Not surprisingly the new USDA dietary guidelines, as promoted in the latest pyramid, do get at least some things right.
Why is it then that our presumably well-intentioned officials so relentlessly persist in getting a whole lot of VERY important things so outrageously wrong? Could it possibly be that the main purpose of the USDA lies in the promotion of agriculture (or more accurately agribusiness), and by neccessary extension the various close allies (and partners in crime) of agribusiness - which include the giant chemical and processed food industries?
This "partnership" between the USDA, agribusiness and assorted allies is of course good for business - but it is potentially disasterous for us.
Make no mistake: WHAT YOU EAT is of paramount importance to a whole panoply of special interests that have sprouted up around the business of diet, health and nutrition. It would be one thing if this meant improved health for you. Unfortunately, too many of these special interests have relied upon generations worth of myth and half-truths layered atop still more half truths - with most of it produced and perpetuated by decades of business-sponsored propaganda and spin. Even worse - and by getting swept up in one or more of these USDA-spawned "spins" - veritable armies of hard-working, highly dedicated health professionals and holistic groups unwittingly contribute to what amounts to a massive disinfo campaign
The truth, as revealed by an honest evaluation of the real facts, is in there somewhere - but only if you choose to look very hard, and look to the historical record.
So, what's so wrong with the new (and old) guidelines?
First, and maybe the most telling, the new (and old) guidelines do not address nor emphasize the importance of food quality, as represented by natural, whole, unrefined foods properly grown and prepared. You know . . . the kind of foods produced by responsible, sustainable, mostly local, small family farmers. The kind of foods which are then wisely, carefully prepared by someone a little closer to home than SaraLee or General Mills - or for that matter, any other source that depends on the chemical plants off the New Jersey turnpike. (To borrow a phrase from Eric Schlosser.)
As one example of what is so wrong with the new/old guidelines is the fact that they recommend AGAINST raw whole milk, and FOR fat-reduced or fat-free commercial, highly processed milk. Commercial milk is in reality little more than junk food and removing the fat makes the calcium and many other nutrients that are not destroyed by pasteurization and homogenization much more difficult to absorb.
If you drink pasturized milk, at least make it whole fat, make it organic, and if possible make it non-homogenized. Best choice for building health is to locate a source for certified, fresh, raw whole milk from humanely treated, pastured cows (or goats). Include the cheese, yogurt, kefir and other products associated with such milk - or learn to make some of it yourself. If you are not familiar with the many health benefits of raw milk and dairy, the place to start for high quality information is with the Campaign for Real Milk.
Another example of the many problems with the new/old guidelines centers on grains. The guidelines recommend whole grains IN ADDITION TO ENRICHED GRAIN PRODUCTS. Hmmm, maybe General Mills had something to do with this, as they have been promoting the new pyramid along with their new ersatz "whole grain" cereals. Sad to say this may actually be an improvement, meaningless though it is, over the "enriched" products which of course include the ubiquitous white breads and other products made from enriched, bleached and bromated flour.
Who among us now regards white bread or white flour products as good, health-giving nutrition, even when we are subtly encouraged to do just that by such "scientific" guidelines? As a result of said encouragement however and the ready availabilty of "enriched' products, how many of us allow ourselves to displace precious nutrient-rich foods with such obvious junk food? This of course does not even factor in the many problems with commerical grain products in our food supply, nor the healthiest ways to prepare them. (For more information see our grains and mycotoxins page.)
Although we could go on with more problems with the new/old guidelines, last on this particular list of examples has to do with "F" word: FAT! Yet once again, throughout these and previous guidelines, we are warned about fat intake, especially saturated fat. Don't these guys ever read anything?
You can check out a few sources and information regarding fat on our Cholesterol and Fats: Myths and Facts page. In addtion, in September of 2004, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition printed the results of a "meta-analysis" of studies that examined saturated fat intake. This "meta-analysis" was conducted by researchers of the Department of Food Science and Technology, at the University of California, Davis. Here is a recap of what they found, as cited from a Health Science e-letter:
- One analysis of 50 years of research on the link between saturated fat intake and heart health found no evidence that a low-fat diet prolongs life.
- Results of studies on the association of saturated fat intake with atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease were found to be "inconclusive or even contradictory"
- To state flatly that saturated fat causes heart disease is to ignore the many common factors that have been shown CONCLUSIVELY to contirbute to heart disease, such as an intake of carbohydrate with high glycemic index, smoking, obesity, diabetes, a family history of heart disease, high homocysteine, high C-reactive protein, lack of exercise, oxidative stress and high blood pressure
- Abstaining from saturated fats has not been shown to lower the incidence of coronary disease or total mortality
- Beyond the fact that fatty acids are essential to all the tissues of the body, there is no conclusive evidence that a low-fat diet prevents obesity or cardiovascular disease
In addition the Weston A. Price Foundation has submitted written testimony on several occasions to the USDA "Guidelines Advisory Committee", and had the opportunity to speak before the Committee in public hearings. We include a selection of their very enlightening comments below (together with our own modifications in brackets).
- Major health issues are diet related and the solution to illness can be found in nutrition [this according to a 1971 USDA study on nutrition titled "An Evaluation of Research in the United States on Human Nutrition", among many other sources]
- The caloric proportions of proteins, fats and carbohydrates advocated by USDA's Food Pyramid and Dietary guidelines are alarmingly similar to the USDA guidelines for fattening cattle and other livestock
- Americans spend approximately 90% of their food dollars on processed foods. . . The reduction in nutrients in these foods requires that we eat more to satisfy the body's nutritional requirements [and even then it is a losing battle, given the declining condition of our soils over the past 100 years]
- Commercial, refined vegetable oils (polyunsaturated oils) contain free radicals and dangerous breakdown products that can cause heart disease, cancer, inflammation and aging, as well as increased obesity
- Modern agricultural and industrial practices have reduced the amount of beneficial omega-3 EFA [and other nutrients] in commercially available vegetables, eggs, fish and meat. Americans must increase the level of consumption of omega-3 essential fatty acids from fish and flax seeds sources
- The scientific evidence, honestly evaluated, does not support the assertion that "artery-clogging" saturated fats cause heart disease
- Animal fats [unlike vegetable fats] are stable, do not easily develop free radicals, and contain nutrients that are vital for good health
- Children in particular, require high levels of quality animal fats to achieve optimal physical and neurological development
- Cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease, but rather a potent antioxidant weapon against free radicals in the blood, and a repair substance that helps heal arterial damage. . .
- Babies and children need cholesterol-rich foods throughout their growing years to ensure proper development of the brain and nervous system
- A diet high in refined carbohydrates stimulates an abnormal pancreatic insulin response in order to moderate blood sugar levels
- As the consumption of sugar has increased so have all the "civilized" diseases
- Glucose is metabolized in every cell in the body but all fructose is metabolized in the liver; the livers of test animals fed large amounts of fructose develop fatty deposits and cirrhosis, similar to the livers of alcoholics
- Research indicates that free fructose interferes with the heart's use of key minerals . . . among other consequences it has been implicated in elevated blood cholesterol levels and blood clotting
- The more carbohydrate that is eaten, the more fat the liver and adipose tissues make from any excess carbohydrate
- Just as animal fats are our only sources of natural vitamins A and D and other body building factors, so also animal protein is our only source of complete protein
- The two best sources of protein in the vegetable kingdom are legumes and cereal grains, but all plant foods are low in the amino acids tryptophan, cystine, and threonine. Legumes, such as beans, peanuts and cashews are high in the amino acid lysine but low in methionine. Cereal grain have the opposite profile
- Scientific evidence, honestly evaluated, argues against relying too heavily in grains and legumes as sources of protein or for severely reducing animal products in the diet
- In adequate protein intake leads to loss of myocardial muscle and may therefore contribute to coronary artery disease
- Animal protein foods - fish, meat, eggs and milk - always come with fat and this is how we should eat them. Animal fat supplies vitamins A and D needed for assimilation of protein. Consumption of low fat milk products, egg whites and lean meats can lead to serious deficiencies of these vital fat-soluble vitamins
Finally, please read The USDA's Pyramid Scheme: We Need A New Way to Define "Healthy" by Adele Hite. Then Ask yourself: Maybe now our Top 14 Best Foods and our Role of Insulin pages make more sense?
The conclusion of this "Food Pyramid" article sums the current situation up well:
"The very name MyPyramid tells us the government is squarely placing all responsibility for eating right with you and me. Never mind those pesky government subsidies and tax breaks to big agribusiness and food manufacturers that make unhealthy food so cheap and ubiquitous. Thank goodness Uncle Sam has now created a website to counter all that. . . Now that the pyramid has been completely hijacked by the food industry and promises to be as useless an educational tool as it ever was, itís time to hang up the effort altogether. Just think of all the money government could save in addition to $2.5 million if it really wanted to improve Americaís eating habits: no more paying for expensive PR firms, corporate welfare, high healthcare costs, or fitness bimbos."