“Average Diet” Fallacy; Life Foods
Contents in in this issue:
- “That ‘Average Diet’ Fallacy,” by Carlton Fredericks, PhD, and Herbert Bailey,
- “Life Foods,” by Pierre Gevaert.
The following is a transcription of the October 1966 issue of Dr. Royal Lee’s Applied Trophology newsletter, originally published by Standard Process Laboratories.
That “Average Diet” Fallacy
By Carlton Fredericks, PhD, and Herbert Bailey
Each of us has unique nutritional needs. They must be fortified accordingly.
There are but a few teaspoonfuls of vitamins in the seventy tons of food you eat in a life time—which is a terrible figure and and may give you one. The number of vitamins in food may vary tremendously, being subject to inimical influences that begin with cultivation, and act in storage, transportation, processing, and cooking, and tend to lower the vitamin potency of food.
The talk of vitamins being “destroyed” would seem to imply that they are alive. Actually, they are chemicals, and some of them are highly susceptible to destruction by alkalies or oxygen—which, in changing them chemically, converts them into substances that do not have vitamin action.
The requirement for vitamins may range from daily quantity, weighing no more than the weight of a period made with a lead pencil, to one required by the teaspoonful. Generally speaking, these are factors needed in minute amounts, the absence of which from the diet will cause death and a partial deficiency of which will interfere with function.
Generally speaking, vitamins tend to be concentrated in foods that are unpopular with the public. They are more generously supplied by whole wheat than by white flour; by brown rice than by white rice; by organ meals than by muscle meats; by dark green leafy vegetables such as escarole rather the lighter ones such as lettuce; and by such unpopular foods as wheat germ and brewer’s yeast.
Let us now appraise your diet, first acknowledging that no such appraisal is really possible. Although the scientific literature is replete with methods for testing the state of an individual’s nutrition, these tests are predicted upon a concept of an average person. But you are an individual with individual needs. What is good for the average person may not be helpful at all for you.
Let us suppose that we have determined the amount of vitamin B1 in your blood. What does this tell us? To the average dietitian, to the medical nutritionist, this might mean that your blood content of this vitamin falls within a range considered average or normal. But this equating of average and normal is fallacious.
Suppose, for instance, we were to establish our normal range by an assumption about the blood content of vitamin B1 in a group of twelfth-century French peasants. These people ate several pounds of black bread daily—bread that, not yet “improved” by today’s processing, provided a substantial amount of vitamin B1 in each loaf.
This was a period when bread truly was the staff of life; an individual’s daily consumption of the food was measured in pounds. On such a diet, peasants would have exhibited high levels of vitamin Bl.
The range of values, it might be expected, would be narrower than that encountered in blood samples from twentieth century men and women. Who is to say what constitutes the norm in this picture? Were the peasants oversupplied, or are you, with twentieth-century average blood levels, undersupplied?
To us, this approach is directly related to the problem of determining if 350 pounds a week can be considered a munificent income. For you and us, quite possibly it would be. But would it be for a Rockefeller?
In addition to tests that establish that “normal” blood levels of a vitamin, there is a more elaborate approach to the question: the depletion test. In this, an individual is deprived of a vitamin until the excretion of the vitamin in the urine drops. Then the vitamin is fed.
At the point at which excretion begins to increase, the tester considers that the individual has reached a level of intake beyond the body’s basic requirement.
Surprisingly, although the concept seems foolproof, it is misleading. In repeated experiments, numbering hundreds of thousands, research scientists have been able to show that between the body’s basic minimum requirement for a nutrient and the level that is ideal, there is an enormous difference, and in that difference may lie the distinction between minimal health and buoyant health.
Obviously, the depletion concept does not include consideration of the role of nutrition in helping us to reach buoyant health.
Dr. H.C. Sherman, for instance, in research that has become classic, has shown that an intake of calcium or certain vitamins, far beyond the minimum requirements of the body, confers upon the animal health, a prolonged prime of life, and superior longevity. The depletion or excretion test, which purports to establish requirements for endurance, actually only establishes the minimal intakes that will keep the flesh from parting with the skeleton.
Let us return to our analogy in which the adequacy of a given income is problematical until you know the circumstances of the spender. It is conceivable that an individual might have a million pounds held in trust for him, and so be in need of money. It is not only conceivable, but an actuality, that the amount of vitamin B1 in the blood gives no indication whatsoever of its availability to the individual.
To be utilized in the body, this vitamin—and this is true of many other nutrients—must be combined with phosphorus. (Phosphorus is needed by the body in regular amounts to perform complex biochemical functions, as yet little understood. It is known to be, along with calcium, vital in bone formation, and plays an important role in the function of vitamin B1 and others.)
Some nutrients require further linkages with other substances to form enzyme systems. (Enzymes function as catalysts, that is, they assist and speed up almost every activity of the body from digestion to thought.)
The amount of vitamin B1 in the blood does not tell us how successful you are in phosphorylating (combining with phosphorus) the vitamin. It does not tell us whether your body is efficient in forming the particular enzyme system in which vitamin B1 is a necessary component.
It is again not only conceivable, but an actuality, that there are individuals who show signs of deficiency in the presence of “adequate” (average) intake of a vitamin and high “normal” blood levels of the factor. The classical, if exaggerated, example of this type of fault, it is believed, is found in muscular dystrophy, where the muscles are starving for vitamin E because the enzyme is lacking that would permit the muscles to utilize vitamin E—this despite the rich supply of the vitamin in the blood.
Poor nutrition is part of an inevitable cycle. At the outset it debilitates the pituitary gland. This gland influences the enzyme system through which nutrients are utilized. Thus, as deficiency lowers, the efficiency of the gland, digestion, absorption, utilization, and formation of enzyme systems will, in parallel degree, suffer impairment.
Now, the very nutrients needed to stimulate the pituitary are utilized with steadily decreasing effectiveness, and the gland in turn continues to go downhill. An individual suffering from this condition frequently refuses to respond to the therapeutic dosages of the nutrients he apparently needs. What, then, would be the significance and the usefulness of classifying his blood levels?
Parenthetically, this interplay between the functioning of the glands and the worth of the jet, largely unexplored in scientific research and largely unappreciated by endocrinologists, requires study. It offers, for one thing, the opportunity to escape via the glandular system from the inflexible and purportedly immutable dictates of heredity.
Unfortunately, there is no blood test that will define an individual’s unique inherited nutritional requirements. Deficits in prenatal nutrition may be reflected in the individual’s later life by an exaggerated need for a particular nutrient. Dr. Roger Williams has demonstrated that deficiencies incurred by an individual’s exaggerated need for certain nutrients may take the form of symptoms apparently far removed from nutritional causes.
In his book Free and Unequal, he gives the example of a chemist with migraine headache that disappeared when his thiamin (B1) intake was raised to seven times the estimated normal requirement.* In the senior author’s experience, likewise, there are many individuals in the population whose qualitative diet needs are sharply different from those of the mythical “average person,” whose chemistry has been made the authorities’ yardstick. Perhaps the most striking response to more than the recommended normal intake of a nutrient occurs in those individuals ranging from the mentally retarded to the so-called normal.
Heightened mental alertness, rises in IQ, less difficulty in concentration, prolonged memory span, even changes in the neurotic personality toward the norm have been the results of even a comparatively small increase in glutamic acid intake.
Glutamic acid is a protein substance. It is abundant in protein foods; milk casein is more than 20 percent glutamic acid. Furthermore, it is believed that the acid is synthesized in the body. But despite the apparent generosity of the supply, a small rise in the intake—perhaps a tablespoon or so daily—has been found to yield improvement in mental performance, social adaptability, and personality structure, which is another way of saying what we said before.
But we cannot overemphasize our point. How are we to explain such responses unless we conclude, since all individuals do not respond in this way, that there are some of us in this world who need and would profit by larger than “average” or “normal” intakes of beneficial nutritional substances? Yet the American Medical Association maintains that a “normal” person, eating a “normal” diet, does not need glutamic acid or any other supplement.**
While we have shown that blood assays offer no help in this area, it has been suggested that depletion tests have another usefulness. Surely, it is argued, we can gain some idea of the individual’s nutritional needs by how long a poor diet must continue before signs of a deficiency appear? If anything, this method of testing—both drastic and possibly dangerous—will do nothing except to fortify our key concept; that each of us has unique nutritional needs.
The human organism exhibits a remarkable ability to adapt itself to unfavorable environments, internally and externally, and the duration of survival or the duration of the maintenance of good health or freedom from signs of deficiency on a poor diet tests nothing more than the capacity of that individual body to resist punishment.
We have already had such tests on a grand scale. There were individuals who were carried out of the concentration camps of World War II in the terminal stages of beriberi, pellagra, and other deficiency diseases. There were those who, though emaciated, managed to totter out, and there were those who showed no sign of deficiency other than the loss of body fat.
What shall we conclude from this massive “test”? Only this, that individuals have individual nutritional requirements, and that norms computed on the basis of averages constitute no proper yardstick by which to appraise the dietary needs of a mass population.
There are other fallacies in the biochemical attempts to measure nutritional needs. For one thing, the quantitative estimation of blood nutrients faces resolutely toward the past and gives us no estimate of future needs. Take the case of the woman whose heartburn in the fifth month of pregnancy is relieved by riboflavin injections.
A blood assay done before her pregnancy began would probably have shown her to be reasonably well supplied with the vitamins but would have offered no basis for prophecy when, as in this case, her body was faced with the steadily growing, parasitic demand of the baby. All that we can say is that conditioning factors exist: factors which, coming into play at a given moment, may raise nutritional requirements far beyond the level of those supplied by the “average” diet yielding the “average” requirement.
*The senior author has observed a similar response in a stammerer.
**One physician, outraged by AMA dogma on the “uselessness” of food supplements, asked how they can generalize about 190,000,000 diets.
—Reported in Here’s Health, No. 119, Vol. 10, July 1966. Condensed from Food Facts and Fallacies, a 380-page authoritative book on nutrition. Published in the U.S.A. by Julian Press, Inc., 119 Fifth Ave., New York, NY, 10006.
By Pierre Gevaert
Whole food manufacturer, Belgium
Reverence for life extends as far as food. Food cannot be industrialized. It should remain alive. First the soil must be a living environment, then the processers of food must respect the material they are given, so that as little is killed as possible—enzymes, vitamins, and so on. These vital elements can be destroyed by chemicals, heal processes, and the like. For example, they have to kill grain in order to industrialize it. The germ must be removed for the convenience of modern milling techniques.
We know that electric potentials are built up in a healthy soil and in healthy food. We are finding out how to measure these and coordinate our measurements with quality production.
—Journal of the Soil Association, January 1966.