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Why Christians Get Sick

By George Malkmus

Book Review by Gary F. Zeolla

Note: The title links in this review and in the footnotes are direct links to where the books an be purchased from Books-A-Million. My books are also available from the publisher and in eBook formats. See the Books by the Director page for details.


Why Christians Get Sick1 by George Malkmus is an enigma. The overall message of the book is excellent. However, some of the specific claims in it are false, and in some cases outrageously so.

The Excellent and Much Needed Message

First the good. There is much debate in Christian circles as to why Christians get sick. Some will claim it is due to a lack of faith. Others will say it is God’s will for the person to be sick, that He is “testing” the individual or developing character in them. And others will just throw up their hands and say that it’s not possible to know why a particular person got sick.

But Malkmus says that in most cases the cause has nothing to do with these “spiritual” reasons. The cause is simply physical. Christians get sick as a result of living unhealthy lifestyles. And all one has to do is observe what Christian eat when they get together to confirm this.

After just about every home Bible study I’ve been to junk food is served, and everyone except me partakes of it. And the waistlines of Christians reflect this. It seems that at most Bible studies I go to nowadays I am about the only person there who is not significantly overweight. And most of these overweight Christians seem to have diabetes. But they seem unwilling to admit the connection between the two. However, being overweight is a contributing factor to diabetes. And it is not just diabetes: heart disease, cancer, stroke, osteoporosis, and many other illnesses are diet-related as well.

Exercise is another important factor that Malkmus discusses, and rightly so. Lack of exercise among Christians also contributes to all of the above and many other illnesses. Malkmus also discusses the need for pure air, pure water, sunshine, adequate rest, and a positive mental attitude. And all of these are important as well, but most Christians again see little concerned with any of these.

But of all people, Christians should be the most studious about taking care of themselves. The apostle Paul even asks, “You* know that your* body is a temple of the Holy Spirit in you*, which you* have from God, and you* are not your* own, do you* not?” (1Cor 6:9; ALT).2 But despite this pointed question, most Christians seem to pay little attention to what they eat or how they take care of themselves.

Now Malkmus does correctly indicate that in some cases lifestyle is not the reason a particular Christian got sick. And this is important to note. But in many cases, an illness can be traced to the unhealthy lifestyle the Christian had been leading. So rather than looking up into heaven and asking “why me?” and blaming God, sick Christians should do some investigation of their one lifestyles to see if something in their lifestyle just might have brought the problem on. Remember, we reap what we sow (Gal 6:7), so God shouldn’t be blamed for an illness brought on by an unhealthy lifestyle.

Even better, would be for Christians to look at their lifestyles now before getting sick and make needed changes. In this way, Christians would not end up in the position of questioning God and why an illness befell them.

False Statements

So I agree wholeheartedly with Malkmus’ main message. Christians need to look seriously at their lifestyles rather than looking for “spiritual” reasons for sicknesses among Christians. But amidst this excellent and much needed message, the many false statements Malkmus makes detract from the value of this book. Also, his overuse of exclamations points is very distracting.

For instance, he makes the following claims, “Glucose is a naturally occurring sugar found in raw fruits, vegetables, and honey! Glucose is a complex sugar that is released very slowly into the blood stream. Glucose is the form in which God made sugar, and the form in which our all-wise Creator intended sugar to be consumed by the body!”3

It is true there is glucose in the foods he mentions, but the main sugar found in these foods is fructose (“fruit sugar”). But more importantly, glucose is NOT a “complex sugar.” Glucose is a monosaccharide, meaning it is composed of one sugar molecule. This is the “simplest” form in which sugar occurs. Also, glucose is the highest sugar and just about the highest food found on the glycemic index, a measure of how quickly a food causes blood sugar levels to rise. Interestingly, fructose has the lowest glycemic rating of any sugar.

Meanwhile, Malkmus writes, “Sucrose, on the other hand, is a product of man! Sucrose is a physically and mentally addictive drug! Sucrose is a simple sugar that is released very quickly into the blood stream…causing great harm to the body!”4

Again, most of these claims are false. Sucrose is naturally occurring, albeit highly processed, sugar. It is a disaccharide, composed of one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose.5 As such, its glycemic rating is halfway between these two sugars.6 So Malkmus has basically reversed the facts regarding glucose and sucrose.

It is true one can get addicted to the “sugar rush” one gets from eating a lot of sugar of any kind, but it really is exaggerating to call sucrose a drug. As for how harmful it is, it is true that sugar contributes nothing of nutritive value except calories. And it definitely contributes to dental caries, excessive weight gain, is problematic for diabetics, and has been linked to a variety of other health problems. But there is still much debate over exactly how much of a detrimental role it plays. But still, Malkmus’s basic message is correct: don’t eat much sugar. But it would help if he got his facts straight.

Outrageous Claims and a Raw Foods Diet

Examples of Malkmus’s outrageous claims can been seen when promotes what he believes to be the ideal diet: a raw foods diet. He writes, “Living cells cannot be nourished with dead food! Life begets life! All cooked food is dead food! The heat of cooking destroys all of the enzymes, over 80% of the vitamins, changes the protein to an unusable form, and the organic minerals revert back to their inorganic state!”7

Malkmus provides no specific documentation to back-up any of these claims. There is a list of 70 references in the back of the book.8 But the text itself contains no footnotes to any of these references, nor are page numbers for the references given. So there is no way to know exactly where he getting such ideas from.

But I did some research and could find no evidence whatsoever that cooking somehow causes the protein and minerals in food to convert into a form that is unusable by the body.9 In fact, Dr. Andrew Weil claims, “The vitamins and minerals in raw vegetables may be much less available to the body than those in cooked vegetables.”10 And I found a study on the effects of various cooking methods on the nutritional content of chickpeas. In regards to protein, the study found, “In vitro protein digestibility, protein efficiency ratio and essential amino acid index were improved by all treatments.”11

However, it is true that cooking will cause some loss of vitamins and even of minerals, but how much of a loss depends on many factors. If you boil a cup of broccoli in a gallon of water for an hour, then sure, maybe 80% of the vitamins will be lost. But if you steam a pound of broccoli for five minutes the loss will be minimal.

This can be confirmed by comparing the nutritional values for raw and cooked versions of the same food. Checking the values and doing the math for broccoli, boiled broccoli has about 20% less vitamin C than raw broccoli.12 This is a significant difference, but it is a far cry from 80%. Moreover, note that this is for boiled broccoli; steamed broccoli would have less of a lost. Moreover, one study I found reported, “The bioavailability of ascorbic acid in raw broccoli was 20% lower [than in cooked broccoli].13 So the loss of vitamin C via cooking is offset by a higher (not lower) bioavailability.

Moreover, in some cases the nutrient is only bioavailable if the food has been cooked. Dr. Weil writes, “… the body cannot obtain lycopene, the carotenoid pigment that protects against prostrate cancer, from raw tomatoes, only from cooked ones and then only if fat is present in the digestive tract to facilitate absorption.”14

But still, the loss of vitamins and minerals from cooking can be significant. For instance, one study found, “The mineral contents of cooked foods in mass cooking were on an average about 60-70 percent of those in raw or uncooked foods."15 And Malkmus is correct that that there is a loss of enzymes from cooking food. And for these reasons it is wise to eat a significant portion of one’s daily food raw.

It is also true that many will thrive on a purely raw foods diet, but many others will find such a diet way too restrictive and will have great difficulties trying to follow it. And by advocating a raw foods diet so strongly Malkmus could turn-off Christians who might otherwise be motivated to take steps to improve their lifestyles but who have no desire to follow such a restrictive diet.

Moreover, a pure raw foods diet would not provide bioavailable forms of nutrients like lycopene. So a mixture of cooked and raw foods would be an easier to follow and actually healthier diet than a pure raw foods diet. I discuss other concerns I have with a raw foods diet my book Creationist Diet: Nutrition and God-given Foods According to the Bible.16

Conclusion

It is a shame that there are such problems as I outline above with Why Christians Get Sick, since, as I said, the overall message of this book is excellent and much needed. So with some hesitancy, I would recommend this book for its overall message. Just take any specific claims and with a grain of salt until independent verification can be obtained. And give little heed to Malkmus’ dogmatic recommendation for a purely raw foods diet. For information on healthy eating that is not as so restrictive see my Creationist Diet book.


Footnotes:

1) Malkmus, George. Why Christians Get Sick. Shippensburg, PA: Treasure House, 1997.
2) Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament of the Holy Bible. AuthorHouse. © Gary F. Zeolla, 2001.
3) Malkmus., p.53.
4) Ibid., p. 53, ellipse in original.
5) Parsonnet, Mia. What’s in our Food. New York: Madison Books, p.6.
6) Weil, Andrew. Eating Well for Optimum Health. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, p.57. The glycemic index ratings are as follows: fructose 23, sucrose 65, glucose 100.
7) Malkmus, p.94.
8) Ibid, pp.125-128.
9) I checked several book on nutrition in my own library and did some research on PubMed.
10) Weil., p.157.
11) “Nutritional composition and antinutritional factors of chickpeas (Cicer arietinum L.) undergoing different cooking methods and germination.” Plant Foods in Human Nutrition, 2002 Winter;57(1):83-97. el-Adawy TA. PMID: 11855623.
12) Pennington. Jean. Food Values of Portions Commonly Used. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins, 1998, p.289. Raw broccoli: 41 mg of vitamin C in half a cup (44 g) = 93 mg/100 g, boiled broccoli: 58 mg in half a cup (78 g) = 74 mg/ 100g. Note: This book is a little pricey, but it is the best such book I have ever come across.
13) "Ascorbic acid bioavailability in foods and supplements." Nutrition Review, 1994 Mar;52(3):110-1. Gregory JF 3rd. PMID: 8302486.
14) Weil, p.157.
15) Cooking losses of minerals in foods and its nutritional significance. Journal of Nutrition Science Vitaminol (Tokyo) 1990;36 Suppl 1:S25-32; discussion S33. Kimura M, Itokawa Y. PMID: 2081985.
16) See Chapter Three: "Problems with Restrictive Diets" (p.23).

For Comments on the above review, see Why Christians Get Sick: Comments.

The above review was posted on this site June 13, 2002.

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