Title: How diet has changed over 70 years

Key words: natural farming, scientific farming, monoculture, lifestyle changes, nutritional status, degenerative diseases, NPK, selenium, pesticides, mineral content, food additives, food processing, nutrients, diseases, organic foods, Omega 3, vitamin C

Date: June 2001

Category: Nutrition and the Environment

Type: Article

Author: Dr Mark Draper


Changes in diet over 70 years, their effects and a solution

Changes in diet

Our diet has changed dramatically since the 1930ís, when we first started to change from natural farming processes, developed over 1000ís of years, to scientific farming processes. These changes have run in parallel with lifestyle changes, disease pattern changes and food processing changes. Set out below are some of the causes and effects involved in these changes.

The issue

The reduction in nutritional status over a 70 year period is contributing to, and is likely be the major cause of the recent and rapid rise in degenerative diseases.

The implications of this are that people are living in an accelerated state of degeneration. This means that they are not able to experience true well being and vitality and all the benefits this will give. In addition, there is an increasing incidence of chronic disease patterns earlier in life for all people born since the 60ís /70ís which is likely to accelerate.

If we accept this overview, then we must look at the central role of nutritional status in health creation and disease prevention.

The Changes in detail

Farming changes

* Monoculture breaks down natureís support for crops - we have chosen to work against natures natural ways, which is to have a variety of plants and therefore associated wildlife which complements and supports much of the total growing processes.

* NPK farming to stimulate growth - NPK minerals accelerate the uptake of micronutrients etc from the soil and these are not being replaced. Selenium (Se) is a classic example of this, and lack of Se is implicated in many chronic disease processes.

* Soil mineral contents have reduced right across the UK - these are reduced across the UK and there is evidence for what we are short of available in most areas. (It is interesting to note that the flooding of fields in nature often restores the complete range of minerals)

* Pesticide use has increased and this is likely to have toxic effects on the human system - There are data available to show the growth of these aspects of the new farming. Pesticides are poisons that the body has to deal with, albeit in minute doses. Low nutritional status makes the body less able to detoxify effectively.

* Reduction in mineral content of foods over 60 years demonstrated in government figures. The average fresh vegetables in our diet in the 1930ís , weight for weight, contained 50% more minerals than it does in the 1990ís. This is a major and significant change in diet.

* Growth in use of agrochemicals over time puts a greater stress on the body to clear them

* The water we drink contains many additives from farming and pharmacy that put a greater strain on the bodyís detoxifying system

Eating and Social changes - need for fast food

* Stress at work, advertising influences, susceptibility to infection (antibiotic prescribing as an indicator) all rising - these all have what is likely to be a major effect on immune response in the body, which is then impaired by low nutritional status.

* Energy levels and vitality reducing - there is an accepted reduction in energy in people, accentuated by the poorly understood growth in ME symptoms across many age groups, especially the 10 - 40 years olds. This low energy situation increases the perceived need for stimulant foods for people to keep going (ie sugars, caffeine in Coke, coffee etc)

* Over the last 70 years there has been a reduction in calorie intake among children and yet they are getting fatter. 19% reduction in calorie intake in 50 years for boys, and 29% reduction for girls, but increased sugar consumption! Computers, diet, TV and less exercise as cause. Fewer calories means another source of lower nutrient intake in the body resulting in lower immune strength.


* 1989 - School diets in children show major deficiencies - all minerals and key vitamins show shortages - e.g. 86% of girls getting below the recommended daily amount of Iron, which is critical to good health. In 2000 there are growing numbers of reports criticising school dinners and school children's diets - we are creating potential major problems here for our young as they grow older in terms of chronic disease patterns related to a breaking down of the immune system.

* Reduction in exercise at school (linked to lower nutrient status through reduced calories). Schools no longer hold exercise as important in childrenís week at school - it is reduced by up to 80% from 50 years ago.

* 30% reduction in fresh vegetables and fruit - MAFF data from 1970 - people are eating less fresh produce, which would be more helpful to them than cooked produce.

* Evidence suggest Life expectancy has reduced in recent times, not increasing as is commonly reported. When the comparison is made with all those who get to 20 years old (it was the young dying in the olden days that skewed the figures) - then we are dying younger, it seems. Our own evidence would suggest an increase in degenerative disease in younger people now.

* Childhood leukaemia increasing in incidence - probably not helped by poor nutrition.

Food processing changes

* Depletions in food - there is a loss of nutrients as a result of food processing - ie manufacture of fast / convenience foods. Hard to quantify overall, but anything from 20% reduction up to 80% depending on processing methods and the food involved.

* Additives in food donít help either - the increasing use of chemicals as food additives to achieve marketing goals. At worst these are mild poisons, and at best they are chemicals the body does not 'see' as food.

Nutrition not considered an important part of food. Colour, texture, taste and calorie content are key in processed foods.

We are trying to find out what % of total food consumption is processed in an average diet. We estimate that somewhere between 70 to 80% of all food eaten is processed in some way, with the associated reduction in nutrients.

Disease changes

* Degenerative diseases significantly on the increase - Heart disease, diabetes inc childhood diabetes, cancer (especially breast and prostate cancers), arthritis, obesity, childhood leukaemia - all represent an increasing inability of the body due to low nutrient status (especially antioxidants) to cope with the modern environmental and lifestyle challenges.

* There is proliferation of nutrition based research highlighting diseases linked to nutritional status - we are not looking at this issue as a whole yet, but Vets know with animals that unless the grass has sufficient nutrients, or their feed does, the animals will get ill. In many ways we treat our animals better than ourselves when it comes to nutrition, perhaps because farmers have to pay vets to treat sick animals, whilst in the UK at least there is not the same direct, immediate financial penalty for becoming ill.


The issue - restated

The reduction in nutritional status over a 70 year period is contributing to, and is likely be the major cause in the rapid rise in degenerative diseases.

If we accept this overview, then we must look at the central role of nutritional status in health creation and disease prevention.


The Solution

Long Term

For the long term we need to improve our soil, so that it is possible to grow high nutritional status food (as per 1930ís). We anticipate this could take up to 30 years, including research to identify the best way forward.

Medium Term

In the medium term we need to fortify our processed food with a comprehensive range of additional nutrients in a form that is as close to 'food-state' as possible (see articles on food-state on this website). Processed foods make up approx 70% of the diet, and so would be the most effective way to get good nutrition to people at the present time.

Short Term

In the short term we need to make available to all who wish to participate a nutritional supplement to bring back into balance the nutritional status. This will contain a comprehensive range of additional nutrients in a form that is as close to food-state as possible.

Actions needed

* Gather more disease data

* Produce graphs to clearly show the evidence of the changes in disease incidence versus changes in nutritional status - schematically

* Information on age and death rates for those who reach 20 + years old.

* Gather more information on mineral contents of soil

* Look at fresh versus processed foods for guide figures for assumptions on dietary change (dietpro) - also try to find out what % of total food is taken as fresh and how much is processed.

* Consumption of fresh vegetable and fruit - get MAFF data

* Collect recent News nutritional information - take a look at the BBC news site

* Evidence of fortification working in different cultures/situations etc. (e.g. Finland - use Search facility to view relevant article)



Implications for the therapist

Create a sound nutritional base for well-being - regardless of current state of health

1. Try to improve intake of fresh fruit and veg (5 pieces a day)

2. Choose organic if you can afford it - less pesticides and more natural

3. Reduce consumption of processed foods. Fortified processed foods may be a better choice.

4. Reduce stimulants ie coffee, tea, colas, sugar drinks etc

5. Increase proportion of fluid taken as water. Try to filter if possible.

6. Fill the nutritional gap with a broad spectrum multivitamin and mineral in a form that is as close to food-state as possible, providing approximately 50% of the RDA.. In addition people need extra support with dietary or supplementary Omega 3 oils.

7. Many people would also benefit from extra Selenium and Vitamin C on a regular basis.