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Monday, January 16, 2012

Facts Are Stubborn Things

Keeping pace with nutrition literature and current trends is often puzzling. The ideas that are postulated rage from the possibly credible to the incredible. By incredible I mean arguments and ideas without credibility or substance. As has been quoted before “Facts are stubborn things” and such is the case with many nutrition ideas.

The most recent is the idea that we in the United States and especially our children are becoming more and more malnourished. This conjecture is often based on the notion that we don’t eat as many nourishing foods such as fruits and vegetables as we used to. Instead of these good foods many times people consume too much sugar and starch which in the minds of those who are willing to put forth ideas without the benefit of the facts are leaving us malnourished. Furthermore even those who are obese are regarded as malnourished because they are not eating the right types of foods.

All of these ideas sound good and make headlines that tug at the heart strings leaving many to angrily ask “How can this happen in our prosperous country?” To be sure it can happen and probably in some places for specific reasons it is happening and there are citizens of the United States who are malnourished. Yet on the whole such is not the case.

Clinical malnourishment is a condition brought on by a lack of nutrients that support normal body function. Deficiencies in vitamin C, D, though rare, lead to diseases such as scurvy and rickets. A lack of sufficient energy or calories in the diet leads to diseases known as kwashiorkor and marasmus. In the United States these diseases have not been heard of for decades if ever. If these diseases of malnutrition are diagnosed clinically today they are usually the result of another underlying disease such as cancer or HIV not the result of too much soda or too many French fries.

What is at play here is a little nutrition sleight of hand. While our collective attention is drawn toward the helpless, malnourished, obese children the facts say otherwise. The nutrition magicians who turn these tricks have learned how to sell their ideas on an emotional level. They know that no one wants to see our children hurt so they cleverly intertwine their point of view with our collective desire to protect the innocent. And alacazam we are persuaded to believe something that is contrary to common sense. We live in a land of plenty and have left over to spare. This may contribute to our national girth but malnourishment?

1 comment:

  1. what are your thoughts on the new warning label that Mcdonalds has on happy meals now have about cancer? I'd love to know your thoughts on that!