Monday, 11 December 2017

SPIN@GE USA Beware of the Bull: The United States Department of Agriculture is Spreading Bull about Spinach, Iron and Vitamin C on the Internet


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SPIN@GE USA Beware of the Bull: The United States Department of Agriculture is Spreading Bull about Spinach, Iron and Vitamin C on the Internet

 
Article by Mike Sutton
The main aim of the article is to reveal and explain why the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is publishing harmful counterknowledge on the Internet to promote spinach consumption.
 
 
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Postscript 1 May 2012 by the author:
In light of the facts revealed in this paper, published by Best Thinking in 2011, I am grateful to the USDA for deleting their misleading spread sheet from the Internet, which claimed that drinking Florida grapefruit juice would help humans to absorb two to four times as much iron from spinach as would otherwise be possible. I now have another request for the USDA: Given that a pregnant woman would need to eat at least 14 pounds or 6kg (yes 6kg!) of spinach every single day, to have the slightest chance of absorbing her recommended daily amount of iron from that source alone, isn't it about time that you ceased promoting spinach as a good source of iron in your nutrition tables? Otherwise, it appears that the USDA might well be promoting agricultural interests over those of individuals. This is an important issue because low iron levels is one of the major nutrition problems among women in the USA, leading to disability and early death. Moreover, the most common source of poisoning of children in the USA is from young children overdosing on iron pills in the home. If proper advice is not given regarding the best nutritional food sources of iron then it seems reasonable to hypothesise that more supplements will be taken - leading to more infants suffering from accidental iron overdose.

*****

The main aim of the article is to reveal and explain why the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is publishing harmful counterknowledge on the Internet to promote spinach consumption.
The story in this article has never before been told and, because of the complexity of the subject matter, could fairly be described as long and involved. It is written and published in the public interest with the hope that it will bring influence to bear upon the USDA to cease promoting spinach as a good source of iron and to cease publishing potentially harmful counterknowledge about the benefits of vitamin C as an aid to iron absorption from spinach for those who are low in iron.
A personal anecdote
Last year I got married. In June 2010 my American in-laws, flew over from New York as guests for the wedding in Nottingham, England. Two of them, Elorie Stevens and Dawn Manning, are social work managers in Massachusetts. Both are black Jamaican American women. Both have low iron levels.
At a sunny back garden barbeque the week after the wedding Elorie and Dawn listened indulgently as the topic of conversation was humorously turned by my wife Elaine from serial killers to my crime research on the impact of bad data upon policymaking.
Elaine, with a curious mixture of pride outweighed by amusement, told how my latest research had dragged me out of my social science criminology comfort zone into the field of biochemistry myth busting about spinach (Sutton 2010a; 2010b). Elorie and Dawn were amused but also agog to hear that, contrary to popular belief, spinach is not a good nutritional source of iron. Both were advised by their primary health providers to eat spinach in order to get more iron from their diet, and both had been religiously eating it ever since.
Good grief! Why?” I asked.
Background Information
I told Elorie and Dawn that they had been fed a load of old bull and that they would be better off eating eggs, liver and red meat and perhaps – but I was not sure - dried apricots. What really annoyed me at the time, and to this day, is that I am a social science criminologist, not a medical doctor, nutritionist or biochemist, and yet I know more about iron nutrition than their general medical practitioners across the Atlantic. Surely that can’t be right.
As a criminologist, with no formal education in nutrition or bio-chemistry, I began my research in this area by studying scholarly work on nutrition written by orthodox experts who conducted scientific research and supported all of their assertions with verifiable references. It was, as they say, a steep learning curve.
Iron, I learned, is an essential part of most living organisms on Earth. Low iron is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the USA and in the world (Ackerman, 2003). A sufficient supply of iron in our diet is essential for human health, while too much is toxic. Overdosing on iron pills is a leading cause of childhood poisoning (Morris 2000; Tenenbein 2005). People who have low stores of iron in their body often feel tired, lack energy and may have spoon shaped nails.
In 2010, I published two articles that debunked a widely held belief in what turns out to be a long standing myth about spinach. In those articles I showed that what I call the Spinach Popeye Decimal Error Story (SPIDES) is a two-pronged myth. Firstly, because the cartoon character Popeye in fact ate spinach for vitamin A (Sutton 2010 a) and never for iron, and secondly because – despite what you might read on countless websites and in orthodox and authoritative academic textbooks and scholarly articles - there never was a 19th century typographical decimal error made in recording the iron content of spinach (Sutton 2010b), and furthermore there was no long-standing erroneous 19th Century data that remained influential in the 20th Century until German scientists re-checked the figures in the 1930’s.
 
Postscript 1 May 2012 by the author:
In light of the facts revealed in this paper, published by Best Thinking in 2011, I am grateful to the USDA for deleting their misleading spread sheet from the Internet, which claimed that drinking Florida grapefruit juice would help humans to absorb two to four times as much iron from spinach as would otherwise be possible. I now have another request for the USDA: Given that a pregnant woman would need to eat at least 14 pounds or 6kg (yes 6kg!) of spinach every single day, to have the slightest chance of absorbing her recommended daily amount of iron from that source alone, isn't it about time that you ceased promoting spinach as a good source of iron in your nutrition tables? Otherwise, it appears that the USDA might well be promoting agricultural interests over those of individuals. This is an important issue because low iron levels is one of the major nutrition problems among women in the USA, leading to disability and early death. Moreover, the most common source of poisoning of children in the USA is from young children overdosing on iron pills in the home. If proper advice is not given regarding the best nutritional food sources of iron then it seems reasonable to hypothesise that more supplements will be taken - leading to more infants suffering from accidental iron overdose.

*****

The main aim of the article is to reveal and explain why the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is publishing harmful counterknowledge on the Internet to promote spinach consumption.
The story in this article has never before been told and, because of the complexity of the subject matter, could fairly be described as long and involved. It is written and published in the public interest with the hope that it will bring influence to bear upon the USDA to cease promoting spinach as a good source of iron and to cease publishing potentially harmful counterknowledge about the benefits of vitamin C as an aid to iron absorption from spinach for those who are low in iron.
A personal anecdote
Last year I got married. In June 2010 my American in-laws, flew over from New York as guests for the wedding in Nottingham, England. Two of them, Elorie Stevens and Dawn Manning, are social work managers in Massachusetts. Both are black Jamaican American women. Both have low iron levels.
At a sunny back garden barbeque the week after the wedding Elorie and Dawn listened indulgently as the topic of conversation was humorously turned by my wife Elaine from serial killers to my crime research on the impact of bad data upon policymaking.
Elaine, with a curious mixture of pride outweighed by amusement, told how my latest research had dragged me out of my social science criminology comfort zone into the field of biochemistry myth busting about spinach (Sutton 2010a; 2010b). Elorie and Dawn were amused but also agog to hear that, contrary to popular belief, spinach is not a good nutritional source of iron. Both were advised by their primary health providers to eat spinach in order to get more iron from their diet, and both had been religiously eating it ever since.
Good grief! Why?” I asked.
Background Information
I told Elorie and Dawn that they had been fed a load of old bull and that they would be better off eating eggs, liver and red meat and perhaps – but I was not sure - dried apricots. What really annoyed me at the time, and to this day, is that I am a social science criminologist, not a medical doctor, nutritionist or biochemist, and yet I know more about iron nutrition than their general medical practitioners across the Atlantic. Surely that can’t be right.
As a criminologist, with no formal education in nutrition or bio-chemistry, I began my research in this area by studying scholarly work on nutrition written by orthodox experts who conducted scientific research and supported all of their assertions with verifiable references. It was, as they say, a steep learning curve.
Iron, I learned, is an essential part of most living organisms on Earth. Low iron is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the USA and in the world (Ackerman, 2003). A sufficient supply of iron in our diet is essential for human health, while too much is toxic. Overdosing on iron pills is a leading cause of childhood poisoning (Morris 2000; Tenenbein 2005). People who have low stores of iron in their body often feel tired, lack energy and may have spoon shaped nails.
In 2010, I published two articles that debunked a widely held belief in what turns out to be a long standing myth about spinach. In those articles I showed that what I call the Spinach Popeye Decimal Error Story (SPIDES) is a two-pronged myth. Firstly, because the cartoon character Popeye in fact ate spinach for vitamin A (Sutton 2010 a) and never for iron, and secondly because – despite what you might read on countless websites and in orthodox and authoritative academic textbooks and scholarly articles - there never was a 19th century typographical decimal error made in recording the iron content of spinach (Sutton 2010b), and furthermore there was no long-standing erroneous 19th Century data that remained influential in the 20th Century until German scientists re-checked the figures in the 1930’s.

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