Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice

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Columbia University Press, Jun 18, 2013 - Cooking - 368 pages

Popularized by Michael Pollan in his best-selling In Defense of Food, Gyorgy Scrinis's concept of nutritionism refers to the reductive understanding of nutrients as the key indicators of healthy food—an approach that has dominated nutrition science, dietary advice, and food marketing. Scrinis argues this ideology has narrowed and in some cases distorted our appreciation of food quality, such that even highly processed foods may be perceived as healthful depending on their content of "good" or "bad" nutrients. Investigating the butter versus margarine debate, the battle between low-fat, low-carb, and other weight-loss diets, and the food industry's strategic promotion of nutritionally enhanced foods, Scrinis reveals the scientific, social, and economic factors driving our modern fascination with nutrition.

Scrinis develops an original framework and terminology for analyzing the characteristics and consequences of nutritionism since the late nineteenth century. He begins with the era of quantification, in which the idea of protective nutrients, caloric reductionism, and vitamins' curative effects took shape. He follows with the era of good and bad nutritionism, which set nutricentric dietary guidelines and defined the parameters of unhealthy nutrients; and concludes with our current era of functional nutritionism, in which the focus has shifted to targeted nutrients, superfoods, and optimal diets. Scrinis's research underscores the critical role of nutrition science and dietary advice in shaping our relationship to food and our bodies and in heightening our nutritional anxieties. He ultimately shows how nutritionism has aligned the demands and perceived needs of consumers with the commercial interests of food manufacturers and corporations. Scrinis also offers an alternative paradigm for assessing the healthfulness of foods—the food quality paradigm—that privileges food production and processing quality, cultural-traditional knowledge, and sensual-practical experience, and promotes less reductive forms of nutrition research and dietary advice.


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Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice

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We've all heard the phrase "you are what you eat," and whether you agree with the sentiment or not, it does imply that we know what we are eating. However, scholar Scrinis illustrates that that's not ... Read full review


1 A Clash of Nutritional Ideologies
Reductive Approaches to Nutrients Food and the Body
Protective Nutrients Caloric Reductionism and Vitamania
Bad Nitrients and Nutricentric Dietary Guidelines
From the LowFat Campaign to the LowCalorie Low Carb and LowGI Diets
6 Margarine Butter and the TransFats Fiasco
Functional Nutrients Superfoods and Optimal Dietary Patterns
Nutritional Engineering Nutritional Marketing and Corporate Nutritionism
9 Alternative Approaches to Food and the Body
10 After Nutritionism
The Nutritionism and Food Quality Lexicon

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About the author (2013)

Gyorgy Scrinis is a lecturer in food politics in the School of Land and Environment at the University of Melbourne, Australia. His research addresses the politics, sociology, and philosophy of food and of science and technology.

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