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Exclusive reductionism, chronic diseases and nutritional confusion: the degree of processing as a lever for improving public health

Abstract : Exclusive reductionism in nutritional science consists of viewing foods as only the sum of nutrients. This position paper argues that the extreme application of this paradigm since 1950 has greatly contributed to confusion about a healthy diet among consumers and to the development of chronic diseases worldwide. First, history of nutritional sciences in Western countries shows that by approximately 1850, laboratory research had mainly been conducted by reducing foods to nutrients that were interchangeable from one food to another. Second, descriptive and experimental studies show that the increased prevalence of chronic diseases mainly derive from ultra-processed foods. With such foods being representative of a final output in the degree of food processing, the relevance of reformulating food versus developing less unstructured processed foods is discussed. Third, the reductionist validation of food additives, randomized controlled trials, and food scoring is also questioned. Additionally, epidemiological studies that associate dietary patterns with the risk of chronic diseases and that aggregate approaches in nutrition, technology, food science and food scoring appear to be more adapted for nutritional recommendations in society. It is concluded that a complementary holistic perspective is needed to communicate to society about diet/food health potential and to efficiently prevent populations from chronic diseases.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, February 24, 2021 - 3:42:01 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, March 4, 2021 - 9:40:09 AM

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Anthony Fardet, Edmond Rock. Exclusive reductionism, chronic diseases and nutritional confusion: the degree of processing as a lever for improving public health. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, Taylor & Francis, 2020, pp.1-16. ⟨10.1080/10408398.2020.1858751⟩. ⟨hal-03151234⟩

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