Conceptual issues in the nutrition sciences

PI: Coordinator: Jonathan Sholl

Investigating the conceptual challenges facing how nutrition research is carried out, how its results are interpreted, and how to build on what is known.

The nutrition sciences face a series of challenges. First, these sciences and their related practical recommendations are often criticized for their apparent lack of rigor and unreliability. Second, there are related challenges of how to ask and test more precise hypotheses and, subsequently, how to integrate and synthesize the nuanced details coming from the mountains of nutrition studies. Finally, nutrition has long been a rather theory poor domain and there is a growing call to introduce and develop theoretical frameworks that can guide research and practice.

In our research, we explore how philosophy can provide sophisticated ways to address these problems, largely through collaborations with nutrition researchers. While many of the concerns with the quality of evidence in nutrition are likely overblown, and some of them based on misunderstandings, clarifying the consensus among nutrition researchers requires careful nuance. One way forward is to develop better conceptual and theoretical tools to both analyze and evaluate frameworks in their ability to overcome siloed research and provide integrative explanations.

There are a variety of interdisciplinary issues to be explored, such as the role of reductionism as a method in nutrition research, the value of model organisms and comparative research for nutrition, the challenge of identifying causally relevant factors amidst immense nutritional complexity, determining whether and under what conditions any claims in nutrition will stand the test of time, and many more.

The overarching aim is to make the philosophy of/in nutrition a viable research domain at the interface of philosophy and science.


Collaborators: David Raubenheimer (University of Sydney)

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