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Genes Nutr. 2013 Jul;8(4):357-63. doi: 10.1007/s12263-013-0336-8. Epub 2013 Mar 15.

Food and health: individual, cultural, or scientific matters?

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1
School of Education and Communication, Jönköping University, Jönköping, Sweden, karin.nordstrom@hlk.hj.se.

Abstract

In personalized nutrition, food is a tool for good health, implying an instrumental relationship between food and health. Food receives a secondary value, while health would appear to be a descriptive biological concept. This article gives an introduction to cultural understandings of food and health. The wider definition of food and health is explored in relation to the commonly used scientific approach that tends to take a more reductionist approach to food and health. The different discourses on food and health are being discussed in relation to ethical aspects of personalized nutrition. The success of personalized nutrition is likely dependent upon the ability to integrate the scientific approach with everyday cultural, emotional, ethical, and sensual understandings of food. Health theories can be divided into two principal rival types-biostatistical and holistic. Biostatistical focuses on survival, while holistic focuses on ability as a precondition for health. Arguments in favor of a holistic and individualistic theory of health and illness are presented. This implies a focus on the ability of the individual to realize his or her "vital goals." A holistic and individualistic health concept may have a reinforcing effect on the individualized approach in personalized nutrition. It allows focus on individual health premises and related dietary means of health promotion, as well as an individualized perspective on the objectives of health promotion. An individualistic notion of health also indicates that people with high levels of vital goals benefit more easily. To reach beyond these groups is likely difficult. This potential injustice should be balanced with global preventive medical programs.

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