Nutrition and Diet

Nutrition is a subject of vast importance for our health and, amazingly enough, it is essentially not taught in medical schools. For some reason modern medical science does not think it has any relevance. It seems relatively simple that what foods you put in your body effect you, often in profound ways. This essay is organized under headings so that the reader may pick and choose what he/she wants to learn about in this vast vital topic. This information is based on scientific research as well as common sense, and the most current holistic thought on the subject.


The reader should be aware that scientific researchers try their best to temper the quality of evidence and render a truer judgment with less personal bias. They use the randomized controlled trial (RCT) protocol which includes blinded assessment of subjects, investigators, or both, the presence of a placebo control, random assignment to comparable groups and the use of statistics. These studies are most prevalent in the pharmaceutical industry where their scientists are looking for a drug that actually works, (eg. reduces cholesterol or reduces blood pressure) with little or no side effects. They tend to be very expensive (greater than $1,000,000) and thus can really only be done by those with lots of money to invest, (ie. the pharmaceutical industry) and lots of money to gain (eg. billions of dollars on a drug like Lipitor).  Finding good quality unbiased research in the area of nutrition is very difficult if not impossible because there is no money in it: you’re not going to make billions of dollars profit by growing and selling organic broccoli, so who’s going to fund the study? Furthermore, if one pays any attention to Quantum Physics, the most recent and advanced physics there is, one knows that it is impossible to be unbiased — everything is subjective. Quantum Physics tells us that your thoughts create your reality. Therefore the thoughts of a scientist engaged in experimentation definitely effect the outcome. This means it is impossible to be objective. So whose research should you believe?  The point I am making is that just because there is no great research on the topic, one can still use common sense to determine what is “good nutrition.”

Food is at the root of all healing systems. The father of modern medicine Hippocrates who lived between 430 and 370 B.C said: Make thy food thy medicine and thy medicine thy food. With that I will address the topic of food.

There are basically 3 types of food that the vast majority of the American population eat that should be examined closely to discern whether or not they promote health or are even safe for human consumption: conventionally grown foods (ie. not organic), genetically modified (GM) foods, and irradiated foods (“nuked”).

Let’s start with conventionally grown foods vs organic. The organic food industry has grown steadily since it’s birth in the 1940’s. That in itself shows that more and more people value organic foods.  Due to consumer demand, almost every supermarket now has an organic food section in the fresh produce and a natural food aisle. Organically foods are grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides. Conventionally grown foods are sprayed with these synthesized chemicals to reduce damage to the foods from insects, and to keep out the weeds. This allows conventional farmers to harvest more vegetables, fruits, grains, etc. from each acre of planted fields without regard as to the quality of the product. The chemicals used on the foods travel to the market right along with the food. Consider, you wouldn’t eat directly from a can of these chemicals, why would you eat foods sprayed with them?

Modern agribusiness is just that……a business, whose bottom line is profit. Quantity not quality. Whereas, the organic food industry puts quality first. Organic farmers instead use crop rotation (not planting the same crop on the same parcel of land year after year), combining the use of natural herbs and spice plants with crops that help ward off insects, natural fertilizers that include all the necessary minerals (not just NPK – Sodium, Phosphorus, and Potassium). So agribusiness uses these chemicals to grow more food per acre farmed, so that insects don’t harm or destroy the foods, and the foods “look” good in the produce aisle, never mind what’s inside (or not inside, like nutrients) the food. It stands to reason that if you put insecticides/herbicides on food crops every year, grown in the same plots of land, that these chemicals wind up in the soil that next years crops are grown in, and thus come up inside the roots of the vegetables, fruits, etc. These chemicals are synthesized, unnatural (that is foreign to Mother Nature) and do not breakdown easily. They are non-biodegradable AND they are a major part of a whole new category of planetary contaminants, Xenoestrogens.  The name tells you something. These are chemicals that mimic estrogens, the female hormone absolutely essential for human (and animal) reproduction and secondary female sex characteristics (onset of puberty, breast development, pubic hair, and menstruation). These same xenoestrogens are now in our water supply, and soil and are causing all sorts of problems for the other half of the species, men folk, as well as male polar bears, alligators, birds, etc. all of which are reproducing less as well as showing up with abnormal sex organs, mating rituals, eggs, etc.

Children eat more food than adults per pound of body weight, and a less varied diet, so when a child consumes food that contains pesticide residues, the dose they receive is typically much higher than when adults consume the same food. Plus, kids cannot as fully, or quickly, metabolize chemicals ingested in food, and so pesticides remain in the child’s body longer, posing greater risks.

Other populations at risk for pesticide-induced illness include the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, conventional farm workers and those sensitive to pesticides. Scientists can rarely declare with certainty that pesticides are the sole cause of any particular disease, but the consensus among public health scientists is that pesticide exposure is one of several risk factors  that, in combination with other variables, may trigger mild to serious developmental problems and illness in otherwise healthy people.

There is no doubt that these chemicals cause harm to us.  One example is the definitive connection between insecticides and Parkinson's Disease. Insecticides and herbicides have an affinity for fat cells and the human brain is 75% fat. Though it has not yet been proven, it stands to reason that eating a diet that has these type chemicals in it will most likely make one more susceptible to diseases of the nervous system,  and probably other organs and tissues as well.

Studies show pesticide exposures in children increase chances of some types of cancer nearly 10 times more than those without the exposure. Exposures to household pesticides heighten the risk of childhood leukemia, and the more frequent exposures, earlier in life, the greater the risk.

The bottom line here appears to be that organic food consumption is better all around.

Another reason to eat organically is the recent infiltration of Genetic Modification to our food supply. It currently effects about 85% of the foods we buy, except organic foods. Agribusiness companies like Monsanto have developed these genetically modified foods (GM) by changing the DNA so that they are resistant to pesticides and herbicides like Roundup. Ordinarily, there is a limit to the amount of Roundup that can be applied before it goes beyond killing the insects and actually kills the crop. GM foods, being resistant to the pesticide allow the agribusiness grower to spray the crops with greatly increased amounts of Roundup. You can imagine how much more pesticides are in GM foods than even conventional foods. Research show that laboratory rats fed diets of GM foods had statistically increased mortality (death) compared to those fed non-GM foods, and the offspring of those fed GM foods were more that 50% sterile (unable to reproduce).  Some of this research was done by Monsanto and was hidden, repressed, not published. Interesting.

In a study conducted in India, thousands of sheep fed a diet including GM cotton plants died! Upon investigation it was found that the cause was the GM cotton plants and when the cotton plants were replaced with non-GM foods in subsequent experimentation, there were no deaths. This information was leaked out in England by a scientist/whistle blower resulting in loss of his job and blacklisting by his industry. The media however picked up the story, and eventually GM foods became so unpopular, European markets stopped carrying them.

This scenario is less likely to happened in the USA since the media corporations are either owned by or indirectly connected to agribusiness corporations. The US media simply has not delivered the truth in this area (some argue this is the case in other areas of information as well). In fact, the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has repeatedly approved for public use GM foods including corn, wheat, rice, tomatoes and many other vegetables, without adequate research into the health effects on human beings.

Study after study has revealed the dangers of GM foods starting with the very first crop submitted to the FDA’s voluntary consultation process. The FlavrSavr tomato showed evidence of toxins and out of 20 female rats fed the GM tomato, 7 developed stomach lesions. Despite this, the director of FDA’s "Office of Special Research Skills" gave the tomato it's standard of safety: “did not demonstrate a reasonable certainty of no harm,”. Even though "The Additives Evaluation Branch" agreed that “unresolved questions still remain”, the political appointees did not require that the tomato be withdrawn. 

Calgene, a biotech company, had submitted data on 2 lines of GM tomatoes, both using the same inserted gene. They voluntarily elected to market only the variety that was not associated with the lesions.  This was not required by the FDA, which did not block approvals on the lesion-associated variety. The FlavrSavr tomato has since been taken off the market.  After the FlavrSavr, no other biotech company has submitted such detailed data to the FDA and the superficial summaries they do present to the agency are dismissed by critics as woefully inadequate to judge safety.

According to Arpad Pusztai, PhD, one of the world’s leading experts on GM food safety assessments, the type of stomach lesions linked to the tomatoes “could lead to life-endangering hemorrhage, particularly in the elderly who use aspirin to prevent blood clots. Pusztai believes that the digestive tract should be the first target of GM food risk assessment, because the gut is the first and largest point of contact with the foods; it can reveal various reactions to toxins. He was upset, however, that the research on the FlavrSavr never looked passed the stomach to the intestines.  Other studies that did look found problems.

Mice were fed potatoes with an added bacterial gene, which produced an insecticide called Bt-toxin. Scientists analyzed the lower part of their small intestines and found abnormal and damaged cells, as well as proliferative cell growth. Rats fed potatoes engineered to produce a different type of insecticide also showed proliferative cell growth in both the stomach and intestinal walls.  Cell proliferation can be a precursor to cancer and is of special concern.

The state of the liver – a main detoxifier for the body – is another indicator of toxins.

  1. Rats fed the GNA lectin potatoes described above had smaller and partially atrophied livers.
  2. Rats fed Monsanto’s Mon 863 corn, engineered to produce Bt-toxin, had liver lesions and other indications of toxicity.
  3. Rabbits fed GM soy showed altered enzyme production in their livers as well as higher metabolic activity.

The livers of rats fed Roundup Ready canola were 12-16%  heavier, possibly due to liver disease or inflammation.

Higher death rates have been shown in GM-fed animals. In the FlavrSavr tomato study, for example, a note in the appendix indicated that 7 of 40 rats died within two weeks and were replaced. In another study, chickens fed the herbicide tolerant “Liberty Link” corn died at twice the rate of those fed natural corn.  But in these two industry-funded studies, the deaths were dismissed without adequate explanation or follow-up. In addition, the cells in the pancreas of mice fed Roundup Ready soy had profound changes and produced significantly less digestive enzymes, Rats fed a GM potato showed enlarged pancreases. GM-fed animals showed lesions, toxicity, altered enzyme production or inflammation in the kidneys. Enzyme production in the hearts of mice was altered by GM soy and GM potatoes caused slower growth in the brain of rats. Reproductive failures and infant mortality have been found in both mice and rats, with dramatic results discovered by a leading scientist at the Russian National Academy of Sciences. Results of female rats fed GM soy, starting 2 weeks before they were mated were:

  1. Over a series of 3 experiments, 51.6 % of the offspring from the GM-fed group died within the first 3 weeks, compared to 10 % from the non-GM soy group, and 8.1% for non-soy controls.
  2. High pup mortality was characteristic of every litter from mothers fed the GM soy flour.
  3. The average size and weight of the GM-fed offspring was quite a bit smaller.
  4. In a preliminary study, the GM-fed offspring were unable to conceive.

After the 3 feeding trials, the supplier of rat food used at the Russian laboratory began using GM soy in their formulation. Since all the rats housed at the facility were now eating GM soy, no non-GM fed controls were available for subsequent GM feeding trials; follow-up studies were cancelled. After 2 months on the GM soy diet the infant mortality rate of rats throughout the facility had skyrocketed to 55.3%.

About 2 dozen farmers reported that thousands of pigs had reproductive problems when fed certain varieties of Bt corn (Bacillus thuringiensis). Pigs were sterile, had false pregnancies, or gave birth to bags of water.  Some cows and bulls also became sterile. Bt corn was also implicated by farmers in the deaths of cows, horses, water buffaloes, and chickens.  When Indian shepherds let their sheep graze continuously on Bt cotton plants, within 5-7 days, one out of four sheep died. There was an estimated 10,000 sheep deaths in the region in 2006, with more reported in 2007. Post mortems on the sheep showed severe irritation and black patches in both intestines and liver (as well as enlarged bile ducts).  Investigators said preliminary evidence “strongly suggests that the sheep mortality was due to a toxin, most probably Bt-toxin.”

For years, organic and conventional farmers have used solutions containing natural Bt bacteria as a method of insect control in a spray form. Genetic engineers take the gene that produces the toxin in bacteria and insert it into the DNA of crops in attempt to have that the plant do the work, rather than the farmer. This may seem logical but it is important to understand that while these bacteria seem the same they actually are vastly different. The bacteria designed for the GM foods is actually more toxic than the natural variety, and the foods genetically modified in this way produce 3,000 - 5,000 times the amount of toxin as the natural spray. Studies show that mice fed Bt-toxin, for example, showed an immune response as potent as if there has been exposed to cholera toxin, and became immune sensitive to formerly harmless compounds. Even the natural less harmful variety is not without it's dangers. When natural Bt was sprayed over areas around Vancouver and Washington State to fight gypsy moths, about 500 people reported reactions – mostly allergy or flu-like symptoms. Farm workers and others also report serious reactions and authorities have long acknowledged that people with compromised immune systems or preexisting allergies may be particularly susceptible to the effects of Bt.

In 2005 a medical team reported that hundreds of agricultural workers in India were developing allergic reactions when exposed to Bt cotton, but not to natural varieties. Their symptoms were virtually identical to those described by the 500 people in Vancouver and Washington who were sprayed with Bt. (sneezing, runny nose, exacerbations of asthma; watery red eyes; itching, burning, inflammation, red, swelling of skin; fever). 

Bt-toxin is produced in several varieties of GM corn. The toxin can be eaten intact or even breathed in from pollen. In 2003, during the time in which an adjacent Bt cornfield was being pollinated, virtually an entire Filipino village of about 100 people was stricken by mysterious skin, respiratory, and intestinal reactions. The symptoms appeared progressively more so with those living closest to the field, and less with those further away. Blood samples from 39 individuals showed antibodies in response to Bt-toxin – supporting, but not proving, a link. When the same corn was planted in four other villages the following year, however, the symptoms returned in all four areas – only during the time of pollination.

The potential dangers of breathing GM pollen had been identified in 1998 by the UK Joint Food Safety and Standards Group, who also warned that genes from inhaled pollen might transfer into the DNA of bacteria in the respiratory system. If Bt genes transfer to human bacteria, either in the lungs or, as confirmed in the soy study above in the intestines, the microorganisms may be converted into living pesticide factories, possibly producing Bt-toxin inside of us year after year.

The warnings of the FDA scientists appear to have come true. But we were not supposed to know about their concerns. The agency’s internal memos were only made public due to a lawsuit.  Instead, we were supposed to believe the official FDA policy, claiming that the agency is not aware of information showing that GM foods are meaningfully different. This statement, crafted by political appointees, directly contradicts the scientific consensus at the FDA. 

Nearly every independent animal feeding safety study on GM foods shows adverse or unexplained effects. But we were not supposed to know about these problems either – the biotech industry works overtime to try to hide them.  Industry studies described above, for example, are neither peer-reviewed nor published. It took lawsuits to make two of them available. And adverse findings by independent scientists are often suppressed, ignored, or denied. Moreover, researchers that discover problems from GM foods have been fired, stripped of responsibilities, deprived of tenure, and even threatened. The myth that GM crops are the same safe food we have always eaten continues to circulate.

Since their introduction in 1996, overwhelming evidence points to GM foods as a contributing factor in the deterioration of health in the United States, Canada, and other countries where they are consumed. Without human clinical trials or post-marketing surveillance, we can’t tell which worsening health statistic may be due to these foods, but we also can’t afford to wait until we find out. GM foods must be removed from our diet immediately, like they have been in Europe. Ideally, this should be mandated by the government but until then, more and more people are making healthy non-GM choices for themselves and their family such as choosing ORGANIC.

To learn which foods are genetically modified and how to protect yourself, visit

Irradiation of foods is a treatment by gamma rays or electron beams to kill pathogens. In 1986 The FDA implemented a requirement that all irradiated foods be marked as such at the point of purchase or on the package with the "radura" logo along with the statement “treated with radiation”.  In April, 2007, the FDA proposed a revision to those rules. Food which had undergone irradiation, but not “material change,” would no longer have to bear the radura logo and companies could replace the word “irradiation” with the more consumer-friendly “pasteurized” or something else innocuous.

Industry insiders argue that irradiation is a necessary answer to food-borne illness such as the 2006 E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak in California-grown spinach, which left 3 dead and sickened 200 others. It was the 20th such outbreak in lettuce or spinach since 1995. This is exactly what happened a few years back when we learned that E. coli from cattle feces was winding up in American hamburgers. Irradiation of beef would certainly solve this problem. It does, however ignore the cause of the problem: feedlot cattle stand around in their manure all day long, eating a diet of grain that happens to turn a cow’s rumen into an ideal habitat for E. coli 0157:H7 (The bug can’t survive only in cattle living on grass.)  More than a billion tons of manure is produced a year by industrial animal agriculture which is not only full of nasty microbes like E. coli 0157:H7 but high concentrations of pharmaceuticals animals must receive so they can tolerate the feedlot lifestyle. This tainted manure often ends up in places it shouldn’t, rather than in pastures, where it would not only be harmless but would also actually do some good.  To think of animal manure as pollution rather that fertilizer is a relatively new (and industrial) idea.

Wendell Berry once wrote that when we took animals off farms and put them onto feedlots, we had, in effect, taken an old solution – the one where crops feed animals and animals’ waste feeds crops – and neatly divided it into two new problems: a fertility problem on the farm, and a pollution problem on the feedlot. Rather than return to that elegant solution, however, industrial agriculture came up with a technological fix for the first problem – chemical fertilizers on the farm. As yet, there is no good fix for the second problem, unless you count irradiation, overcooking your burgers and staying away from spinach.

Before agribusiness industrialized and centralized our farming, there was never much reason to worry about food safety on farms.  Now, however, our health is endangered. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that our food supply now sickens 76 million Americans every year, putting more that 300,000 of them in the hospital, and killing 5,000!

Traditional bananas and pineapples will cross the borders too, thanks to irradiation. It’s cheaper for American companies to import produce, says Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. In Latin America where an increasing amount of the American food supply is grown, “you can use pesticides that are illegal in the U.S. and there are (fewer) environmental standards,” Hauter says. “The food industry’s plan is moving to the global south…..It doesn’t bode well for the kind of food we want to eat. To use a euphemism like ‘pasteruized’ is not the equivalent of millions of chest X-rays passing through the plant cells and breaking those bonds. The truth is, we don’t know the long-term health effects of a mostly irradiated diet.”

Again each person needs to decide what to eat.  Personally, we go organic (out family), have for many, many years…as much as we can.

Saving the best for last….ahhh yes, organic foods.  Studies done by Charles Benbrook, PhD at The Organic Center show over and over again the better quality of organic foods compared to conventionally grown foods (use of pesticides, insecticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics in farm animals as well as hormones, etc., etc.). Not only do these foods taste better, last longer in the produce section and in your home, they have greatly increased quantities of antioxidants (which help reduce free radicals in our bodies which come from oxidation and cause disease….just like oxidation of iron causes rust), increased levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, Conjugated Linoleic Acid, Alpha Linolenic Acid (the good quality fats) to mention a few.  The health of the animals used to produce dairy products, and organic range fed meats is much much better and therefore the health of those human beings eating these products follow suit. They cost a bit more (though not always) and you get what you pay for.  To get a little perspective, the word organic only came into being, describing a type of agriculture in the 1940’s.  Before that there was no need….all foods were organic, there were no pesticides, etc.

The distinction between health and disease arises as the result of the difference between wholesome and unwholesome diet for body and mind.  Hippocrates said, “Leave your drugs in the pot at the pharmacy if you can’t cure your patient with food.” Medical opinion has shifted now recognizing diet as a risk factor in many diseases. For example, the American Cancer Society reports that at least 35% of America’s 900,000 cases of cancer per year have diet as a significant risk factor. It is also known that a diet rich in the wrong kinds of fat creates a higher risk of coronary disease.

As clinicians practicing Ayurveda, we often see conditions that resolve themselves before we have had a chance to apply a treatment program simply from a dietary change. Aside from disease abatement, Ayurved aims to use diet to optimize health and well-being in the positive sense.

Ayurveda’s knowledge is organized by four major principles:

  1. Diet can be a therapeutic modality. It plays a critical and sometimes primary role in treatment, and it is central to Ayurveda’s approach to prevention.
  2. A food’s taste has nutritional meaning.  Patients can use their sense of taste to ensure nutritional balance.
  3. Different people respond differently to the same foods, and conversely, that different foods suit different people.  Ayurveda analyzes why the food that benefits one person can harm another.
  4. As important as what one eats is how one digests it.

The following information about Ayurveda is further explained in more detail on the Ayurvedic Medicine page. Ayurvedic diet is defined by this simple law: Similars increase similars, opposites decrease opposites. (eg. If you have heart burn, eating hot foods aggravates but eating cool foods improves). This is employed in Ayurveda’s dietary advice for pacifying Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, the 3 body-mind types (doshas) that all human beings fall into. When we eat, we participate in the creative processes of nature – the processes which create us again and again. Every 5 weeks we get a new set of cells for our stomach lining; every month a new skin. Food provides the material for these overhauls.  But according to Ayurveda, it does more.  How we eat determines how perfect the overhaul will be. If we feel emotionally ragged when we eat, food may disrupt rather than sustain the body’s order.  If we eat too quickly or overeat, the poorly digested end-products will predispose us to disease, not to health.

Vata general dietary tips:

  1. Favor foods with sweet, sour and salty tastes.
  2. Favor heavy, moist and warming foods.
  3. Eat fewer bitter, pungent, and astringent foods.
  4. Enjoy 3-4 smaller meals at regular times each day.
  5. Eat a balanced breakfast each morning.
  6. Avoid eating when nervous or anxious.
  7. Sit down to eat and always avoid eating on the run.
  8. Take note of any signs of poor digestion (such as gas, bloating, constipation).
  9. Eliminate white sugar and caffeine.
  10. Use warming spices to improve digestion.
  11. Avoid cold and carbonated beverages.

Pitta general dietary tips:

  1. Favor foods with sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes.
    Favor cool, dry, and slightly heavy foods.
  2. Eat fewer salty, sour, and pungent foods.
  3. Eat at regular times each day.
  4. Eat a balanced breakfast and early lunch.
  5. Avoid refined sugar.
  6. Limit alcohol and caffeine.
  7. Avoid conducting business while eating.
  8. Don’t eat poorly, just because your digestion can handle it.

Kapha general dietary tips:

  1. Favor foods with bitter, pungent, and astringent tastes.
  2. Favor light, dry, and warming foods.
  3. Eat fewer sweet, sour, and salty foods.
  4. Eat less in quantity and frequency.
  5. Eat at regular times each day.
  6. Eat a light breakfast (or skip it entirely).
  7. Eat a light evening meal.  Avoid frequent snacking and late night eating.
  8. Eliminate white sugar and greasy foods
  9. Use warming spices to improve digestion.
  10. Favor warm beverages.

For more on Ayurvedic nutrition see The Ayurvedic Medicine page and read “Eat, Taste, and Heal” by Tom Yarema, M.D