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Thread: Surprising Undercurrent at AHS page

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    Red Wire's Avatar
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    Surprising Undercurrent at AHS

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    I've been watching a fair number of the videos posted on vimeo and I noticed a somewhat surprising trend in thinking from the MD/PhD crowd. Ok, I should probably clarify, by surprising trend I mean two people mentioned something about it.

    Plants are toxic. In particular, secondary plant chemicals aka phytochemicals are toxic. Even the ones labeled as health promoting are actually toxic to the body. Translation vegetables are toxic.

    This concept is mentioned in Christ Masterjohns presentation, linked here

    Skip to the 33:40 time mark for the relevant bit.

    And again in Staffan Lindeberg's talk, linked here

    Skip to the 6:00 mark for the relevant bit.

    Though Staffan's idea was centered around the defensive phytochemicals in soy, I believe he intended it as a commentary on the defensive mechanisms of all plants.

    Masterjohn makes the point that plant foods are, or at least appear to be, beneficial because they stimulate the bodies production of its own anti-oxidants to defend against the plant chemicals. However he does clarify, the human body did evolve to handle some of these toxins effectively. I'd love to see the all these flashy new anti-oxidant products on the market, and the ANDI scores you see at Whole Foods with an * and a tiny footnote "by the way, this stuff is toxic."

    This actually rings true with a lot of my academic work in the past. I wrote a paper regarding the latest research on phytochemicals while taking my biology classes. During that research, I found an article by Marion Nestle(unfortunately I don't have a link) in which she stated there was no scientific backing for increasing the amount of anti-oxidants in the diet and in fact too much may be harmful.

    And most of the studies and research I cited presumed phytochemicals were healthy if they stimulated the immune system. In most of their conclusions, it was assumed that the phytochemicals enhanced immune functioning, usually by some unknown mechanism, because pathogenic infections were usually hampered by the bolstered immune response. But could it be that these chemicals aren't enhancing immune function, just inciting a defensive response from the body, with viral and bacterial infections merely being caught in the crossfire?

    So the idea that we can use plant anti-oxidants for our own purposes is bunk. Watch out, your favorite veggies may be trying to kill you...or at least cause mild discomfort

    I think the question is now, at what point do toxic phytochemicals overwhelm the bodies natural response? Can you eat too much of your favorite veggies? Should we apply the anti-nutrient processing used on grains to all plants? This will certainly make the fermentation crowd happy.

    Any thoughts?
    Last edited by Red Wire; 08-16-2011 at 08:40 PM.
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    It might not be relevant, but I can't handle tomato unless it's cooked!

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    vegetables suck!

    on a serious note, i always hear people mention how modern fruits are way different then what would have been around in groks time, however i never see any mention of how vegetables would have been different as well.

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    Mmmmm...kimchi.

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    Red Wire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gager View Post
    vegetables suck!

    on a serious note, i always hear people mention how modern fruits are way different then what would have been around in groks time, however i never see any mention of how vegetables would have been different as well.
    True, domestication has selected for more favorable plant traits. But that doesn't mean there aren't toxins present. And the organic movement is pretty big on bringing back "hardier" strains of vegetables to reduce pesticide use. Hardier meaning less things want to eat them, which we might assume means more defensive phytochemicals.
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    Oh great. Can't eat veggies because they're out to get me unless they're fermented. Can't eat them fermented because then there's excess histamines. Who's going to supply me with a 24/7 supply of steak???
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    Quote Originally Posted by belinda View Post
    Oh great. Can't eat veggies because they're out to get me unless they're fermented. Can't eat them fermented because then there's excess histamines. Who's going to supply me with a 24/7 supply of steak???
    haha, don't forget, masterjohn made the point that you evolved to handle a moderate toxic load. My point was not that you shouldn't eat veggies, but could you eat too much of a good thing i.e. eat enough for the toxins to stop being beneficial and start being...toxic?
    "One can only be a perfect physician for oneself alone. " ~ Luigi Cornaro

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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Wire View Post
    Masterjohn makes the point that plant foods are, or at least appear to be, beneficial because they stimulate the bodies production of its own anti-oxidants to defend against the plant chemicals. However he does clarify, the human body did evolve to handle some of these toxins effectively. I'd love to see the all these flashy new anti-oxidant products on the market, and the ANDI scores you see at Whole Foods with an * and a tiny footnote "by the way, this stuff is toxic."

    This actually rings true with a lot of my academic work in the past. I wrote a paper regarding the latest research on phytochemicals while taking my biology classes. During that research, I found an article by Marion Nestle(unfortunately I don't have a link) in which she stated there was no scientific backing for increasing the amount of anti-oxidants in the diet and in fact too much may be harmful.

    And most of the studies and research I cited presumed phytochemicals were healthy if they stimulated the immune system. In most of their conclusions, it was assumed that the phytochemicals enhanced immune functioning, usually by some unknown mechanism, because pathogenic infections were usually hampered by the bolstered immune response. But could it be that these chemicals aren't enhancing immune function, just inciting a defensive response from the body, with viral and bacterial infections merely being caught in the crossfire?

    So the idea that we can use plant anti-oxidants for our own purposes is bunk. Watch out, your favorite veggies may be trying to kill you...or at least cause mild discomfort

    I think the question is now, at what point do toxic phytochemicals overwhelm the bodies natural response? Can you eat too much of your favorite veggies? Should we apply the anti-nutrient processing used on grains to all plants? This will certainly make the fermentation crowd happy.

    Any thoughts?
    I think there's an important point in recognizing the stimulus response of the body to these defensive mechanisms. If the reason eating plants helps us stay healthy is that they create this reaction in the body, that does not change the underlying reality that plants are helpful foods. However, this may support the evidence that there's an ideal amount of plant material in the diet, beyond which we no longer see the benefits. Like many things in the human diet, deficiency might be problematic but an overload might also be toxic (much like the need for some PUFAs for specific functions contrasted with the detrimental inflammatory effects of too much).

    I think we tend to simplify foods into BAD! and GOOD! far too readily. Some of them are actively harmful and should be avoided, but other things are needed in moderate quantities.
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