Comparing Apples to Oranges
Today’s fruits and vegetables are apparently a shadow of their former selves, according to recent research. Changes in cultivation practices to increase crop yields have actually decreased nutrient content.
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A recent report that compared nutrient values of 43 different fruits and vegetables from the 50s with their contemporaries found deficiencies in six out of 13 nutrients: protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and vitamin C. What’s even more disturbing is that we could be at a loss for lots of other nutrients — like magnesium, zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin E and dietary fiber — and not even know it because there is no data on those nutrients from the 50s to use for comparison.
Eating organic foods is part of the solution. Researcher Virginia Worthington reviewed 41 published studies comparing the nutritional value of organic foods with conventionally grown counterparts and discovered significant differences. Organic foods contained 27 percent more vitamin C, 21.1 percent more iron, 29.3 percent more magnesium — the list goes on and on. Additional nutritional value compared with lower levels of pesticides makes going organic a no-brainer.
But Dr. Wright cautions that organic foods don’t do the whole trick. Even organic foods are often picked before they have fully ripened, which affects nutritional quality. Long-term storage and lengthy transportation times also take their toll on the quality of food. These factors remain constant in both conventional and organic foods. Other factors that affect both types of produce include environmental degregation and the presence of food additives and preservatives used during preparation.
The undeniable fact is that the food we eat is losing a little more nutritional ground each and every year. So a double dose of spinach isn’t going to keep you healthy and well-nourished all on its own. We know we need more, and we know our food is providing less — it’s important to fill that gap. So it’s usually necessary to take additional supplements as well.
Work closely with a nutritionally minded physician to determine the best nutrient levels for your individual system. And then supplement accordingly from there. No matter what the hype-of-the-moment might say, very few supplements are harmful — even at higher doses than the current RDA.
Friend in need
Q: A very dear friend of mine has a slowly progressing form of multiple sclerosis. I was wondering if there were any dietary changes or vitamin supplements that you could recommend to slow or reverse this disease process? Any information you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
JVW: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the nervous system that is extremely challenging to both patients and their doctors. But there are a number of things I’ve found to be of great benefit to MS sufferers. Here are a few:
Procarin is an alternative treatment to patent medicines based on the original work in the 1940’s of Bayard T. Horton, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic. It consists of a transdermal gel patch that administers histamine. Horton found that intravenous administration of histamine improved his patients MS symptoms. A 12-week double-blind study published in 2002 confirmed that histamine does lessen the severity of some MS symptoms. Procarin is available with a prescription and can be obtained at a compounding pharmacy.
I also recommend the Swank Diet (www.swankmsdiet.com) to my patients with MS, with some modifications. This diet is low in saturated fat with added unsaturated fats and essential fatty acids. The modifications include elimination of food additives, colorings, artificial flavors and preservatives, as well as identifying and eliminating the individual’s specific food allergies. It’s not an easy diet to follow, especially with the specific modifications, but it does seem to be effective enough to make it worthwhile.
Hand-in-hand with diet is digestion. I’ve found that many of my MS patients suffer from hydrochlorydria or low stomach acid, which interferes with nutrient absorption. No matter how healthful a diet you follow, it’s not going to do you as much good as it could if your digestive system is not able to absorb what your body needs. Your friend — and any MS sufferer — would be well-advised to get their stomach acid levels checked.
Additional alternatives include vitamin B12 injections, adenosine monophosphate (AMP) injections and DHEA.
We hear so much about anti-histamines, which are popular patent medicines for treating a wide array of allergic symptoms. But is all histamine bad? Not according to Hinton Jonez, M.D., who treated thousands of individuals with MS between 1946 and 1953 in Tacoma, Washington, and wrote about his experiences in his book, My Fight to Conquer Multiple Sclerosis. He found that treatment with histamine caused dramatic improvements in his patients — and his research holds up today.
Apparently, serum histamine levels are higher than usual for approximately the first five years after the onset of MS; after five years, they go to lower than usual levels. Given what we know about histamine — that it is part of the body’s immune response to allergens — it might just mean that more histamine is required to combat MS.
Yours in good health,
Nutrition & Healing
Davis DR, Epp MD, Riordan HD. “Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999.” J Am Coll Nutr 2004; 23(6): 669-682
Worthington,V. “Nutritional Quality of Organic Versus Conventional Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2001; 7(2): 161-173.
Gillson G, Richard TL, Smith RB, Wright JV. “A double-blind pilot study of the effect of Prokarin on fatigue in multiple sclerosis.” Mult Scler 2002; 8(1): 30-35.