How has Food Become a Cult?

Campus Change Report
The latest food trends are promising limitless energy and maximized performance.

Three cups of coffee, two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of coconut oil mixed in a blender. This fatty coffee contains 450 calories and claims to lead to “unlimited energy, disappearance of appetite, growth of muscle mass, fat burning and incredible concentration”.

Reviews like this really make you want to try the drink, known as bulletproof coffee. The man behind the recipe is investor and technology entrepreneur Dave Asprey from Silicon Valley. He tastes a local butter tea while visiting Tibet and “immediately gained more years”. With a big smile on his Facebook profile, there's no doubt he does looks full of vitality.

The latest food trends are promising limitless energy and maximized performance.
Asprey explains on his website that he spent two decades and over $300 000 to hack his own biology. He lost over 50 kilos without trying to lose weight, raised his IQ by over 20 points and calculated his biological age by learning to sleep more productively in shorter time. He has written a bestselling book about the bulletproof diet, hosts his own bulletproof radio podcast, sells bulletproof products and organizes bulletproof biohacking conferences. Asprey's Facebook-page has over 155 000 likes.

The arguments for the positive effects of the bulletproof-coffee seem perfect: A combination of one part Tibetan traditional recipe and one part modern western study is perfect for a modern trend in which people want enlightenment and success at the same time.

Unbeatable by food

However, nutritional scientists are denying both the revitalizing effects and benefits of bulletproof coffee. The primary nutrition our brains need is carbohydrates, not fats, even though the middle length fatty acids the drink contains are good for us.

James Hamblin explains in The Atlantic how nutritional science is suffering from a believability crisis. Behind every corner a new revelation about the 'perfect diet' pops up. A respected nutritional scientist will praise the effects of a new 'superfood' in one article, while another expert completely denies it in another. This week's recommendation will be proven to be highly dangerous by next week, and with all this confusion it is tempting to think that no matter what we're being told, all scientific knowledge will be disproven in the end.

Still, diet is extremely important for our health and lives. That everyone can agree on. There are a endless arguments about what the best diet is. The loudest ones are those that promise quick and easy solutions and are most certain of the results. Many have vested interests – a book on the way or a product series about to be launched. Who wouldn’t want to be a nutritional guru?

Vegetables certainly perform miracles

A scientific release, Annual Reviews, asked Andre Katzia, a doctor from Yale University, to compare different fad diets and their costs and benefits from a scientific point of view. The final summary was that no diet is better than another, but certain characteristics in diets turn out to be beneficial to maintain good health. A diet including as little processed food as possible and consisting mainly of vegetables seems to improve health and prevent diseases.

When talking about diets, it is important to admit that there are a lot of things we still can't be sure about. Hostile marketing campaigns declaring the “one and only diet” are damaging the whole discussion, and will only lead to an endless swamp of suspicion and uncertainty. Katz believes that instead of talking about new miraculous diets, the health media should be advocating for all the ingredients that we definitely know to be healthy.

According to the doctor, philosopher Bertrand Russell hit the nail on the head when he stated that the bugbear of our world is that it's the stupid ones who are always confident and the wise ones who are full of suspicion.


Push: Nutrition science has sailed into crisis because wonder diets always promise more.

Social media push: The crisis of nutritional science by the words of Bertrand Russell: it's the stupid ones who are always confident and the wise ones who are full of suspicion. #diet #science

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