Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Hallelujah Diet?

As I've said before, I have no problem with people doing a little experimenting to find what works for them diet wise, as long as they are thinking critically about it.  But when we get a scary diagnosis, usually having to do with cancer, or we have scary diagnosis in our family, that rationality can go right out the window.  One of the plans that I have seen people flock to, at least in the area I grew up, was the Hallelujah Diet.

You can read about the diet and the story of it's founder in the links, but bascially it's a raw vegan diet.  I've already said my piece about raw diets and the amount of extra work you need to do to extract usable nutrition from foods (and sometimes you still need to cook it), and you will notice that your need for supplements can be fulfilled on the website (red flag!).  His claims about obtaining more nutrition from foods that are raw are inaccurate, once again as covered in my previous blog piece.  And then there's the whole using the Christian Bible as some sort of nutrition text book as another red flag. That's not an attack on Christianity, as there are people like me who grew up Christian and also accepted evolution, and the diet that we evolved eating, as compatible (I was fortunate).  And the professors at Messiah College, where I earned my Bachelor's were always reminding us that the Bible is not a textbook on chemistry or history, etc, and that we as people of science needed to test things out and look at research to back up our claims becasuse that is the world we live in.  I even got taught to look for contradictions like this one in Genesis 4 where we see that "the Lord" looked more favorably on Abel's offering of the meat and fat rather than the "fruits of the soil" brought by Cain.  (In other words, I was discouraged from cherry picking).  And if you look on his evidence page you will see that the Rev Malkmus only uses one Bible verse and a lot of anecdotal evidence, which means he doesn't have any science to back up his claims (although someone seems to have cherry picked some data here.  So even at my evangelical college, the lack of data would have gotten this diet plan thrown out, not because of anything personal, but because the evidence just isn't there.

Once again that's not to say there aren't some useful part of the plan, like there is in most diets.  Avoiding sugar, processed flours, and trans-fats is something we all need to do.  And as I think I've said before, I have actually enjoyed using the many different suggestions for preparing vegetables found in some of the raw cookbooks; I like vegetables but I also like variety in how they are prepared, and anything that helps people eat more vegetables has it's uses.   But keep in mind that when it comes to avoiding sugar, etc that said claim is actually backed by science, and there's a lot more of it than one verse.

Here is also a link to the Quackwatch takedown of this diet: Rev. George Malkmus and his Hallelujah Diet.

Take home message--enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables cooked and raw, but when it comes to weight loss and other health issues, you might need science over a spiritual leader.

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