Biocomplexity, Apples and Vitamin C

Last year, exasperated by the strange obsession I was hearing from the world around me about the ‘correct’ fat, carbohydrate and protein ratios, I posted the following on my Facebook page:

“APPLES have fat in them- quite a high amount actually, for a fruit. They also have a little protein, not much- but it is there, and nutrition isn’t all about quantity, it’s about diversity and quality and the way plant chemicals combine together. Do you want to hear which proteins (amino acids) are in apples?

Asparagine, Tryptophan, Threonine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lycine, Methionine, Cysteine, Phenylalanine, Proline, Serine, Glutamic acid, Glycine, Tyrosine, Valine, Argenine, Histidine, Alanine, Aspartic Acid.

There are many, many other nutrients in Apples, like Vitamin A, B1, B2, and B6, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Folic acid, Vitamin C and Vitamin E, Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Pottassium, Selenium, Sodium, and Zinc.

Then there are some other ones you might not have heard about, like Alpha-Linolenic-Acid, D-Categin, Isoqurctrin, Hyperoside, Ferulic-Acid, Farnesene, Neoxathin, Phosphatidyl-Choline, Reynoutrin, Sinapic-Acid, Caffeic-Acid, Chlorogenic-Acid, P-Hydroxy-Benzoic-Acid, P-Coumaric-Acid, Avicularin, Lutein, Quercitin, Rutin, Ursolic-Acid, Protocatechuic-Acid, and Silver.

Then there are the ones that we haven’t discovered yet….
Diet is about more than just segregating foods into broad food groups, like carbs, fat and protein.”

Now I have just come across a section in a book I’m reading that made me laugh, because the writer has also chosen apples to demonstrate biocomplexity. What is it with apples!? Perhaps it’s the “apple a day keeps the doctor away” folk wisdom that stirs our holistic interest when attempting to bust people out of reductionist nutritional thinking.

I can’t resist sharing from this book, because it really does make for fascinating reading. Have you heard of “Whole”? The subtitle is “Rethinking the Science of Nutrition”, by T. Colin Campbell, PhD with Howard Jacobson PhD.

Chapter 11 is titled Reductionist Supplementation, a topic close to my heart! I’m forever attempting to explain to people why supplements are a poor second cousin to the far superior whole plant-food and this chapter does it quite well.

Colin tells a story about a friend and research colleague of his who was curious about exactly what it was in apples that made them health for us. This gentleman’s father was a well -known herbalist in China and as a child he has helped his father make herbal remedies. His upbringing made him familiar with more holistic perspectives on health on nutrition, which perhaps helped him think outside the square when it came to his apple research.

Dr Liu and his research steam started by focusing on the vitamin C content of apples and its antioxidant effect (scientists love antioxidants). They discovered that half a cup of apples have an antioxidant, vitamin-C like activity equivalent to 1.500 mg of vitamin C, which is about 3 times the amount found in a typical vitamin C supplement. But when they chemically analysed the half a cup of apple, they found only 5.7 mg of vitamin C.

“The vitamin C-like activity from 100mg of whole apple was an astounding 263 times as potent as the same amount of isolated chemical! Said another way, the specific chemical we refer to as vitamin C accounts for much less than 1 percent of the vitamin C-like activity in the apple – a minuscule amount. The other 99-plus percent of this activity is due to other vitamin C-like chemicals in the apple, the possible ability of vitamin C to be much more effective in context of the whole apple than it is when consumed in an isolated form, or both.”

“If we just take an isolated vitamin C pill, we miss out on the cast of “supporting characters” that may give vitamin C its potency. Even if we add many of those characters into the pill too, which some manufacturers have done with bioflavonoids, we are still assuming that whatever is in the apple and not the pill is somehow unimportant.”

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