Orthorexia, isn’t that a disease? No, orthorexia is just a combination of Greek words. Consider that anorexia is also not a disease. Anorexia is just another combination of Greek words, which means no appetite. Now, anorexia nervosa is a psychological disease with potentially dire consequences.
The translation of orthorexia should be straight (ortho) and appetite (rexia). We are familiar with similar terms. Orthodontist, meaning straight tooth. Orthopedics, meaning straight child. Orthodoxy, meaning straight doctrine.
For the purposes of this blog, orthorexia will mean proper nutrition. Proper nutrition should be important and understandable to all of us. Consider that we eat approximately 2000 pounds of food per year, that is about 1 ton of food per year (Allison Aubrey, 2011). Further, I think we have all recognized that obesity has become a major problem in the United States. In fact, back in 1953, the American Medical Association claimed that obesity was America’s #1 health problem.
So why do we not know how to eat properly? In other words, why are Americans so confused about diet and nutrition? As far as I can tell, the food industry has used a systematic approach, which could be termed agnotology, another Greek term. This Greek tenn stems from the root agnosis. The food industry does not want us to know about proper nutrition. Their strategy, in my opinion, is to get the experts to disagree, which leads to ignorance among our citizens.
Another factor that confuses our understanding of proper nutrition is the Federal Dietary Guidelines. These dietary guidelines do not come from nutritionists or physicians. The Federal Dietary Guidelines come from the US Department of Agriculture. Keep in mind that the principle interest of the US Department of Agriculture is not our health. Instead, the US Department of Agriculture promotes prosperity for America’s agriculture economy.
The Federal Dietary Guidelines have given us pyramids, which we have all seen. These pyramids indicate that we should have bread, cereal, rice and pasta in high quantities, 6 to 11 servings per day. The pyramid suggests that fruit and vegetables should be served 2 to 5 times per day. Milk, yogurt, cheese, meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts should only be served 2 to 3 times per day, and fats and oils should be used sparingly. Basically, this pyramid represents a low fat diet. For the last several decades, most of us have thought that proper nutrition involved a low fat diet. The US Department of Agriculture authors the Federal Dietary Guidelines which recommend that 45-65% of daily calories should come from carbohydrates. That represents 225-400 grams of carbohydrate per day.
In fact, what the US Department of Agricultural pyramid strategy has produced can be termed the Westem Diet. The Western Diet often leads to what is termed Western Diseases. These include the following:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary artery disease
- Cerebral vascular disease
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Varicose veins
- Deep venous thrombosis
- Pulmonary embolism
- Divcrticular disease
- Colon cancer
- Kidney stones
- Thyroid toxicosis
- Breast cancer
- Lung cancer
(Hugh Trowell, MD and Dennis Burlcit, MD, 1981)
In my opinion, some of the most damaging diseases in the United States are at least partially self-inflicted. These include diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, hypertension, coronary artery disease, inflammation and obesity.
Another cause for our confusion is the nonstop parade of Fad Diets. These include the following diets: Cambridge, Slim Fast, Blood Type, Alkaline, 0-ukan, Gluten Free, Israel Army, Pritikin, South Beach, Dexatrim, HCG, Hydroxycut, etc.
Another very disturbing mechanism by which we have become confused about proper nutrition can be blamed on our nutritionists and nutritional academicians. Keep in mind that the Harvard School of Public Health received approximately $200,000 from Kellogg and Nabisco (Michael Jacobson, 1976). Further, consider that Fred Stare, MD, Founder and Head of Harvard’s Nutritional Department, admitted that be was a “paid tool for the food industry.” (Jacobson 1976).
To find our way through all of this confusion, much of which has been created by the food industry, we must tum to another Greek term, epistemology. This Greek term describes how knowledge is acquired and propagated. We must understand who can be trusted when it comes to nutrition. We must continually watch out for conflicts of interest on this subject.
In this blog, we will try to understand orthorexia by challenging some commonly held dietary concepts. These include the following:
- Body fat only determines attractiveness, not health.
- Body fat is genetic
- Expend more calories than consumed.
- Avoid fats.
- Become a vegan/vegetarian.
- Create a diet especially for you.
- Exercise is more important than diet.
Before reading on, please consider these seven dietary concepts. Sec if you agree with any of them or all of them.