The review study, conducted by David Jacobs, Ph.D., and Mayo Professor of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, Professor Linda Tapsell of the University of Wollongong in Australia and team, urged that people should shift the focus toward the benefits of entire food products and food patterns in order to better understand nutrition in regard to a healthy human body.
In the study, the researchers focussed on the concept of food synergy, the idea that more information about the impact of human health could be obtained by looking at whole foods than a single food component, such as vitamin C, or calcium added to a container of orange juice.
"We are confusing ourselves and the public by talking so much about nutrients when we should be talking about foods," Jacobs said.
"Consumers get the idea that diet and health can be understood in terms of isolated nutrients. It's not the best approach, and it might be wrong," he said.
Jacobs said that an understanding of the interactions between food components in both single foods and whole diets opens up new areas of thinking that appear to have greater application to contemporary population health issues, particularly those related to chronic lifestyle disease.
Tapsell said that the new understanding helps in reminding the central position of food in the nutrition-health interface.
"It is this new understanding that reminds us emphatically of the central position of food in the nutrition-health interface, which begs for much more whole food-based research, and encourages us in both research and dietary advice to, 'think food first'," Tapsell said.
This view point is divergent to popular practice in food industry and government, where marketers and regulators focus more on total fat, carbohydrate and protein and on specific vitamins and added supplements in food products, not the food items as a whole.
The study is published in the Journal of Nutrition Reviews.