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The Irrational Persistence of Conventional Wisdom. Argh.

March 2, 2010

Today started off to being a good day.  Ever since I’ve “gone Primal” I have hoped to eat grass fed beef as opposed to the corn-fed meat commonly found in most grocery stores.  Grass fed beef is not only a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, it’s also hormone and antibiotic free.  I have a good friend who recently alerted me that the local grocery store chain had added grass-fed beef to their organic/health market area.  Living in South Dakota, one would think obtaining grass fed beef would be easy.  But on the retail front, the only other local option I have found has been at our local co-op where bison meat is available, but not grass fed beef.  Grass fed beef is about a $1/lbs. more expensive, but in terms of health, I’d rather spend a little extra as opposed to suffer some odd malady because I was eating food I knew to be sub-standard.  So, with the prospect of finding grass fed beef and adding it to my diet, I was a happy camper today.

I placed my purchase into the refrigerator for it to thaw for tomorrow night’s dinner.  I jumped on the internet and as I was perusing the grocery store’s website to see what other plans they might have to improve my health and that of my fellow South Dakotans, I came across a “service” the chain also offers – a partnership with NuVal. (Cue the sinister music.)

Before talking about Nu-Val, have you ever heard of Dr. David Katz?  He’s another by-product of Oprah’s long succession of mainstreaming docs into making them household names alongside Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz.  Katz is an internal medicine physician by trade, but he has a hard time coming to terms with what Paleo/Primal is really all about.  He also has a hard time admitting a low carb diet is superior in this post by Dr. Michael Eades.  The opinion of Katz is closely mirrored by Dr. Ornish and Barry Sears.  That means, of course, the study must be flawed and they all know better, right?  (Sarcasm……sorry about that…)  Jimmy Moore, a popular low-carb personality also takes exception to Katz. Clearly Katz is Conventional Wisdom at its best.

OK, back to NuVal.  NuVal is a nutritional scoring system.  They use the “ONQI” algorithm to determine the nutritional value of food and the score is placed on the food by the price.  Designed to help shoppers pick better foods, NuVal looks to be a dream come true.  Sadly, the dream is short lived.  The ONQI factor uses a numerator and denominator to arrive at the score.  “Nutrients considered to have generally favorable effects on health are placed in the numerator, where higher values increase the NuVal Score.”  These items include the amount of fiber, vitamins, omega-3’s, magnesium, etc.  Sounds good.   “Nutrients with generally unfavorable effects on health are placed in the denominator, where higher values decrease the NuVal Score.”  These items include trans fat, sodium, sugar, cholesterol and saturated fat.  Uh…saturated fat.  Problem.

When you review the scores, it’s almost comical.  But sad at the same time.  Coconut earns a score of 24 while bananas rank at 91.  Chicken breast earns a score of 39 while Unprocessed Wheat Bran earns a score of 100.  My how far Conventional Wisdom has come – about 2 inches.  And the genius behind NuVal is… guessed it.  Dr. David Katz.


Next thing ya know – we’re going to hear NuVal is fronted by Monsanto.

The idea of a nutritional labeling system is noble.  Having a system to assist people make better choices is better than nothing I suppose.  It’s just sad that the topics of saturated fat and quality carbohydrates are still misunderstood.  If only Conventional Wisdom could be replaced by Primal Wisdom, this subject would be unnecessary.  Then we’d all understand that if it’s packaged and processed, we just leave it on the shelf.

Conventional Wisdom is persistent indeed.  But bear in mind, Primal has been around just a bit longer.

Just a bit.

What do you think?  Should we have a nutritional labeling system or should we determine a guide for shoppers to use?  How can we bring Conventional Wisdom to its knees?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 2, 2010 8:36 am

    Here in VA we have Whole Foods. I was disappointed to go in the other day and see copies of The China Study, and also Dean Ornish’s book sitting on top of the salad bar. Come to find out, whole foods is pushing the higher carb thing big time. It really blows my mind, whole wheat as opposed to chicken breast?? Unfortunately, I see no way back for the main stream. It has just been too many years of the same old dogma. I do see hope, though, in the underground paleo movement. More and more people are realizing a healthier way of eating everyday. I don’t think, though, we’ll ever see Oprah or anyone with significant outreach potential, pushing paleo anytime soon.

    • March 2, 2010 8:50 am

      I think you’re right about the mainstream, but I also want to believe that we can change the world one person at a time. There is a resurgence of people who want to know more about being Primal/Paleo. Mark’s book is in the tops for Amazon as is Loren’s. On a personal note, everyone is always curious about the Vibrams when worn. I think people are looking for answers everyday. We can’t rely on the government to effect change. We know that. So it’s up to us to spread that message and walk the talk.

  2. March 2, 2010 9:41 am

    I agree that it’s got to be by word of mouth, by doing the research, being open minded, longing to find out what’s best for our bodies, and then doing it. Too many people don’t care yet about their health and fitness. They’re still in the ‘quick fix’ ‘quick and easy’ mind frame. I think too many people are lemmings, they want to follow what the majority are doing, because if the majority are doing it, it must be right. LOL. People don’t want to take the time to educate themselves on how to have a healthier, happier life. I wonder if Mark Sisson sent Oprah a complementary book, telling her how she could lose weight and feel better, if she would be open minded enough to read it, then advocate it?? Food for thought.

    Great post today!

    • March 2, 2010 10:07 am

      Great point. Word of Mouth is powerful marketing. With all the junk in today’s fitness, having someone tell you what they did, you see and hear the results (plus the cholesterol/blood screening results) – and you can’t help but feel this is THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

      Getting Mark on Oprah – holy cow! I could already see the ladies swooning at his 6-pack picture and then find out he’s 55. That book would fly off the shelves in no time.

  3. March 2, 2010 12:29 pm

    Lisa, I agree as well! Instead of following any dogma, it’s simply best to base off personal experience. I believe we are looking TOO much in the direction of what others have to offer, instead of listening to our own bodies.

    In regards to the NuVal approach, I believe the moment we stop analyzing things based on independent macro or micronutrients, we are then headed in the best direction. Nutrients in and of themselves are not found independently in nature. We don’t just have omega 3 fatty acids sitting around waiting to be eaten, but grass fed beef, yes (provided you have a source 🙂 There is simply too much focus in the wrong areas. I think the synergistic effect of foods could be something worth looking into.

    great info!

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