Uncategorized » Nutrition Confusion is the Underlying Epidemic: A Selection from T. Colin Campbell’s The Future of Nutrition
T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

This excerpt taken from Dr. Campbell’s The Future of Nutrition (2020) discusses the inadequate level of nutrition-related knowledge typical in our society. This lack of understanding is a central feature of most people’s relationship with nutrition today. To learn more about The Future of Nutrition, read our dedicated webpage. To learn more about nutrition and its role in preventing and treating disease, check out our Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate.

It seems to me that most of the public’s nutrition “schooling” today involves the accumulation of conflicting information, but few to no skills to sort through and judge the veracity of that information.

Have we ever been taught discernment? According to a 2013 cross-sectional study[1] in which researchers used questionnaires to study “the nutrition-related knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors among Head Start teachers” in Texas, the answer is no. The reason Head Start teachers are especially good subjects for a study like this is because they work on the front lines of early childhood education and serve low-income communities that disproportionately struggle with nutrition-related diseases. Moreover, Head Start centers around the country have made teaching healthy eating a high priority. This is reflected in the attitudes of the surveyed teachers, the vast majority of whom (92.7 percent) agreed with the statement, “Learning the relationship between food and health is important.” Although I question the degree to which they believe nutrition is important, for the reasons discussed in Part I—as a result of institutional beliefs, we as a society do not fully grasp nutrition’s role in disease formation and treatment—the point stands: these are people with good intentions and a desire to understand the fundamentals of nutrition. Unfortunately, more than four out of five Head Start teachers were either unsure or agreed with the statement, “It’s hard to know which nutrition information to believe,” and just under four out of five were either overweight or obese. Basically, the vast majority of them are confused about nutrition and their health proves it. So does the rest of the questionnaire. When asked five elementary questions to test their knowledge of nutrition (e.g., which has more calories, protein, carbohydrate, or fat?), only 3 percent answered four of the questions correctly. None could answer all five questions correctly.

I would suggest that Head Start teachers are normal in both their intentions and their confusion. They reflect the general public of today, and unless we change course, they will reflect the general public of tomorrow. The frightening truth is that there are many powerful interests that would like to see these trends continue. A confused consumer is a gullible consumer, and gullible consumers fatten the wallets and purses of the food, pharmaceutical, and supplement industries.

The Future of Nutrition: An Insider’s Look at the Science, Why We Keep Getting It Wrong, and How to Start Getting It Right

In The Future of Nutrition, T. Colin Campbell cuts through the noise with an in-depth analysis of our historical relationship to the food we eat, the source of our present information overload, and what our current path means for the future—both for individual health and society as a whole. The Future of Nutrition offers a fascinating deep-dive behind the curtain of the field of nutrition—with implications both for our health and for the practice of science itself.


  1. Sharma S, Dortch KS, Byrd-Williams C, et al. Nutrition-related knowledge, attitudes, and dietary behaviors among head start teachers in Texas: a cross-sectional study. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013;113(4):558-562. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2013.01.003

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