. As expected, this caused quite a controversy.
The study reported that their findings demonstrated the non-existence of a significant difference between the nutrient content of organic foods and conventional products. Following, was a backlash of various experts pointing to some weakness in the studies design.
Taking one specific phytonutrient or mineral in isolation and measuring the quantity of the mineral doesn’t give a comprehensive picture of the synergism of the healing properties of the plant.
In the modern era of plant manipulation, GMOs, and power plants, the confounding factor of conventional plants raised in “artificially mineral rich soil” to increase its levels in a comparison analysis, may not prove to be accurate.
I prefer to think that nature’s design of the ratio of specific nutrients may be more intelligent than vegetables manipulated to be artificial mineral boosters. (Need I mention the folic acid controversy from artificially “enriching” our food? AKA synthetic vitamins in the wrong amount, form, and to the wrong people aren’t a good idea.)
Various studies have shown that organic foods ARE more nutritious.
A 2010 article from PLoS spent two years comparing the nutrient content of two plants using a cross-sectional comparison. In other words, this study was well designed comparing the correct species of plants. An abundance of further references and scientific journals reporting the benefit of organics can be found here.
We are still asking the wrong question.
Still, let’s say that with some foods, the nutrient content is similar or less in organic foods. Even if this were the case, it doesn’t mean that they are equally healthy. Here, we are only analyzing one measure of health, mineral or vitamin content, and assuming that everyone needs that specific nutrient.
An article in Atlantic put this short-sighted look into question:
In a widely publicized and discussed analysis of more than 200 studies comparing organic to regular food products, researchers have found that organics don’t have more vitamins or minerals (with the lone exception of phosphorus, which we all get in sufficient amounts anyway). Nor do they have an appreciable effect when it comes to heading off food-borne illness, although the germs found in conventional meat do have a higher chance of being drug-resistant (more on that in a bit).
That we needed a study to understand how nutritionally similar organic foods are to non-organics is a perfect example of the way we’ve lost sight of what the term really means. It’s worth keeping in mind that organic refers only to a particular method of production; while switching to organic foods can be good for you insofar as doing so helps you avoid nasty things like chemicals and additives, there’s nothing in the organic foods themselves that gives them an inherent nutritional advantage over non-organics. In other words, it’s not wrong to say organic food is “healthier” than non-organics. It’s just unrealistic to think that your organic diet is slowly turning you into Clark Kent.
The point of organic, beyond environmental, is that by choosing organic you are saying no to GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, sewage sludge, antibiotics (and other things that go bump in the night) in your food. The fact that organic foods have less residue can’t be argued. The fact that people already have enough chemicals to deal with just walking around this planet can’t be denied as well.
By picking organic whole foods and passing up the processed foods, your digestive track has a free road to absorb the whole array of phytonutrients present in happy plants without major competition of performing biotransformation of toxins at the same time.
Why is Natural and Organic Under Such an Attack?
I came across an article that reminded me of the book, “Anti-Vitamin Baloney”. There are so many headlines about anti-foods, anti-vitamin, anti-health, yet many aren’t focusing on the efficacy studies of common drug treatments or even improperly prescribed supplements.
Dr. Goldman commented in a recent issue of Holistic Primary Care:
Amid the recent clamor over metanalyses suggesting that organic veggies are no more nutritious than conventional, and that omega-3’s may not reduce heart disease mortality, another important metanalysis got totally overlooked: the one showing that anti-hypertensive drugs are largely ineffective in people with Stage 1 hypertension.
University of British Columbia researchers digested data from 4 randomized placebo-controlled trials representing more than 8,900 people with mild hypertension, defined as systolic blood pressure 140-159 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure 90-99 mm Hg. The “first line” drugs in question included thiazide or thiazide-like diuretics, beta blockers, and reserpine. Some patients in some studies were taking 2 or more drugs. Studies were between 4-5 years’ duration.
Therefore, maybe the reason we are seeking to “superfood” our diets isn’t because we need mega doses of one specific nutrient, but because we are taking the approach that everyone is the same, needing the same thing and same treatment.
Fung, B. Organic Food Isn’t More Nutritious, but That Isn’t the Point. 9/4/12. The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/09/organic-food-isnt-more-nutritious-but-that-isnt-the-point/261929/
Pittaman, G. Organic food no more nutritious than non-organic: study. Reuters. 9/4/12. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/04/us-organic-idUSBRE88303620120904
Harrison, S. Genetically Modified Foods. Fitness America. Accessed 10-12-12.http://www.fitnessrepublic.com/nutrition/what-are-genetically-modified-foods.html
Reganold JP, Andrews PK, Reeve JR, Carpenter-Boggs L, Schadt CW, et al. (2010) Fruit and Soil Quality of Organic and Conventional Strawberry Agroecosystems. PLoS ONE 5(9): e12346. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012346. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0012346
Organic Trade Association. Nutritional Considerations. OTA. Accessed 10/8/12. http://www.ota.com/organic/benefits/nutrition.html
Goldman, E. Drug Therapy Has Little Value In Early Stage Hypertension. Holistic Primary Care. September 2012. Upshots.
Diao D, Wright JM, Cundiff DK, Gueyffier F.Pharmacotherapy for mild hypertension (abstract). Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Aug 15;8:CD006742. PMID: 22895954
Alan Zarembo. Beta blocker drugs are popular but probably overused, study says. LA Times. 10/3/12. http://www.latimes.com/health/boostershots/la-heb-1003-beta-blockers-not-effective-20121003,0,6756804.story?track=rss
News & Fun Stuff:
1. Check out this wonderful health support tool!
Dr. Oz has done a superb job on bringing together various experts in conventional and integrative medicine. The result of this collaboration is a wonderful comprehensive viewpoint on health issues from all sides.
This link provides my latest answers: http://www.sharecare.com/user/sarah-lobisco
2. Read some heart-protective facts at the Living Well Blog
Why Do I Crave Certain Foods?
Why do some people crave pickles and others can’t stand them? Donna talks with food scientist and author Barb Stuckey Taste What You’re Missing about our taste buds and why we crave certain foods and have food addictions and eating issues.
Want more? I recommend Donna Gate’s Body Ecology Diet
3. Current Patients, please review the following expectations for payment, fees, and the options of acute consultations in between visits :
We appreciate for your understanding on our dedication to keep the focus on your individualized health and support vs. bookkeeping.
4. October is Breast Health Awareness. View my blog on Breast Health.