Can’t we just follow the Dietary Guidelines and be fine?
“It is possible to have a perfectly adequate diet as far as calories are concerned, and yet to lack essential vitamins and minerals.” (6)
“As few as 3–4% of Americans follow all of the Dietary Guidelines.” -Dr. Janet King, Ph.D., Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute Executive Director, Professor of Nutrition at the University of California, at Berkeley and Davis. Dr. King is a highly renowned scientist in the nutrition field who has published over 225 scientific papers, review articles, and book chapters. (7)
Oregon State University– “Overall adherence to the US Dietary Guidelines is low: the majority of Americans do not follow a healthy eating pattern.” (8)
Are “modern” crops less nutritious?
Scientific American– “Because of soil depletion, crops grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today.” (9)
Four different analyses of U.S. and British nutrient content data have shown a decline in the vitamin and mineral content of fresh fruits and vegetables over the last 60 years (10, 11, 12, 13). Average declines in nutrient content are shown below.
Using government data, British research compared the mineral content of 20 fruits and vegetables between the 1930s to the 1980s using government scientific data. Significant reductions were found in calcium, magnesium, copper (down a massive 80%) and sodium in the vegetables. Fruit was lower in magnesium, iron, copper and potassium. (12)
“There were significant reductions in the levels of Ca, Mg, Cu and Na, in vegetables and Mg, Fe, Cu and K in fruits.” (12)
“New research indicates that the vitamin and mineral content of apples, oranges, and other ordinary fruits has declined on average 25 to 50% during the last generation.” (13)
“Several studies of historical food composition tables show an apparent decline in food nutrient content over the past 70 years. This decline has been attributed to soil degradation and the “mining” of soil fertility by industrial agriculture.” (14)
A landmark study on the topic by Dr. Donald Davis and his team of researchers from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was published in December 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. The researchers compared the nutrient content of 43 garden crops between 1950 and 1999. Of the 13 nutrients analyzed using US Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, the researchers observed significant declines in protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin B2 and vitamin C. For example, celery had 42% less protein; cauliflower had half as much B1; the B2 content of kale had fallen by 50%, and the vitamin C content of asparagus dropped by nearly two-thirds. (9) (15)
Davis and his colleagues attributed this declining nutritional content to the prevalence of agricultural practices geared toward improving traits (size, growth rate, pest resistance) rather than nutrition. “Efforts to breed new varieties of crops that provide greater yield, pest resistance and climate adaptability have allowed crops to grow bigger and more rapidly,” said Davis, “but their ability to manufacture or uptake nutrients has not kept pace with their rapid growth.” It’s likely there’s been declines in other nutrients as well, he said, such as magnesium, zinc and vitamins B-6 and E, but they were not studied in 1950 and more research is needed to find out how much less we are getting of these key vitamins and minerals. (9) (15)
“Soil is being deprived of essential micro nutrients…Lack of these important vitamins and minerals also has a profound impact on the body‘s immune system. Immune system weakened by a lack of micronutrients puts us at increased health risk.” (16)
“Over three billion of the world’s population is malnourished in nutrient elements and vitamins, including in developed countries. Vegetables and fruits are among the richest sources of many nutrients. Thus, declining nutrient concentrations in horticultural products are most unwelcome.” (17)
We hope you enjoyed part 2 of this article in our Debunking Bad Advice series. For part 3, click the link below.