An Inconvenient Truth
Why It Matters that the Whole is Greater than the Sum of the Parts
Western medicine has been parsing body parts for so long researchers have lost sight of the fact that parts of a system don’t operate independently – which makes the illogic of isolating parts of a body for treatment, or isolating elements of a plant as remedy, inescapable. This idea gains traction when you realize that the billions spent on drug discovery targeting body parts have not significantly reduced the incidence of catastrophic and chronic illness. And it becomes crystal clear that health is a matter of systemic balance within the whole when you consider the necessary relationship between gut bug populations and health / well being. Just this week we read that a disturbance of the most common protein in the body, collagen, correlates with a poor outcome in pancreatic cancer and that six previously-identified plant extracts can delay aging by affecting different signalling pathways that set the pace of growing old. Research reports now appear almost daily giving witness to the conviction that medical treatment is most effective when treating the body as an integrated whole. The change in direction for cancer treatment from the search for drugs to target cancer cells activity to a much more promising effort, that of harnessing the body’s immune system, is a case in point and very welcome.
Along those lines we draw your attention to a report from Johns Hopkins stating that calcium isolated in supplements can be deleterious to health while calcium in whole foods can contribute to health, and especially to the health of your bones.
This is of course an inconvenient truth. Calcium plus D has become a pied-piper mantra drawing millions of people to frantically overdose when they find that a modicum of the mineral did not redress bone density or bone flexibility loss. The perils of too much isolated calcium cannot be overstated. Yet believing there are quick fixes for the most nuanced delicate chemical balances – a marketer’s wizardry – has made popping pills a fixed cultural feature that has cured little and hurt many.
Inconvenient as the Johns Hopkins report clearly is, we highlight it because your health depends in large part on remembering that in nature – plants, animals, insects, social systems – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and the parts are organic, dynamic, interactive and interdependent. They exist in specific balance and remain healthy when the balances are sustained.
You know where this is going. When supplementing your diet, where it needs to be supplemented, avoid isolates – elements mechanically extracted from the whole – and instead consume whole foods. In the book we have detailed the dangers of isolated calcium as it can travel to joints and blood vessels instead of to bone. Likewise the dangers of the ubiquitous soy isolates alone would make you cringe. Common sense says that the expense involved in consuming ineffective if not harmful isolated ingredients is not just money down the drain but eventual disillusionment and ultimately lost opportunity to strengthen your body – your whole body – with natural, whole food.