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Nutrition and The Bible

In the following e-mail exchange, the e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.


> After years of: (1) reading books on nutrition, (2) hearing about the latest studies, and (3) trying various foods and products out for myself, this is what I have discovered:

(1) The latest study will be contradicted by the next "latest" study.<

Yes, things can get confusing if you listen to every scientific study. They can often be contradictory. But that is the way of any empirical research. It is unable to give "absolutes." And, unfortunately, what a lot of people do in the face of such conflicting information is to throw up their hands and say, "It doesn't matter what you eat" and continue to eat a junk food filled diet.

However, it DOES matter what one eats. So what I have tried to do in the various items I have posted on my site is to not depend on any one scientific study. Instead, I have looked over study after study and tried to find patterns in them.

In particular, my post Foods, Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke is based on the results of hours of reading through abstract after abstract on PubMed. I have tried to distill the information as best as possible by separating foods based on whether they are consistently associated with an increased or decreased risk of these maladies.

> (2) The latest best-selling book will be contradicted by the next best-selling book.<

The primary purpose for writing an publishing books is to sell books. And for a book to sell it must say something different or unique from what previous books have said. So yes, the various diet books on the market will be contradictory as each tries to separate itself from the other.

This is not to say there are not any good diet books available. But by and large the best-sellers are often the least reliable. The more reliable books don't promise "miraculous" cures, or "instant results." The more reliable books give basic nutrition information in an un-fantastic manner. But it is the "instance results" that people are looking for. So books promising a lot for little effort are what sell.

> (3) The latest superfood/ supplement will be displaced next year by a supposedly "better" and more potent superfood/ supplement.<

The problem is there is no one "superfood." But to tell people to eat a balanced diet of a variety of wholesome foods is no that "exciting." What sells books is the promise that one food will be the "cure-all" for people's problems.

> (4) We pump more "good" supplements into our bodies than any other nation in the world, yet we are the sickest nation on earth with respect to chronic degenerative disease. Great results, huh?<

Supplements do not make up for an unhealthy diet. They are at best what they are called "supplements." They are only supposed to supplement a healthy diet. But then if people are eating a healthy diet they really don't need supplements.

Unfortunately, what seems to happen is those who least need supplements (i.e. those who are watching what they eat) are the most likely to use supplements. Hence why they really don't make a difference in our nation's health in general.

> (5) We consume more milk than any other nation on earth, per capita, yet we have the highest incidence of osteoporosis (bone-loss) of any nation. So much for pasteurized milk providing usable calcium.<

If only things were so easy in doing epidemiological comparisons. Just take two completely different cultures, look at one difference in disease rates between the cultures, and look at one food consumption difference, and proclaim the latter the cause of the former.

Unfortunately, things are not that simple. And this is why the situation you mention in point one occurs. Researchers sometimes get this simplistic in their "studies" and fail to account for other possible factors.

In the case of the high rate of osteoporosis in the USA, they are several factors that I believe are important independent of milk consumption:

a. People in the USA are less physically active than in other countries. A recent surgeon general's report showed that only 28% of American's exercise regularly. And just in day to day living, with all of our modern conveniences, American's are less active than others. Yet exercise, or lack thereof, is one of the most important factors in the development of osteoporosis.

b. A high protein intake. Due to our high consumption of "flesh foods" (e.g. meat, chicken, and fish), we consume more protein than other countries. And some studies show that a high protein intake reduces calcium absorption.

c. A high phosphorus intake, mainly from flesh foods and soft drinks. Calcium and phosphorus should be in a 1:1 ratio, but in the USA it is more like 1:2. This upsetting of the balance leads to increased calcium excretion. And note, Americans are now consuming twice as much pop as milk. The consumption of milk has gone down over the past thirty years, while the consumption of pop has been skyrocketing. So one could conclude that the rising rates of osteoporosis in this country have to to with pop replacing milk in the American diet.

There could be many other factors at play as well. But I think you get the point. There are simply too many differences between the USA and other countries to point to just one factor. Moreover, as for the rate of calcium absorption from milk, I have posted on my site studies that show it is well absorbed.

> (6) Our doctors are just as sick as the rest of us, so what good is their advice (or theories?) "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit." -Jesus<

First off, I'm not if it is true that doctor's "are just as sick as the rest of us." I have not seen studies comparing the health of doctor's to that of the general public. But even if it is true, it could simply be a case of doctor's not following their own advice. And very common situation in sinful humanity (Rom 2:1-3).

> (7) If a person wants to be truly healthy: (1) obey God's commandments (i.e. STOP SINNING, REPENT), (2) eat God's original mostly raw-food diet for Man, as specified in Genesis, and (3) DON'T EVER READ ANOTHER BOOK OR STUDY ON Dealing with Health Difficulties; these books will only confuse a person and eventually lead them astray In the end, the wisdom of God always triumphs over the prideful and puny wisdom of man.

Blessings,
"Disciple"
12/4/1999<

Now you're getting to the most important part of your e-mail. First, you are very correct: following God's Laws does lead to better health. Many studies shave been done showing that committed Christians are healthier than the general population. Many factors would account for this, such as not drinking to excess and not engaging in promiscuous sex.

As for what God's "original diet" was for people, that is the point of my two-part article Creationist Diet. I was looking at the earliest chapters of Genesis and trying to determine what the most "original" or basic foods for people would be from a Creationist perspective.

And I did determine a few things to be certain, such as fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seed were definitely "original" foods and should be a part of everyone's diet. However, beyond these basic foods things get a little more "fuzzy." The Scriptures simply aren't as clear as to when foods like grains became a part of the human diet. So I had to use quite a bit of "conjecture" in looking at all the various kinds of foods and what their place would be in a "Creationist Diet."

What that means is the Bible does give me a starting point on which to build a healthy diet, and provides a "sieve" through which to interpret scientific studies or proposed diet plans.

For instance, I state in several places on my site that I disagree with both very low (<20%) fat and with very low (<30) carb diets. My reason for doing so because of the above "absolute" that fruits, and nuts and seeds are the most basic foods.

IOW, a very low fat diet would not allow the consumption of nuts and seeds due to their high fat content, while a very low carb diet would not have room for fruits due their high carb content. But I know these are healthy foods because of what the Bible teaches, so I know any diet that says not to eat them is faulty.

However, beyond these extremes the Bible does not give an indication of what would be the best ratio of carbs, fat, and protein in the diet. So it is then that I need to look at scientific studies to try to determine what would be the best ratio. This is the point of my recent post, Popular Diet Plans, 20/20, and Syndrome X.

Moreover, the Newsgroup I have been participating in is "sci.med.nutrition." And being a "sci" Newsgroup it would be out of place for me to quote the Bible for my reason why I think fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds should be included in ones diet. So when I post to the group I refer to scientific studies showing these foods are beneficial.

So in the nutrition "Newsgroup Posts" you see on my site I refer to scientific studies solely, but in article written specifically for my site, I quote from the Bible, along with scientific studies.

So I would disagree with you in saying one should ignore scientific studies. However, one should be leery about basing too much on any one study. Wait until it is confirmed again and again by other studies.

As for books, yes there is a lot of nutrition books out there that aren't worth the paper they're printed on, but there are some very worthwhile ones. For instance, I have several books by Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper. All of them are excellent, probably because he is a Christian, and I would recommend his books to anyone. Now not all of them are about nutrition per se. Some are more about fitness.

I have also seen a few books that specifically look at what the Bible teaches about nutrition and health in general. I haven't ordered any of yet, so I cannot make any recommendations.

However, be it a book or a scientific study, whatever is promoted should be tested by the standard of the Scriptures.

And finally, as for your comment about a "raw-food diet," it is true that fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds can, for the most part, be eaten raw. Ad yes, there are some health advantages to eating some foods raw. Some nutrients and enzymes can be destroyed by the cooking process.

However, there are other foods that definitely need to be cooked before eating, and some that are actually more beneficial if cooked. For instance, the lycopene in tomatoes is released by cooking, and this substance has been found to help reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

As for the Bible, I am sure the first foods Adam and Eve ate in the Garden were raw. So yes, raw foods should be a part of ones diet. However, since Adam and Eve were created as intelligent beings, I am also sure that they, or at least their earliest descendents discovered fire.

See Genesis 4:22 - "And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron." It takes fire and intelligence to make bronze and iron. And if humans learned this early in human history how to use fire to fashion bronze and iron, I am sure they also learned very early how to cook foods. So it is not necessary to eat all of ones foods raw.

However, a related point is that the foods the earliest humans ate would have been whole, "natural," unprocessed foods. So it is definitely true that a diet composed of highly refined, processed foods would not be Biblical.

So we agree in part, and disagree in part. Yes, look to the Bible for information on proper diet, but don't ignore scientific studies either. Using the Bible as a standard one can gain valuable information from the latter.

Note: I did order three books on nutrition and the Bible from Books-A-Million. They are:

What the Bible Says About Healthy Living by Rex Russell.
God's Way to Ultimate Health
by George H. Malkmus.
Eating by the Book
by David L. Meinz.

Disclaimer: The material presented in this article is intended for educational purposes only. The author is not offering medical or legal advice. Accuracy of information is attempted but not guaranteed. Before undertaking any diet or exercise program, one should consult your doctor. The author is in no way responsible or liable for any bodily harm, physical, mental, or emotional, that results from following any of the advice in this article.

Note: All Scripture references from: The New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, unless otherwise indicated.

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Nutrition: Nutrition and the Bible

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