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Food values continue to be measured in calories. The calorie is a unit of measurement, just as the inch or yard is a unit of measurement. The small calorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one gram (about 20 drops) of water one degree. The large calorie is the amount of heat required to raise one kilogram (equal to about two and a quarter pounds) of water one degree centigrade.
Heat and energy are considered equivalent and transformable. Thus, the orthodox scientist considers that those foods that give off most heat per pound are the best foods for human consumption. It was decided that the average individual requires about 2,500 calories a day and diets were figured out on this basis. This was worked out simply by finding out how much people do eat and using this as a right or average standard. In fact, the matter was worked out by Voit, of Germany, on the basis of an enormous compilation of what German laborers, students, etc., actually do eat. It was presumed that people eat what they ought to eat in amount and kind, an assumption that is now known to be wholly false.
This method of determining food needs resulted in the absurd proposition that everybody ought to overeat because the average person does overeat. It led also to the ruinous notion that white flour, white sugar, denatured cereals, lard, etc., being high in caloric value, are man's best foods, while, fruits and green vegetables are almost foodless. It taught people to look upon vegetarians, fruitarians, and raw food advocates as cranks and fanatics.
This system of fire-box dietetics led to such ridiculous statements as the following from Dr. Richard C. Cabot's Handbook of Medicine: "Tomatoes are ninety-four per cent water; there is hardly any nutrition in them." "Lettuce for instance, is a food practically without value--nice and pleasant to look at, and valuable so far as it has dressing (made with oil). But the dressing is the only thing that has any food value." "If we take a teaspoonful of olive oil we are getting more food than if we took a large potato, for instance, because oil is a food which produces so much heat." "A workingman who buys a can of beans ought to know that he is getting many times the food for the same money as when he buys a can of tomatoes."
A few teaspoonfuls of olive oil a day should suffice to supply a man with all the food (heat units) he requires, but everyone nowadays knows that man cannot live on such a diet. The great value of lettuce is now everywhere recognized. Fruits and vegetables, formerly almost valueless, except in the estimation of a few cranks like Graham, Trall, Densmore, Page and Tilden, are coming to be more and more recognized for what they are--man's best food. It is even asserted on experimental evidence that green foods are absolutely necessary.
The estimated calorie requirements of a resting man weighing 160 lbs., is 2200 calories. Sleeping twenty-four hours, this man would expend only 1680 calories. The calorie requirements of woman are estimated to be much lower--a seamstress requiring 1800 calories a servant 2800 calories and a wash-woman 3200 calories. The seamstress requires fewer calories than the resting man, a thing I seriously doubt. Her requirements are but 120 calories more than that of the sleeping man.
Harrow says: "The calorie is a true guide to muscular activity; it seems to be no guide to the activity of the brain." Where, then, does "mental energy" come from?
The human body is more than a mere furnace or fire box into which we must continue to shovel fuel. The fuel value of food is the least valuable thing about it. White sugar is a very high grade fuel having a fuel value of 1750 calories a pound as compared to 165 calories for buttermilk, 100 calories for tomatoes and 95 calories for spinach. Yet animals fed on white sugar and water soon die. The nutritional value of food can no more be measured in calories than the value of water in the system can be stated in pounds or quarts, or in units of steam pressure.
A man may starve to death on a high calorie diet of white bread, white sugar, white rice and refined fat. He will starve on such a diet while consuming more calories each day than the standards call for. Indeed he will die quicker on a diet of this kind than he will if he takes nothing but water.
In measuring the caloric value of foods, only the combustible portions are considered. That portion of the food that does not burn, commonly referred to by the orthodox food scientist as "ash" (meaning ashes), and which is made up of the mineral content of the food, is not even considered. By such a standard oleomargarine with 3410 calories a pound is one of the greatest of food, while lemons with 155 calories, oranges with 150 calories and strawberries with 150 calories are practically worthless. Salt pork with 3555 calories a pound is a food for the gods by this standard, while celery and lettuce with only 65 calories each a pound and skim milk with but 165 calories consume more energy in digestion than they produce when oxidized. Yet neither oleomargarine nor salt pork will sustain life, health and growth. Animals fed on such a diet soon perish.
Let us bear in mind that the caloric value of food is no index to its surplus in acid or alkali elements, although most foods that rank highest in caloric value are decidedly acid-forming and rapidly break down the body.
Osborn and Mendell fed animals on a diet of denatured starches and fats, refined sugar and refined proteins and found that when so fed they rapidly declined in health. The addition of inorganic salts to the food was found to be absolutely valueless.
When the whey of milk was added to the diet their decline in health ceased. The refined sugars, starches, fats and proteins have a very high caloric value while they possess almost no food value. The whey contains none of the fats or proteins of milk but does contain iron, phosphorus, calcium, potassium and other organic salts. These tests prove that organic mineral salts are of more importance than heat units. Indeed, it may easily be shown that those foods that are the most deficient and worthless of all are the very foods which rank highest in fuel value.
Foods that are so high in caloric value that they are estimated by thousands, when fed to animals result in early death. Add to these foods the juices of foods of low caloric value and they live and grow.
Consider white bread with 1200 calories a pound and refined corn meal with 1625 calories a pound, and then think over the fact that high as these foods are in caloric value, they not only will not sustain life but actually produce death in animals fed upon these, exclusively, quicker than starvation itself. White sugar, oleomargarine, polished rice, salt pork, etc., do the same. Animals fed on these foods, or on tapioca, corn syrup, corn grits, cream of wheat, macaroni, puffed rice, corn starch, corn flakes, and other such foods possessing a high fuel value, sicken and die.
If the fresh juices of vegetables are added to the refined foods the animals survive but do not regain their normal weight and strength nor their resistance to disease. These vegetable juices contain no fuel value. The animals are restored to normal vigor and health only after they are fed unrefined foods such as cabbage, spinach, celery, lettuce, whole grains, whole milk, etc. These foods are so low in caloric value as compared with the refined starches, sugars, proteins, etc., that orthodox scientists formerly regarded them as being practically valueless.
A pound of apples gives but 190 calories while a pound of watermelon only yields 50 calories, but either of these foods is superior to the refined high caloric foods.
McCullum's experiments have shown that some foods will sustain growth while others will not. It is assumed that those foods that sustain growth and development contain substances to which the term vitamin has been applied. These substances are found abundantly in spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, cabbage, celery and milk. All of the refined foods already mentioned are absolutely lacking in this respect. They will neither sustain nor promote growth. Grass and grass seeds, oranges, lemons, grapefruits, tomatoes, in fact all fresh fruits and green vegetables, all of which are very low in caloric value, are rich in growth promoting elements.
Cereals and pastries are high in caloric value, but eating these in excess makes one not only look tired by actually be tired. An excess of sugar makes one lazy.
As many of the important elements of food are not oxidized in the body, a diet that is based on the assumed calorie requirements of the patient or of the non-patient, is likely to have these other elements ignored. The minerals and vitamins of foods are not employed in the production of heat and energy. Proteins, though oxidizable, therefore possessing calorie value, do not serve primarily as fuels in the body, but as building materials. Knowing the caloric value of a protein will give you no index to its amino acid content. Its building value is not measured by the amount of heat it produces when burned in the laboratory.
The assimilation and final oxidation of carbohydrates, for example, depends upon the presence of adequate amounts of other food factors that are associated with the metabolism of carbohydrates. If these are lacking in your diet, as they commonly are in conventional diets, carbohydrate metabolism will be crippled. The presence of certain vitamins is essential to proper utilization of carbohydrates.
A given amount of fat will produce a given amount of heat when burned in the laboratory. In the body, fat burns best and most efficiently in the presence of sugar. Under many conditions of the body, fat is poorly oxidized so that it does not yield the amount of heat listed in the calorie tables. In diabetes, for example, fat metabolism is very much crippled.
Measuring food value by calories ignores the body's mineral and vitamin needs. It gives no attention to the relative values of the various proteins, and overlooks the acid-alkali ratio of the diet. It wholly forgets the Law of the Minimum.
In determining the fuel value of foods, not only are the growth promoting substances wholly ignored but also those elements which, though absolutely worthless from the calorific standpoint, are absolutely essential to the regulation of the specific gravity of the blood, the functioning of the blood corpuscles, the contractility of the muscles, the preservation of tissue from decomposition, the chemical reaction of the secretions, for maintaining normal alkalinity of the blood and for use in preparing the cell wastes for elimination.
Iron and manganese, which are the oxidizing agents of the blood, have no caloric value. Flourine, which forms a hard protective shell around the teeth, and calcium, which forms a large percentage of the normal composition of bone, are wholly lacking in heat producing properties. Sodium, magnesium, sulphur, potassium and other elements that are used in the processes of assimilation and elimination cannot be substituted by calories.
Calories do not build bones and teeth nor do they neutralize the acidity of the end-products of metabolism, or preserve the alkalinity of the blood and lymph. It is precisely those foods that are least fitted to perform these functions that are richest in calories. Prof. Sherman says of the calorie: "In connection with such comparisons of food value, while of primary importance, is not alone a complete measure of its nutritive value, which will depend in part upon the amounts and forms of nitrogen, phosphorus, iron and various other essential elements furnished by food." We may add that the value of any food to the individual is partly determined by its digestibility and by the individual's present nutritive needs and powers of digestion and assimilation. It is obvious that no part of food that is not digested can be of use, however high its caloric or other value. Again food eaten, when not required or when the digestive apparatus is not prepared for the work of digestion can only produce harm.
A table giving the caloric values of different foods tells us merely how much heat can be produced in the laboratory by burning these foods. Such tables are fairly accurate indexes to the fuel values of the foods listed, but they are not an index to the nutritive values these foods have for you. You must digest them, absorb them, assimilate them and then metabolize them. If you fail to digest and absorb them, you certainly cannot assimilate and metabolize them. You can produce no heat by the oxidation of foods that pass out in the stools.
The amount of heat and energy required by various individuals varies so greatly with the conditions of sex, climate, occupation, age, size, temperament, etc., that food values based on the calorie standard are of no practical value. Aside from this, most of the heat produced in the body is used in maintaining normal body temperature and not for the production of energy. If health is destroyed, if the nutritive functions are impaired, to stoke up on fuel foods is not only valueless but is positively harmful. This is easily proven when we compare the results of such treatment with those obtained by the fast or by a low calorie diet which is rich in the organic mineral elements.
The burning of food in the body is a vital or physiological process and does not take place in a dead body. Food, to be burned in the body for the production of calories, is dependent upon the condition of the tissues that do the burning, a fact that is completely overlooked in feeding the sick. If the functions of the body are impaired this process is also impaired and foods that are high in fuel value cannot be properly cared for. The digestive and assimilative powers of the individual are ignored in fire-box dietetics. If energy is low, feed up the fires by shoveling in more coal.
To declare that man requires a given number of calories a day and to feed these, all the while ignoring the individual's condition, is the height of folly. In a state of nature, demand reaches forth to supply and satisfies itself. The calorie feeders force the supply even when there is no demand or when there is lack of ability to properly care for the supply. Along with this, their standard of measuring food values wholly ignores the most important elements of the food and the further fact that not all the food elements of the food that are combustible are burned in the body. Those proteins that are used in building new tissue are not used for the production of heat and energy, even if we assume that man derives his energy from food.
It should be easily seen that a system of feeding based on the caloric or fuel value of foods must inevitably lead to mischief. And this is exactly what it has done for it invariably causes patients to be stuffed with fuel foods that are deficient in the other and more vital elements. These patients are forced to eat beyond their digestive capacity in the effort to feed them the standard amount of calories. A standardized treatment without a standardized patient is a farce and a standardized patient is an impossibility.
Hospital diets, because they are based on calorie computations, are likely to be very inadequate diets, besides being poorly prepared. Hospital diets and many other prescribed diets are still based on the supposed calorie needs of the patients. The inactive person "needs" 2000 calories a day; a moderately active person "requires" 3000 to 4000 calories a day and the vigorously active person requires 6000 calories a day. Not only is this standard based on faulty experiments, but it fails to take into account differences in individual efficiency in utilizing the food eaten.
This rule-of-thumb method of prescribing diets does not take into account individual needs and capabilities. It is as ridiculous as to say that every man at the age of twenty should be able to run a hundred yards in ten seconds. Without a standardized humanity, and we certainly do not have one, there can be no standardized diets.
It is necessary that we lose our test-tube conception of dietetics and learn to feed human beings. Man is no chemical apparatus that can be manipulated as can such a device in the laboratory. Theoretically he may need a certain amount of protein or a given number of calories, or a certain minimum of vitamins: actually, he may not be able to digest and absorb anything. Feeding must be a personal, not a rule-of-thumb affair. Formula feeding is a fallacy.
Consider for a minute the lesson of the German Raider, The Crown Prince Wilhelm. The crew was fed on a large variety of high caloric foods such as:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with condensed milk, fried potatoes, white bread, oleomargarine, coffee, white sugar and cookies.
Dinner: Beef soup, pea soup, lentil soup, potato soup, pot roast, fried steak, roast beef, salt fish, canned vegetables, potatoes, white bread, cookies, soda crackers, white sugar, oleomargarine, coffee, and condensed milk.
Supper: Fried steak, corned beef hash, cold roast beef, beef stew, white bread, potatoes, white sugar, cookies, oleomargarine, coffee and condensed milk.
Nearly every one of these foods possess a high calorie value, but every one of them is lacking in the organic minerals and growth promoting factors. After two hundred and fifty-five days on a diet like this, the ship steamed into Norfolk with many of her crew dead, 110 ill on their bunks and many others about ready to break down. Their ailment, which was similar to beriberi or pellagra, was "cured" by a diet that possessed almost no fuel value whatsoever, but was rich in organic salts and vitamins.