Down With the Nutrition Pyramid?

Nutrition

So to be honest, the last time I thought about the USDA’s dietary and nutritional guidance was thinking of the food pyramid from school. Which is to say that I have given them little to no thought sense. Apparently I am not alone.

Time to Get Rid of the Government’s Dietary Guidelines? By Ross Pomeroy

Indeed, better-controlled research free from biased sources of funding are now telling us that humans can thrive on a variety of balanced diets, from low-carb, to low-fat, and a whole lot in between. Fascinating basic research has also informed us that bodies can react very differently to identical diets. There is no single best diet for everyone.

“The same general recommendations are not always helping people, and my biggest hope is that we can move this boat and steer it in a different direction,” said Eran Segal, a researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, in response to his study showing that subjects’ blood sugar responses vary wildly to the same foods.

Segal may suggest “steering” the boat, but another possible option is just sinking it altogether. Perhaps it’s time to significantly trim dietary guidelines, or even do away with them altogether?

But how will people know what to eat, you might ask? The simple fact is that most people know they should eat more vegetables and less ultra-processed, highly palatable food, they simply choose not to. Moreover, there is no shortage of respectable organizations to give diet advice.

Axing the guidelines might also minimize some lobbying. The millions spent by the dairy industry no doubt factored in to milk and cheese’s prominent and prolific position in the guidelines. After all, why recommend milk when one-quarter of Americans cannot properly digest it? Its advertised health benefits aren’t anything special. And considering that Americans consume far too many calories – we rank second in the world for calories consumed – why not recommend drinking water instead?

Lobbying also prevents good advice from getting into the guidelines. The advisory committee behind the most recent guidelines recommended including the simple suggestion that “intake of sugar-sweetened beverages should be reduced.” Any legitimate dietician, doctor, or nutrition researcher would echo that recommendation, but Congress axed it from the guidelines.

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7 thoughts on “Down With the Nutrition Pyramid?

  1. Never been a big fan of anyone telling me what I should do, or eat. I followed this pyramid for years and all I got was fatter. Yes, I ate more than I should, but the carbs drove my insulin resistance. No more. Carb intake is low, as is any form of sugar. I lost weight with that food plan…adding in jujitsu just increased the weight loss gain.

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    • I sort of giggle whenever nutrition debates roll around, as after half a dozen gastric surgery I cant eat most of that and wouldn’t process what I did anyway. I think the author makes a good point about how the opinions of the experts are always evolving, so moderation and self care will always work better than guidelines.

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  2. And as the author pointed out, allergies and medical conditions (lactose intolerance, celiac, etc.) means what advice works for one person would be seriously bad for another. (The “more fruits and vegetables” thing for me – I’m allergic to lots of common vegetables and some fruits so my choice is to eat fewer veggies, rely on the same six or seven things all the time, or walk around hived up and gastrically-upset all the time).

    I suspect genomics will play a role in the future, where a test can be done suggesting what diet is optimal for someone (there are already “diet places” that claim to do this but I do not think the science is far enough advanced yet). And I’d hate to be given a card, like in some dystopia, that specified what foods I’m allowed to buy and consume…

    The problem is, though, often “government solutions” tend to (a) be blanket statements that are bad for many people or so general as to be useless and (b) are subject to tinkering by special-interest groups – so the “drink fewer sugary beverages” thing gets cut out.

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  3. So to be honest, the last time I thought about the USDA’s dietary and nutritional guidance was thinking of the food pyramid from school.

    If we’re being honest, I remember when 4,4,3,2 was the formula for me and you.

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  4. I have both reached a certain age and changed docs, and have been surprised that the new docs care much less about what or how much I eat compared to how much I exercise. And they seem much happier if a bunch of that exercise is “carry heavy sh*t around until I’m breathing hard.”

    Well, there’s a bunch of things that I’d like to change in the backyard landscaping that involve lifting and carrying heavy sh*t around…

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    • I’ve noticed the same about my current doc, she cares FAR LESS than a former doctor about the fact that I’m considerably overweight and cares more that I do vigorous regular exercise (and at least try to eat healthfully). I wonder if times are starting to change a little and it’s less “Men need ot be under 200 lbs and women need to be under 150 lbs” as a draconian rule, and more “We really want you to eat food that is made on a farm and not in a factory, and we want you to move around some every day”

      (Years ago I had a doctor who yelled at me for being overweight so having a doctor who is low-key about it is a huge thing, and makes me less prone to avoid going to the doctor at all.)

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    • My doctor’s basically of the view that since my cholesteral is healthy, my blood sugar is fine, that badgering me about my weight isn’t going to do much (weight loss is hard), but nagging my about my cardiovascular health can get results.

      I’m a big guy (and despite joining a gym, I’m gaining weight after being stable for years. I’d like to think that’s muscle but I don’t go that often), but my overall fitness is getting better thanks to the gym — at least, I can make 30 minutes on an elliptical without feeling like I’m going to die, maintaining my target (cardio target) heart rate for at least 20 of those minutes.

      Then go on to do some weight machines. it’s not running a marathon, but compared to where I started…..

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