ArchiveMay 15, 2001

Food for Thought

All Winter long people have been popping pills to prevent and cure all manner of actual or anticipated ills. Every year doctors caution people from overdoing the vitamins and encourage them to eat fresh naturally produced food instead, yet, one in ten people are currently taking supplements. In theory if we eat plenty of fresh food including fruit and vegetables, we should be getting all the nutrients our body needs. Unfortunately, there is mounting evidence that this is no longer the case, according to an article called Vital Elements by Hazel Courteney recently published in the Sunday Times Style magazine.

In 1940, two food scientists, Doctors McCance and Widdowson, were asked by the Medical Research Council in the UK to analyse the mineral content of British-grown fruits and vegetables. In 1991 the duo conducted similar studies for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods. Recently, David Thomas, a geologist, turned nutritionist, did a comparative study of their figures. He found that calcium levels in broccoli had dropped by up to 75% and magnesium levels in carrots had fallen by similar amounts. If these figures are correct, why are mineral levels becoming depleted? “Intensive farming methods during the past 50 years, plus acid rain and overuse of artificial fertilisers, have reduced the absorption of minerals such as selenium and zinc into our fruits, vegetables and grains. ” says Thomas. “Mass-produced fertilisers generally contain only three minerals, but there are more than 36 known minerals, 21 of which are vital. If they’re not in our soil, they’re not going to make it into our foods. This imbalance is having a big impact on our health.”

Did you know that if your body becomes deficient in the minerals, magnesium, calcium and potassium, you are more likely to suffer irregularities in your heartbeat? And if you have an excess of iron, but insufficient copper levels, this greatly increases your risk of a heart attack, especially after 50. There is also evidence that pesticides and pollutants such as lead accumulate in the body and prevent absorption of essential nutrients. When Thomas began experimenting at his clinic by giving liquid minerals to his patients, he noticed improvements in a variety of conditions, including leg cramps, chronic fatigue, hyperactivity in children, migraines and, in some cases of autism. What Thomas and numerous nutritional physicians have established is now being recognised by the scientific community. In trials in China, Tunisia, America, France and New Zealand, when people were given a daily supplement of 200 micrograms of chromium, which regulates blood sugar levels, instances of late-onset diabetes were almost halved.” Says Dr Richard Anderson, a research scientist for the US Department of Agriculture.

Since 1984 when the Finnish government decreed that all fertilisers should contain selenium,, sperm motility (the ability of sperm to swim) in subfertile men has increased by up to 35%, while instances of heart disease and prostate cancers have fallen. “During the 1970’s, before joining the EU, we imported huge amounts of Canadian wheat, which is rich in selenium, and the daily intake averaged 70 micrograms”, says Dr Margaret Rayman of the University of Surrey. “Today, the average is 29 micrograms. Virtually all farm animas are given minerals in their feed to help prevent disease. Perhaps its time to do the same for humans.”  So how do we increase our mineral intake from our food? Walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds are all rich in minerals. Fresh vegetable juices contain high levels of nutrients – cabbage, broccoli, absorb minerals well and are an important source. So maybe our resolution should be to seek out really health giving food that is naturally produced on fertile organic soil, eat more organic fruit and vegetables with the skin left on. Peel contains a higher concentration of minerals. After all, as in the Asian philosophy, food should be our medicine – I rather fear that nowadays the opposite is often the case.


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