Deficiency vs Imbalance
- December 9, 2022
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By Judith DeCava, CNC, LNC [Adapted with permission from Nutrition News and Views, May/June 2006]
Studies consistently show that whole foods help prevent or control chronic degenerative diseases like cardiovascular disease. For every daily-serving increase of vegetables or fruit, there is about a four percent drop in cardiovascular disease. Increased consumption of vegetables and fruit lowers the risk of stroke, too, but separated nutritional supplements do not appear to “work.” D-alpha tocopherol (so-called “vitamin E”) was shown not to work the way it was expected to; it even appeared to increase some forms of cardiovascular disease. Was this due to poor data analysis? Or was it the use of one isolated chemical compound and exclusion of all other parts that naturally occur with d-alpha tocopherol as vitamin E complex, parts like gamma-tocopherol, tocotrienols, selenium, essential fatty acids, and other components. One separated compound can also create imbalance, even worse than deficiency. Synthetic beta-carotene, for example, seemed to increase lung cancer risk in smokers. Perhaps it was because the single manufactured compound was missing its interactive synergistic components such as lycopene, alpha-carotene, lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin, and other nutrients that naturally occur with beta-carotene in real food!
Scientists tell us that foods from nature contain toxins. True enough, in the laboratory, toxins can be found in natural foods. What we are not told is that the necessary biochemical components and cofactors needed to counterbalance, detoxify and excrete these toxins are also contained in the whole food package. Neither are we told that these toxins often serve a useful purpose. Recent studies show that some so-called food toxins aren’t so toxic after all. For instance, oxalic acid in some leafy green vegetables like beet greens, chard, kale, collards and spinach doesn’t really seem to lower calcium or iron levels as thought: foods high in oxalates are usually high in iron and calcium too, so even if some of the minerals are bound by the oxalates, some are still absorbed. Furthermore, raw or lightly-cooked greens, with enzymes like oxalates intact, will not bind up minerals. And it turns out that oxalic acid can help tone and stimulate peristalsis, or movement, of the digestive tract. When such compounds are separated from whole foods, they can disrupt the body; when they remain in whole food packages, they balance it.
Real nature-produced foods consist of complicated, balanced ecological systems. Technology can identify some parts, but it cannot tell us the exact mechanisms by which all the intricate interrelated systems come about or the exact delicate, complex structures that make them possible. The questions remain: What are we missing? How does it all function together? Unless a person is eating plenty of real whole foods or supplementing with whole foods concentrates, (s)he comes up short and is missing the synergy of nutrients available only in whole foods. Scientists are discovering whole classes of nutrients that were not detected before or had been ignored as unimportant and later found to be precious. The recognized value of any “new” nutrient is limited by available technology and understanding of human biochemistry. But nature is still smarter than – and not as limited as – modern science.