What is forensic nutrition?
Forensic nutrition investigates connections between food and diseases, while traditional, orthodox nutrition investigates and promotes connections between food and health.
In practical terms these differences mean the following:
Traditional nutrition seeks out food to improve health using a simplistic approach: If one apple is good for you, then more apples are better. If water is good for you, then more water is better. If fat is bad for you, then no fat is better.
This kind of seemingly logical and, without a doubt, well-intentioned deductive reasoning gave birth to what I call nutritional engineering. It is particularly prominent and dominant in the United States because anyone with a big mouth, good looks, a top agent, and a bit of luck can get a fat publishing contract and sell a ton of diet books. (Not that I lack anything above, but my penchant for picking up controversial subjects and a proclivity for perfectionism makes it ten times as difficult as being a copycat or sycophant.)
In practice, nutritional engineering boils down to doling out foods in the ratios that fit personal bias, specialty, and business objectives of each particular ‘nutritionist’ or 'dietitian.' Thus, USDA promotes the MyPyramid diet, Dr. Ornish promotes a low-fat diet, Dr. Atkins' estate promotes a low-carb diet, Dr. Amato promotes a blood type diet, Dr. Jenkins promotes a low glycemic index diet, Brenda Watson promotes the Fiber35 diet, Shelley Case promotes a gluten-free diet, Suzanne Sommers promotes... Suzanne Sommers, and, not to miss the party, Kim Barnouin promotes the Skinny Bitch diet (no, this isn't a joke), and so on.
It sounds absurd, and it is—considering that we all start life with identical stomachs, pancreases, livers, kidneys, and intestines, and that the genetic differences between you, me, and all of these ‘foodies’ are less than 0.1%. With this background in mind, our optimal diets can't be that dog-eat-dog opposite, antagonistic, and irreconcilable, can they?
On the other hand, forensic nutrition doesn't engineer diets or count calories, but deconstructs the core assumption behind presumably “good,” “healthy,” and “safe” foods, and determines their impact on diseases rather than health. It asks the following questions: What happens if you consume too much fiber? What happens if you eat too many apples? What happens if you drink too much water? What happens if you don‘t consume enough fat?
Forensic nutrition is deeply grounded in an existing well-established, undisputed, and well-settled body of science in human anatomy, physiology, biology, anthropology, and medical biochemistry — collectively, fundamental science. This approach precludes personal biases, which are typical for most medical writers. Hence its answers are exacting and specific:
If soluble fiber causes diarrhea, then exclude foods rich in soluble fiber instead of wiping out intestinal bacteria with antibiotics just because the bacterial fermentation of excess fiber produces diarrhea-causing substances.
If insoluble fiber causes large stools, large stools cause straining, straining causes hemorrhoidal disease, and hemorrhoidal disease causes constipation, then exclude fiber instead of taking MiraLAX to overcome constipation.
If overhydration causes hypercalcinuria (calcium loss with urine), and hypercalcinuria causes kidney stones, then consume fluids in moderation instead of drinking even more water to ‘wash’ out the said calcium, and ending up with debilitating osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and osteomalacia on top of kidney stones.
If a low-fat diet causes gallstones, then consume fat in moderation to facilitate a timely and regular release of bile from the gallbladder instead of losing your gallbladder to a surgeon‘s knife.
Nutritional intervention is the next logical step in reversing food-borne diseases, or “nutropathies” (nutritional pathologies). It combines nutritional hygiene (proper style of eating), nutritional profiling (matching food with age-related physiological needs), and nutritional augmentation (compensating missing micronutrients with basic supplements instead of consuming factory-made foods fortified with iron, folic acid, vitamins A, C, and D, and calcium).
Nutritional intervention yields particularly dramatic results in critical nutrition for the morbidly ill, in performance nutrition for athletes, performers, and professionals, in geriatric nutrition for seniors, in pediatric nutrition for sick children, and in many other areas.
Once nutritional intervention is successfully completed, functional nutrition enters the stage. Functional nutrition isn‘t a diet per se, but a lifestyle of eating fitted to an individual‘s social, cultural, and ethnic preferences, and health- and age-related objectives.
Functional nutrition provides essential nutrients for the seamless functioning of body and mind. These nutrients come from natural foods in season, which are high in nutritional content and consumed with minimal processing. These can be meat, fowl, fish, seafood, unprocessed dairy, fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts.
Carbohydrates in moderation are perfectly acceptable and even necessary to prevent lean tissue (protein) wasting. Foods that may cause allergies to particular individuals are excluded. Obviously, functional nutrition avoids highly processed commercial foods because they harm digestion.
As you can see, functional nutrition is neither a primitive caveman-style diet, nor a chimera of a balanced diet. Rather, it is a prudent style of low-fuss, low-impact nutrition that reflects our physiological and emotional needs, our era, and our individual realities.
The key principles of functional nutrition are described in great depth in my Russian-language book Functional Nutrition. In the final chapters, Fiber Menace gives a fair representation of functional nutrition and nutritional intervention in the context of low-fiber diets.
The principles and benefits of forensic nutrition, nutritional intervention, and functional nutrition are nowhere as self-evident as in functional digestive disorders. My current work in this field deconstructs this complicated subject with the same rigor as Fiber Menace deconstructed the aftermath of fiber addiction on digestion and longevity.