Thursday, March 08, 2012

The World According to Trophologists.

The word ‘trophology’ was apparently coined in 1890 by a scientist, J.S. Billings, who intended it to apply to “that department of physiology which deals with nutrition.”

At some point in time, the word was adapted to quite a different use – or maybe it was hijacked. It now, apparently refers to “the study of food combining - that is, the art of knowing which foods go best with which others.” I hesitate to describe this new field of study as a science, because it does not stand up to the most superficial level of scientific scrutiny at all. I try to keep an open mind, I do, really, but there is something very odd about this food combing thing.  If individual folk feel better, or lose weight, by combining (or, more specifically, not combining) certain foods, well then and good, but please do not assume that this means there must be some universally applicable scientific explanation. What does “go best” mean, anyway?

Aside from whatever the pseudo-scientific explanations are, there is something profoundly counter-intuitive and spectacularly generally disagreeable about many of the principles of modern trophology. I read that “the process of digestion has nine basic rules which describe combinations to avoid.” I must pass that piece of knowledge on to my colleagues in the physiology department.

The rules, as far as I understand them (with my immediate reactions in parentheses) are that one must not combine:

Carbohydrate with Carbohydrate (no chip butties!)
Carbohydrate with Acid Fruit (no lemon tart)
Carbohydrate with Protein (no burgers, sausage and mash, scrambled egg on toast?
Carbohydrate with Sugar (no jam on my toast?)
Protein with Acid Fruit (definitely no duck bigarade)
Protein with Protein (no bacon with my eggs; no cheese in the scrambled eggs?)
Protein with Fat (no extra-virgin oil poured on my bean soup? How shall I eat it)
Melon with any other food (no prosciutto e melone? No more watermelon and fetta salad?
Milk with any other food (no rice pudding, hot chocolate)

No wonder people lose weight when they apply these nutritional principles.

The “rule” I have the most trouble with is the melon rule. What on earth is it about melons that makes them so problematic if mixed with other foods? What, exactly, happens if you do toss caution aside and mix them with other foods? Would it be OK to mix several different sorts of melons? Mix melons with other members of the Melon family?

My own, totally unscientific opinion is that melon “goes best” with ... fetta, or maybe ham, or ice-cream, or strawberries, and lots of mint, .........

Worrying about this makes me want to rush off and have some nice comforting hot chocolate milk.

Here is a health-defying recipe for a melon pickle to add to some nice meaty protein in the form of venison.

Melon, Pickled, for Venison.
Take melons about the size of a large orange, and before they are quite ripe. When peeled, and the seeds are taken out, slice them into a bowl of good vinegar, and cover up for a week or more. At the end of that time drain the fruit, and simmer it till tender in an enamelled pan with fresh vinegar. Again drain the slices, and when dry make a thin syrup by boiling together a pound of sugar with a pint and a half of water. Skim well, put the melons into the bottles in which they are to remain, and cover with the syrup. In eight or ten days, throw off half of it, and fill the bottles with boiled vinegar in which the flavour of a few cloves has been extracted. Let it be quite cold before being added.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery (London, 1870)

Quotation for the Day.

Success to me is having ten honeydew melons and eating only the top half of each slice.
Barbra Streisand

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I respect your opinion, but there is more science to tropholohy than most people realize. It mainly has to do with the acid/alkaline pH balance in your stomach, and the function of the enzymes that break down food. Its taught in every basic Anatomy & Physiology class, yet strangely never applied. The enzymes that digest proteins, such as pepsin, can function only in an acidic solution, while the enzymes that digest starches, such as amylase, can function only in a more alkaline solution of gastric juices. The real problem occurs because when you eat foods that don't mix, well, neither nutrient ends up being digested well in the stomach, and this puts tremendous strain on all other organs along the digestive track. Proteins putrefy (rot), and starches & sugars ferment into alcohols, in your stomach and along your digestive tract. While it certainly won't kill you to eat a cheeseburger occasionally, just as it certainly wouldn't -kill- you to eat rotting meat with a few beers, it certainly doesn't do your body any good, and when this state of indigestion becomes chronic, health quickly deteriorates and your body suffers.

That's my input. You can definitely formulate delicious meals that aren't problematic for digestion, and as well, you can really improve your digestion just be eating your foods in sequential order (ie melons and fruits first, than your starches with vegetables, than your proteins with vegetables) and this would allow each layer of food to pass into your intestines before rotting in your stomach. Just a few tips! Keep up the good work.

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks for your input into this interesting question. I respectfully disagree with your views on the 'science' behind the beliefs however - as I understand it (from a scientific and medical background) this is a fairly superficial level of scientific explanation.
Still - who knows? Ongoing research in all fields means, I think, that we must keep open minds.

Adam Reilly said...

I've been reading and studying on this for several years now, and have not actually put it into practice.

That being said, the science of the matter is that when you eat starches (carbohydrates), they begin to digest in the mouth when you secrete alkaline gastric juices, the primary being ptyalin. On the other hand, proteins require an amount of acidity, and begin digestion directly in the stomach, and generally take longer to digest while the acid does its work. Different amounts of protein the meats require different amounts of acid, hence the rules about not eating mixed protein meals.

I've read several books on this, the latest being The Tao of Health, Sex and Longevity, by Daniel Reid. Part of the information he presents was also in the book Food Combining Made Easy by Dr Herbert M Shelton. Which I also read previously.

The case for (or against) Melons is that because of their composition, they are very easily assimilated by the body. They break down easy in chewing, and the stomach has very little work to process them, so they go almost directly into the small intestine, where they are absorbed. Now, should you eat anything on top of them or with them, it causes the stomach to hold the melon and either degrade its nutrients, or allow it to putrefy or ferment whilst the accompanying foods are being digested.

It would be the same process as eating protein with starch. When you eat the starch, you begin to digest it during the chewing phase, and as soon as its in your stomach the alkaline solution keeps digesting. But as soon as you introduce protein, the saliva lessens or stops the flow of ptyalin, and the stomach starts gearing up acid production. The resulting stew is now a nuetral solution that isn't useful for a whole lot of any digesting. So while it does it's meager work, what isn't being processed begins to ferment/putrefy. Once that process begins, your large intestine begins to secrete a mucus enzyme to help protect itself from the decaying particles. After a long enough time of this going on, the mucus lining can begin to thicken and gel over some of the food that it is intended to protect itself from, and then you end up with the beginnings of a host of problems. Constipation being one of the first signs, then eventually perhaps diverticulosis and other intestinal malfunctions.

I'm not saying all that to be fear mongering, it's just the reasoning laid out by the dozen or so different doctors I've read from in the past.

Also, since I'm still reading the Tao of Health... Apparently, most of this knowledge was gathered and published over the span of the last 5,000 years in China, and Western medicine is only just catching up to it.

Adam Reilly said...

I've been reading and studying on this for several years now, and have not actually put it into practice.

That being said, the science of the matter is that when you eat starches (carbohydrates), they begin to digest in the mouth when you secrete alkaline gastric juices, the primary being ptyalin. On the other hand, proteins require an amount of acidity, and begin digestion directly in the stomach, and generally take longer to digest while the acid does its work. Different amounts of protein the meats require different amounts of acid, hence the rules about not eating mixed protein meals.

I've read several books on this, the latest being The Tao of Health, Sex and Longevity, by Daniel Reid. Part of the information he presents was also in the book Food Combining Made Easy by Dr Herbert M Shelton. Which I also read previously.

The case for (or against) Melons is that because of their composition, they are very easily assimilated by the body. They break down easy in chewing, and the stomach has very little work to process them, so they go almost directly into the small intestine, where they are absorbed. Now, should you eat anything on top of them or with them, it causes the stomach to hold the melon and either degrade its nutrients, or allow it to putrefy or ferment whilst the accompanying foods are being digested.

It would be the same process as eating protein with starch. When you eat the starch, you begin to digest it during the chewing phase, and as soon as its in your stomach the alkaline solution keeps digesting. But as soon as you introduce protein, the saliva lessens or stops the flow of ptyalin, and the stomach starts gearing up acid production. The resulting stew is now a nuetral solution that isn't useful for a whole lot of any digesting. So while it does it's meager work, what isn't being processed begins to ferment/putrefy. Once that process begins, your large intestine begins to secrete a mucus enzyme to help protect itself from the decaying particles. After a long enough time of this going on, the mucus lining can begin to thicken and gel over some of the food that it is intended to protect itself from, and then you end up with the beginnings of a host of problems. Constipation being one of the first signs, then eventually perhaps diverticulosis and other intestinal malfunctions.

I'm not saying all that to be fear mongering, it's just the reasoning laid out by the dozen or so different doctors I've read from in the past.

Also, since I'm still reading the Tao of Health... Apparently, most of this knowledge was gathered and published over the span of the last 5,000 years in China, and Western medicine is only just catching up to it.