Cleave in the “The Saccharine Disease” identified that processing damage to and removal of nutrients in refining of foods were underlying causes of ‘western disease’. He says Ch.2 (Link)
“AS stated in the Preface, there will be advanced in this work the conception of a single, ‘saccharine disease’, due to the consumption of refined carbohydrate foods, and with various manifestations in individual persons dependent on personal make-ups in the parts of the body affected.“
Cleave’s concept makes great sense, but his perspective;
“Of all the foods that exhibit an alteration from the natural state, the refined carbohydrates — represented in this country chiefly by sugar and white flour — exhibit the greatest. . .”
whilst inherently recognizing wider processing issues was primarily carbohydrate-centric, so only addressed part of the problem.
The issues underlying processing related issues common to all foods are;
- Oxidative, cross-linking, glycation and related damage to susceptible lipids and proteins.
- Removal of nutrients in refining including minerals, lipids and proteins.
- Related damage to food based antioxidants used by humans.
Oxidisation and nutrient stripping are equally applicable to refining and pre-oxidisation of oils, meats, and other foodstuffs, as to carbohydrates.
Arguably western diseases are consequences of the combination of oxidised food components including lipids proteins and other factors including antioxidants, and deficiencies of essential nutrients.
Common food stuffs including grains and meats contain a mix of easily oxidised proteins lipids and sugars, (as sugars or simple carbohydrates) essential minerals, and other nutrients including antioxidants, which are very susceptible to damage in processing.
Nutrient including mineral deficiencies are promulgated through the food chain by a mix of factors including falling mineral and organic content in soil, so declining nutrient quality of plants, so live stock, exacerbated by industrial farming and livestock husbandry practices.
This page will look briefly at the implications of industrial food processing on essential nutrient availability so health.
hose cultures that ate wheat and other grains products prepared from fresh ground or ‘processed’ grains were reported as having robust health; the Hunza, Sikhs, Scots and others tended to grind grains fresh for making into leavened and unleavened breads of various forms and were of above average physique.
Pre-grinding and storage of refined and unrefined flour is a product of ‘civilisation’, presumably to match available grinding capacity to demand, and for perceived convenience, which is understandable but probably not optimal for health, especially when flour is heavily refined treated bleached to increase ‘shelf life’ and stored for long periods.
Flour refining has a long history as set out in Ch2 of the Saccharine disease.
Removal of bran resulted in
- loss of fibre
- loss of minerals
- loss of other nutrients.
The change from stone to steel mills had a number of effects;
- Smaller flour particle size so damage to cellular tissue, and ease of oxidation of contents due to exposure to air.
- Higher extraction rates of bran and related material.
- Higher processing temperatures.
- Processes were developed to bleach flours which also had the effect of pre-oxidising oxidisable lipids and proteins so preventing development of off flavours, but at the cost of making susceptible lipids and proteins unavailable, or only in oxidised form.
Relevance of Phytates to mineral uptake and milling
Most ‘critical’ nutrients and consequent ‘deficiencies’;
- those that are most easily damaged in processing so particularly susceptible to damage in food processing and storage
- those that are critical but have limited sources so often diets are deficient or insufficient in them
- those that are both most susceptible to damage so oxidiation and important bioactive messengers in the body