Health Issues on the Rise can be Linked to Soil Depletion Over the Years
There seems to be a rise in chronic illness over the years especially pertaining to mental health issues. Growing up during 1980-1990, I had heard of perhaps no more than one child with ADHD. My parent’s generation had heard of none. Obesity was not an issue let alone an epidemic. It is becoming the norm to have been on anti-depressants at one point or another in your life. Health professionals seem to be diagnosing every other person with anxiety and depression and handing out medications to fix this. Dr. Mercola wrote in 2013, “In all, mental and substance use disorders were responsible for higher global death and illness rates than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, diabetes, and car accidents.”
WebMD recently published an article stating an increase in the chronic health conditions in children. These chronic health problems include asthma, obesity, and behavioural problems. These problems have more than doubled in a mere 12 year time frame. “Chronic Health conditions were found in 12.8% of children studied in 1994, compared with 26.6% of another group of same-aged children studied in 2006, the researchers found.”(Dr. Mercola). These findings point to the need for parents to pay more attention to nutrition.
In order to understand why there is a rise in chronic illnesses we have to look at what is lacking in modern day diets.
What nutrition means in our present time has changed a lot over the years. It is no longer as easy as eating your 4-8 servings of vegetables and fruits a day. To understand why this is, we need not look much farther from the ground in which we walk upon. I am talking about the soil. I had always been under the impression that if I eat enough fruits and vegetables and stay away from processed foods then I will be getting enough of all the vitamins and minerals that I needed to live a healthy life. It has been a real big eye opener for me to learn that we can no longer get the nutrients we need from commercially grown fruits, vegetables and live stock. There are a few reasons for the lack of nutrient dense foods nowadays which I will delve deeper into.
Thomas F. Pawlick describes the modern day food supply in his book entitled “The End of Food”. He clearly describes the decline of vitamins and minerals over the years. Once, tomatoes were among the best source of vitamins. Pawlick writes, “Compared to a tomato in 1963, it has lost 30.7% less Vitamin A and 16.9% less Vitamin C, 61.5% less calcium, 11.1% less phosphorus, 9% less potassium, 7.97% less niacin, and 10% less iron. Remember, this is a comparison to 1963, if we go back even further the nutrients loss to this day is far greater. What is evident is that there is a key trend to the decline of nutrients with an increase in fat and sodium. Within tomatoes, there has been a fat increase of 65% and sodium increase of 200% since 1963.” (Pawlick, 2006, 6)
Not only has the nutrient content in produce gone down but depletion of nutrients among livestock is suffering as well. “According to the USDA tables, chicken… is in deep trouble. Skinless, roasted white chicken meat has lost 51.6% of its vitamin A since 1963. Dark meat has lost 53%. White meat has also lost 39.9% of its potassium; while dark meat has lost 25.2%. And what has chicken gained? Light meat, 32.6% fat and 20.3 % sodium; dark meat, 54.4% fat and 8.1% sodium. Let’s hear it for fat and salt.” (Ibid, 26-27). Pawlick goes on to speak about the increase of fat and sodium in dairy as well. Since 1963, cottage cheese has gained 7.3% fat and a whopping 76.85% sodium while losing 36.1% of its calcium, 13.1% of its phosphorus and 53.3 % of its iron.
A recent study of 43 garden crops led by a University of Texas at Austin biochemist suggests that their nutrient value has declined in recent decades while farmers have been planting crops designed to improve other traits. The data compared mainly vegetable crops from 1950 and 1999. The main nutrients that Dr. Davis looked at were “protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin and ascorbic acid. The declines, which ranged from 6 percent for protein to 38 percent for riboflavin, raise significant questions about how modern agriculture practices are affecting food crops.”
Hort Science published an article in 2009 summarizing three kinds of evidence pointing toward declines during the last 50 to 100 years in the concentration of some nutrients in vegetables and perhaps also in fruits available in the United States and the United Kingdom. One reason for this decline is the increase in plant yield by the use of fertilization. Dr. Donald R. Davis, a chemist from the University of Texas assembled and rigorously reviewed the evidence that industrial farmed foods have a lower nutritional content. His evidence indicates that there are at least 2 forces that affect this decline. The first is what scientists refer to as the dilution effect. “Davis notes that researchers have known since the 1940’s that yield increases produced by fertilization, irrigation, and other environmental means used in industrial farming tend to decrease the concentrations of minerals in those plants. These techniques give growers higher yields, and consumers get less expensive food. But now it appears there’s a hidden long-term cost: food quality. For example, a study of phosphorous fertilizer on raspberries found that applying high levels of phosphorus caused the yield to double and concentrations of phosphorus to increase in the plants, but meanwhile levels of eight other minerals declined by 20 to 55 percent!”
An article by Cheryl Long written in 2009 breaks down Dr. Davis’s data as so:
- In wheat and barley, protein concentrations declined by 30 to 50 percent between the years 1938 and 1990.
- Likewise, a study of 45 corn varieties developed from 1920 to 2001, grown side by side, found that the concentrations of protein, oil, and three amino acids have all declined in the newer varieties.
- Six minerals have declined by 22 to 39 percent in 14 widely grown wheat varieties developed over the past 100 years.
- Official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data shows that the calcium content of broccoli averaged 12.9 milligrams per gram of dry weight in 1950, but only 4.4 mg/g dry weight in 2003.
An article for the Scientific American written in 2011 also equates the evident nutrient loss to soil depletion. “Modern intensive agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil in which the food we eat grows. Sadly, each successive generation of fast-growing, pest-resistant carrot is truly less good for you than the one before.”
The solution can be found exactly where the problem arose from, the soil. It is time to take a serious stance forward towards organic farming methods and biodiversity. The Scientific American writes, “What can be done? The key to healthier produce is healthier soil. Alternating fields between growing seasons to give land time to restore would be one important step. Also, foregoing pesticides and fertilizers in favor of organic growing methods is good for the soil, the produce and its consumers. Those who want to get the most nutritious fruits and vegetables should buy regularly from local organic farmers.”
Time again, I have heard the statement that as long as people “eat like their grandparents” then they will live long and healthy lives. However, eating like your grandparents is virtually impossible in this day. There have been major changes in how the food that we consume is farmed. The people in charge of the food supply have decided that it is more important to yield larger crops than keep those crops full of the nutrients in which we eat them for.
Why is it that health issues are on the rise yet we have more knowledge and means than ever before?
The illusion that living longer has given folks faith in the health care system, but what is that quality of life? What type of quality of life is spending your last 10 years suffering from bouts of depression, not wanting to see your loved ones, and wishing you could take your own life before you forget who you are? While some are living longer, many others are having their lives cut short. There is now a 1 in 3 chance of getting cancer in North America compared to 1 in 20 during the 1900’s.
It has become quite the norm for the elderly to develop memory loss, Alzheimer’s and dementia. Gary Null wrote an article for Green Med Info relating dementia to nutrition. “Research into the causes of dementia is now demonstrating a point I have been making for decades: deficiencies of essential nutrients can lead to a variety of health problems and leave us vulnerable to serious conditions such as senile dementia.”(Gary Null). The solution he gives us is to look no further than switching from your regular commercially grown foods to organic. “To help ensure that our bodies get the nutrients we need, we must make an effort to eat foods in their natural state. For people suffering from senile dementia it is vitally important to purchase organic foods whenever possible, because these foods are more likely to have trace minerals like chromium, magnesium, selenium, and zinc, which are vital to the brain’s health.” (Gary Null).
People fear that which they do not understand
One of the reasons people may not be so keen to purchase organic foods could be because they are afraid of the word “organic”. Funny enough, what your grandparents ate back in the day, could very well be considered organic by today’s standards. A label was not needed back then because biodiversity was just the way successful farming was done. It wasn’t until profits over people became the acceptable norm, an idea brought upon with the acceptance of Darwin’s evolution of survival of the fittest. This idea has us all fighting for ourselves instead of working with the whole. This mentality of caring only for ourselves and not the rest of the people is what is destroying the planet and contributing to raising health issues.
I encourage people to support organic farming methods however I understand the reluctance as it can often cost more. Consider this; I know that when I am paying the extra 50 cents or dollar for a bunch of kale I am consuming every single square inch of it. When I buy the commercially grown kale on sale at 99 cents, half of it is ending up in the garbage because the investment isn’t high enough for me to put the proper care into it. There was a time when I would turn my nose up to organic, assuming that anyone can claim their product is organic because I did not understand exactly which regulations are involved with insuring that it wasn’t handled with heavy pesticides. Through education, I now have a much better understanding of what it entails for a farmer to get that organic label. Now that I understand the process I am more willing to pay for it and to support it. Also, the more that people are buying the organic products then the more need there is to stock the shelves with it. More consumers also mean that the prices are going down. The companies are always going to want to make a profit so when they see that there is a profit in organic food, that this is what the people want and demand, they will provide it.
This is a chart from Dr. Jozef J. Krop’s book “Healing the Planet: One Patient At a Time” (pg. 150) showing the nutritional difference between conventional vegetables and its organic counterpart. The plus or minus signs indicate the increase or decrease in the percentage of nutrients in organic produce versus conventional produce (for example, organic lettuce has 17% more Vitamin C than conventional lettuce).
It is in the consumer’s power to decide where the food supply is coming from.
In the end it is the consumer’s choice to where their money is spent. You can choose to buy the products that are laced with pesticides, fertilizers and injected with hormones in which these methods can be contributing to the increase in chronic health issues including (but not limited to) nausea, hormone disruption, allergies, cancer and cognitive decline. Or you can chose to invest in a healthier lifestyle and by doing so hopefully get the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function optimally. You can pay for your health now or later. I have definitely seen the prices of organic foods dropping over the years as more and more people jump on the healthy band wagon. Welcome to the new world: A world where we can make a stance and change the rate of increasing chronic health issues; a world where we can instead start looking towards a future where chronic health issues become scarce. It is due time that we start taking better care of our soil and our health.
CNCA Health, “Declining Nutrition of Fruits and Vegetables” http://www.cncahealth.com/explore/learn/nutrition-food/declining-nutrition-of-fruits-and-vegetables#.UyRtrfldXh5 (accessed on 16/03/2014)
Davis, Donald R.,“Declining Fruit and Vegetable Nutrient Composition: What Is the Evidence?”, Hort Science(Published online October 12, 2008 http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/content/44/1/15.full (accessed on 16/03/2014)
Doheny, Kathleen,”Rise in Chronic Childhood Health Problems”, WebMD Health News (Feb. 16, 2010) http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20100216/rise-in-childhood-health-problems (accessed on 16/03/2014)
Krop, Jozef J., Healing the Planet: One Patient at a Time. KOS Publishing Inc, 2002
Long, Cheryl,“Industrially Farmed Foods Have Lower Nutritional Content”, Mother Earth News (June/July 2009) http://www.motherearthnews.com/nature-and-environment/nutritional-content-zmaz09jjzraw.aspx#axzz2w2ozda5i (accessed on 16/03/2014)
Mercola, Dr., “Mental Health Disorders”, (published on 2013) http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/09/12/mental-health-disorders.aspx (accessed on 14/03/2014)
Null, Gary PhD,“A Natural Approach to Preventing and Overcoming Dementia”, Green Med Info (Published online Tuesday, March 4th 2014) http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/natural-approach-preventing-and-overcoming-dementia?page=2 (accessed on 16/03/2014)
Pawlick, Thomas F., The End Of Food: How the Food Industry is Destroying Our Food Supply. Barricade Books, 2006.
Scheer, Roddy, Moss, Doug, “Dirt Poor: Have Fruits and Vegetables Become Less Nutritious?”, Scientific American (Published online April 27, 2011) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/soil-depletion-and-nutrition-loss/ (accessed on 16/03/2014)
The University of Texas. “Study suggests nutrient decline in garden crops over past 50 years”, (Published online Dec. 1, 2004) http://www.utexas.edu/news/2004/12/01/nr_chemistry/ (accessed on 16/03/2014)