Best Document to Defend Synthetic Food


#1

I was recently in a discussion regarding the ability of processed foods to replace unprocessed ones with an exercise science major, and I was wondering what articles or studies you typically reference to dispel the myth that “natural” foods have magical properties that make them indispensable.

The other person in this debate made claims that synthesized insulin is inferior to the body’s and that our intestines have a hard time processing synthetic foods, while I believe there is a hint of truth to those claims, I think there are other reasons outside of the magical goodness of unprocessed food that explains them.


#2

“Processed” is a catch-all term that can mean a huge amount of things. Cooking is “processed”, salting is “processed”, canning is “processed”, drying something out is “processed”. So you need to ask WHICH process he thinks is bad.

As for insulin, assuming she’s correct, then perhaps the it may be missing some other component. Like changing the tires on a car, but not knowing you also need to replace the oil. It’s also injected all at once, rather then a little at a time, which may cause an overload in some areas. Or possibly those who need insline have other factors. Still, plenty of people are alive because of synthetic insulin. The choice isn’t between synthetic or natural. It’s between synthetic or dead.

Medical science is not complete, but we do know a good amount.


#3

Yeah, I actually made that exact point and they dismissed it as trivial, basically I think we can assume they mean anything that was produced entirely by man, anything completely synthesized.


#4

Compared to things that are produced entirely by plant? Because that’s a chemical process.
Specifically 6CO2 + 6H2O ------> C6H12O6 + 6O2

Carbs and Fat is just a bunch of sugar linked up.
Protein is a large and divers category, and rather different.

As for minerals, iron is iron. It doesn’t matter if man pulls it from the ground and put it in a pill, or spinach pull it from the ground and put it in it’s leaves. In fact it’s easier as we don’t need to expend the effort breaking down the leaf to get it out…


#5

Yeah, the point they were making was specifically with proteins, and perhaps the interaction of minerals and chemicals when in the presence of the “correct” proteins. I’m hoping someone has a well cited article or post that covers this general idea.

Another claim that was made is that the fibers from “real food” are in some way superior in their construction to processed fibers.


#6

Here is a general, non-specific argument in defense of synthetic food.

Consider all possible foods. You have to think really big here. ALL possible foods. That is, every food that has every existed up to now as well as any food that could ever POSSIBLY exist.

Okay, in that giant space of all possible foods I just defined, what are the chances that the best foods just happen to be foods that can come into existence naturally on this planet? (Whether a lot of the foods we consider “natural” really are natural is open to discussion but let’s not go there for now.)

Wouldn’t it be a tremendous coincidence if the best possible foods just happened to be the natural ones? Yes, we evolved in co-existence with the “natural” foods (leaving aside nebulous definition of natural) but that doesn’t mean what was natural was best in an absolute sense but rather just good enough to keep us going.

In many other aspects of our lives the “natural” one isn’t the best one so why should it be assumed that the natural one is best when it comes to food? I think it’s just the “appeal to nature” fallacy.

That said, just because synthetic foods COULD BE better than natural ones doesn’t necessarily mean any current synthetic foods ARE better than natural ones.


#7

Yeah, the only issue with that is I’m dealing with a religious person who thinks God already gave us everything we need for nutrition.


#8

My parents are pretty religious. I just told them that god gave us brains so we could figure our s**t out, and that our current diets obviously need some fixing.


#9

If god gave us everything, then he should be able to go into the woods and survive just fine.

Without man made shelter.
Or man made fire. Though fire from lightning is ok.
Or man made food, including anything grown on a farm ever. Since a man cleared the land and planted stuff.
Or any man made weapons, like a pointed stick. Bare fists only.

Note that he is also a human, and can’t make any of that stuff either.

Once she accepts that he needs tools to survive, ask what’s wrong with yet another tool.


#10

Yup, also made this argument, except I decided to single out toilets as my example.

Again, hoping for some good citations to studies done on this.


#11

No. Carbs are sugars. Fats are comprised mainly of lipids. Some fats can contain sugar-like structures, but most are fairly linear hydrocarbon chains.(whereas sugars are based on carbon rings) Naturally occuring fats usually have phosphate and/or protein accessory groups attached to the lipids.

Also no. Iron oxide(rust) is different from ferritin(iron-storage protein) or haeme(iron-containing oxygen transport protein) or any other iron-containing molecule, or even elemental iron. There are many sources of iron our body can utilize, but we use different processes to obtain that iron depending on what form it is in. Some forms can be metabolized more or less efficiently than others, and some can produce toxic byproducts when metabolized(or can be toxic in their raw form)

Insulin is insulin. It’s a compound with a very specific formulation and structure. Regardless whether it is naturally occurring or synthetic, it is always exactly the same. That said, there may be a difference between injecting insulin and having a natural insulin response, despite the insulin itself being identical in both cases; there may be other processes at work during a natural insulin response which are unrelated to insulin but assist with the process. But that doesn’t mean synthetic insulin is bad. It doesn’t mean anything regarding synthetic insulin at all.

It’s not so much about the intestines as it is about the flora living in them and the enzymes floating around in there, but okay. Some processed foods can be harder to digest, for sure. But the same can be said for many unprocessed foods. Ever tried eating raw meat? Raw potatoes? Grass? I think a can of spam would definitely be easier to digest than any of those unprocessed foods. “Synthetic” or “natural” has nothing to do with it, though. Nothing is inherently good or bad just because it was made by nature or by humans. There are good and bad things under both categories, but what gives them those qualities has nothing to do with where they came from.


#12

Thanks for the response, I particularly liked the last part:

It’s not so much about the intestines as it is about the flora living in them and the enzymes floating around in there, but okay. Some processed foods can be harder to digest, for sure. But the same can be said for many unprocessed foods. Ever tried eating raw meat? Raw potatoes? Grass? I think a can of spam would definitely be easier to digest than any of those unprocessed foods. “Synthetic” or “natural” has nothing to do with it, though. Nothing is inherently good or bad just because it was made by nature or by humans. There are good and bad things under both categories, but what gives them those qualities has nothing to do with where they came from.

I think most of the arguments the person made were either completely false or if taken to their logical conclusions simply ridiculous. I was unfortunately not in front of a computer at the moment and could not verify a lot of these claims.

Again, I’m wondering if anyone has any studies showing usage of multivitamins being a functional replacement for natural foods(I know these exist for people going through malnutrition, but it appears there are some studies showing no difference for already healthy people), and perhaps studies backing up sort of a calories in calories out, probably with a focus on macro-nutrients as well.


#13

I think the gist of that relatively recent popularly quoted study was multi-vitamins have no benefits…IF you have a well-balanced diet. (Which, uhm…DUH!)


#14

Multivitamins can’t replace food because they only contain micronutrients and not macronutrients. I don’t feel like investing the time to give you specific studies, but the textbook I had for third year biochemistry pretty thoroughly covered why various nutrients are required, how they’re used, and the relevance of calorie values in cell metabolism. It’s Lehninger’s Principles of Biochemistry, sixth edition. Fifth edition is mostly the same but apparently has some inaccuracies in calculating the amount of energy extracted from glucose in light of recent breakthroughs. Many studies are cited in the back of the textbook if you’re interested.

A nutrition textbook might be a bit more focused on the topic of your questions and easier to grasp, but I don’t have any that I can recommend personally.