The whole (food) does not equal the sum of its parts
An argument for whole foods is coming. I can feel it. But first, a quick word about elephants.
The blindfold experiment
4 individuals are blindfolded. Each are asked to feel the hind leg of an elephant and accurately describe what it is. Easy right? To sweeten the deal, a 1 trillion Zimbabwean dollar note (it exists) will be awarded to the winner!
Margarita: “This is a tree trunk”
Melika: “This is some sort of pillar”
Thomas: “This is the leg of a hippopotamus”
Rashedul: “I have no idea but, it feels weird”
An easy task becomes difficult. What’s missing is an appreciation of the big picture. If they could have felt the rest of the elephant or even grabbed a glimpse from under the blindfold, that 1 trillion dollar note would have been a sure thing.
The importance of the big picture
In his book “The China Study”, Dr T. Colin Campbell (nutrition god) refers to the above phenomenon as “reductionism”. He argues that reductionism plagues nutrition science and creates mass confusion. Isolated nutrients are investigated and the source of these nutrients, the “whole food”, is somewhat ignored. The results from these studies are then oversimplified and the conclusions are drawn without taking the big picture into consideration. It suddenly becomes very difficult to see the forest from the trees or in this case, the elephant’s leg from the elephant.
A multi-billion dollar industry
So let’s address the elephant in the room (pun intended). Supplements.
Low vitamin C, in the form of reduce fruit intake, has been shown to be associated with reduced rates of certain cancers as well as coronary heart disease (the stuff that leads to heart attacks) and strokes.
Fibre, in the form of whole fruits, vegetables and whole grains, has been shown to be associated with reduced rates of colon cancer.
The next logical step is to pack vitamin C into a pill or artificially add fibre to certain foods and bask in the ambience of good health and longevity. Not so simple unfortunately. In fact, unnecessary supplement intake has not been shown to provide any benefit and in some cases, can even cause harm. Realistically, most vitamins and minerals are required in such small quantities that you may run the risk of paying the big bucks for expensive urine. “The triumph of health lies not in the individual nutrients, but in the whole foods that contain those nutrients”- T. Colin Campbell.
One more analogy to drive the point home. Netflix is awesome. Now go an ask someone without an internet connection how good it is. Context is everything.
Hopefully this post provides an alternative way to look at whole foods. Even if all it does is make you think twice next time you see a new supplement being advertised as miracle cure for cancer.
As always, stay in school, don’t do drugs and nostalgically reminisce about the days you used to fired up your modem (the pre-netflix era).
I truly believe that I can learn something from everyone. People are smart. Hey, you are people! Why not share your wisdom with me. I promise to steal it and claim it as my own under my alias “Tikiri Banda”. Share this post if you find any value from it or you think someone you know will!
Be kind to others (BKTO) and of course, be kind to yourself (BKTY).
If you are interested in reading “The China Study” By T. Colin Campbell, you can find it here.
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