World of Chem: Food March 27 – The Health Food Business
The Health Food Business
Hippocrates was the first to suggest that food had medicinal value. Thought lettuce cooled the
body and good for passion; pigeon droppings were good for balding. Said flax is great for the
intestines, but this is actually true – high in fiber and omega-3 fats.
Eating for the prevention of disease? Prevention is easier than cure.
Sylvester Graham 1700s – known as “Dr. No” because he said no meat, spices, caffeine, alcohol
or doctors! So the replacement for meat was the graham cracker made of whole wheat. Marketed
as the world‟s first anti-sex food (he was against sex).
o First person to suggest “you are what you eat”
o Hippocrates said “let thy food be thy medicine” – focused on curing disease with food
whereas Sylvester thought about preventing disease with food.
Health food stores have foods that have no evidence supporting their claims
Natural: no legal definition but generally assumed that a food is natural if there are no additives.
Assumed (falsely) that „natural‟ is healthier and safer. e.g. coniine in a plant.
Organic: no additives, no “chemical fertilizers”, no synthetic pesticides and no genetically
People buy organic for three reasons:
1. For what it does not contain (pesticide residues)
2. For what it does contain (more nutrients)
3. Environmental concerns
But most conventional produce will have some pesticide residues (but very little). An apple can
have up to 36 pesticides! Thus 36 registered pesticides for use on an apple.
80% of fresh foods tested are residue-free. For processed foods, the residue-free portion is 90%.
Organic agriculture uses pesticides. But they have to be registered as organic e.g. copper sulfate,
a natural substance.
Parkinson‟s disease has been linked to natural pesticide Rotenone. Thus Rotenone taken off the
market in Canada.
Bacillus thuringiensis (bt) can be sprayed on organic agricultural fields because it produces the bt
toxin that can kill insects. Safe to humans because the toxin is immediately broken down in our
o If gene that codes for bt toxin is taken out and put into crops (like bt corn) it is not
allowed to be called organic.
o But the whole bt genome can be sprayed on crops and be called organic!
Is organic more nutritious? No.
o Nutrients depend on variety type, soil quality, fertilizers, crop rotations, maturity at
harvest, and transportation.
A study found that salicylic acid was found at a higher level in organic foods.
o Salicylic acid is good in our body – it has an anticoagulant ability. Reduces risk of heart
o Method: organic soups have 6 times more salicylic acid. (0.06 mg vs. 0.01 mg)
o Meaningless amount – so little!
“Night soil” – manure used in organic produce as fertilizer. Manure can harbour bacteria. Thus
organic agriculture is not safer. World of Chem: Food March 27 – The Health Food Business
Organic worth it in baby food – organs are forming. Pesticide residue that does not harm an adult
may have some effect on a baby. A child is not a small adult. The body chemistry is different.
Is “organic” really organic?
o Nobody checks if something really is organic.
o Organic farmers have to sign a form but it‟s based on trust.
o There are inspectors who randomly inspect farms and test the produce but the testing is
rare compared to the number of farmers.
Marketing – they make a lot of money from organic foods.
o Natural lemon flavored crème pie ingredients: sodium propionate, sodium benzoate,
certified color and vegetable. You don‟t expect additives in a natural product. The lemon
flavour is natural, not the lemon pie!
o All natural jelly beans – no synthetic colour but definitely not present in nature!
o Organic soybean fed hormone free poultry products – not way it is hormone free because
the chicken itself has hormones. All chickens are raised without hormones!
Fit For Life: book by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond
o No scientific knowledge
o They are advocates of food combining: you must be careful of what you eat with what.
No scientific evidence! But you do end up eating fewer calories.
Supplements: polypharmacy – people buy numerous supplements because someone behind the
health food store counter tells them so (who may not have any scientific knowledge)
Herbal medicine is the most ancient form of medicine. Sumerians used poppy and mandrake root.
o Digitalis from foxglove
o 1673 The Apothecaries‟ garden in London: every medicinal plant known was planted.
Specialized areas for different diseases
Anti-inflammatory (if you suffer from gout) – autumn crocus-colchicine
Lung disease – belladonna (dilates the bronchial tubes)
o How widespread is the use of herbal products?
40% people used an herbal remedy within the last 12 months.
2.3 different herbs per person.
“To improve general health”. “Because herbals are natural”.
40% used herbals before seeking medical help.
50% did not inform physicians that they were using herbals.
o Composition: not very well regulated. Hard to know composition of herbal medicine.
Echinacea from purple cone flower. Used to be in Clark Stanley‟s Snake Oil.
Supplements do not say anything about composition.
Pharmaceutical companies are making it too – Benylin.
o Efficacy: how well do the herbal supplements work?
Meta-analysis concluded that there is no clinical significance of efficacy.
Placebo effect may account for people thinking the supplements are working.
o Ginseng root – resembles the human body.
Study: ginseng has a positive effect on cancers
But can have side effects because of hormonal properties World of Chem: Food March 27 – The Health Food Business
Cold-FX uses American ginseng which have compounds that have immune
system boosting polysaccharides. But just because it happens in a petri dish does
not mean it will happen in the human body.
o Saw palmetto berry has been claimed to have decreased urination frequency. But
scientific evidence shows it does not – thus placebo effect.
o Ginkgo biloba – leaves of ginkgo trees.
Claims to have an effect on memory – only a hypothesis.
Does increase circulation in the brain.
But study showed ginkgo does not facilitate performance in learning, memory,
attention or concentration.
o Garlic is also promoted to be beneficial
Ancient Egyptians gave garlic to slaves for energy
Adolphus Hohensee, a nutritionist, advocated the benefits of garlic
Does contain a compound called allicin which has hypertension reducing
properties and cholesterol lowering properties. Allicin forms when garlic is
crushed or when it is heated; not in the garlic itself.
Adolphus does not suggest you crush or heat it – he suggested that you shove it
up your ass and you breathe garlic in the morning.
Garlic supplements without much labeling. But there is one „standardized garlic
tablets‟ – standardized allicin yield.
But no scientific evidence according to a study.
o Purity: 8 of 22 ginseng supplements sold in the U.S. contained unacceptable levels of the
pesticides quintozene and hexacholorobenzene, a probable human carcinogen.
Heavy metals, undeclared pharmaceuticals.
“Qian Er” and “Ma Zin Dol” sold as herbal appetite suppressants worked