When I was in High School, one of my best friends, Kim, had a mom who was a nurse. She was also a holistic medicine practitioner. At the time, I was pretty self-absorbed like a lot of teens, and didn't take the time to learn what it was all about.
So earlier this week when I was watching "Food Matters" I thought of Kim's mom, and wondered what she might think of the movie's assertions. The "experts" were very confident of what they were saying... but was it accurate? Is basic nutrition as a preventative measure in illness being ignored by the western medical community? Can a lot of common (and not so common) illnesses be alleviated by an improved diet?
We already know from history that a lack of fresh food containing vitamin C can cause scurvy. I seem to remember something in the Little House on the Prairie books saying something about boiling pine needles to make a tea to ward off scurvy during the winter. It was a common ship-board ailment for sailors. We also know that a lack of calcium intake can lead to brittle bones and teeth.
What would a lack of other vitamins do during any stage of development in a child? What would this lack do to an otherwise healthy adult?
The documentary asserts that cooked food is treated by the body the same way as an infection... with a reaction of the white blood cells. This is based on a study by Dr. Paul Kouchakoff done in 1930. What they never tell you is why this is a bad thing. Or even if it is a bad thing.
My friends and long-time followers of my blog know that I am an advocate of eating foods that are industrially processed as little as possible. I would rather make a scratch pizza than buy a frozen one, if I can get my picky eater to eat it. I'd rather grill a chicken breast and put it on a bun than have one of those chopped meat patties they call chicken.
However, I never claimed that my method of cooking and eating was a cure-all for disease.
"Food Matters" asserts that a raw-foods diet has cured cancer. That it has pushed leukemia into remission. They show dramatic before and after photos (some of which are quite gross, but they do warn you ahead of time) that "prove" this to be the case. They claim that following a proper raw foods diet supplies vitamins and natural enzymes that are missing or destroyed in cooked food. And that this is the cause of all our ills.
Certainly there are vital nutrients that are diminished or destroyed by cooking. There are, however, also nutrients that can only be "unlocked" for the body through the process.
At least they advocate only a 51% raw foods diet (or most of the experts in this film do). I have no problem with that, in general, because I think that the fiber and nutrients of such a change would be beneficial. I *don't* think it's going to cure my uncle's diabetes. I don't think it's going to cure someone's dystonia, or heart disease.
But hey, as long as you're not pregnant or immunity compromised, it certainly can't hurt, so long as you're watching that all the nutrients make it through your food rotation. Bananas all day every day isn't going to cut it. You have to mix it up a little.
I also believe that one of the few pills you should take is a good vitamin supplement.
"Food Matters" brings up Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, and claim that at one time he wanted to add nutrition and vitamin supplements into the program. Niacin, also known as B3, they claimed helped alcoholics with their depression. The film also claims that mega-doses of niacin, taken daily, helped cure and maintain against the chronic severe depression of an elderly woman. They also claim that HUGE amounts of vitamin C are completely harmless.
I am skeptical of these claims. But I see no harm in taking vitamin supplements as directed. A good "once a day" type should suffice.
The best thing I can say about this film is that it made me think and do some digging. I don't think it should be taken as gospel. I do like their attitude that watching your nutrition is better than throwing pills and medications at diseases. I do like their ideas on farmers growing some of the "superfood" crops, such as Acai berries, that are rich in many nutrients, not just a few. Can such crops be sustained in this climate?
I don't know, I may have to do some research.