Yesterday, I posted a short video on why food science can’t be trusted…
Today, I’m going to offer a little more clarity while I answer this important question from Nicole:
“I recently read that alfalfa sprouts should not be eaten because it can inhibit the immune system and may contribute to inflammatory arthritis and lupus. It said alfalfa seeds contain the amino acid canavanine, which can be toxic to man and animals when congested in large quantities? (However that amino acid is not in the mature plant because it is metabolized during growth). Is this one of those things where I should be looking at it the way you are talking. As a whole it should be fine? What is considered large quantities? Just a little confused about this.”
Nicole, I’m glad you asked this question.
Your confusion is the same confusion that is echoed by thousands and thousands of people who are turning to the web (which is a good thing in most cases) for health information and research.
Our science has muddied our perception of foods.
It’s turned them into isolated, sterile compounds, not a gift of nourishment from nature.
In this case, regarding alfalfa sprouts and the amino acid canavanine, you can search PubMed.com and find research that explains how this amino acid in large amounts can be toxic.
At first glance, you would assume that maybe you shouldn’t eat alfalfa.
And, if you read a little further, the study implicates another non-protein amino acid that’s found in lentils as well. This amino acid, similar to canavanine is called homoarginine.
Homoarginine has been shown to have negative effects on the heart.
Does that mean lentils are toxic too?
It would if your research stopped on the first page.
But if you dug a little deeper you’d find another study that found small amount of canavanine, the same “toxic” substance in alfalfa showed increased longevity in mice.
Even more confusing, a search on the amino acid homoarginine, an amino acid in lentils show that it can be GOOD for the heart as well.
So, what is it? Good or bad?
Well, in the case of canavanine, neither of these studies are that relevant to us.
One, we’re not eating enough alfalfa to reach the “large” amounts that would have any strong effect on the body. (In fact, this small study was done with animal feed – they eat a bunch more sprouts than we do!)
Second, the longevity study was done on mice. So it’s not really relevant for humans either.
What you have here is now a bunch of useless (at least to humans) information that has clouded the internet and the minds of those who really just want to do the right thing when it comes to their health and just about everything else.
We also have to look at the source of the information as well, right?
One of the studies done on homoarginine was published in a journal called “Food and Chemical Toxology.”
Don’t you think they’d be interested in pushing the envelope in terms of the amounts of substance used? Particularly if they’re looking to identify toxic levels?
Don’t you also think that they likely can’t explore these findings on humans due to ethical considerations? You can’t test toxic substances (unless you’re a pharmaceutical company) on the population at large and see what happens.
So where does this lead us?
Nowhere and everywhere.
Until people, myself included, can remove ourselves from our model of science to “prove” our points, we’re always going to be wrong.
You can’t prove a point, there’s always a counterpoint. And if there isn’t, a study can be fashioned to make one.
Eventually some people will realize that this breaking down and isolation of nutrients doesn’t mean anything besides what it is… the breaking down and isolation of nutrients.
It may, in fact, serve a purpose (definitely for the mice) but not for what we should or should not eat.
Like I’ve expressed before, if we were to isolate almost anything in a food and eat a whole bunch of it, we’d at least get a stomach ache or worse – it may actually compromise our system.
Our science has brought us away from the 1000′s of years of unbothered human eating.
At one time, we were worried about finding enough food.
Now we have too much and think it’s all poison.
The science needs to stay in the lab, and we need to stay in the garden.
If we do, we’ll be alright.
So Nicole, please eat your alfalfa sprouts. Eat a bunch and enjoy them.
(And if you have extra feed them to the mice!)
Enough from me…
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