The Problem with Nutrition as Religion

I stumbled upon this article that was written by Jack Challem in The Nutrition Reporter on February 25, 2011. It put into words what I have been thinking for a while lately. No matter what the science or research shows about a nutritional fact, if someone in power or perceived power and knowledge, perpetuates an untruth and keeps saying it and gets others to pass on the untruth in news and pays “experts” to pass on the untruths, IT BECOMES A FACT. This happened to coconut oil, butter, animal fats as being really bad for you when in reality you need these fats for brain function and good health. We were told we needed to not eat any fats and that we needed to put fake, GMO vegetable oils and toxic “oils” to be healthy. What happened—diabetes and obesity??? These are my beliefs and this is what the article by Challem explains about the Religion of Nutrition. This was found on and copied from:

The Religion of Nutrition

Has nutrition become a “good ‘ol time religion?”

Published on February 25, 2011 by Jack Challem in The Nutrition Reporter

I’ve been writing about nutrition for 30-some years. As I listen to people, I often hear less science and more of what could best be described as a variety of belief systems.

There are the vegetarian, vegan, and macrobiotic sects. There’s the church of low-fat eating. And there’s the pervasive belief that everything boils down to calories in and calories out, with exercise being the penance for overeating.

But the fact is, there’s very little science to support many common nutrition beliefs. They’re just beliefs. And having millions of adherents or thousands of experts repeat the same mantras doesn’t make these beliefs truer.

I know this sounds like heresy to many of you. And I’m not trying to offend anyone’s nutritional or religious sensibilities. But the only food we definitely know we were meant to consume is breast milk, in infancy.

In anthropology, the term “belief system” is usually used to describe a religion. And when it comes to nutrition, many scientists and consumers are so wedded to their beliefs that they’re not interested in adjusting their beliefs in response to new scientific findings.

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I’ll give you three examples.

Saturated Fat. Millions of people believe that low-saturated fat diets will prevent heart disease. But the research now shows the opposite to be true. Saturated fat is either neutral or protective, according to an impressive body of research. It’s the refined carbs and sugars and the trans fats that seem to be the real problem in cardiovascular risk.

Why do so many people still believe that saturated fat is bad? It’s a matter of belief – shaped by studies that failed to factor in the effects of carbs, sugars, and trans fats, as well as publication bias favoring the sat-fat-is-bad belief.

Calories. Nearly everyone believes that, to lose weight, you have to either eat less or exercise more. But different types of calories prompt different biological responses. Nutrients that trigger insulin – think carbs and sugars – are more likely to result in weight gain, compared with protein. Protein has little effect on insulin.

The calorie idea was based on energy transfer in steam engines and the 1st Law of Thermodynamics. Biological systems – you are a biological system – are far less efficient and are governed by the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

Vegetarian Diets. If you look at the history of human cultures, as anthropologists and other scientists have done, you’ll realize that there have been no completely vegetarian cultures. People simply didn’t have the luxury to be so picky about food until relatively recently. Yes, veggies are good for health, but so is unadulterated animal protein. Biologically, we’re designed as omnivores.

Vegetarianism and its many forms are a belief system. Understand that I have no issue with any sensible vegetarian. However, I’ve met many vegetarians who don’t eat vegetables and prefer sugary soft drinks, bagels, and muffins. Should any of us be surprised that they are often overweight and have a lot of health problems?

Again, I’m not trying to offend anyone or their beliefs. Rather, I’d like to encourage people to gain a better understanding of what shapes their nutritional beliefs and to remain open to where the scientific evidence leads.


  • Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, H FB, Krauss RM. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010;91:535-545.
  • Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, H FB, Krauss RM. Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010;91:502-509.
  • Feinman RD, Fine EJ. “A calorie is a calorie” violates the second law of thermodynamics. Nutrition Journal 2004;3:9-13.
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  • Eaton SB, Eaton SB III, Konner MJ, et al. An evolutionary perspective enhances understanding of human nutritional requirements. Journal of Nutrition, June 1996;126:1732-40.
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About Marilyn

I am a "retired senior" (I've been a school librarian and library tech for a government research facility) who is now pursuing a dream of a home business sewing bags of all sorts, crafting and being the creative person I have always wanted to be. I grew up in the center of Illinois and dreamed of actually living back in the state of Colorado where I was born and lived till the age of 7. That dream came true when I met my husband of 43 years while working together in Estes Park. I am interested in alternative medicine, continuing the good health I've always had, while returning to the pre-processed food era of: eating well, losing weight, and using products that do not harm the environment, me, my family and friends. I am for labeling GMO’s, using sustainable products, organics and finding solutions to everyday problems, like colds and sore muscles, using natural remedies. I have a positive attitude that has helped through a very hard year and will bring forth a life that will be full and happy. My family is wonderful and I am a happy lady, wife, mother, and grandma.

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