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