Wednesday, August 24, 2011

[Discussion] Disease & Malnutrition

Before reading the discussion, consider the following quote and come up with some of your own thoughts on the quote.

“There is only one major disease and that is malnutrition. All ailments and afflictions to which we may fall heir are directly traceable to this major disease.” ~ D.W. Cavanaugh, M.D., Cornell University

Do you agree or disagree with the quote?
See if any of my cohorts or associates feel as you do.
If not, comment with your own opinion!

Gallow: That's an interesting quote, but the only references I can find to D.W. Cavanaugh are from organic food webisites. Cornell University has no record of that man existing. They do have record of a G.W Cavenough, but I can't find him having ever said such a thing. Do you know where that quote is from?

Raederle: I got it from the book "Empty Harvest" which is an interesting read. It has some solid information even if I happen to know some of the information within are untrue. Of course, even if this guy doesn't exist for some reason, the quote is still mostly true.

Gallow: The fact that someone either has to invent sources, or is so careless as to not check the validity of their sources, doesn't raise a red flag as to the validity of the content they are trying to convey?

Rig: Somehow I don't think Huntington's disease is traceable to malnutrition, nor is Tay-Sachs. I also don't think getting the flu or a cold or any kind of viral or bacterial infection can be prevented by diet, although certainly someone with a healthy diet is better equipped to deal with infections than others.

Regardless, I would definitely not say that the quote is true. Its just my opinion, but someone who believes they have found the end-all source of "all ailments and afflictions" (without that source being tautologically true), is either naive or arrogant; most likely, if they are educated, they are trying to get grant money, in which case saying things like that are meant to convince the naive and arrogant government and administrators that they deserve funding.

Sorry, but I think its stupid to believe in a panacea, and intelligent to eat healthy.

Raederle: We get viruses all the time, it's a matter of the power of our immune system to fight it off. It's the difference between one person getting a minor sniffle while another person becomes sick for three weeks.

Iron: While at the moment I agree malnutrition contributes and creates many diseases, there are other causes for some as well. No matter how good our diet, if exposed especially over time to high amounts of cigarette smoke, radiation, various poisonous chemicals and other stressors that body may still develop chronic diseases. But gorging on fast food, poisoned foods and the like certainly would be better changed into eating healthy, organic fruits, vegetable and such.

Raederle: Excellent point. Food is not the only factor, by any means. Blanket statements are never quite correct, even if close, huh?

Ling: Flus and colds can be prevented by dietary choices. Because once infected a virus is always in the blood, viral infections in particular can be prevented and lessened in severity by food choices. This is not info from a book, its a record of my own life experience, so it may not be true for all but I have proven it to myself.

If you eat nutrient dense foods your body will reward you with long lasting good health. I would say that malnutrition, particularly of certain minerals, very likely plays a role in all ailments and afflictions.

Raederle: I've had the same personal experience and encountered dozens of others with that same experience. The common flu and cold is easily prevented through food choices.

Russ: Wild animals get diseases too, and it's not from eating food grown in depleted soil. Diet and lifestyle may prevent certain "lifestyle diseases", and there are certain diseases that are directly attributed to nutrient deficiency, but adequate nutrition doesn't make you disease proof.

Raederle: That is a fair point. Although, animals in the wild certainly don't suffer as humans do from disease, but that is a different point altogether.

Snow: Saying something is true does not magically make it so... I keep saying 99% of the world needs die in a great big zombiepocyclips orgy of dead stupid people... And it still hasn't taken place...

Gallow: Interesting, the authors of that book have no idea where penguins actually live (p.12, p.14, p.131). Combined with the imaginary citation from Savanaugh, I get the feeling "Empty Harvest" has a lot of empty information. There's a reason why modern schools don't use textbooks from the early 1900s. I know your lifestyle is all about healthy eating, Raederle, but you may want to take that book with a grain of salt...

Raederle: I am taking Empty Harvest with a grain of salt, Gallow. As I said in my first comment, I know not everything in it is true. For example, it certainly does not take two acres of land to feed one person. It takes an incredibly tiny piece of land, especially with today's technological conveniences. I have a blog entry which goes into detail about how much space it actually takes to feed a person or a family. Two football fields for one person? -(Which is what the book implies.)- Absurd.

It does contain other interesting information about top soil and nutrients and how they interplay in the body. I don't think I've ever read a single book that I couldn't spot a bit of mis-information, and for every piece I can spot, there are probably ten other things I accept as true when they are only partly true, or not really true at all. This is the nature of all information.

There are levels within levels. While the quote isn't 100% true, I think offers the concept that malnutrition costs the vast majority of disease.

As Iron pointed out, there are other factors. As Russ mentioned, animals can still get disease in the wild, although that doesn't disprove anything since they could be suffering from malnutrition even in a "natural" setting. As Gallow suggested, everything with a grain of salt.

And perhaps most importantly, as Ling mentioned, common diseases are easily combated with diet. I went from having strep throat one to four times a year to not having it at all after I first made dietary changes at the age of 17. It wasn't a coincidence.

Russ: Animals in the wild generally suffer from acute infections due to overcrowding, spoiled food supply, parasites and they do get naturally occurring viruses and bacterial infections (ie: avian flu). Wild animals get things like arthritis too. Ever here of SIV, the primate version of HIV?

Wild animals do not live as long as domesticated humans do, so any sort of "lifestyle disease" brought on by genetics, poor food, etc... would not show up in populations due to predation and inability to survive with handicaps in the wild. Wild animals also have much more resilient genetics than modern (domesticated) humans because wild animals are still at the mercy of natural selection, where humans have stepped outside of natural selection through technology.

It's too simplistic to blame disease exclusively on diet and lifestyle. Faulty genetics that remain in the human gene pool due to advances in medical care, a safer lifestyle and a lack of survival necessity to be fit and healthy are a significant factor for many of the lifestyle diseases we see today. Sure, a healthy diet and lifestyle may help somebody's chances at living longer and healthier despite genetic shortcomings, but it's not a cure-all.

Tina: You know, when I first read the quote, I thought it could be about malnutrition of the spirit/soul...

I agree with Raederle about taking the quote with a grain of salt. She just put up a quote with good intentions; she didn't say everyone has to live by it.
Raederle: I like that thought, although I know some of the people who commented on this thread may have issues with accepting that put in the terms of "spiritual malnutrition." However, I think anyone can accept that it is possible to have emotional malnutrition. I wonder how much an animal that is not a human can suffer from emotional malnutrition? Or is that mainly/entirely a human thing?

Tina: Good point, emotional malnutrition is a better way to say it, and I definitely have experienced it! I think animals could have it too... That's just really hard to prove I guess.

Raederle: That is the issue with many things; we can experience something over and over, and we can learn about others' experience with the same thing (second hand), and how they've heard about others' who've experienced it (third hand), but despite sharing an experience with hundreds, or even thousands of people... It can be damn near impossible to prove. Mostly because none of us have millions of dollars laying around to throw at research projects.

Russ: I think it's important to make a distinction between acute and chronic diseases. Since embracing a mostly raw vegan lifestyle, I too no longer get sick. I don't get colds anymore, I don't get the flu, I don't get strep throat. My immune system is functioning on all cylinders.

A bit of anecdotal evidence: My wife, my sister and I ate some undercooked fiddlehead ferns this spring. Little did we know, undercooked fiddleheads contain bacteria that can make people sick and cause food poisoning. Tracy had absolutely no ill effects. I only had very mild intestinal trouble. My sister was up all night sick as can be.

Was it the difference in diet and lifestyle between Tracy and I and my sister? Or was it something else? I think there is something to be said for a healthy diet and lifestyle and it's impact on helping people resist acute illness. It's also pretty established that the chances of getting chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers are dramatically increased when poor diet and lifestyle choices are present.

However, I'm a little skeptical that Americans are as severely undernourished as some raw gurus and vitamin/mineral/superfood pushers would have you believe. I think it's more about the type of food people are eating -- mainly food that we have not evolved or adapted to eat in conjunction with genetic variances, modern lifestyle and to some extent, nutritional imbalance.

Raederle: I certainly don't prescribe to the idea that we need superfoods to live, Davy. However, some superfoods do taste nice. I've grown fond of maca in particular.

I also agree that our technology and society have taken much of natural selection out of the picture, especially since people have this notion that is "superficial" to base someone's worth on their handicaps, lack of health, or poor appearance. I don't think it is superficial so much as it is instinctual rather than cerebral to judge people based on those things.

Personally I would not want have to children with someone I thought had less-than-great genetics, ethics and upbringing. I am fortunate to have found someone I consider strong on all of aforementioned points.

The point that "empty harvest" was trying to make by including that quote was that we're in big trouble if our plants stop giving us the nutrients we think they are giving us.

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