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From the imperial to the empty calorie: how nutrition relations underpin food regime transitions


  • Jane Dixon



This article works in a recursive manner by using the tools of a food regime approach to reinterpret the nutrition transition that has been underway internationally for 100 years, and then describing the contributions of nutrition science to the 1st and 2nd Food Regimes and the passages between Food Regimes. The resulting history—from the ‘imperial calorie’ through the ‘protective’ vitamin to the ‘empty calorie’—illuminates a neglected dimension to food regime theorising: the role of socio-technical systems in shaping a set of value relations that are central to class relations. Contestation over one such system, nutritionalisation, currently involves an ungovernable array of actors. In describing the protagonists to the system of nutritionalisation, a classic confrontation emerges between technical and lifeworld rationality. Representing the former approach are actor networks responsible for the ‘trade-in-health’ sector which produces foods and nutritional values aimed at both over-nourished and under-nourished populations. Clinging to a lifeworld rationality are ‘culture eaters’ worldwide, for whom nutrition value relations are secondary to communal and ecological relations. This dynamic appears within wealthier Asian states which are emerging as central to the trade-in-nutritional health sector while acting to protect their own customary dietary practices. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Suggested Citation

  • Jane Dixon, 2009. "From the imperial to the empty calorie: how nutrition relations underpin food regime transitions," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 26(4), pages 321-333, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:26:y:2009:i:4:p:321-333
    DOI: 10.1007/s10460-009-9217-6

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    8. Dawe, D. & Robertson, R. & Unnevehr, L., 2002. "Golden rice: what role could it play in alleviation of vitamin A deficiency?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 27(5-6), pages 541-560.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:spr:agrhuv:v:34:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10460-016-9764-6 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Khan, Shumaisa S. & Timotijevic, Lada & Newton, Rachel & Coutinho, Daniela & Llerena, José Luis & Ortega, Santiago & Benighaus, Ludger & Hofmaier, Christian & Xhaferri, Zamira & de Boer, Alie & Urban,, 2016. "The framing of innovation among European research funding actors: Assessing the potential for ‘responsible research and innovation’ in the food and health domain," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 78-87.
    3. Žaklina Stojanović & Radmila Dragutinović-Mitrović & Martine Zaouche-Laniau, 2017. "Products with nutrition and health claims in the Western Balkans: labelling behaviour, regulation and policy implications," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 43(1), pages 107-123, February.
    4. C. Hinrichs, 2014. "Transitions to sustainability: a change in thinking about food systems change?," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 31(1), pages 143-155, March.
    5. Francisco Martinez-Gomez & Gilberto Aboites-Manrique & Douglas Constance, 2013. "Neoliberal restructuring, neoregulation, and the Mexican poultry industry," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 30(4), pages 495-510, December.
    6. Otero, Gerardo & Pechlaner, Gabriela & Liberman, Giselle & Gürcan, Efe, 2015. "The neoliberal diet and inequality in the United States," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 47-55.
    7. Richard Lee, 2012. "Knowledge claims and the governance of agri-food innovation," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 29(1), pages 79-91, March.
    8. Park, Yoosun & Quinn, James & Florez, Karen & Jacobson, Judith & Neckerman, Kathryn & Rundle, Andrew, 2011. "Hispanic immigrant women's perspective on healthy foods and the New York City retail food environment: A mixed-method study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 13-21, July.
    9. repec:fpr:ifprib:9780896292710 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. repec:spr:agrhuv:v:34:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10460-016-9746-8 is not listed on IDEAS


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