Because I studied medicine, I know that physicians know and understand nothing about food and diet. There are exceptions, but they confirm the rule. It’s not that they are stupid. It’s simply not their cup of tea and they are not schooled about it. Just like most writers are allergic to math and most mathematicians are allergic to writing anything outside a formula.
But now the Ministry of Health has outdone the doctors. Not inhibited by too much knowledge, it recommends legislation to require food manufacturers to ‘enrich’ milk and dairy products with Vitamin D, salt with Iodine and flour with Folic acid, Iron, and Vitamin B12. They found that 22.6 percent of the population suffers from iron deficiency, 5.5 percent from B12 deficiency and 12 percent from folic acid deficiency.
The first sin here is easy to see for people who know their stuff. Alcoholics get so many calories from their beverages that they don’t eat. One of the first symptoms of alcoholism is memory loss from brain damage that is caused by a vitamin B deficiency because they don’t eat enough bread. So, beer companies in Amsterdam were so ‘helpful’ to suggest that they’d supplement B to their beers. This was rejected by the medical profession because it’d make that alcoholic drinks would get an image of healthy.
The first thing that any Health Ministry in 2019 in the Western world needs to do is to discourage the consumption of stuff that is roasted (cancer), salted (high blood pressure), sugar-rich (diabetes, obesity, and heart and blood vessel disease), and fiber-poor (too many illnesses to mention).
So, it should be a crime to add vitamins to milk, white flour, and salt!
Then we should look at the suggested supplements one-by-one.
Without supplementing, Vitamin D lacks in everyone’s diet. It dissolves well in fat so it was often put in fatty milk. But if added to anything, it should be to olive oil or peanut butter. Those have health-promoting fats.
Adding vitamins to milk not only promotes the wrong (milk) fats. There are whole sections of the Israeli population that don’t eat dairy products. Either they are oversensitive to cow milk (lactose-intolerant) or they separate milk and meat (Jewish Law) and eat meat products at every meal. And then not to speak of the 10% of the Israeli population that is vegan. To put vital nutrients in Israel only in milk products is simply criminal.
Vitamin B 12 is only found in stuff from animals. Humans are the only animals who need to retrieve it from other animals. Intestinal bacteria produce it. It’s available to all who eat from the ground. Humans rinse away their bowel movement, wash food taken from the earth and eat from clean plates. Therefore, vegetarians need to take B12 supplements.
Many people everywhere are deficient in Folic acid or Folate. We get it from greens (foliage!). Eat your greens!
Not-kosher meat is an excellent source of Iron. Most Israelis will not eat any. The kosher slaughtering removes much of the blood: Iron. Calcium (milk) prevents the absorption of Iron in the intestines, so milk soon after meat is not kosher. Still, meat is expensive and many Israelis eat little of it. Almost 20% is vegetarian, many of them teenage girls who need extra Iron. Iron from pills and greens is more-poorly absorbed than animal-Iron. This is protective as Iron is quickly poisonous. But it makes that adding Iron to diets may do little to correct the problem. Everyone needs to follow their GP’s individual advice.
If B12, Folate, and Iron should be added to flour, then only to whole flours, not to health-wrecking white flour. Israel urgently should stop subsidizing the price of white bread and start giving subsidies for breads that are made with at least 50% whole flour.
Iodine is also a metal but different from Iron in that it gets more easily absorbed and so, more quickly can lead to big health problems. Yet, to add it to salt, which is consumed on average 10 times as much as is healthy, again, gives the wrong signal. Maybe, it could be added to tap water.
Together with another mineral, Magnesium, which is lacking in many Israeli greens. They are irrigated with desalinated wastewater or seawater. The filtering removes Magnesium. The Health Ministry works with old figures that may not yet show this.
Together with dent-protecting Floride? Remember that can of worms? Israel banned Floride from the tap 5 years ago.
This should remind us, last but not least, of a monumental ethical problem, that the Health Ministry Commission tries to sidestep here. Can a government add chemicals to food and water because they decide for the population that that is healthy? It so would force people who eat well to take medication they don’t need. And where lies the limit of government interference? Maybe, tranquilizers should be added to tap water to make everyone calmer? And too little Iron makes people slower, more docile. This is certainly not an issue a caretaking cabinet could decide.
In other words: Nothing medical should be added to any food or drink. (Possible exception: Magnesium because it was first removed.) And certainly not to stuff responsible for and pivotal in bad eating.
Instead, start subsidizing foods that help our health. And the authorities should inform the public that everyone should take Vitamin D on their own account. Vegetarians should know to take B12. Young women regularly should have their doc check their Iron and Folate, especially before they could get pregnant. And our GPs should once a year check our blood pressure, Vitamin D, Iodine, Folic acid, Iron, and Magnesium. (Our bodies store enough Vitamin B12 for 5 years so that doesn’t need regular testing.)