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Jun 1, 2010

Nutritionism: first coined in an Australian essay called "Sorry Marge" by Gyorgy Scrinis. Different from nutrition, the -ism suggests it is not a scientific subject but an ideology. In the case of nutritionism foods are essentially the sum of their nutrient parts and since nutrients are invisible, the expert help of scientists is needed to understand the food you eat. Expert help to do what exactly? And more importantly is nutritionism actually good for you?

"Nutritionism follows the premise that food is foremost about promoting physical health that the nutrients in food should be divided into the unhealthy ones and healthy ones-or good nutrients and bad."

The main example of this is, claiming protein (namely animal protein) to be the "master nutrient" in animal nutrition because it drove growth. It is true that protein grows bigger people, but not necessarily healthier. "It seems to be a rule of nutritionism that for every good nutrient, there must be a bad nutrient to serve as its foil." An example of this was the backlash against protein at the turn of the last century when diet gurus such as John Kellogg and Horace Fletcher railed against the deleterious effects of protein on digestion and promoted the cleaner, more wholesome carbohydrate. The objective was to dethrone animal protein for breakfast with the breakfast cereal.

Ever since, the history of modern nutritionism has been a war of the macronutrients: protein vs carbs; carbs vs proteins; fats vs carbs; etc.

The entire history of baby formula is a prime example of nutritionism, as it shows the history of one overlooked nutrient after another. "Leibig missed the vitamins and amino acids and his successors missed the omega-3s, and still to this day babies fed on the most 'nutritionally complete' formula fail to do as well as babies fed human milk. Even more than margarine, baby formula stands as the ultimate test product of nutritionism."

Nutritionism is not only seen in baby formula, but any item you see on the shelf where the product boasts "enhanced" or "fortified".

Examples: margarine, bread, cereals, juice (fortified with omega-3, calcium, etc).

In conclusion, thirty years of nutritional advice (nutritionism) have left us fatter, sicker, and more poorly nourished.

**Information from Michael Pollan's book "In Defense of Food"

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Posted: Tuesday June 1, 2010, 6:03 pm
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Kristin M.
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