History of Nutrition Trends

Welcome to the Fundamentals of Functional Nutrition Course. We are pleased that you have decided to make a positive change towards understanding nutrition and having a more fulfilling healthy life. As you’re probably aware, the nutritional “landscape” is often complex and it is easy to become overwhelmed by the large amount of often contradicting information about nutrition.

Whether you work in the health industry, or just want to be better informed about nutrition, we believe you have the right to question popular beliefs and challenge current paradigms about nutrition in order to decide what is best for you, your clients, and your families and friends.

By understanding how to access and critically analyse information and apply this training in your own daily lives, you will quickly learn to navigate through the current nutritional “minefield” and be better equipped to make informed decisions about your food and nutrition.

The Functional Nutrition Course contains an overall amount of 12 modules. The following sample class is the first lesson of module 1 and will introduce you to the concept of vitalism. Throughout the journey of module 1 you will have a closer look at the philosophy, cultural anthropology, food trends and nutrition in the 21st Century.

Welcome to Module 1: History of Nutrition Trends

“Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.” Charles Darwin.

Nutrition and health is the “cornerstone” of wellbeing and longevity. Since our humble beginnings as a species our genes have been shaped by subsistence strategies that have played a critical role in our evolution. For example, improvements in the quality of diets were critical for the development of a larger brain in Homo sapiens. However, profound changes in our diet and lifestyle that began with the introduction of the agricultural revolution, and more recently, the availability of energy-dense processed foods are thought to be too recent to facilitate adaptive changes in our genes to compensate for these new dietary practices.

Accordingly, it is suggested that the discordance between our ancestral legacy and contemporary lifestyles may be contributing to several “lifestyle” diseases such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, autoimmunity, type 2 diabetes, and many others.

Furthermore, in our industrialised and technologically sophisticated lives humans are losing touch with the realities of the natural world. Many of us don’t understand where our food comes from; we spend large amounts of money on things we don’t need; we are stressed, confused, and frustrated. The benefits of embracing nature on our mental and physical health have been thoroughly demonstrated and evidence conclusively indicates that knowing and experiencing nature makes us generally happier and healthier people. Accordingly, understanding where we “fit” in nature will help us appreciate where we have come from and where we might be heading as a species.

Accordingly, this Module will introduce participants to the concept of vitalism and the human body’s innate intelligence. It will “set the scene” for all other corresponding Modules and provides the core principles that support the overall Functional Nutrition Course. We will also take an excursion through time to investigate food and nutrition and develop our understanding of current food trends and nutritional habits in a modern society. This will create a strong foundation for participants to commence their investigative journey into the world of food and nutrition.

Have fun and good luck with your studies!

Module 1: History of Nutrition Trends - Video Recording with Cyndi O'Meara

Module 1: Lesson 1 - What is Vitalism?


What Is Vitalism?

Vitalism is a philosophy that respects the structure and function of living organisms while at the same time recognising that organisms have an “innate intelligence” that is self-regulating and self-healing that is designed to maintain the whole living system’s functionality.

Lesson 1 will introduce the participant to the concept of vitalism and the study of complex biological systems. The lesson aims to challenge your thinking about opposing views that question the vitalistic approach to life.  


Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this LESSON it is anticipated that participants will have a familiarity with the concept of vitalism and be able to apply some general reasoning behind a vitalistic approach to understanding life.

To achieve the learning objectives you will need to:

1. Have a basic understanding of the two concepts: vitalism and reductionism.

2. Understand that complex systems are not just the sum of their components but require all of their parts working together in harmony to achieve a specific outcome or function.

3. Apply some reasoning that in order to address problems associated with the biological sciences that the two philosophies: vitalism and reductionism, must find some common ground and work together in an interdisciplinary and harmonious manner.


Viewing Activity:

To begin this LESSON, please click HERE to watch the following short video on vitalism. It is just over a minute long but sums up vitalism perfectly.

We will now explore the concept of vitalism in more detail.


Reading Activity:

Please read the following LESSON by clicking on Module1, Lesson 1, Vitalism. This reading briefly explores the historical perspective of vitalism in the context of the human sciences. Following this reading you will start to gain an appreciation and understanding of the complex nature of life and the fact that there are two competing philosophies: vitalism and reductionism.

Let us explore these two concepts of vitalism and reductionism in a little more detail. A great place to start your journey to understand these two concepts is through the idea of Systems Thinking(that is, understanding that a system works as a whole rather than the sum of its parts). Also, you are probably aware that vitalism is not just the innate intelligence of the body to be self-aware and self-healing, but it is also grounded in holism; the idea that natural systems and their properties should be viewed as a whole system and not just a collection of their parts.

Accordingly, the following video highlights how all of a system’s components are needed to interact effectively in order for the system to function.

Viewing Activity:

Please watch the following video on Complex Systems and Reductionism. Licence: Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)


Reading Activity:

An interesting Overview of Systems Thinking, as written by Daniel Aronson, can be accessed HERETo finish off this LESSON, please read Module 1, Reading 1.0. This short reading summarises the understanding of complex systems. Greek R (2013) Evolved Complex Systems. Biol Syst Open Access 2:e107. doi: 10.4172/2329-6577.1000e107. Copyright:© 2013 Greek R. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.  

For those that would like to be challenged further on the concept of vitalism, please read Module 1, Reading 1.1. “From substantival to functional vitalism and beyond: animas, organisms and attitudes (2011), Charles T. Wolfe, EIDOS Nº 14:212-235.

Warning: This manuscript by Wolfe is quite complex and jargon-heavy. Don’t be put off by this as the paper provides a nice summary of vitalism and complex systems.  


If you’re passionate about nutrition and you’d like to take your health in your own hands, enroll in the Functional Nutrition Course and unlock full access.

You still have questions? Just give us a call (+617 5353 0196) or send us an email, we are more than happy to answer all of your questions.


This is if you are new to nutrition and want an information-only course.
This is our 12-month self-paced comprehensive core course on vitalism.
This program is specifically designed for graduates and those who already work in health.
$147 $3,997 $1,497*
Self-Paced, Online Learning
Access To E-Book, Podcasts,
Reports & Videos
Taught To Research
& Critically Think
Additional Suggested Readings
Certificate Of Completion
Access To Student Support Group
(Facebook) & Group Discussion Forums
Assessments & Feedback
Attend Student Only Events &
Receive Event Resale Notifications
Direct Contact With Assessor
More information on this can
be found on the course page.