The quick answer: The overwhelming complexity of nutrition can be best managed by the combined use of three oracles: Scripture, Food Tradition, and Science. This is the new paradigm.
Two Best Food Authors
The two best food writers, in my view, are Gary Taubes and Mike Pollan. Neither is a scientist. Pollan, a U.C. Berkeley journalism professor, sells the most books. His In Defense of Food is an excellent summary of how nutrition went wrong and harmonizes with the Word of Wisdom prescription. His seven-word summary of what to do has become a classic: “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”
A diet prescription summarized from the W of W might say: Eat whole grains, vegetables and fruits in their seasons, with a little Nature-fed meat. That’s double the words, but maybe more helpful.
Gary Taubes was a little known science writer until he started to write about food. You can see his evolution by looking at his degrees (all from the best schools): A Harvard B.S. in physics, a Stanford MS in engineering, finished with a Columbia MA in journalism. Taubes wrote Good Calories, Bad Calories (titled Diet Delusion in the UK) a careful, if tedious, examination of how sugar and refined grains make us fat and unhealthy.
The Three Oracles
Word of Wisdom Living, as you well know, is based on three oracles: Science, Scripture, and Food Tradition. This has the rugged stability of a three-legged stool. In the beginning I thought Science would be the main voice. But after three years of writing this blog, I find myself more and more relying on Scripture and Tradition.
There was a fascination with Science in the last century that caused society to throw away olden ways. This was a big mistake though it made a good business for Food Inc. Perhaps the worst misuse of Science was the anti-fat craze—the idea that fat, not sugar and refined grains, caused heart disease. Many are still confused by this.
A century later, Science is found guilty of over-selling and under-delivering. Science knows a lot, but not enough to speak with authority. Worse, their tentative findings—though always interesting—have been misappropriated by Food Inc and Big Pharma for uses that make money but harm society.
There is a rising group attempting to remedy this great harm. The practitioners call it Lifestyle Medicine. This simply means that rather than just getting a doctor’s prescription for the newest heavily advertised drug, you’re likely to also get evidence-based coaching on nutrition, exercise, stress management, or even the importance of love. We’ll be hearing more about this.
The Limits of Science
So last week Gary Taubes wrote a great article in the N. Y. Times titled Why Nutrition Is So Confusing. Basically he called our institutions of science a “dysfunctional establishment.” The tools of science, powerful as they may be, are overwhelmed by the complexity of nutrition and we have been harmed by their misuse. A new paradigm is needed, as well as a little humility.
So here’s an idea: Because of the complexity of nutrition, mankind should approach it using the combined oracles of Scripture, Tradition, and Science. Can you see the power of this?