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nutrient absorption

2007-02-27 00:47:38.438808+00 by Dan Lyke 5 comments

A little Scientific American squib pimping the forthcoming book The Gospel of Food: Everything You Think You Know about Food Is Wrong says that people absorb more nutrients from foods they enjoy more (via Rebecca Blood).

When it comes to healthy absorption of nutrients, taste matters. Glassner cites a study in which "Swedish and Thai women were fed a Thai dish that the Swedes found overly spicy. The Thai women, who liked the dish, absorbed more iron from the meal. When the researchers reversed the experiment and served hamburger, potatoes, and beans, the Swedes, who like this food, absorbed more iron. Most telling was a third variation of the experiment, in which both the Swedes and the Thais were given food that was high in nutrients but consisted of a sticky, savorless paste. In this case, neither group absorbed much iron."

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comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2007-02-27 16:45:49.763932+00 by: dexev

I'm not going to buy the book to find out how the original experiment worked, but I can see an alternative explanation that makes more sense to me:

People absorb more nutrients from foods they eat more frequently. Our digestive systems are symbiotic -- there are multiple, specialized strains of bacteria in there, competing for food. The balance shifts over time to match our diets.

Eating more than a dozen or so (and that's if you're lucky) staple foods is a very recent development in human history. It wouldn't surprise me to find that our gut is optimized for an unchanging diet.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-02-27 16:55:52.169396+00 by: Dan Lyke

I want to track back to the original study, and I may end up buying the book although it's probably just a confirmation of my beliefs about food, but that explanation does make sense.

Don't know how you'd control for that, because the explanation that'd make sense is that it's the spices and condiments which would control what you're absorbing from the core material.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-02-27 18:11:15.100656+00 by: topspin [edit history]

Yeah, citing a study from 30yrs ago, Mr. Glassner is hardly on the cutting edge here.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-02-27 18:26:34.148175+00 by: Dan Lyke

I love Flutterby! Topspin does the hard searching so that I don't have to!

#Comment Re: made: 2007-02-27 18:27:07.096643+00 by: ebradway

dexev: interesting thought about the digestive system being "trained" for specific foods.

There are many interesting questions posed and I'd like to see Dan buy the book to fill us in. A question that comes to mind for me is how much one "enjoys" food is related to nutrative value of the food for that person.

I know some circles of edgy-nutritionists (raw foodists) believe that you can use food cravings to determine nutrition deficiencies. For instance, if you crave broccoli and broccoli tastes amazingly good to you, then there is something in broccoli that your body really needs.

Of course, this assumes a diet of simple, unprocessed foods. Processed foods, like potato chips and hot dogs, are designed to fool the body into cravings that don't match nutritional values.

And you definitely don't want your 7-year-old to get his hands on this book! You'll never get them to eat their veggies!