Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sexy Miracle Foods, 2010

My friend sent me a link to this article on 22 disease-fighting superfoods the other day with a comment "check out the last one on the list".  Corn.

I generally don't eat corn anymore.  However, I HAVE eaten my fair share of corn without any permanent ills that are readily apparent at 26.  Regardless, a superfood because a study revealed that corn is "rich in the carotenoids zeaxanthin and lutein, two antioxidants that protect your eyes and skin from UV damage." Really?

This is classic reductionist logic at it's best:
  • Food A contains ingredient B.
  • Ingredient B has been found in one study to have some role in disease C (and let's also go ahead and ignore the quality of that ONE  STUDY or whether or not there are any confounding studies for now)
  • Therefore, food A should be eaten regularly to safeguard against disease C. 
Should we take a look at the amount of ingredient B in food A to see if it's enough to have an impact on disease C?  (it is not uncommon to see these nutrient studies using an amount of CONCENTRATED substance that you might need to swallow a  truck load of actual food to obtain an equivalent therapeutic dose)
*by the way, if you're specifically after lutein or xeaxanthan, consult this Ranking of Foods Containing Lutein from the Low Vision Center in Indiana.  Corn's 790 mg per half cup serving pales in comparison to Kale (21,900 mg/.5 cup), Spinach (12,600mg/.5 cup cooked), or Red Peppers (6,800 mg/.5 cup).  Eat a variety of veggies and you should be set.

Should we perhaps look at studies consuming the actual food AS A WHOLE to confirm that we can connect A to C? (e.g. look at the effect of corn consumption on UV damage instead of lutein consumption)

Or what about how the food fits in to an overall diet plan?  Does eating more corn bully out other vegetables higher in nutrients (kale?).

Should we look to see if that item increases risk for other ailments? 
(For example, this paper from the Weston A Price Foundation highlights that "The US Food and Drug Administration lists over 200 studies on its database showing the toxicity of soy. Numerous studies show that soy consumption leads to nutrient deficiencies, digestive disorders, endocrine disruption and thyroid problems." Go soy ...)

Nope. Let's just conclude that because it contains that one nutrient that it's a fountain of youth ... and then put it together with a list of 21 other foods to make a miracle list and sandwich it between a sexy, black and white Calvin Cline jeans add and a cleverly captioned photo of a chihuahua balancing a Twinkie on it's nose so we can sell magazines.

"I am a Banana!" - Rejected

Speaking of Weston A Price ... They recently posted a thicker, more scientific article on the flaws of reductionism, here.  That article also links back to the surge of fun that was had discussing the flaws of the China Study over the past few weeks.

So, after reading this should we avoid mushrooms and watermelon and Brussels sprouts?  Nope.  Those, and most of the foods referenced in the article, are still great to eat.  As are a plethora of other nutrient-dense foods that didn't make the Super 22 (how about dem mustard greens? or garlic, ginger, asparagus ...).  

And to be fair, a few of the studies they mentioned for other foods did look at consumption of that actual food:
Be-leaf in cabbage?  

What is important is to realize that each and every food (note, I did not say food product) has a unique nutrient profile, whether a study said so or not and whether they were featured in the beacon of health communication that is Self or left to wilt in the corners of the produce section (poor celery root gets no love these days).  If it's a deep colorful shade, it's probably rich in something.  Eat quality protein sources, lots of non-starchy veggies, sources of essential fats and some fruits and you'll meet your basic needs.  Determine portions, proportions, and extras based on your activity and energy needs, goals, and individual sensitivities and you'll be rocking.

 If you look closely there are 12 superfoods, two umbrellas and one ninja hidden in my breakfast ...

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