Archives for: September 2008
One way to truly screw up the truth is to subject it to public debate; since our minds want some sort of resolution, but out of inbred nicety we often want consensus as well. Problem is, as Winston Churchill so accurately pinned it, consensus is often “the sum total of everyone’s fears.”
People seem to have a love-hate relationship with genetics, or perhaps more accurately, an “awe-hate” relationship. Ask the average person what genetics means to them, and they will typically respond with a litany of dread, largely courtesy of the news media. Cloning. Stem cells. Genetically modified “Frankenfoods.” Yet ask that same person where they envision science will find the cure for cancer, or aging, or diabetes, and they will probably answer genetic research as well.
There are indeed aspects of genetics that are potentially disturbing. Consider the genetic modification of our foods. To a certain degree we are becoming one big uncontrolled experiment, as biotechnology inserts genes from one species into another, often for supercilious reasons. Do we need pesticide-resistant plants, courtesy of genetic engineering, or do we need more pesticide-free organic gardening?
It is precisely when biotechnology becomes the enabler of our existing bad habits that we lead ourselves into uncharted territory. It is also the time when the counter argument in favor of genetic modification of foods, that “nature does it all the time” rings hollow. “Nature” is a vast, living breathing mega-structure. To me Nature might more likely try to destroy pesticide manufacturers rather than re-engineer everything to be able to withstand their wares. It would certainly be easier.
In addition, we have the problem of the politically correct scientific conclusion. Scientists are human beings just like anyone else (stupider actually, if DNA pioneer James Watson were to be believed) and the pressure to conform or arrive at conclusions that are not socially distasteful (and hence not publicly fundable) is great.
But here’s what should be the goal: Take the gobs of generalized information out there, filter and analyze it, then let it guide our actions through the process of making the sort of useful decisions and actions that can produce positive change in public health. Our goal is not Eugenics (getting rid of genetic undesirables, like what the Nazis tried to do), but rather Yougenics --the science of studying yourself. As long as our fact-finding is based on the results that pertain only to you, the individual reading this blog, we will always remain on a strong, fair and firm ethical base.
I would go so far as to say that the absence of Yougenics is the main problem with nutrition as it is practiced today. All too often we read studies done on large groups of individuals and can only be left wondering if these results apply to us. Since nutrition began its meteoric rise in the public consciousness thirty years ago, we’ve been barraged with studies that have lead to sweeping conclusions and have then seen these same conclusions laid to rest, one after the other.
A lot of this is the result of nutrition being largely disease-based, a legacy of its years of discovery centered on finding the cause of deficiencies. Conventional nutritional wisdom came to define health as the absence of nutritional deficiency. Some of this is probably a ripple effect from the major developments that have taken place in the field of pharmaceutical drugs. But foods work differently than drugs. For example, we don’t make energy out of drugs; they don’t fuel or cellular processes. Foods are functional entities in our bodies, not drugs that prevent deficiencies, and our reactions to food are much more individualized than those we have to drugs.
Since nutritional science has such a rudimentary approach to food, it is not surprising that most nutrition research yields results that typically conflict with other results. And although it will eventually be yanked, no doubt kicking and screaming, into the genomic age, nutritionists still clamor for the next “one size fits all approach”, substituting one fad for another, each with its own army of disciples and detractors, the cycle to be repeated again and again.
An interesting observation on the Autism website points to the possibility that The Blood Type Diets can be helpful in managing kids with autism. We've seen some indication of this in the Clinic, and I've speculated in at least one book (Live Right For Your Type) that lectin avoidance may be the mechanism by which this occurs. Would be nice to see a good independent study on this. We can at least hope!
Just the other day, Martha reconnected via email with an old friend of ours, John Weeks. I first met John back in the mid-1980's when he was the first Development Officer for Bastyr College. I got to know him much better while was serving with him on the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) Board of Directors.
John has gone on to carve out a career as the Editor/ Publisher of The Integrator Blog, a website devoted to "a health care system that is multidisciplinary and enhances competence, mutual respect and collaboration across all health care disciplines."
In emailing back and forth with Martha he directed us to a little blurb he had just published on the recent AANP Convention which had mentioned a long forgotten (although not by John) suggestion of mine about creating 'model states' as part of our drive to secure license in all 50 states.
That was interesting enough, but more jostled me out of my typical late morning indolence was a discussion elsewhere about the chronology and authorship of the phrase 'Integrative Medicine'.
In another move undoubtedly destined to make me even more popular with Andrew Weil (who is widely credited with it authorship) I wrote John a quick note that mentioned off-the-cuff that I had used the phrase long ago when I was part of a small committee responsible for formulating the first clinical curriculum at Bastyr College.
Well, after we conducted a see-saw email interview, John wrote a rather nice little blog about it.