Last night, while watching Stephen Colbert's coverage of the Democratic National Convention, I realized how simple we make things out to be - things that are not, in fact, simple. Of course the thought was spurred by political ideas, but also applies to nutrition in far too many ways for me to recount... but I'll do my best.
When people develop calcium deposits - sometimes resulting in kidney stones - and are told by their doctor that they must be ingesting too much calcium. That's the simple answer. But it couldn't be less true.
In fact, calcium deposits and kidneys stones are usually caused by consuming too much animal protein which depletes the calcium from the bones (calcium buffers the acid produced by excess protein). That's why so many people developed kidney stones when they were on low-carb diets, by the way.
Or when we're told osteoporosis is a disease of not consuming enough calcium. Simple. Bones are mainly comprised of calcium, therefore, porous bones must come from too little calcium in our diet.
To the contrary, osteoporosis is caused by the same thing that causes calcium deposits: too much animal protein. But that's way to complicated, not to mention that it's more difficult to change your diet vs. pop some supplements.
When I worked for WIC, we saw childhood anemia left and right (or better said, we saw kids with anemia). Doctors usually prescribed an iron supplement, which was unfortunate since the primary cause of iron-deficiency anemia in children is milk. There's actually a name for this condition: milk-induced iron deficiency anemia. Turns out, bovine proteins cause blood to be lost in the intestines, thus causing iron loss. Also, calcium and iron compete in the body for absorption, so too much calcium from milk causes iron depletion.
Another oversimplified nutritional problem: constipation. What are people told to do for this disorder? Of course: take a fiber supplement.
But the one that gets me the most... When we make the simplification (or perhaps, totally unfounded assumption) that the chronic diseases we have are GENETIC. I that were true, wouldn't it also be true that our great-great grandparents would have had Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease? And come to think of it, they would have also been quite overweight - both as children and adults. But when I look at pictures from history, I see mostly slender, healthy-looking people.
I've cited two studies on this blog already that show our diets actually change our genetics. A healthy diet and lifestyle has the power to "switch off" disease-causing genes, and "turn on" health-promoting ones. We should be seeing many more studies confirming links between diet and genes in the near future, so stay tuned.
Until then, just remember: nothing is ever how it seems... and the food you put in your body is more powerful than you think.