It is certainly tempting to become cynical about the claims of nutritionists when what is touted as being unhealthy one year is deemed healthy the next, or vice versa. Chicken eggs, once villains, are now good guys. Avocados were also once scorned due to their high fat content. Then it was discovered that some fats, like those in avocados, are very good for us.
Not only do we receive conflicting information year to year, but there are always so many “experts” contradicting one another.
So whom should we trust?
As Christians, we should certainly trust God. Knowing that He is the all-knowing, all-wise and loving Creator of all things, it would seem more wise to eat foods He created, rather than foods that are chemical-filled concoctions churned out from factories. It was our Lord Jesus who “declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:19), but I think we all know that He wasn’t talking about Twinkies! He was talking about foods that He created.
Fortifying that claim are Paul’s words to Timothy concerning food: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim.4:4-5). The phrase “everything created by God” is the key. It tells us what is good and not to be rejected.
In the context of the verse I just quoted, Paul warns of those who “advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Tim. 4:3). Again, the key phrase is “foods which God has created.” May I gently suggest that Christians who make fun of those of us who advocate eating foods that are not altered far from their original form are, in a sense, among those about whom Paul warned. They are, to a degree, “advocating abstaining from foods which God has created” as they advocate eating foods which God has not created and mock those who contradict them.
Again, whom should we trust?
We should certainly beware of trusting food manufacturers. They are tempted to be mostly concerned about profits over the health of their customers. If they can find a way to fabricate their foods with cheaper ingredients, or make them addictive, or deceive you into thinking they are good for you, that is exactly what they’ll do.
Have you ever noticed, for example, meat packaging in grocery stores that shows a few cows eating green grass near a red barn? In reality, however, inside those packages is beef likely from cattle that lived the final months of their lives lying in their own manure, crowded into enormous feed lots (here’s a photo: http://www.funnytheworld.com/2009/Apr/harrisranch.jpg) while being fed genetically-modified corn as well as antibiotics, steroids and synthetic hormones, hormones banned from all beef in Europe by the way. (A $1.50 investment in hormones yields an added 40-50 pounds of weight to a steer for a return of $25 or more.) The excrement from those chemicalized cows is not considered safe to use as fertilizer!
Isn’t it amazing that cigarettes are still manufactured? But they are, and the only reason is the love of money. Many food manufacturers, it seems, are no different. They manufacture, market and sell, under the banner of “food,” products that contain ingredients proven to be harmful. Like cigarette companies, they are required by law to reveal some potentially harmful ingredients, such as saturated fats, on their packaging. But none warn of nutrient-stripped or genetically-modified ingredients.
And far more people are being slowly killed by fabricated foods than by cigarettes. The leading cause of death among Americans is heart disease, a disease that can be prevented and even reversed by diet. 68% of American adults are overweight or obese, primarily because of high-calorie, nutrient-deficient, fabricated foods. As a result, 1 out of 3 Americans born after 2000 will contract early onset diabetes. Among minorities the rate will be 1 out of 2.
In this light, think of how many Evangelical Christians hold to a conviction that “smoking is wrong because it does harm to our bodies, which are temples of the Holy Spirit.” Why then don’t we have similar convictions about what is proving to be much more harmful than cigarettes? The church should be leading, not lagging, in this re-education effort. Yet half of all Christians will die of heart disease, cancer, or diabetes, all of which are frequently linked to lifestyle food choices.
I was reading an article last week in World magazine that highlighted well-known pastor Rick Warren’s new “Daniel Plan,” a weight-loss and health diet regimen based on Daniel’s substitution of vegetables for the king’s rich food. According to that article, Warren got his inspiration one day as he was baptizing 858 people. His arms were aching around the 500th immersion (he estimated he had lowered and lifted 145,000 pounds of people), which led him to think to himself, “We’re all fat!…. I’m fat! I’m a terrible model of this.”
That is refreshing candor from a church growth leader regarding our most unspoken example of “church growth.” Daniel’s message to a feasting king, “You have been weighed and found wanting” (Dan. 5:27) may have some application to us as well…
Again, whom should we trust?
Should we trust most doctors on the importance of nutrition?
I was speaking last week with a friend who has just had a terrible scare with cancer. I asked him if he had made any dietary adjustments in light of all the evidence linking cancer to diet. He told me he asked his doctor if there were any dietary changes that he should make, and his doctor told him there was no reason to change anything about his standard American diet. I reminded my friend that less than 6% of graduating physicians in the USA receive any formal training in nutrition, or its importance in fighting disease. I respect doctors for their devotion to help people be healthy, but they are typically more inclined to deal with effects rather than causes.
Again, whom should we trust?
Although the majority is certainly not always right, trusting a long-term verifiable consensus would seem to be safer than following the latest food fad. One theme that seems to be consistent among all nutritionists is that it is indeed healthier to eat simple, whole, nutrient-dense foods like fresh vegetables and fruits than processed foods that have often been stripped of nutritional value. The science proving that claim is firmly established. And because it has also been soundly proven that our bodies require various nutrients in sufficient quantities to function and maintain health, eating foods as God created them is a “no-brainer.”
One of the nice things about eating simple, whole, God-given, nutrient-dense, non-processed foods, is that they are also a ticket to weight loss. May I once again recommend Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s books, Fasting and Eating for Health, and Eating to Live. The facts are that 90-95% of people who go on a diet will gain back the weight they lost, as well as additional weight. To lose weight and keep it off requires a lifestyle eating change. Those who follow Dr. Fuhrman’s eating plan lose an average of fifteen pounds the first month and ten pounds each month thereafter, without experiencing any hunger, eating all they want of healthy foods. More than 90% of his diabetic patients who are on insulin at the time of their first visit are able to get off all insulin within one month. But you have to read those books to benefit from them!
A Man and His Cats
Again, whom shall we trust? What about nutritional studies done on animals? Are they applicable to humans?
One of the most thought-provoking nutrition studies I’ve ever read about was conducted in the 1920s by a doctor named Francis Pottenger. In his laboratory, He used hundreds of cats, from which he removed their adrenal glands in order to test adrenal hormone extracts that would be used to treat humans. Dr. Pottenger’s cats were sickly, bred poorly, died young of bacterial infections, and had to be replaced. He attributed their sickliness to their adrenalectomies.
But almost by accident he noticed that certain cats whom he had begun feeding raw meat and raw milk enjoyed much better health than the cats whom he had been feeding cooked meat and pasteurized milk. It occurred to Dr. Pottinger that cats in the wild don’t cook their meat before they eat it, and so they must have some natural defense that prevents them from the potential harm of eating raw meat. Perhaps, he reasoned, their digestive systems were not created to assimilate much from cooked food. Perhaps that was the real reason for his cats’ sickliness.
So he decided to conduct an experiment by dividing his cats into control groups. Those experiments confirmed his previous observations. Dr. Pottenger concluded that cats were not meant to eat cooked food.
Dr. Pottenger continued his experiments for ten years, using the offspring of the original groups of cats for his ongoing tests. And the results of those experiments are even more interesting. Over several generations, the cats eating only raw food actually showed a change in appearance. Their faces became wider, their pelvic girdles broader, their bones became more solid, their teeth improved, and they consistently bred successfully.
When those improvements seemed to reach their apex, Dr. Pottenger put the very strong and healthy cats on a all-cooked diet in order to observe the process of nutritional degeneration. After three generations, the cats had deteriorated to such a degree that could barely breed. “Their faces had become narrow, their teeth crooked, their pelvic girdles narrow, their bones and body structure very small, and their dispositions poor. Mothers wouldn’t nurse their young and sometimes became cannibalistic. They no longer lived very long” (as reported by Dr. Isabelle A. Moser).
Before they completely lost their ability to breed, Pottenger put those sickly cats back on a diet of raw food. “It took four generations on a perfect, raw food diet before some perfect-appearing individuals showed up in the group.” (Note: since then, it has been discovered that cats can thrive on cooked meat if the amino acid taurine, now understood as being essential for felines, is added.)
Of course, we should be cautious applying conclusions to humans that were reached from animal studies. Humans should not eat raw meat and organs like cats. (Cows eat poison ivy!) If nothing else, however, Pottenger’s experiments should affirm to us that nutrition is critical for health, and that every God-created species needs to eat what God designed it to eat, including the human species. There isn’t any doubt that nutritional deficiencies in humans can and do result in illnesses, just like in Pottenger’s cats. And who is going to argue that human mothers can pass on nutrients that they don’t possess to the babies in their wombs? Pottenger’s experiments certainly affirm that, and suggest much more.
Through extensive, worldwide research, a Dr. Westin Price has shown that crowded teeth in children, due to underdeveloped jaws, can be due to nutritional deficiencies in their mothers. You can read about it here: http://ppnf.org/about/about-price-and-pottenger/dr-price/prices-research/details-dr-prices-research/. The real shock is that poor mothers in rural areas of developing nations who eat simple, natural, whole foods are often better nourished than many mothers in wealthy nations who are well fed but undernourished due to diets of mostly processed food.
In closing, I’d like to recommend a few very informative videos that you can probably view on NetFlix or find at your local library. They are:
Hungry for Change
Forks Over Knives
Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of our Lives
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
All of them are worthwhile to watch. I find that I need to regularly remind myself of healthy eating habits, as we’re all swimming in an ocean of ignorance and disinformation that constantly urges us to eat unhealthy foods.
As always, I appreciate and read your feedback. — David