Monday, March 8, 2010

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Dr. T. Colin Campbell, emeritus professor of bio-nutrition at Cornell University and author of The China Study, has probably done more to establish the scientific credibility of plant-based nutrition than anyone. I was listening to a lecture by him today and he made an amazing point about how the body miraculously (my word) knows how to process the hundreds of thousands or millions of chemicals (he said we have no idea how many chemicals there are in whole foods) that it receives from whole plant foods in just one meal. And why synthetic "nutritional" supplements can never be a substitute for whole plant foods.

Say we take in just one chemical in a bite of food. When it reaches the stomach the body knows which enzymes to act on it to transform it into what the body needs. Then the body knows whether or not to allow that chemical to be absorbed through the stomach's lining into the bloodstream. If it is absorbed, the body knows which cells need or don't need that particular chemical. Within the cell, the body knows how to transform that chemical into what the cell needs.

But then, consider taking in two chemicals in a bite of food. The body then has to take into consideration the impact of those two chemicals on each other as an additional variable before making all the "assignments" I just mentioned. But then consider that there are tens, or hundreds of thousands, of chemicals in whole foods that are going into the body at a meal. I don't know how to do the math that would extrapolate the impact of all those chemicals on each other, plus the body then knowing how to account for those reactions before starting the operational assignments—but it must represent an amazingly complex number of "decisions."

Every micro-second of every day, Dr. Campbell said, the body is making these choices, decisions, and assignments on how to use the countless chemicals that it needs or doesn't need at any given point of time. The idea that scientists could possibly duplicate these chemical processes in a lab and create supplements to duplicate them is beyond reason, especially when we have no idea about the actual number and function of the myriad undiscovered phytonutrients contained in whole foods.

As a scientist, Dr. Campbell sees the body's ability as a result of evolution (I know nothing of his spiritual orientation). For me, what he described calls to mind the "fearfully and wonderfully made" phrase from Psalm 139:14.

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