And so it’s finally here. The United States Department of Agriculture has finally released the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 (DGA)…and not a moment too soon because I was still eating like it was 2005. So before we get in to the meat and potatoes…er fruits and whole grains of the guidelines, let us explore why we need a revised edition every 5 years.
“This periodic review is mandated under the 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research
Act (Public Law 101-445, Section 301[7 U.S.C. 5341], Title III). The DGA is required to be based on
the preponderance of current scientific and medical knowledge and to be released by the Secretaries of
USDA and HHS every five years.”
I’ll leave it up to the reader to establish their own notion about just how efficient and non-wasteful it is to bring together two government agencies with a combined 2010 estimated budget of $977,700,000,000.00 for the purpose of determining specific and realistic dietary guidelines for optimal health. I would however like to point out that this takes place every 5 years. The variables analyzed are medicine, nutrition and epidemiology. The need to re-evaluate the DGA every 5 years suggests that any or all of these three variables are so radically changing within such a short period of time. If we are to place any faith in to these three sciences, shouldn’t they at least be true for more than 5 years? This to me is the most scary aspect to investigate. Oh, and by the way..according to the title, it’s only a healthy way to eat for Americans. Sorry rest of the world, get your own guidelines.
In case your eyes just glazed over reading all those zeros, that was $977.7 Billion dollars “invested” (not spent) on our nutrition and health promotion. With so much money invested in our health, you would think we would all be Jack and Elaine Lalanne. The reason money can’t buy us health is because we are still smitten with our own genius. We as a public of all ages have personally witnessed so much technological and medicinal wonder come about that we have relinquished our own common sense and turned supine whenever we hear the words, “according to a study..”. We as those who conduct and legislate on the basis of said studies have such tunnel vision that unless it can be proved with a scientific model, we pay little attention to it at best and demonize it at worst.
A Golden Recipe for Health
So why is it that a third of us are obese or overweight and half of us suffer from chronic disease? After all, we have $977.7 Billion spent…oh, sorry, invested in us each year. The message from those who stand behind these government guidelines, i.e. your doctor, personal trainer, dietician, etc, is that we just don’t listen to and follow their “golden recipe” for health and wellness. The equation at the foundation of all the mainstream health information is the following:
Health = [Calories in] ≥ [Calories out]
If we could leverage the luxury of a certainty afforded by such a simple equation, your perfect beach body would only be a math equation away. No matter how much you hated math in school, I highly doubt you would fake the flu to avoid this math test. Human behavior is actually very predictable. Give someone the Promise of a Positive outcome and they’ll do what it takes to get it. Remove either of the P words and the person is less likely to comply. If it is the case following this golden recipe to health worked with any substantial amount of reliability, more people would find it easy to make healthy choices and changer their behavior permanently.
A Health Conscious Population
The reason we have a health problem in America is not because we are undereducated or non-adherent. In fact, I would say that we are more health conscious a people than there has ever been. We have our non-dairy creamers, non-fat bacon and even anti-oxidant soda. We are so conscious of our health in this country that we spend and estimated $50 Billion dollars of our own descretionary money on fitness and supplements. Add this to the government investment of $977.7 Billion and you’ve got well over $1,000 Million (or one Trillion as we here in the US say it so that it doesn’t sound so bad) spend on preventing sickness and maintaining health. We certainly are “health conscious”.
Perhaps that is the problem. Our health, and more specifically should not be something we should have to think about so much. Feeding oneself is the most basic and intimate act one can perform. Whomever it is that you think you are has been killed off and reborn countless times over the course of your life. Your tissues are not as old as the amount of candles on your birthday cake. YOU are merely a highly sophisticated assimilation of external life that has been incorperated in to your own ego. On a very subtle level, this is the essence of nutrition and digestion. On very physiological level, our cells take in alien cells and send them to the gastric chop-shop inside us to be sold for their parts. Some of us need part X and others need partt Y-328938495D. DIgestion is not a “one-size-fits-all” process.
The reason we are sick is because we have tried so hard to find, in classic utilitarian fashion, the perfect diet that will work for most people with the lowest possible economic impact. The same goes with Conventional Medicine. Not all therapies apply to all people but as long as there is valid and reliable peer-reviewed evidence to say that it’s worth the cost/benefit trade off, you get approval. True wellness requires personal inquiry and exploration. It is not something that can be taught to you by the shits and white-coats in Washington D.C.
The Meat and Potat….er….Fruit and Whole Grains of the Guidelines
Now that I’ve dealt with the philosophical aspect of this
The following is an excerpt from her blog:
Saturated fat: true killer or whipping boy?
Here’s what the USDA has to say about saturated fat:
A strong body of evidence indicates that higher intake of most dietary saturated fatty acids is associated with higher levels of blood total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Higher total and LDL cholesterol levels are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Ah, the lipid hypothesis in all its unproven, scientifically-feeble glory! We’ll look at the evidence they cite to bash saturated fat in a moment. But for now, let’s see their specific 2010 recommendations regarding this oft-feared nutrient:
To reduce the intake of saturated fatty acids, many Americans should limit their consumption of the major sources that are high in saturated fatty acids and replace them with foods that are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. For example, when preparing foods at home, solid fats (e.g., butter and lard) can be replaced with vegetable oils that are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Time to start frying your (yolk-free) eggs in soybean oil. Never mind that polyunsaturated fats actually increase oxidative stress (a major player in heart disease and cancer) and become particularly hazardous when heated, especially compared to heat-stable saturated fats. And never mind that most vegetable oils are disproportionately high in omega-6 fatty acids, aggravating the omega 3/6 imbalance that’s already rampant in American diets. If the USDA guideline team could peel off those lipid-hypothesis goggles for a minute, maybe they’d realize that the vegetable oils they’re recommending are likely to wreak some serious health havoc, regardless of what they do to cholesterol levels.
Worse, the new dietary guidelines give the green light to eat some of the worst industrial oils out there:
Oils that are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids include canola, olive, and safflower oils. Oils that are good sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids include soybean, corn, and cottonseed oils.
From this graph, we should learn that soybean oil and corn oil (for example) are more healthful options than coconut oil and butter, because they’re lower in saturated fat. It doesn’t matter that we have studies showing high-omega 6 oils like corn oil may promote tumor growth while—using the same study design—saturated fats do not. As long as the USDA is on board with the “cholesterol causes heart disease” theory, the only thing that matters about fats is how they affect lipid profiles.
Besides, saturated fat is saturated. And saturated things kill us.
Here’s something else that’s interesting. Let’s hop over to the fatty acid page in the Evidence Library for a second. Under the subheading called “Needs for Future Research” (AKA “Stuff We Don’t Really Understand Yet”), they wrote:
1. Determine the benefits and risks of MUFA vs. PUFA as an isocaloricsubstitute for SFA. Confirm the metabolic pathways through which dietary SFA affect serum lipids, especially as some SFA (e.g., stearic acid) do not appear to affect blood lipid levels.
Basically, they’re recommending we swap saturated fat for unsaturated varieties without being sure what the effects are, and that we slash all saturated fat consumption without being sure whether the reasons are biologically justified. I guess by the time the next tome of guidelines is released, the USDA will get to see whether their lipid recommendations helped or killed us off faster. Welcome to America, land of 300 million guinea pigs.
We spend quite a bit of money in this country. Much of it is for good and much of it could be allocated elsewhere if we just took a closer look at what drives the spending. Research is good as long as we don’t take it too seriously. When we stop abandoning our intuitive wisdom and losing faith in ourselves to know what is best suited for our bodies, we will get more healthy. There is no substitute for eating real food no matter how hard we try to prove otherwise in labs across the nation. Invest in yourself, turn within to ask your body what it is that it wants you to feed it, and live a healthy, empowered and long life. I write this on the eve of the 100th celebration of Ronald Reagan’s birth. His words about our reliance upon government for direction were never more true.
“government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem”