The Cost of Culture: Fads & The Rise of “Food”

A major concern with the incline of nutritionism in modern food systems is that there has been a perpetual shift in the science behind dietary guidelines, specifically within the last century as fads arose in Western cultures. Additionally, the assertion that food is more than just the sum of its parts in Pollan’s writing exemplifies the criticality of our own understandings of how food affects humanity and works in conjunction with the idea that interdependence among systems is relevant to the understanding of systematic behaviors. The fact of the matter is that while humans are “machines”, we cannot be pumped full of a fool-proof, quantifiable amount of any given nutrient or chemical to keep us alive/healthy and are also a part of a living system that is a subset to greater systems, which should be acknowledged, with us being able to adapt easily in response to variables which effect the efficiency of their behaviors, for which there are little controls.

In his section on defining and understanding nutritionism at its roots, he states, “Speak no more of foods, only nutrients,” a reference to the mindful diction provided by the FDA following the exposure of studies with claims that too much of ‘X’ product would potentially lead to ‘Y’ disease. Here, the capitalist propaganda of our contemporary food culture was birthed and general acceptance towards scientific studies and their claims began to show dominance as a way of compromising with distributors.

In plainer terms, for matters of fulfillment, you are to eat what provides the most nutrients, while hastily disavowing the actual benefits of real foods if they lack proper sustenance as dictated by governing groups acting as marionettes to greedy marketers. And although this knowledge, this sheer corruption, has been unveiled and made known to an increasing number of concerned individuals, there is little to do with changing a nation-wide mindset revolved around nutritionism. The deception lies in the hands of businesses that profit off the endless suffering of the people it claims to help: the disturbing cost of connectivity among systems.

1 thought on “The Cost of Culture: Fads & The Rise of “Food”

  1. Katherine S Patterson

    Hi Faylen! I loved your thorough criticism of reductionist ideologies, particularly your criticisms of science as a somehow sufficient stand-in for a historically cultural and connective aspect of human life – food. There are a lot of arguments in the social sciences that food and all of the social and physical relations that go into its creation and consumption is what sets humans apart from other primates (Pollan, Why Cook). While you don’t explicitly say it, I appreciated the implication that as nutritionism creeps along with globalization, so will the degradation of living systems that have long been and still are quintessential of human existence. This would mean a decrease in cultural diversity (and ways of being human), raising questions of who gets to globalize and who must suffer in the wake of globalization of scientific eating – both questions you hint at in the end of your post. I did have one question about your comment on the lack of action despite the unveiling of the evils of nutritionism and capitalism’s role: what would a solution look like to you? Is there any individual action that could help the situation?


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