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A History of Nutrition

Conventional wisdom has led us to believe that milk gives us strong bones, eggs are perfect protein, meat gives us strong muscles, and that plants contain low-quality protein. Conventional wisdom differs from scientific wisdom in that scientific wisdom has been conducted without bias for a particular outcome and is peer-reviewed by other scientists who have a strong knowledge of methodology and statistical analysis. In other words, the goal of science is to discover what is likely to be true, not what is popular. Unfortunately, the prejudices of the big food industry companies touch more people than those of the scientific community. “Prejudices are hard to eradicate when they are not recognized as such, and even more so when they continue to be repeatedly reinforced within the culture at large” (Diet for a New America, John Robbins). Let’s take a trip back in history and look at some studies that have helped shape the scientific view of diet and its relationship to disease.

Over 2,500 years ago Plato and Socrates condemned the consumption of animal flesh. 2,000 years ago, so did Seneca, teacher and advisor to the Roman Emperor Nero. Later Hippocrates, the father of medicine, understood that diet prevents disease and said that “food should be our medicine and medicine our food” during his time, 460-357 BC.

In the 1800s, a few scientists continued to shape our view of nutrition. One of these scientists was the Dutch chemist Gerhard Mulder, who discovered protein in 1839. Carl Voit was a German scientist in the late 1800s who discovered that humans only needed 48.5 grams of protein per day, but recommended 118 grams. Voit mentored some young scientists, including WO Atwater who later developed the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Atwater continued to exaggerate the need for protein, which became synonymous with meat in the 19th century, even though protein can also be found in plant foods. This led to a classically incorrect question that vegetarians and vegans are asked even today: “Where do you get your protein?” (The Chins Study, TC Campbell and TM Campbell). It is also around the same time that Dr. Weston Price published his findings regarding the excellent dental health of primitive peoples versus the horrible dental health of civilized peoples. He determined that processed foods were the culprit in the deterioration of dental health, even with inherited traits such as dental arches and facial structure (Nutrition & Physical Degeneration, Dr. Weston Price).

At the same time, the medical field was shaped by a few pioneers. Louis Pasteur, a famous French chemist in the late 1800s, advocated the germ theory of disease. The germ theory remains the cornerstone upon which vaccines, parasites, viruses, and antibiotics were created in the medical field. He states that the immune system is a victim of such attacks. His theory was very controversial and many disagreed with him. One of his opponents in the theory was Henry Lindlahr, author of the book “Philosophy of Natural Therapeutics”, who believed that reduced vitality weakens the immune system in fighting disease. He concluded that a man’s well-being depends on normal nutrition and a healthy environment, and that normal nutrition allows for proper drainage and rejuvenation. Dr. Rodemon further showed that Pasteur was wrong by smearing his body with smallpox and going out in public. No one got smallpox. Although dramatic, he had made a very important point.

Scientists began to sort the quality of protein in animals, which contained all the essential amino acids, versus the quality of protein in plants, which contained bits and pieces of amino acids. They concluded that animal protein was of higher quality than plant protein, but did not bother to consider which protein was healthier for human consumption or the fact that eating a wide variety of plant foods provides all the essential amino acids (The China Study, TC Campbell and TM Campbell).

After the First World War (1914-1918), an Allied blockade cut off food supplies to over three million Danish residents, forcing them to ration food. One of the measures taken was the redistribution of grain used to feed animals to humans. During this period, the death rate decreased by 34% (The CHina Study, TC Campbell and TM Campbell).

During World War II (1939-1945), the Norwegian government was forced to ration its food, especially meat, while the country was occupied by the Germans. During this period, Norway saw a drastic reduction in deaths from circulatory diseases. Death rates rose again when the Germans left and Norway returned to its previous diet. Britain and Switzerland also saw an increase in health, while food was rationed during World War II, where infant and postnatal mortality rates as well as the occurrence of anemia fell to the lowest recorded at the time. What has grown during this time? Growth rates and dental health for children. After World War II, the National Heart Institute investigated why plaque develops in heart disease and how it leads to a heart attack. A comparison of the medical records of 5,000 residents of Framingham, Massachusetts, enabled the research team to develop risk factors such as cholesterol. blood pressure, physical activity, cigarette smoking and obesity. This study spawned more than 1,000 scientific papers that showed a strong correlation between high blood cholesterol and heart disease (The China Study, TC Campbell and TM Campbell).

In 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea and over 30,000 American soldiers were killed. Army medical researchers examined the hearts of 300 male soldiers and published their results in the Journal of the American Medical Association, finding that 77.3% of the hearts examined showed “gross” evidence of heart disease.

Many scientists have contributed to the development of a true scientific understanding of nutrition in relation to disease since then. Dr. George Macilwain, a prominent 1800s surgeon and vegetarian, contributed fourteen books on medicine and health popularizing “the constitutional nature of disease.” Dr. John McDougall, author of ten books on nutrition, including “The McDougall Plan,” also advocates a whole-food plant-based diet. Dr. Dean Ornish, a Harvard graduate, is famous for the Lifestyle Heart Trial, where he mandated stress management, meditation, three hours of exercise a week, breathing and relaxation exercises, and eliminating almost all animal products from their diet. He found that 82% of his patients who adopted the lifestyle changes saw their heart disease go away within a year.

Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., also known as “Dr. Sprouts,” was a surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic and St. George in London, president of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons and voted one of the best doctors in America in 1994-95. Dr. Sprouts began studying nutrition and found that diets high in meat, fat, and highly processed foods caused disease. He began experimenting with putting his patients on a vegetarian diet and had the greatest success ever recorded in treating heart disease. Never before has the mountain of evidence supporting a whole-grain plant-based diet been so compelling. This addressed the equally important and pressing issue of the record deterioration of American health relative to the Standard American Diet.

Many of us ignore these studies because there is no organization or industry motivated to share them. As a Biology graduate and nutritionist, I am not interested in what is popular, but what is believed to be true by the standards of the most respected scientists in the field. We can’t be held responsible for what we don’t know, but hopefully you can now make an informed decision about where to go from here. Stepping into the unknown is scary. And often, people switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet are filling up on the wrong replacement foods. It is essential to fill your diet with smarter food choices, ones that promote health and wellness. Start learning by reading as many articles and books as you can from reputable and unbiased resources and start applying what you learn to the food market. Sunrider International makes the purest and most concentrated whole food products that are so convenient to use. They are made from Chinese herbs, which are backed by over 5,000 years of the Chinese royal family’s empirical knowledge of their people. Sunrider owners are royalty and have been handed down this ancient knowledge. Dr. Te-Fu Chen is a world-renowned herbalist and pharmacologist. Dr. Oi-Lin Chen is a licensed Western physician. Together they make the best food on the planet! Their factories are pharmaceutical grade and their quality control is unmatched by any company on the market today.

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