Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Are You a Victim of 30 Years of Misinformation?

If you are on the internet reading this right now, then I would say unfortunately you are a victim.  You most likely do not live in a hut or a jungle.  I bet modern medical treatment is a luxury you can easily access (whether you can afford it is a whole other issue).  The problem is that modern medical care has been tainted by the flawed saturated fat/dietary cholesterol hypothesis that was first established almost 50 years ago.  Our government made official nutritional recommendations based on this hypothesis in 1980.  What those recommendations suggested is that we all eat more carbohydrates and less fat, much less saturated fat.  America listened.  See the graph below.
All is well then right?  We are following this advice and we should be healthier than ever.  There is no possibility that advice could be making things worse is there?  Take a look at the rise in obesity on this chart, notice anything interesting happen around 1980?

Appears obesity and extreme obesity follow a similar curve as the first graph above showing an increase in carbohydrate intake.  Not so coincidentally, obesity and carbohydrate intake increased after the USDA made their first recommendations.  Obesity increases risk for diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoarthritis, and a myriad of less common ailments.  

Take That Food Pyramid
A group of nutritional researchers published a paper on Friday titled In the face of contradictory evidence: Report of Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee in The International Journal of Applied and Basic Nutritional Sciences.  As you can tell by the title, the paper disputes the effectiveness and the "scientific" proof supporting the USDA recommendations.  It's a very big deal when such an anti conventional wisdom paper is published in a respected, peer reviewed journal.  Actually, it's a very public kick in the gonads of of the USDA's recommendations and their food pyramid.  Not a knockout punch...that will unfortunately come years down the road.  

Again, the first government dietary recommendations came out in 1980.  As noted in this paper, the American Medical Association pleaded with the USDA in 1977 not to make the national dietary recommendations.  Here are a few quotes from the AMA back in 1977 in direct response to the proposed recommendations:
"We believe that it would be inappropriate at this time to
adopt proposed national dietary goals as set forth in the
Report on Dietary Goals for the United States. The evidence
for assuming that benefits to be derived from the adoption of
such universal dietary goals as set forth in the Report is not
conclusive and there is potential for harmful effects from
a radical long-term dietary change as would occur through
adoption of the proposed national goals." 
"The Report suggests that the incidence of heart disease,
cancer, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and tooth decay could
be reduced by making qualitative and quantitative changes in
“the American diet.” The goals are laudable; however, the
American Medical Association believes that there are insufficient
data to recommend such changes in the diet on
a nationwide scale."
Well, the AMA's worst nightmare came true.  The dietary recommendations were released, America followed them, and the "harmful effects" came to fruition.  The dietary guidelines of then and today are no where near what our ancestors thrived on.  Animal proteins and fats and relatively low carb vegetation is what they ate.  The recommendations to ignore science and our evolutionary past have caused a huge burden in the form of chronic diseases.  Our primitive ancestors  suffered in harsh living conditions but they did not suffer from chronic diseases.  Because of the prevalence of these chronic diseases, the current generation of children is expected to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.  It's the first time that has happened in 200 years.   



Matilda said...


I found your blog on real food Wednesday, and I support a similar approach in my blog.

I haven't read the paper you suggested, but I will. Out of curiosity, does the analysis take into consideration the decrease in physical activity and other changes in lifestyle during the past 30 years? Does it take into account the introduction of high fructose corn syrup in our diets? And the possibility that Americans did not follow the dietary suggestions? The USDA recommendation is certainly not the only event that occurred before the changes started.

It is an interesting perspective, but there is also much evidence suggesting that an increased intake of vegetable decreases the chances of cancer and saturated fad increases the chances of heart diseases. Thanks for sharing though, hope you'll have the chance to visit my blog.


Chuck said...

i also believe vegetables should be an important part of everyone's diet. i guarantee i eat more veggies than most. i also guarantee i eat more meat than most too.
in regard to physical activity, study after study after study shows that exercise does very little to help with weight loss or even weight maintenance. diet is the way to healthy body composition.
yes, high fructose corn syrup has become a huge part of the american diet. i believe this occurred because of the advocation of increased carbohydrate intake and decreased fat intake. fat was taken out of our diet and sweeteners were put in as a flavor replacement. just recently people are now starting to take notice of ingredients, where as in the past all they looked at was the fat content.