Kenneth Fielding Morehead Complexity
By Kenneth Fielding Morehead, MSOM, Lac, DOM (NM), DAONB
Complexity as a theory for how systems work and maintain stability is a popular topic today in many fields, including physics, chemistry and mathematics. These concepts have even entered the popular consciousness, with references to it in such films as Jurassic Park. The various theories about complexity also have validity in the area of diet and health. How can complexity theory clarify our understanding of food quality? And can complexity theory have practical application in the way we eat?
What has research found that points the way toward understanding how complexity is a component of what makes us tick? Let’s start with some general observations. At its best, food is a vastly complex and synergistic mix of various nutrients. Processed foods have fewer nutrients and lean heavily toward specific micronutrients. They also reduce micronutrients often found in whole foods. In addition, nutrients are altered in a ways not found in traditional food processing. As such, modern processed foods are simpler than the full-bodied complex foods of antiquity.
For the moment, let’s assume that complexity in food can be associated with higher quality and simplification in food with lower quality. Can the relative complexity of food be imparted into our tissues? This is important, because higher complexity in human tissues has been linked to vitality and health.
Here’s a simple analogy. If a table has one hundred legs (a very stable complex structure), and we shoot a bowling ball at 100 mph under the table, we might knock 50 legs out from under the table. But with 50 legs still intact, the table remains secure. However, if there are only three legs to the table and we knock out only one, the table falls over. Higher complexity yields higher stability in response to stress.
Complexity in Food
Processing strips our foods down to their simplest components – sucrose in white sugar, glucose in white flour, filtered vegetable oils, pasteurized reduced-fat mild products and artificial flavors. Theses processes also remove the vast array of nutrients that work together synergistically in whole foods. The food industry has long claimed that the removal of nutrients can be rectified through “fortification”, the addition of synthetic vitamins. For example, synthetic vitamin A is added to margarine to make it “nutritionally equivalent to the natural vitamin-A complex in butter. However, synthetic vitamins can cause imbalances and often have undesired effects. Synthetic vitamin A has been show to cause the type of birth defects that natural vitamin A prevents.
Lately, there is a huge push to get women to take supplementary folic acid to prevent neural tube defects during pregnancy. Folic acid by itself is a simple nutritional constituent. It’s only one nutrient in thousands that are part of whole, nutritionally complex foods. While it is claimed that supplying this nutrient in pill form may have a positive effect in reducing neural tube defects, why are women told that this is what they need rather than being given a choice between supplementation or a diet of whole foods that provides this nutrient in context? Is this ignorance or rationalization? Either way, it seems more respectful to fully inform the public rather than simplifying the truth and giving women an uninformed choice. Lack of whole foods is the root cause of folic acid deficiency, not a lack of pills.
Ken Morehead, founding member of Oriental Health Solutions, LLC, is a licensed acupuncturist in Durham, NC, licensed as a Doctor of Oriental Medicine in New Mexico, is nationally board certified as an Acupuncture Orthopedist and is a credentialed acupuncturist at Duke Integrative Medicine. He is the past secretary and chairman of the NC State Acupuncture Licensing Board and an advisory board member of the Weston Price Foundation in Washington, D.C. Ken Morehead is a graduate of WorldLegacy’s NC45 Leadership Program.