Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Wisdom Wednesday: Holistic Properties of Foods: A Changing Paradigm in Human Nutrition

Traditionally, the study of nutrition has been based on a reductionist approach, reducing a food down to constituent nutrients and then investigating the effects of these nutrients, either singly or together, on metabolism and metabolic outcomes. However, nutrients per se are not consumed by a person, but rather are consumed in the form of foods. Because of this the complex food matrix itself influences nutritional outcomes, which can often not be fully explained on the basis of the effects of “the sum of the nutrients” alone. Nutrient additivity effects, nutrient interactions, effects of food components other than the classical nutrients, effects of the food matrix for both single foods and combinations of foods consumed as meals on the kinetics of nutrient digestion and subsequent metabolism and metabolic outcomes are discussed. It is concluded that a paradigm shift in human nutrition is needed, with more consideration being given to the holistic effects of specific foods and mixtures of foods constitutes meals and diets.

My Take:
Unfortunately, only the abstract is currently available as it is a current publication. However, that gives me a little more space to play.

This holistic concept is not new to nutrition, looking at the whole food was all we understood for thousands of years. It wasn’t until the invention of the microscope in the 1600s and subsequent development of biochemistry as a scientific discipline two centuries later that led to this reductionist view of life.

By the 1920’s, a dentist named Dr. Royal Lee was decrying the decline of our food quality. He purchased land in Wisconsin and began growing crops to produce a food supplement. In 1929, he produced and marketed ‘Catalyn’, a whole food supplement comprised of local grown crops. His ingredients were alfalfa, barley grass, beets, Brussels sprouts, buckwheat, kale, kidney beans oats, pea vine and Spanish black radish.

For example, one tablet of Catalyn contains 4 mg of vitamin C. I know that’s not much, but it’s the amount found in the pea vine juice he used as a natural source. No ascorbic acid is added and the only reason the 4 mg is listed on the bottle is government regulation. Dr. Lee was not interested in ascorbic acid but rather the food in which it is contained.

Of course, the decline in the quality of food Dr. Lee noted was insignificant when compared to food quality issues today. Fast forward ninety years to GMO Round Up Ready Wheat and 60 years of pesticide use. We now face real questions of sustainability using our current methods of farming. But that’s a topic for my next blog.

I see this reductionist view in most nutritional supplements – fish oil is only as good as the amount of EPA and DHA it contains. Flax seed oil has no value because it contains no EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA may be the most valuable of the omega-3 fatty acids, but if the rest of your diet is good, your body can readily convert any omega-3 fatty acid into EPA or DHA.
People take resveratrol as an anti-oxidant rather than grape seed extract which contains resveratrol; or DIM or I3C rather than broccoli extract. This despite the fact that the studies show the whole food supplements work and the isolated nutrients do not.

The Bottom Line:
Whole food philosophy has always been with us. The study of isolated nutrients has value in understanding the chemistry of the body but it is the whole food and the combination of foods we eat that provides nutrition to the body.

Source: Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, March 15, 2018

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