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Nutrition Controversies

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On cold, rainy days when I am unable to do organic gardening or take my photo gear out into the wilderness, I turn to reading. I'm never short of material-- several journals and magazines arrive weekly in my mailbox, and new books pile up quickly.

On cold, rainy days when I am unable to do organic gardening or take my photo gear out into the wilderness, I turn to reading. I'm never short of material several journals and magazines arrive weekly in my mailbox, and new books pile up quickly. Passionately, I follow every report and read all new studies related to health and nutrition. In one way I find it fascinating to discover new things, but I'm also amazed at how much controversy is published.

For many years, for example, dietitians advocated margarine. It was supposed to lower cholesterol, and butter was frowned upon, as were all saturated fats. According to the dietitians, they would plug up the arteries. I always wondered about that because butter and cheese are plentiful in our house. Of course, now we read that butter is actually healthy fat. It is easily metabolized because it contains the good fatty acid CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which not only helps the heart but also prevents weight gain.

Since my childhood, I have enjoyed a muesli of soaked raw oats for breakfast. The famous Dr. Bircher-Benner got everyone in Switzerland hooked on it. Now I am worried, as other scientists warn about the phytic acid in raw grains, which they say may cause zinc deficiency and related prostate problems. But in my last examination, the doctor assured me my prostate is OK. Maybe as a preventive measure I should go for more pumpkin seed oil in my salads.

But wait what about that "fat-free diet" that's supposed to support a healthy lifestyle? It's been all the rage for the last decade. Now I read confirmation that the "fat-free diet" isn't the real McCoy, either. It keeps people hungry all the time, so they consume more carbohydrates. As a result, we are seeing an enormous rise in obesity and diabetes.

No problem here comes the new "low-carb diet," touted everywhere for weight loss. Great! Except now people complain about lack of energy. The healthy body needs energy to perform, and it has to come from somewhere.

Aha! Protein. "Why haven't we thought about it earlier?" the current health apostles ask. "Let's put them on a 'high-protein diet.' They will lose weight and still have plenty of energy. And let's put more meat in the diet meat with every meal." Sure enough, people lose weight!

But wait a minute High consumption of meat has been linked to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease even cancer. In the early '70s, people actually died of kidney failure on the "Last Chance Liquid Protein Diet" before it was outlawed.

Seems that the vegan lifestyle is the answer. Organic fruits and vegetables, mostly raw, and lots of tofu. Up goes the warning sign again: B12 deficiency is lurking, and there may be a shortage of iron in a vegan diet. Kids will not grow, and soy foods are apparently dangerous because of their high concentrations of plant estrogens.

What's next? Back to vegetarianism. At least eggs are full of good nutrition, B12 and iron. But here come the dietitians again with their cholesterol scare!

Joking aside, nowadays most scientists obtain their nutritional information in the laboratory where, for instance, the myth of the vitamin C-kidney stone connection originated. Urine from patients who overdosed on vitamin C was heated in a test tube over a Bunsen burner and found to form crystals. But urine is never heated to such extreme temperatures in the human body. Scientists seem to forget that absorption of nutrients in the intestines often differs from what they experience with laboratory test tubes. In nutritional matters, real-life observations and common sense can often teach us more than laboratory results. Look at people aged 100 years or more; most have followed a simple nutritional regiment of whole foods, consuming a wide variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables in a natural and unprocessed form as they become available according to season. Common sense tells us it's better to follow nature's proven rules than blindly trust so-called scientific experts who have never worked with people.

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