The unbearable heaviness of reductionism: the paradigm of the antiatherogenic diet

  • Marco Bobbio Slow Medicine General Secretariat, Former Director Cardiovascular Department, Santa Croce e Carle Hospital, Cuneo, Italy.
  • Antonio Bonaldi Slow Medicine President, former Medical Director, Brescia, Italy.
  • Luigi Lusiani | Department Internal Medicine, Hospital of Castelfranco Veneto (TV), Italy.
  • Emma Kidd Schumacher College, Dartington, Totnes, United Kingdom.


Reducing a complex phenomenon into a simplified description may help us to understand general issues and to make limited decisions, but can hardly allow us to accurately predict the consequences of an intervention. The case of the antiatherogenic diet is discussed. Simplified approaches, aimed at correcting single components of a diet, privileging the lipid theory over more comprehensive ones, sustained by the illusion that removing one single substance (the lowering-cholesterol mantra) would defeat cardiovascular disease, have led us to faulty results, because the interactions among components and their interconnections are not negligible. The industry’s interest in shifting the diet of millions of people in well-defined and profitable directions (lowfat, but sugar-rich for tastefulness reasons, as an example), in advance of well founded scientific evidence about benefit, has been mostly relevant. Nowadays, it is well recognized that refined and sweetened foods, not fats, are the main cause of obesity and diabetes, and that the cardiovascular risk is more dependent on the quantity of food consumed rather than the type of food. In recent years the attention of the researchers has moved from qualitative dietary studies and unnatural regimes, to quantitative diets and more naturally balanced regimes, within the concept of globally health life styles, against any reductionism.



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Technical note
Cardiovascular risk, antiatherogenic diet.
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How to Cite
Bobbio, M., Bonaldi, A., Lusiani, L., & Kidd, E. (2017). The unbearable heaviness of reductionism: the paradigm of the antiatherogenic diet. Italian Journal of Medicine, 11(3), 322-324.