Vol. 3 No. 1 (2017)
Review Article

Nutritional Renaissance and Public Health Policy

Campbell TC
Division of Nutritional Sciences, 204 North Cayuga Street, Ithaca NY 14851, USA
Published October 11, 2017


The science of nutrition has long been entrapped in reductionist interpretation of details, a source of great confusion. However, if nutrition is defined as the integration of countless nutrient factors, metabolic reactions and outcomes, biologically orchestrated as in symphony, its relevance for personal and public health would be less confusing and more productive. This more wholistic interpretation may be observed at the cellular and physiological levels and may be described, in part, by the concept of pleiotropy (multiple cell-based effects from one nutrient source), together with its more expansive cousin, epitropy (multiple cell-based effects from multiple nutrients). First, wholistic interpretation helps to explain the profound but little-known health benefits of whole plant-based foods (not vegan or vegetarian) when compared with whole animal-based foods and/or with the nutritionally variable convenience foods (generally high in fat, salt, refined carbohydrates and low in complex carbohydrates). Second, wholistic interpretation explains why the U.S. Dietary Guidelines and related public policies, which are primarily conceived from reductionist reasoning, serve political agendas so effectively. If diet and health  advisories were to acknowledge the biological complexity of nutrition, then make greater use of deductive (top down) instead of inductive (bottom up) reasoning, there would be less confusion. Third, wholistic nutrition, if acknowledged, could greatly help to resolve the highlypolarized, virtually intractable political debate on health care. And fourth, this definition tells why nutrition is rarely if ever offered in medical school training, is not one of the 130 or so medical specialties, and does not have a dedicated research institute at U.S. National Institutes of Health. Nutrition is a wholistic science whereas medical practice is reductionist, a serious mismatch that causes biased judgement of nutrition. But this dichotomy would not exist
if the medical practice profession were to understand and adopt wholistic interpretation. Reductionist research, however, is crucially important because its findings provide the granular structure for wholistic interpretation—these
two philosophies are inescapably interdependent. Evidence obtained in this manner lends strong support to the suggestion that nutrition is more efficacious and far more affordable in maintaining and restoring (treating) health than all the pills and procedures combined. Admittedly, this is a challenging paradigm for the domain of medical science itself.