September 22, 2008

Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing

Category: Feasting :: Permalink

More from Michael Pollan on nutritionism, the approach to eating that focuses on the invisible “nutrients” that only experts can identify instead of on actual foods:

Another potentially serious weakness of nutritionist ideology is that, focused so relentlessly as it is on the nutrients it can measure, it has trouble discerning qualitative distinctions among foods.  So fish, beef, and chicken through the nutritionist’s lens become mere delivery systems for varying quantities of different fats and proteins and whatever other nutrients happen to be on their scope. 

Milk through this lens is reduced to a suspension of protein, lactose, fats, and calcium in water, when it is entirely possible that the benefits, or for that matter the hazards, of drinking milk owe to entirely other factors (growth hormones?) or relationships between factors (fat-soluble vitamins and saturated fat?) that have been overlooked. 

Milk remains a food of humbling complexity, to judge by the long, sorry saga of efforts to simulate it.  The entire history of baby formula has been the history of one overlooked nutrient after another: Liebig 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, infant formula stands as the ultimate test product of nutritionism and a fair index of its hubris. — Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, pp. 31-32.

Posted by John Barach @ 2:28 pm | Discuss (0)

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