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Crop Nutrient Decline

How much has the nutrient content of food crops declined over the last 50 years?

November 9, 2010 |
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But sellers of supplements like to argue that we have to take vitamin pills because the nutrient content of our crops has declined over the last 50 years due to soil depletion Is that true? The nutrient content of our food is in decline: fact or fiction? It’s a fact. But by how much though?
On average, over the last 50 years, have the nutrients declined just a little—1-20%, or is it 20-40%? Are they only half as nutritious? Do we have to eat twice as many carrots these days as we would have in the 1950s to get the same amount of nutrition? Or is it even worse, and the majority of the nutrients have disappeared?
We’ve only lost about 15%, on average, across 43 different crops. So instead of eating 6 florets of broccoli, eat 7.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

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Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on nutrition myths here. Also, there are 1,686 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

For more context, check out my associated blog posts:  Prevent Breast Cancer by Any Greens Necessary and Best Nutrition Bang for Your Buck

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  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on nutrition myths here. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=640861216 Gary Yuen

    I suppose there are many other nutrients and good things not tested.

  • Organicmarsha2012

    If I put wheat grass in my morning green smoothie is that a good thing or a bad thing? 

    If I bathe in 1 Tbs full of coconut oil every morning is this increasing my cholesterol or do I actually have to injest it?  Can it pass through my skin?

    • Susan

      Create your self as a guinea pig. Have your blood cholesterol tested after bathing in coconut oil, while making certain that you are not eating any cholesterol containing foods.

      Then after a few months –keeping track of the foods you ingest –ingest coconut oil, but do not bathe in it, and have your blood cholesterol tested again.

      Report back to us. Unless coconut oil passes through the skin, I should think you’d be “safe” bathing in it. But, that’s my guesstimate.

  • Rick

    Our crops have lost some of their nutritional value – I assume that this is where soil has been misused by 1. lack of crop rotation and 2. pesticides and herbicides. I assume that if I plant a garden in my back yard, there is no nutritional loss from days of old. Is this wrong?

    • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

      It would depend on quality of soil and the seeds you plant and other variables such as weather and water. Generally planting your own fruits and vegetables is an excellent way to save money, avoid pesticides and get healthy food. Good luck with the garden.

      • DrBarbaraHoldeman

        It is the micro-organisms in the soil that “feed” the plants the nutrients they need. Plants growing in soils that are “dead” lack the minerals because the micro-organisms are not there to feed them. This is why adding organic matter to the soil is so important. Organic matter is food for the microbes. Spraying chemicals such as pesticides, etc., kill these needed microbes in the soil. So buy organic or better yet grow organic!

  • Joe

    I think there is a danger with studies like this – they give a false sense of security. Business as usual for modern farming. In many places, the top soil is being eroded so fast that it is predicted to disappear in the next few decades. Granted, these are only the most intensely farmed zones – but we need to learn to farm in a way that improves the top soil – both for plant growth and for carbon sequestration. It is entirely possible that the top soil will keep giving us a good level of nutrients until it is gone.

  • DrBarbaraHoldeman

    So buy organic produce because they feed the soil, beside supplements are fractured/mostly laboratory concoctions and do not work in the body like foods do. Just look at an orange for example – there are many many nutrients in an orange that you will never get from taking a supplement like ascorbic acid, which by the way is usually synthetic and is NOT vitamin C. We were meant to eat food not pills.