#462: Gyorgy Scrinis, PhD – Ultra-Processed Foods, Nutritionism and Current Food Systems

In Podcasts by Danny Lennon4 Comments

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Guest Information
  3. Overview
  4. Related Resources
  5. Detailed Study Notes (Premium Subscribers Only)
  6. Transcript (Premium Subscribers Only)


Over the past decade, the increasing uptake and acceptance of the Nova food processing classification system has placed focus on one of the categories in Nova; ultra-processed foods (UPFs). Ultra-processed foods (UPFs) are products created from deconstructed (and recombined) food components, usually with the goal of creating a highly palatable, convenient, and profitable product. This typically means such products are high in nutrients of content (e.g. sugar, sodium, saturated fat, etc.). But in addition, they have other characteristics that may make them detrimental to health, particularly when they replace unprocessed or minimally processed foods in the diet.

There is now clear evidence showing that when such products make up a large proportion of the diet, such a dietary pattern has negative health effects. However, there are still many unanswered questions and many debates within nutrition science about how to best classify UPFs, to what degree they need to be limited, whether some can be beneficial, and what to do with policy going forward.

To offer one perspective on this issue, Associate Professor of Food Politics and Policy at the University of Melbourne, Dr. Gyorgy Scrinis, is on the podcast to discuss his work in the area.

While we have discussed the problem of reductionism in nutrition science previously on the podcast, Dr. Scrinis’ use of the term ‘reductionism’ does differ a bit from the way others use the term. For example, he suggests that nutrition science has been too reductive even at the food-level and dietary-pattern level.

His work on ultra-processed foods and the Nova classification system has attempted to understand the technological and corporate character of ultra-processed foods, the power of food corporations, and how food corporations shape and capture nutrition science for the purposes of promoting and defending their products.

Guest Information

Gyorgy Scrinis, PhD

Gyorgy Scrinis is Associate Professor of Food Politics and Policy at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Dr. Scrinis is a social scientist by background, who studies the philosophy, social theory, and politics of food and nutrition science. In addition, this work looks at power relations and political dynamics across the food system.

Dr. Scrinis’ early work on “nutritionism” involves uncovering the various forms of reductionism within nutrition science, dietary guidelines, nutritional engineering of foods, food marketing, and food policy. It also looks at how food corporations have benefited from this nutrient-centric approach. Beyond his academic work, he also wrote a book on the topic titled ‘Nutritionism The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice’.

In recent years, Dr. Scirinis’ attention has been on ultra-processed foods and the food corporations that produce. This was already an important feature of his book Nutritionism, in which he proposed a classification system for processed foods. However, since then he has embraced the Nova classification and the UPF concept within that. And he has collaborated extensively with Prof. Carlos Monteiro.


  • Understanding the problem of ‘nutritionism’
  • Beyond reductionism at the nutrient-level, has nutrition science been reductive at both food-level and dietary-pattern level?
  • How Dr. Scrinis’ interest in the philosophy of nutrition science connects to his current interest in ultra-processed foods
  • Why the development of the Nova classification system has been an important step for nutrition science
  • What makes UPFs more problematic than the sum of their nutrient profile
  • The replacement effect on whole food consumption
  • Considering the impacts of UPFs across the nutrient, food, and dietary pattern levels
  • How much UPF people are eating
  • Dr. Scrinis’ criticisms of reformulation
  • Unintended consequences of policy
  • How can we find answers in the face of a lack of political will and increasing food corporation power?
  • What can nutrition science learn from social science?

Detailed Study Notes

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  1. Loved this episode, lots of nuance and detail and insight that I’d not heard before on this topic – thanks!

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