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by Patrizia Marani
Organic Summer fruit 

Pay the organic farmer now or the doctor later: what we need to stay healthy

WESTERN DISEASES AND THE HOAX OF LIFE EXPECTANCY

"Eating organic or biodynamic foods is too expensive", "I don't think organic products are really that different from regular products": these are the two main observations made by people who refuse to buy organic or biodynamic products. Then you dig a bit deeper, actually not so deep, to quickly discover that individuals who are still young and apparently healthy are instead immuno-depressed, have had strokes, suffer from high blood pressure or rheumatoid arthritis, and the string of complaints could go on endlessly. In Italy, where people over 65 represent about 20% of the population, almost 4 out of 10 are chronically ill, kept alive by daily doses of pills. Nonetheless, many of them do not link their health status to the quality of the food they eat. Instead, they accept their condition as if it were inevitable. But is it? Does eating ORGANIC really make the grocery budget swell? Is the potential cost increase justified or not by the higher quality of the product?

Refined flourAlready 2500 years ago Hippocrates recommended: "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." All articles dedicated to health have been repeating the same mantra for decades, that is, to be healthy one must eat lots of fruit and vegetables, rich in vitamins and anti-oxidants, and that the Mediterranean diet is the cure for all ailments. But 60 years after the great experiment of the latest agricultural revolution that has transformed food into commodities and 130 years of refined, processed grains, the mantra seems only partially true. Refined, processed grains, as well as industrially-grown fruits and vegetables replete with chemicals, are no longer the source of energy and well-being that they have been during the entire history of our food civilization. As facts reveal.

PRIMITIVE POPULATIONS ARE HEALTHIER

Already in the first decades of the 1900s, several medical explorers and anthropologists, who were studying primitive populations, had noticed they did not suffer from the chronic illnesses that were becoming increasingly common in the West after the food revolution of the late 1800s, originating from the refining and processing of the primary foods in our diet: flours, rice, and sugar. In the populations that were being studied, cardio-circulatory diseases, diabetes and strokes did not exist. Appendicitis, diverticulitis, ulcers, hemorrhoids, allergies and even dental cavities, were unknown, so much so that during the second world war an English doctor named them “Diseases of Civilization. He did so with good reason, given that in the course of the 1900s and the first decade of the 21st century, these pathologies have little by little grown and are now at epidemic levels.
A few of these researchers found themselves observing another important transition: the arrival of those very afflictions as these indigenous people were gradually adopting our diet, and in particular, refined flours, sugar and other processed foods.

DISEASES THAT ARE TYPICAL OF OLD AGE?

Before we didn't live long enough to develop the so-called "diseases of civilization", believe mainstream doctors, but is it really so? We should be celebrating the victory over infectious diseases and the success of a higher life expectancy, rather than studying the causes of an epidemic that is so convenient to a multimillionaire pharmaceutical industry whose drugs manage to keep us alive, though chronically ill, for decades. But what about our quality of life?

If these statistics of victory are observed under the lens of scientific scrutiny, we discover that the great increase of the average life expectancy from 45 years of age in the beginning of the 1900s to the current average life span of 78-80 is mostly due to the fact that, having eradicated infectious diseases, we survive infancy. If, for instance, in 1900 4 children were born and 2 died while 2 survived living to be 100 years old, the average life expectancy would be 50 years. In fact, a big part of those who survived childhood lived a long, healthy life and, what's more, without needing drugs!

At the end of the day, "the life expectancy of a 65 year old in 1900 was only 6 years shorter than that of a 65 year old in our day. Once the necessary adjustments for age are made, the rates of chronic diseases such as cancer and type 2 diabetes are much higher today than they were in 1900." After managing to eradicate viruses thanks to better hygiene, why have so many chronic diseases showed up? This seems to stand in stark contrast with the centuries-old progress of our species. How come, for instance, that evolution has selected so many individuals with such fragile teeth, when mastication is crucial to our survival?

Weston A. Price, a Canadian dentist, had already asked himself this question by the first decades of the last century. Having observed a gradual increase in dental pathologies in theGrazing cows previous 40 years after the American food staples were refined, in the 30s he set out on a journey to the most remote corners of the earth to study primitive populations only to discover that they had no need of a dentist! He surmised that this may have depended on the type of diet they ate and he had their foods analyzed, discovering that their diets were about tenfold richer in vitamin A and D than that of coeval Americans.

North Americans at that time were already making ample use of processed food. Let us recall that industrial processing of food products deprives them of their most precious parts - vitamins and anti-oxidants - the latter being removed because they make food more exposed to bacterial attacks (bacteria love anti-oxidants, they'd never give them up, as we do!), making foodstuffs more perishable and inappropriate for large scale distribution. Pity that they are exactly what makes us stay healthy.

WHAT WE NEED TO STAY HEALTHY

At the end of his research on primitive populations, Price concluded that "the common denominator of good health was a traditional dietary regime based on fresh food, obtained from animals that graze on fields and plants that grow in soil which are also rich in nutritious elements". He had, basically, already discovered the link that binds the quality of human health to food quality, and the quality of the terrain in which it is raised/cultivated.


Unploughed soil

To be continuedt next week: “The price of eating ORGANIC”, the whole truth on the loss of nutritional value in food products that are cultivated by traditional means.

TO BE CONTINUED Why is Going Organic Worthwhile? More about the impact on our health of the loss of nutrients in conventional food and how to save money and still eat organic

SOURCES

XI° Rapporto nazionale sulle politiche della cronicita', A cura di Tonino Aceti, Maria Teresa Bressi

L'epoca della longevità (the age of longevity) 

Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food, Jo Robinson, The New York Times

BIBLIOGRAPHY

In Defence of Food, Michael Pollan

Against the Grain How Agriculture has Hyjacked Civilization, Richard Manning