DEAR DR. BLONZ: As you reflect on nutrition globally, and then look back at the U.S. dietary standards, do you believe there are any universal truths in the field of nutrition? What do you see in the future for human health and nutrition, given that here in the U.S., we are not even among the 30 healthiest nations on earth? -- C.A., Las Vegas
DEAR C.A.: Given the (unfake) fact that scientific knowledge continues to evolve, there needs to be an element of flexibility, especially where personal and financial interests and biases are concerned. With each new finding, our thoughts about nutrition and health might require updating or outright change. Bias also comes from one’s worldview. What might be thought of as absolutes for a raw vegan are unlikely to jibe with those held by an omnivore.
This being said, there do seem to be underlying truths that can be gleaned from observations of the plant world, and from a review of human history. The overall theme is that we need to provide our bodies with a broad spectrum of nutrients and whole foods in order to sustain health, ensure longevity and empower our defenses. Essential adjuncts are a physically active, personally satisfying, stress-moderated lifestyle, adherence to basic food safety practices, and the responsible preservation of our land, sea and air.
Scientific findings continue to tweak the detailed chapters and verses, but much depends on who is supplying the research dollars. Dietary standards and recommended intakes, such as those put out by the U.S. government and others, are a mix of science, politics and market forces. There is value to these guidelines as they can provide visual teaching tools, but they tend to be more along the line of lagging indicators rather than bold steps forward.
Concerning your second question, I feel we will continue to have a disappointing ranking among the healthiest nations as long as we, as a culture, continue to have a significant element that can be swayed by instant gratification born of profit-driven market forces. This represents a significant temptation with a proven ability to entice the U.S. populace away from the basic themes of healthful eating -- directing them instead to sidetracks like “value-added food components,” rather than the innate power of whole foods themselves.
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