In Defense of Food

7 July 2016

When Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma was published, many readers began questioning him for advice on what they should eat in order to stay healthy. In his more recent book, In Defense of Food, he responds with three rules, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”(Pollan 1). This seven word response seems too simple for a relatively complicated question, but as he further elaborates these rules into specific guidelines, this summary turns out to be surprisingly complete.

Using inductive and deductive reasoning, he debunks the ideas behind nutritionism and food science, and proves that the western diet is the cause for food related diseases. Inductive reasoning is when a general conclusion is drawn based off observations, and deductive reasoning is when specific conclusion is drawn based on general concepts (Griffith 269-270). In Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food, his reasoning is sound because he makes strong inductive and deductive arguments which are supported by studies and research from credible sources.

In Defense of Food Essay Example

In the first section of Pollan’s book, he explains what nutritionism is and how it has led to bad food science. Nutritionism is the “widely shared but unexamined assumption that the key to understanding food is indeed the nutrient. To put in another way: Foods are essentially the sum of their nutrients”(Pollan 28). According to nutritionism, since nutrients are invisible and a mystery to us, we rely on scientists to explain the unseen reality of food for us, and look toward them for expert help. But Pollan asks, why do we need help?

Throughout human history, Pollan explains that before nutritionism was invented, “to guide us we had, instead, Culture, which, at least when it comes to food, is really just a fancy word for mother”(Pollan 3). As he further elaborates on this, he explains how nutritionism has successfully replaced culture as a guideline for what to eat. “Over the last decade, mom lost much of her authority over the dinner menu, ceding to scientists and food marketers [… ] with its ever-shifting dietary guidelines, food labeling rules, and perplexing pyramids”(Pollan 3).

While nutritionism is suppose to scientifically guide us to eat healthy, Pollan points out that there is no scientific evidence to back it. Instead, he provides research conducted by Harvard nutrition scientist that proves the opposite. “In the public’s mind [… ] words like ‘low-fat’ and ‘fat-free’ have been synonymous with heart health. It is now increasingly recognized that low-fat campaign has been based on little scientific evidence and may have caused unintended health consequences. ” (Pollan 43).

In Based off these observations, Pollan uses inductive reasoning to draw the conclusion that nutritionism is more harmful then helpful. When Pollan’s states to eat food as his first rule, he means exactly that, eat real food. While this statement seems so obvious that it shouldn’t need to be a rule, Pollan explains how we are trapped by the Western diet and that access to real food over highly processed food products is harder then it seems. “Taking food’s place on the shelves has been an unending stream of foodlike substitutes, some seventeen thousands new ones every year”(Pollan 147).

For those that don’t know, the Western diet is a term coined to describe our pattern of eating, which is characterized by “lots of processed foods and meat, lots of added fat and sugar, lots of everything except fruits, vegetables, and whole grains”(Pollan 89). Using deductive reasoning, Pollan links the Western diet to food related diseases, and confirms that the Western diet is to blame. “People who eat the way we do in the West today suffer substantially higher rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity than people eating a number of traditional diets”(Pollan 90).

He further elaborate on this, explaining how there was a study done on a group of Aborigines that had adopted the Western diet which caused many of them to suffer from type 2 diabetes. In the study, the group was asked to return to their traditional diet for seven weeks, too see it had any effects. “After seven weeks, O’Dea drew blood from the Aborigines and found striking improvements in virtually every measure of their health [… ] all the abnormalities of type II diabetes were either greatly improved or completely normalized “(Pollan 87). With this, Pollan creates a deductive syllogism to link the Western diet to food diseases.

A syllogism is a form of reasoning which connects two supporting premises that lead to a conclusion (Griffith 270). His first premise is that the Western diet causes food related health problems. The second premise is that the Aborigines adopted the Western diet, which leads to the conclusion that the Aborigines will face food related problems. His deductive syllogism is sound because both premises were true, and the fact that many Aborigines had diabetes proves that the conclusion is also true. This study also proves that the inverse of this syllogism is also valid and sound.

The first premise is that abandoning the Western diet and adopting a traditional diet will relieve food related health problems. The second premise is that the Aborigines stopped eating the Western diet and adopted their traditional diet, which leads to the conclusion that the Aborigines were relived of their health problems. Once again, Pollan’s deductive syllogism is sound because he provides research to prove both premises and the conclusion are true. Pollan’s second rule, not too much, refers to the fact the people in the west over eat compared to other cultures.

“In a comparison of French and American eating habits conducted in restaurants [… ] He found that serving sizes in France, both in restaurants and supermarkets, are considerably smaller then they are in the United States”( Pollan 183). He explains that no matter how small or large the portion is, we tend to eat however much is served because we believe that it’s the proper amount to eat. In addition to being trapped by the Western diet, Pollan explains that our habit to overindulge is further adding to our health problems.

He observes that the cultures which practice against overeating are found to be free of food related health problems. “The people of Okinawa, one of the longest-lived and healthiest populations in the world, practice a principle they call hara hachi bu: Eat until you are 80 percent full”(Pollin 185). Using inductive reasoning, Pollan draws the conclusion that we will be healthier if we try to imitate another culture’s eating habits. Through the use of both inductive and deductive reasoning, Pollan informs readers about the dangers of the Western diet, and provides guidelines on how to eat healthy.

Using inductive reasoning, he debunks the ideologies of nutritionism and the food science behind it. He also uses it to reveal that our eating habits need improvement. Using deductive reasoning, he creates syllogisms which prove that our Western diet is harmful and that they way to heal ourselves is to adopt a traditional diet. With each of his reasoning’s, Pollan provides cited evidence from a number of credible sources. The use of evidence from credible sources to support his arguments is the reason why Pollan’s reasoning and logic are sound.

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