Food what? Have you ever heard this word? Me not, until I came across it in a study where they were looking for healthy males and one exclusion factor was if the person who wanted to participate in the study was vegetarian, vegan or a food faddist.
So wth is a food faddist?
A faddist is a person who follows fads. Clear, isn’t it? No? Just joking! A faddist is obsessed with certain behaviours or subjects and prey to undisciplined and disproportioned enthusiasms. So, what does that mean applied to food ? Let me explain. If you believe that certain foods or a certain diet convey special health benefits, through its content of special nutrients, like enzymes, minerals and vitamins in a unique combination, and these claims are supported by the best available science then you are a sane and reasonable person. However, once you start making wild unsupported claims about the ability of certain foods (like curcuma, chia or green tea…) or diets (say Atkin’s, Keto, Veganism…) to have superpowers or, by themselves cure disease you have eventually become a food faddist.
“Food faddism is a dietary practice based upon an exaggerated belief in the effects of food or nutrition on health and disease.” 1 McBean LD, Speckmann EW. Food faddism: a challenge to nutritionists and dietitians. Am J Clin Nutr. 1974 Oct;27(10):1071-8. No abstract available. PMID: 4417113
Food faddists are those who follow a particular nutritional practice with [excessive] zeal and whose claims for its benefits are substantially more than science has substantiated.” Jarvis WT. Food faddism, cultism, and quackery. Annu Rev Nutr. 1983;3:35-52. Review. No abstract available. PMID: 6315036
Hold on, you say, did you just include Veganism in that list? Yeah, oops. “Why” you ask? Ok, let’s dig deeper. As per definition Food Faddists are obsessed with diets or so-called superfoods. In my opinion all real “foods” are, per definition, also “superfoods”, because everything that I include in my “food”-list is actually full of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and proteins, pre- and probiotics and fibre. “Foodstuff” which I do not include in my “real foods”-list, aka which may be eaten, but will not confer real nutrition, are all animal products but also highly processed foods, refined carbs, sugary beverages, sweets or grassy, fried stuff. All these can be digested by our body but do not deliver a considerable amount of healthy nutrients and are thus treats, something you would eat only once in a while, and not real, nutritious food. Got it? So the whole concept of “superfoods” makes no sense for whom eats a whole food, plant-based diet, as all we consume are superfoods.
Note! I just said “animal products” might be a treat as are sweets or the greasy doughnut from your favourite vendor. So here is the clue to why I think that Veganism is a food fad while a whole-food plant based diet is not: If someone chooses to eat an egg once a month to treat himself and help him go plant-based for the rest of the time, I think it is perfectly reasonable. For sure there will still be the moral consequence of being part of something one would prefer to avoid, but as for health reasons, this one egg or the one pizza with cheese you eat on your special Friday or when you go out with your friends, won’t nullify the health benefits you get from your whole-food, plant-based diet, if for 95% of the time you stick to it.
Science is difficult to interprete, and its easy to take out a single study to support any given claim, but as a whole it has shown that not certain single foods but a group of foods, namely plant based foods such as grains, fruits and vegetables, and legumes, consumed in a broad spectrum and as a whole are superior for human health and the environment to a diet containing meat, dairy or other animal derived foods, which as a whole and in general contain more problematic substances than the first and create a disease-promoting ambient in the human body.
So am I a food faddist? No, because my claims are backed by the best available science, and no mere believes, and I don’t claim that one special food over others have miraculous effects on our health.
Wanna read more on that? Read on…