Is Nutrition a New Religion?

November 4, 2021 by
Photo Credit: Kate Remmer

Do you ever wonder why people get so defensive about nutrition? It’s weird right? It’s just food. Everyone eats and for the most part, what and how other people eat only affects that person (the nuance of health care system impacts are being intentionally left out of this conversation). That doesn’t stop people from pulling their gloves off in the comments section of literally (ok not literally but most) posts and articles about nutrition to share why one approach is better than another for [insert any measurable outcome]. I have written actual research reviews that sum up actual data, and people still find a way to argue.

Nutrition science is new. It’s a young field. New research is constantly emerging and changing the way we understand the human body and what it does when we put things in our mouths. It’s prudent to adopt a soft approach to our understanding of things because in five years, our truths will likely be different. Are there certainties in the field of nutrition? Of course, we cannot defy the laws of thermodynamics but almost everything else is up for interpretation. No wonder people are so confused! But confusion and the constant emergence of new information doesn’t explain the weird online aggression expressed by followers of specific diets.

Followers….The word ‘followers’ conjures up a certain imagery that I believe begins to explain some of the devotion shown to certain nutrition protocols. A religious imagery. It’s almost as if nutrition has become a new religion.

There are many religions to which one can belong. Paleo, Primal, Vegan, Clean Eaters, Raw, Gluten Free, Plant Based. All capitalized of course because religions are proper nouns. Like other religions, these dietary religions promise to save us from a life of pain and suffering. Good nutrition can cure diseases and alleviate misery. Abiding by a diet of only “good” foods makes you a good person and the person who eats shellfish or pork is the sinner.

The concept of food exclusion is one that prevails through history. 

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