Common Sense Nutrition

In the early 1990's I became interested in learning about nutrition as background material for a module on stress for a course I was teaching. The literature all waxed eloquent on the Four Food Group model. The basic idea is that if we get so many servings from each of the food groups at each meal, we will be well nurished from what we eat. Like most facts in our society this model assumes certain things, but the assumptions are never pointed out, never discussed, and they are flawed. If the assumptions turn out to be false, then all we know rests on a sandy foundation which slides away at the most inopportune time. At that point in time, I also discovered that the four food group model, which was and still is being promoted by our government officials, is badly out of date. In some cases it makes recommendations which are not only not supported by current research, but can actually be counter productive to maintaining good health.

As bad as all this sounds, I soon became aware of an even greater threat to the health and welfare of the general public. Our understanding and disemination of new research and knowledge is lagging so badly that in many cases our hard working medical professionals are not just dispensing out of date information, but information that can actually be dangerous to our health.

Now factor in that our medical professionals are dependent upon information from the pharmceutical industry in order to do their jobs. However, the pharmaceutical industry is not primarily focussed on health and healing, but on making a profit. In stating this I am not implying any duplicitous agenda on the part of the pharmaceutical industry. Others may try to make that case, but it is not necessary for me to do so here. I am pointing out that this industry will not even consider an entire category of potential medicines because they cannot be protected by patents. Therefore the profits that can be made on them are minimal. I am referring to what are commonly called nutriceuticals - nutritional products which are available from a wide variety of naturally occuring sources.

Since doctors are dependent on the pharmeceutical industry for information about substances that might be used to treat diseases, this blindness on the part of the pharmaceutical profession is consequently visited upon the doctors also. Furthermore since doctors have traditionally received only one course in nutrition during their medical programs, almost all doctors are woefully uninformed about the role of nutrition in maintaing or restoring an individual's health. In light of this fact, one of the most ironic ads promoted by our government is that we should consult with a doctor before we make any major changes in our diet. Fortunately doctors are professionals and most of them will refer such queries to a qualified nutritionist who has the education and training to be of concrete help in this area.

So when we consider all of the above points there is a real reason to be concerned about the quality of nutritional information available to the general public. I will try to show how some of the information which is not making its way into the public conciousness can be of help in understanding the basic principles of nutrition. I will also show how anyone can improve their basic nutrition with a few simple actions and how these actions can reduce the risk of sickness and chronic diseases.

My Background

Let me first explain my background in nutrition and how my interest in this area developed. I do not hold any degrees in nutrition although I have studied the area intensively for over 15 years now. It is said that 5 years of intense study in a field is equivalent to a PhD in that field. In the mid 1990's I became involved in promoting a line of nutritional products which were superior to say the least. Unfortunately, as the company entered the Canadian market, it faced the following challenges:

As a result, probably from having too much on their plate at once, they stumbled in the marketplace and never seem to have recovered their former level of growth. Wading through all of this was chaotic and challenging, and financially frustrating. Nevertheless, I learned a great deal more about nutrition, and the state of the nutritional value of our foodstuffs at that time.

Over the years I have continued to study the issues and have discovered that our accumulation of knowledge has far outstripped our ability to disseminate and use the information we have discovered. At the present time the nutritional information which is being publically diseminated is over 15 years behind the latest findings, and in many cases so badly out of step with the research that we are telling people to do things which can be dangerous to their health and well-being.

In these pages I will present some of the material which I have discovered together with the sources for the research which I have found. I will focus on a Common Sense approach as opposed to a Common Practices approach to nutrition. The distinction is not trivial. Common practices are built up by many years of traditions. Often these traditions have nothing to do with nutrition, but after we follow them long enough we sure think they do! This is illustrated by the following story.

A young wife was making Sunday dinner. Her husband was watching what she was doing and asked: "Why do you cut the end off of the roast before you put it in the roasting pot?"

"That is the way my mother does it,"; she replied.

"So why does your mother do it that way?" her husband persisted.

"I don't know," she said, "you would have to ask her."

By now the husband was greatly intrigued so the next time he saw his mother-in-law he asked her why she cut the end off her pot roast before putting it in the oven to bake.

His mother-in-law replied: "That's the way I've always done it."

"But how did you come to do it that way?" the husband asked.

I don't know." she replied and then after a short pause continued "I guess it is because that is the way my mother always did it."

The next time the couple were visiting grandma the husband brought up the matter of cutting the end of of the roast before putting it into the pan. Grandma replied somewahat defensively: "Why do you want to know?"

The husband replied, "I was curious when I saw my wife doing it. She said she did it because that was the way her mother did it." When I asked your daughter about the matter she told me that was the way you did it. "I just find it curious that's all."

"Well if you must know I cut the end off the roast because my roasting pan was too small and the roast would not fit into my pan until I'd cut the end off of it." At this point everyone had a good laugh.

Many traditions get started for good reasons and many, like this story, for very pragmatic reasons which ceased to be relevant long ago. A story told about a visiting dignitary from Europe in Great Britain in the 1990's made the same point. After a gunnery display made by five men while a sixth stood at attention, the dignitary asked what the sixth persons purpose was. No one knew! After some research it was discovered that number six had originally held the horses which pulled the guns, but decades after they horses had been replaced by trucks, the squad size still remained the same, and number six was simply a spare person.

These stories and hundreds more point out what has come to be known as Common Practice. We do things a certain way because that is the way it has been done for some, usually lengthy, period of time. Typically the participant no longer even knows why. Often the original reason for doing it that way has long ceased to exist, and the practice is simply carried on because of tradition. It doesn't even take very long to become locked into one way of doing something. Falling into inertia can occur in as little as a day!

By contrast Common Sense methodology asks what are the important determinants of the current situation, and decides what actions are appropriate for the situation at this point in time. Unfortunately Common Practice is far more common than Common sense! Furthermore, Common Practice usually masks Common Sense.

I will also present a rationale why you should consider using nutriceuticals on a regular basis, and some of the benefits that other people have obtained from using them.


Disclaimer

Right up front I must state that I am not a medical practitioner, nor should anything you read here be construed as prescribing a course of action or treatment. I am trying to provide some information which I hope will be helpful to you in finding answers to your own health concerns and challenges. The day when you could rely on one person to be knowledgable enough to competently advise you on all health matters is past. It is simply beyond the capability of any one person, even a doctor or a nutritionist!