Title: Farming and food chain, diet and disease

Key words: traditional farming vs monoculture, lifestyle changes, disease patterns, food processing, nutritional status, degenerative diseases, NPK fertilizer, low selenium, pesticides, fast food, immune response, school diets, exercise, food additives,

Date: May 2001

Category: Nutrition and the Environment

Type: Article

Author: Dr M Draper


Farming and food chain, diet and disease

Changes in diet

Our diet has changed dramatically in the past 70 years, since the 1930ís, when we changed 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 in the rapid rise in degenerative diseases.

The implications of this are that people are living in an accelerated degenerating state. 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.

Summary of Changes

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 soil which are not being replaced. Selenium is a classic example of this, and lack of it is implicated in many chronic disease processes.

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

* Pesticide use has increased and is likely to have toxic effects on the human system - There is data available to show the growth of these aspects of the new farming. These are minute doses of poisons that the body has to deal with. Low nutritional status of the body means it is unable to detoxify effectively.

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

* Growth in agro chemicals 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 greater strain on the bodyís detoxifying system

Eating and Social changes - need for fast food

* Stress in 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 not understood growth in ME symptoms across many ages, especially the 10 - 40 years olds, and this low energy situation increases the need for stimulant foods for people to keep going (ie sugars, caffeine in Coke, Coffee etc)

* Over the last 70 years there is a reduced calorie intake in children and yet they are getting fatter. 19% reduction in 50 years for boys, and for girls 29% reduction in calorie intake, but increased sugar consumption! Computers, diet, TV and less exercise as cause. Less calories mean 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 diets - we are creating potential major problems here for our young as they grow older in terms of chronic disease patterns of a breaking down 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 in 1970 - people are eating less fresh produce, which is more helpful than cooked produce.

* Evidence suggest Life expectancy is 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 young dying in old days that skewed the figures) - then we are dying younger it seems (to be confirmed by Dr Mark Draper). Our own evidence would suggest an increase in degenerative disease in younger people now.

* Childhood leukaemia growth in incidences - 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.

* Additions in food donít help either - Additions include growth of chemicals as additives to achieve marketing goals, which at worst are mild poisons, and at best 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 % in an average diet is processed food. We estimate that between 70 and 80% of all food eaten is processed in some way, with an associated reduction in nutrients.

Disease changes

* Degenerative diseases are 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 to cope with the modern environmental and lifestyle challenges, due to low nutrient status (especially antioxidants).

* There is a proliferation of research linking diseases to nutritional status - we are not looking at this issue as a whole yet, but Vets know with animals that unless the grass or other feed has sufficient nutrients, the animals will become ill.


The issue - restated

The reduction in nutritional status over a 70 year period is contributing to and may even be the major cause of 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

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

Medium Term

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 as possible. Processed foods make up approx 70% of the diet, and are an excellent 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 as possible.


Implications for therapists

Creating 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 as possible providing approximately 50% of the RDA.. In addition Omega 3 oils need extra support with diet or supplement.

7. In addition many people would benefit from extra Selenium and Vitamin C on a regular basis.