Mike the Mad Biologist

I’ll get to Whole Foods in a moment, but one of the reasons I wrote about the misuse of heritability by Megan McArdle last week is that I can’t stand it when people misuse biology to push a political agenda (and hopefully, I’ll be able to get back to that next week). As I argued in a previous post, we can disagree about how to respond to a set of facts, but the facts are what they are.

So, onto the Whole Foods grocery woo. The CEO of Whole Foods recently wrote a far right screed against health insurance reform, in which he argues that it would be unnecessary if we only ate our vegetables. No, really, he does:

Recent scientific and medical evidence shows that a diet consisting of foods that are plant-based, nutrient dense and low-fat will help prevent and often reverse most degenerative diseases that kill us and are expensive to treat. We should be able to live largely disease-free lives until we are well into our 90s and even past 100 years of age.

I’m all for healthy eating–so is the Obama Administration. It does appear to improve health. But the above quote is ridiculous. Eating lots of vegetables will get rid of cancer? Type I diabetes? Parkinson’s? Muscular dystrophy? Alzheimer’s can be reversed by a vegetable diet? If only all of the families with an Alzheimer’s patient knew….

Now, I’m not surprised that the Whole Foods’ CEO would claim this crap. If you go to their suppliments section (at least at the one in Boston as of a couple of months ago), you’ll see that they sell NADPH, an enzyme involved in central metabolism to boost energy. This is profoundly stupid woo: not only will the enzyme never reach you (either you digestion or your commensal bacteria will degrade it), but it wouldn’t function as an energy boost if it did. Woo seems to be Whole Foods’ stock in trade. By itself, it’s nothing more an amusing sucker’s play–a time honored, if despicable, ploy.

But when you start using woo to justify healthcare policy decisions that will affect the lives of millions of people, that’s disgusting.

And it also makes you a fucking moron to boot.

I would claim that I’m going to boycott Whole Foods, but, since I never shop there, my bold statement wouldn’t mean much. But boycotting Whole Foods is a good idea–and good for your health.

Comments

  1. #1 NewEnglandBob
    August 13, 2009

    More lunacy from the right wing nuts.

    One should not go to Whole Foods stores to eat correctly anyway.

  2. #2 XIMIK
    August 13, 2009

    Just being pedantic: NADPH is not an enzyme, but an enzyme co-factor.

  3. #3 THarding
    August 13, 2009

    Over at the Huffington Post (yeah, surprise), Andrew Weil is also saying that we need to use woo to bring down health costs.

  4. #4 Edward
    August 13, 2009

    While I do like organic foods, I’m already not shopping at Whole Foods. Their prices have always seemed high to me, and my sister-in-law calls them “Whole Paycheck.” Also, from the stories I’ve read they treat their employees rather badly. This gives me yet another reason not to shop there.

  5. #5 Ahcuah
    August 13, 2009

    Over at the Huffington Post, Andrew Weil is also saying that we need to use woo to bring down health costs.

    And in other news, Dog Bites Man.

  6. #6 Tex
    August 13, 2009

    you’ll see that they sell NADPH …

    I seriously doubt it.

    Given the price of even moderately purified NADPH(about $1 per milligram fo stuff that is no better than 90%), it is highly unlikely that there is much real NADPH in the bottle.

  7. #7 Don from Rochester MN
    August 13, 2009

    Tex,

    Maybe it’s homeopathic NADPH. That would make it much more, uhhh, “powerful” than your $1 per milligram stuff, and a little would go a loooooong way . . . .

  8. #8 psweet
    August 13, 2009

    Actually, I’m fairly sure that Whole Foods sells quite a bit of NADPH. (Not in a purified form, though). Mike’s quite right that it wouldn’t help, of course. NADPH is a primary electron carrier in photosynthesis — the corresponding carrier in respiration is NADH. Thus, many of the vegetables they are selling should have the stuff — but we have absolutely no use for it even if we could ingest it without digesting it.

  9. #9 Mokele
    August 14, 2009

    I’ve always been disturbed by the amount of woo in Whole Foods, but because my wife has coeliac (which means she can’t eat wheat, oats, barley, etc.), we have no choice, as no other local store stocks even a tiny fraction of the selection of ‘safe’ foods for her. They’re almost a monopoly if you have a food allergy.

  10. #10 Pineyman
    August 14, 2009

    Mokele –

    Try going to any other store that may carry the stuff you need and ask if they will order in bulk for you. My wife tried that here in central NJ and as long as the store was assured we would buy the entire case/bulk package they were willing to place the order.

  11. #11 Youryu
    December 21, 2010

    , I’m not surprised that the Whole Foods’ CEO would claim this crap. If you go to their suppliments section (at least at the one in Boston as of a couple of months ago), you’ll see that they sell NADPH, an enzyme involved in central metabolism to boost energy. This is profoundly stupid woo: not only will the enzyme never reach you (either you digestion or your commensal bacteria will degrade it), but it wouldn’t function as an energy boost if it did. Woo seems to be Whole Foods’ stock in trade. By itself, it’s nothing more an amusing sucker’s play–a time honored, if despicable,

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