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June 27th, 2013 at 6:00 am

Gyorgy Scrinis on Alternatives to Nutritionism

“Nutrition experts can either lead or be led by the burgeoning food-quality movement and can choose to play a key role in developing food-quality literacy and food policies that promote and pro­tect the quality of our food.”—Gyorgy Scrinis

Nutritionism, Gyorgy ScrinisIn the concluding chapter to Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice, Gyorgy Scrinis argues for how we can create alternative and better ways of interpreting and understanding the real nutritional value of the food we eat:

Constructing alternatives to nutritionism ultimately requires more than carrying out and interpreting nutrition science differently, develop­ing alternative dietary guidelines, or adopting personal strategies for navi­gating the nutriscape. Given food corporations’ central role in perpetuating the ideology of nutritionism, their level of influence over government policies and scientific research, and their ability to nutritionally market their products, the power of these corporations must also be addressed. Limiting or removing the food industry’s ability to use nutrient and health claims is an important step, as this is the primary means through which nutritional knowledge is now disseminated to the public, as well as a pri­mary strategy for marketing highly processed foods. Limiting industry influence over the governments’ dietary guidelines and food regulations is also essential if those guidelines and regulations are to be in the interests of public health, social equity, and ecological sustainability.

The provision of good quality food for all also requires direct govern­ment regulation of food quality and of the types of foods that can be pro­duced and marketed. The best way to limit the consumption of processed-reconstituted foods is not through nutrition education campaigns, nor regressive “fat taxes,” but by limiting—through strict food composition regulations—the food industry’s ability to produce poor—quality foods. Determining the criteria for such food regulations means drawing on the latest nutrition science, and therefore negotiating the limitations, debates, and uncertainties within nutrition research. But the focus of research and debate also needs to shift from differentiating between the health impli­cations of whole foods or naturally occurring nutrients, to differentiating and identifying the health effects of foods on the basis of food production and processing quality. Nutrition experts can either lead or be led by the burgeoning food-quality movement and can choose to play a key role in developing food-quality literacy and food policies that promote and pro­tect the quality of our food.

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