The other day, I was reading From Soil to Supplement: A Course in Food, Diet, and Nutrition, Taught by Dr. Royal Lee. This compilation of nutrition-focused articles by Lee date back to the late 1950s and early 1960s. Even then, Lee was sounding the alarm on the impact our food choices were having on our health. Here are only a few examples:
- 1958: “The Survival Value of Foods” (pg. 93) examines the misuse of scientific facts to make counterfeit foods seem healthier than they truly are, all in the name of industry profits, versus the health of the public. Lee forewarns, “It is difficult to convince the person who relishes white bread with its dough conditioners, doughnuts made with synthetic grease, and stilbestrol-treated steaks that there is any connection between these counterfeit foods and his health status. Of course, when he becomes victimized by arthritis, heart disease, or diabetes, for example, the job of convincing him becomes somewhat easier, especially when, after attempting to cure his condition with equally unnatural chemicals and drugs, he finds only palliative relief and ultimate failure.”
- 1959: “Tempering of Foods and Tampering with Glands” (pg. 69) reminds us the key purpose of our glands is to rid our body of toxins, and the heaviest burden of these toxins comes from food tampering—manipulating their natural state until they are unrecognizable by our bodies. Lee states, “Here is the real ‘stress syndrome’ which is bringing about glandular insufficiency, guised in the dark cloak of seemingly unrelated diseases, with a background ranging from obesity and arthritis on through mental disease.”
- 1960: “Number One Ailment—Malnutrition” (pg. 45) discusses a study of 500 patients who completed a disease symptoms survey. The top three most common symptoms were functional in nature: 97% reported gastrointestinal indications (gas, bloating, and fullness after meals); nervous disorders occurred in roughly three out of four participants; and nearly as prevalent were disruptions in oxygen metabolism (drowsiness and chronic fatigue). “We must look scrupulously at our health problem, realizing the healthy individual is not beset with complaints of chronic fatigue, nervousness, and digestive disorders. These are simply the first signs of health inefficiency; the first signs of chronic malnutrition,” Lee warns.
While I could go on for countless pages, it hardly seems necessary. These three references alone provide a solid basis for the proverbial lightbulb that went off in my head. I was struck by something important as I absorbed the 66 articles in From Soil to Supplement:
A good number of us, including the medical community, have made absolutely no progress when it comes to understanding nutrition and the role it plays in optimal daily health. As a matter of fact, we’ve taken great strides in the opposite direction, as the following statistics display.
- Diabetes: According to this CDC report, 1.58 million people were living with diabetes in 1958 compared to the 23.35 million in 2015. Their most recent statistics (2017) show another jump in the numbers to 30.3 million.
- Heart Disease: Statistics predict 45% of Americans will have at least one condition related to heart disease by 2035, and the $1.1 trillion price tag associated has the potential to bankrupt the current healthcare system.
- Obesity: In the 1950s, a mere 10% of U.S. adults were considered obese. Today there are seven U.S. states with an adult obesity rate of more than 35%; West Virginia is the highest at 38.1% and Colorado the lowest with 22.6%. Even the state with the lowest adult obesity rate has more than doubled since Lee’s warning articles, and these numbers don’t even include the obesity rates of children.
I can only imagine what Dr. Royal Lee would think of our current health statistics, the number of processed food products our neighborhood markets carry, and the ubiquitous fast food drive-thrus littering Main Street in most any town across the country. I guarantee he wouldn’t be offering any praise.
In commenting to me about this post, Mark Anderson put it this way:
The supplement industry has been complicit in the failure of the nutrition industry, including “health food” stores and holistic therapies, to stem the tide of disease. They have played a huge part in this failure over the last 65 years by supporting the artificial food industry with such nostrums as the antioxidant/free-radical pathology and pushing mega-doses of synthetic isolates as vitamin nutrients. So-called health food stores are typically 75-85% filled with pseudo-foods, filled with more of the same packaged, processed, sweetened dreck conventional grocery stores sell. Just check out their bakery sections. The supplement industry has talked a good game, but played the game to gain not healthy clients, but mega sales. Their motive has been the same as the soft drink industry. And so have their tactics: Dupe the consumer. Exploit ignorance.
What will it take for society to heed the warnings Dr. Lee began presenting 60+ years ago? His ideas and suggestions are more and more relevant with each passing day.
Image from iStock/AntonioGuillem.