Eating healthy — a new disease?

Allopathic medicine has a long history of “inventing” diseases and giving them fancy Latin names — all in order to come up with a pill or treatment to “cure” it.

Healthy foodsBut this one gets the absurdus maximus award — a Californian doctor, Steven Bratman, has “medicalized” a strong conscious desire to eat healthy, nutritional foods as a mental disorder! And, of course, he’s given it a name: orthorexia nervosa.

These poor demented souls are, as reported in The Guardian, “solely concerned with the quality of the food they put in their bodies, refining and restricting their diets according to their personal understanding of which foods are truly ‘pure’.”

They follow crazy behavior, like trying to eliminate refined sugar, salt, caffeine, alcohol, or other food groups from their diet. And they rebuff foods that have been in contact with pesticides, herbicides or contain artificial additives.

Granted, there are people who get a bit neurotic about food safety and base their dietary choices on fear rather than good sense. But the idea of turning food concerns into a mental health disease is just one more instance of medical manipulation.

While an anti-orthorexia drug hasn’t been developed — yet — Bratman quickly cashed in on his “disease” by writing a book called, “Health Food Junkies.”  I’m gratified to see it didn’t make much of a blip on the sales lists and got a dismal review score on (just 3 stars out of 5, with one person echoing my own feelings, saying, “So it is now a fixation to ‘obsess’ about healthy food? This is the most stupid, irresponsible drivel I have ever heard of. Ok, let’s NOT obsess about food, let’s keep eating meat, and dairy, and preservatives, and chemicals, let’s eat genetically modified food, let’s NOT read labels, let’s NOT think about what’s in our food, let’s keep getting diabetes, cancer and heart disease which NO DOCTOR has ANY CURE FOR!!! Just treatment, NO CURE. Let’s do that. Because doctors are so good at curing diseases. That’s why we are such a healthy nation! Mind-numbingly irresponsible, for a physician to write this.” I swear, I didn’t write that (but wish I had!). Here’s the Amazon page, just so you can read some of the other scathing reviews!

Not surprisingly, Bratman’s ideas have been picked up by the British medical community, which seems intent on destroying everything that isn’t totally aligned with the allopathic paradigm, be it homeopathy or, now, healthy eating!

Ursula Philpot, chair of the British Dietetic Association’s mental health group, told The Guardian: “The issues underlying orthorexia are often the same as anorexia and the two conditions can overlap but orthorexia is very definitely a distinct disorder. Those most susceptible are middle-class, well-educated people who read about food scares in the papers, research them on the internet, and have the time and money to source what they believe to be purer alternatives.”

(Interestingly, the main goal of the association appears to be acceptance by the medical profession, and, in the group’s words to “act as a specialist within a multi-disciplinary team … (and) act as a consultant to other health professionals advising on nutritional aspects of care.” Sounds much like those chiropractors and other alternative health providers who used to be willing to medicalize their professions in order to gain the approval of MDs. By now, most of them realize that’s not going to happen!)

Getting back to the dread “orthorexia nervosa” disease, Wikipedia further explains: “The subject may avoid certain unhealthy foods, such as those containing fats, preservatives, man-made food-additives, animal products, or other ingredients considered by the subject to be unhealthy; if the sufferer does not eat appropriately, malnutrition can ensue. Orthorexia sufferers have specific preferences about the foods they are eating and avoiding. Products that are preserved with additives can be considered dangerous. Industrial products can be seen as artificial, whereas biological fruits and vegetables can be seen as healthy.”

So, unless you relish an apple with a thick coating of pesticide residue, a fast food burger with 80 grams of saturated fat, or a TV dinner with a list of unpronounceable (and unidentifiable) ingredients, you may want to make an appointment with the nearest shrink. You could be a very sick mind (although chances are, you’ll have a heck of a lot healthier body than most!).

The friend who sent me this information — a guy who has a PhD in molecular biology and is finishing his last year interning as a psychiatrist — had a novel suggestion: “How about we come up with a term for a syndrome where certain sciences over-classify and are slaves of the pharmaceutical industry? Maybe inservio supervacuus (superfluous slave).”

7 thoughts on “Eating healthy — a new disease?”

  1. I knew I was feeling too healthy! I knew I MUST have a disease that I just was not recognizing! After all, how many 47 year olds go to the gym 6 days a week and hike and cycle to train for a natural bodybuilding contest? I knew this was not normal! Now I know, it is the “healthy” food I am eating that is causing me to do this! I am running out to buy ice cream, pizza, pop, and chips so I can get fat and develop diabetes and heart disease like all the normal 47 year olds. I might even pick up some fast food on my way home!

    How absolutely obsured! Caring about the food you put into your body is now a disease!? What next?

  2. It is interesting how some people see the world? What came first: food from the land or food from a can? Unfortunately man is his worst enemy… creating bad food to kill us of early and now creating diseases to ostracise those who choose to do be healthy. In this day and age it makes much more sense to be obsessive about food. We were at dinner this evening and people were amazed by the food our 14 month old baby ate… vegetables… and that is it! “Won’t he be lacking anything?” they asked, whilst all other children in the restaurant devoured french fries and chicken. I think the Medical Doctor who created such a scare should be reported for placing unnecessary fear into the community and potentially steering people away from healthy eating. We are in 2010 and the medical establishment has successfully created a disease for someone who loves to exercise (“move well”); now a disease for someone who wants to “eat well”… wait for it… there will be a disease before too long for those people who decide to “think well” and not reduce themselves to negativity! Please help restore some logic back onto the planet!!

  3. Dear Terry,

    You miss the point entirely. Even though you make this statement:

    “Granted, there are people who get a bit neurotic about food safety and base their dietary choices on fear rather than good sense.”

    You go on to imply that wanted healthy food is always classed as a mental disorder.
    Nonsense, its the *unhealthy* obsession with the purity of food, that causes anguish, depression and unhealthy weight loss.

    Here’s a real person, that you would term ‘a bit neurotic’

    PS. I eat very healthily but don’t have this condition. People with this condition can really suffer, and *don’t* end up getting a healthy balanced diet due to their obsessions.
    This is about an obsession *preventing* heathy behaviour and happiness.
    I can’t quite understand why you would choose to miss the point on this.

  4. Oops hit send too early:
    Did that guy look healthy or happy to you?
    Why not acknowledge the problem rather than pretending it doesn’t exist. If someone came to you with those sort of mental states, would you be indifferent, or would you want to work with them to build a healthier relationship with food?
    It sounds like you are using the plight of people with unhealthily obsessions as an opportunity to take a swipe at colleagues in the medical profession rather than caring about the people behind the issues. Please reconsider.



  5. As I said in my post, there are people who take even concerns about healthy eating too far.

    The problem comes, in my opinion, when the medical profession starts putting disease labels on behavior there is no way to quantify. Is a medical doctor going to make the determination whether a patients are “suffering” from a mental disease because they are careful about what they eat?

    Sorry, but most M.D.s barely have an education in nutrition and many still won’t even acknowledge the possible benefits of dietary changes. Too often, they pull out the prescription pad and think to “cure” all ailments in that way rather than exploring the person’s diet and lifesytle choices. In the case of this new “disease” (which, to the medical profession’s credit has NOT been officially classified as a disease — yet), there is talk of everything from anti-depressants to “medical nutrition therapy.”

    I see your point, but when diseases are invented in order to sell a book or lure patients to a medical clinic, I dont’ think we can blithely ignore it and pat the MDs on the back.

  6. Thanks for the response.
    You say:
    “Sorry, but most M.D.s barely have an education in nutrition and many still won’t even acknowledge the possible benefits of dietary change”

    I’m not sure what MDs you hang out with, but here in the UK, I’ve not met one who doesn’t extol the virtues of a healthy diet. The first questions for any patient are about smoking, exercise and diet.

    You say:

    “Is a medical doctor going to make the determination whether a patients are “suffering” from a mental disease because they are careful about what they eat?”

    Of course not, If someone was healthy and happily eating healthy food why would they a) be diagnosed with this disorder? b) Be invited to change?
    No reason. I completely incompetent doctor perhaps, I don’t personally know any. But maybe the odd one exists, just like there may be negligent chiropractors as well.

    If someone was obsessed with the purity of food to the extent that they were miserable and undernourished, shouldn’t that be a cause for empathy, concern and care?

    I honestly can’t see why you choose not to acknowledge the difference.
    Would you not have empathy for a patient suffering with these characteristics?

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