Good Nutrition Nutrition and Nutrients

Nutrition Notes

Re-Thinking the Nutrition Paradigm

Nutrition can be thought of as an idealized, abstract look at the possible (but not real) outcomes after eating foods. The role of foods themselves, as objects of behavior and regulators of internal body dynamics, are relatively ignored. The possibility of things going wrong with digestion, absorption, metabolism, and with immune surveillance of these processes, while considered in medical science, is seldom a concern in medical practice. The dietician often assumes that nothing will go wrong with food-body interactions - nutrients that are in the food are available to the body without complications. The physician generally assumes that nothing will go wrong or will consider a small number of adverse effects, ignoring a number of pathological possibilities which may be the keys to enigmatic diseases.

Many food and nutritional issues are complex and genuinely difficult to understand. But often, it is conventional nutritional advice, turned into dogma that opposes intelligent, well-thought-out methods of diet revision. For too many years we lived with the "four food groups," a nutritional dogma taught at universities for over four decades. The four food groups (meat, milk, grains, and vegetables-fruit) were promoted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the 1950's as the proper, official method of achieving a "balanced diet". The US FDA collaborated, teaching this system to the nation, and a remarkably strict nutritional dogma emerged in the USA and Canada. Often, the potential benefits of diet revision in the solution of health problems were ignored.

In the 1990's official dietary recommendations in the USA and Canada changed to a food pyramid which gave more value to eating fruits, vegetables and grains. Harvard's Walter Willet reviewed the new recommendations and stated: " The dietary pyramid released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture attempts to translate current nutritional knowledge to a recommended eating pattern in terms of food groups. Inevitably, such a document represents a mix of well-supported findings, educated guesses, and political compromises with powerful economic interests such as the dairy and meat industries...optimal health can be achieved from a diet that emphasizes a generous intake of vegetables and fruit. Such plant-enriched diets, as embodied by other cultures can be not only healthy, but interesting and enjoyable as well."

In 2009, food disease was better recognized but the real issues were obscured by persistent 4 food group recommendations and prolific nutritional nonsense broadcast by media everyday. We recommend studying the US official guide to our students. We suggest that they approach the guidelines as a theoretical structure and as advice to a population of people with diverse needs. The advice is often not applicable to individuals whose nutritional needs are not met by these recommendations and whose health may be at risk if they follow the food selection advice. Since physicians are managing individuals who are usually not healthy, official dietary guidelines are not very useful.

A skillful nutritional therapist will know the guidelines as one way (and not the best way) to organize food selection but will also know the many exceptions to these rules and will use other methods of individual diet design such as the Alpha Nutrition Program.

Food-Related Diseases are Prevalent

The improvement in the diversity and availability of foods has been a mixed blessing with major problems emerging to negate the potential benefits. Food is the most intimate part of the environment because food is ingested. When something goes wrong, it makes good biological sense to look at the flow of substances through the mouth for the source of the problem. Adverse reactions to food are common and produce many disturbances by a variety of mechanisms. Diagnosing adverse reactions to food is an important task of clinical medicine but is not taught in medical schools. Many years ago, the American Surgeon General's Report asserted that at least half of all deaths in the USA are related to faulty diet and described: "... the convergence of similar dietary recommendations that apply to prevention of multiple chronic diseases. Five of the ten leading causes of death in affluent countries related to wrong food choices. Diseases of nutritional deficiencies have declined and have been replaced by diseases of dietary excesses and imbalances-problems that now lead rank among the leading causes of illness and death, touch the lives of most Americans, and generate substantial health care costs."

In medical practice, rationally designed diets are offered for weight-loss, salt-restriction, fat-restriction or specific illnesses such as diabetes. Medical therapy has in the past included diets for special needs, but no standard method of diet revision had emerged to investigate and treat food-related illnesses. The media and commercial sectors, on the other-hand are prolific with diet advice and schemes for improvised diet revision.

    The term “nutrition” means mean a lot of different things to different people. Some people adopt the term as a professional label; many companies borrow the term to claim a relationship to professional nutrition. Universities may have departments of nutrition. Often the study of nutrition is disconnected from the real world of agricultural practices, food processing and distribution. The intense marketing efforts of food and drug companies flood the media with deliberately biased information that confuses everyone. A majority of health problems are food-related; so these problems get a lot of our attention.

  • Topics on the left are from the book Nutrition Notes by Stephen Gislason MD. 199 Pages.
    Download Nutrition Notes. eBook edition 2018

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