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“the plural of anecdote is not data” . . . part 2 of 4

Robyn Openshaw - Jul 01, 2008 - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links

We have some strange logical fallacies that cause us to NOT learn what health and nutrition really are.   (That, and lots of voices compete in the world of nutrition, so the field truly can be confusing.)

First, let’s say Sue hears from her neighbor that eating caterpillars will straighten her baby’s bow legs.   So she collects a bunch of caterpillars and feeds them to the baby, who gags, refuses to eat most of the mashed caterpillar even though Sue hides them in Twinkies, gets diarrhea . . . and still has bow legs.   Sue says, “These ‘natural’ things don’t work–I’m going back to the M.D. who is a true SCIENTIST.”

Second, I have sister-in-law who writes off all the natural-healing folks as crazy because she has a sister-in-law who believes anything she hears and buys every supplement, product, gadget.   And said sister-in-law is none the healthier for it.   (This reminds me of someone who doesn’t believe in marriage because her ex-spouse was a jerk.)

Third, I have a family member who has basically discarded all information.   “They told us oatmeal would cure heart disease.   Then they told us it didn’t,” she says.   Her conclusion?   “I don’t listen to them anymore.”   She’s tuned “them” out.   (“Them” being all science, all studies, all media–essentially all new information.)  

So many things are wrong with these conclusions.   We have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bath water, like in the oatmeal example.   Or, we just don’t go down the path far enough to differentiate those with a true and deep knowledge base (Bernard Jensen, Joel Fuhrman, Robert O. Young, etc.) from the snake-oil, quack, purveyors of priestcraft–or, more innocuous, those who really believe in their product that is rather unproven.

I’m as skeptical of (while friendlier toward) natural cure claims as I am of Big Pharma and the medical institution.   (I do think the “cures” of the former are more innocuous than the “cures” of the latter, and some of them can be effective.)   You can find a lot of voodoo under the banner of “alternative healing.”  

The good thing about nutritional healing is that the evidence is beyond substantial–it’s an avalanche–that plant foods heal and prevent disease and create healthy populations.   Notice that I stay away from promoting this or that vitamin supplement (scientific efficacy being far from proven, and IMO sketchy at best whether they help us at ALL).

Notice that I don’t promote all the concentrated, pasteurized juices whose “evidence” is always just anecdotal.   Note that I don’t promote miracle cures for cancer, which I think might be worth your time and money if you have money to burn and you’re sure trying it won’t hurt you–but they should be supplementary to a GreenSmoothieGirl diet, not in lieu of!  

Tomorrow, an excerpt from the 12 Steps to Whole Foods introduction, a crash course on how to evaluate the deluge of nutrition and health data you read in the news.


Posted in: Health Concerns, Preventive Care, Whole Food

6 thoughts on ““the plural of anecdote is not data” . . . part 2 of 4”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    My cholesterol goes down with oatmeal! 🙂 It’s better than any Big Pharma drug on the market for cholesterol. No side effects unless you suffer from gout.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You said, “The good thing about nutritional healing is that the evidence is beyond substantial–it’s an avalanche–that plant foods heal and prevent disease and create healthy populations.”

    To me that’s part of the beauty of God’s creation and the Word of Wisdom. While we do live in a fallen world, Heavenly Father has given us everything we need to take care of ourselves. If we eat plants, get the rest we need, exercise our bodies, and have faith, we should be able to achieve health that is as optimal as possible on this earth.


  3. Anonymous says:

    I totally agree Robyn! It is so hard to know what to believe these days – there is so much contradictory information out there.

    That being said, I really appreciate and have enjoyed all of the information on your website. I have incorporated a quart of green smoothie into my diet everyday for the last few weeks. (Also, I just completed a 3 week cleanse – the Arise & Shine.) After reading through your site, especially this blog and the 12-step blog, I was pretty much ready to sign on to your 12-step program (albeit a little late in the year here). But . . .

    I just got the happy news that I am pregnant (after trying unsuccessfully for about 4 years)! My husband and I decided not to go the medical intervention route (we already have one daughter who is five and was conceived without a problem). I’m wondering what exactly I should be doing diet-wise now that I know I am pregnant. I still plan on drinking the green smoothies everyday (I love them and think they are amazing nutritionally). I just wondered if you had any other advice for a confused mother-to-be?

  4. http:// says:

    Congratulations!! Very exciting! I can’t advise you about medical issues, but I will say that this (12 Steps) is essentially the diet I used with my last three (healthiest) pregnancies, and the kids are smart and healthy. It also just happens to be a smart approach to health perfect for raising the kids after they’re born, too.

    That you did Arise & Shine right BEFORE your pregnancy is absolutely perfect. You may have read at the beginning of my blog last year about my own infertility story, which I believe good nutrition ended. I would also recommend to anyone struggling with infertility to read Toni Wechsler’s Taking Charge of Your Fertility.

    I am changing the language on the site to not confuse: it doesn’t matter when you start, but January is just when I kicked the program off. I have had as many people start every other month, this year, as January, so you’re in great company!

  5. Oh, I’m glad you posted that last bit about starting whenever because I was wondering about that. I’m also curious about pregnancy diets since my husband and I have been trying for several months now. My sister gave me some prenatal vitamins which she says I should be taking even now. I’ve recently read a blog that was saying that most prenatals have synthetic vitamins. I don’t really know what that means. I don’t really like taking pills, I guess it just feels unnatural or something. What should I do with that big jar of vitamins she gave me?

  6. http:// says:

    Synthetic just means that you’re getting a chemical, man-made version of a nutrient. So, not only is it isolated from food, it was never part of food in the first place. JuicePlus is a nutritionals company that uses most if not all natural ingredients in its supplements, although as you’ve probably read, I’m a fan of getting 100% of your nutrients from food, which would obviate the need for vitamins altogether. I am particularly concerned about people eating iron supplements, which causes constipation and other problems for pregnant women. Your body simply does not recognize and use synthetic supplements for building and repair, like it recognizes and uses food. If you have big jars of pills in your cupboards that you’ll never use, you’re in good company. 😉

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