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The Rise And Fall Of Nutritionism

Just as I was regretting having read all of Michael Pollan’s books, here he comes with a wonderful long article in The New York Times Magazine.

The article is “Unhappy Meals.” But the key point is about nutritionism.

Professor Pollan neatly summarized his latest contribution for us: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Eat food? Of course. But what he means is that “in the 1980s that food began disappearing from the American supermarket, gradually to be replaced by nutrients, which are not the same thing.”

Nutrients are, he says, are those chemical compounds and minerals in foods that nutritionists have deemed important to health. Manufacturers of processed food are happy to get with the nutritionism program because “it’s also a lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a potato or carrot.”

Nutritionism is good for business. But probably not for us mere people. It’s led to every sort of fad diet, from low-fat to low-carb.

The big problem is, as I have written here and on my website , that foods are quite differentl from the nutrients they contain. Antioxidants taken as supplements just don’t work the way they are supposed to!

Professor Pollan’s most recent book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma is the best book about food I have ever read. His three earlier books are less relevant to people with diabetes, but delightful reads.

My advice is to start with his latest article. Get it while you can still download it free from The New York Times website.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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