Food and Behaviour Research

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Capable and credible? Challenging nutrition science

Penders B, Wolters A, Feskens EF, Brouns F, Huber M, Maeckelberghe ELM, Gerjan Navis G, Theo Ockhuizen T, Plat J, Jan Sikkema J, Stasse‑Wolthuis M, van ‘t Veer P, Marcel Verweij M, de Vries J (2017) Eur J Nutr  July 2017 DOI 10.1007/s00394-017-1507-y 

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Nutrition science has enriched our understanding of how to stay healthy by producing valuable knowledge about the interaction of nutrients, food, and the human body. Nutrition science also has raised societal awareness about the links between food consumption and well-being, and provided the basis for food regulations and dietary guidelines. Its collaborative and interdisciplinary research has accomplished much, scientifcally and socially. Despite this, nutrition science appears to be in crisis and is currently confronted with a public reluctance to trust nutritional insights.

Though defating trust is a general phenomenon surrounding the scientifc community, its impact on nutrition science is particularly strong because of the crucial role of nutrition in everyone’s daily life. We, a Dutch collective of nutritionists, medical doctors, philosophers and sociologists of science (, have diagnosed that nutrition science is meeting inherent boundaries. This hampers conceptual and methodological progress and the translation of novel insights into societal beneft and trust.

In other words, nutrition science is facing limitations to its capability and credibility, impeding its societal value. We take up the challenge to halt the threatening erosion of nutrition science’s capability and credibility, and explore a way forward. We analyse limitations to capability and credibility, then argue that nutrition science is caught in a vicious circle, and end by ofering some suggestions to transcend the limitations and escape the current deadlock. We invite nutritional experts as well as scholars from adjacent disciplines to engage in the discussion.


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