Sunday, May 29, 2011

Flawed "Food Pyramid" To Be Replaced

The USDA has announced that it is going to replace its 'Food Pyramid' with what they hope will be a less confusing 'Food Plate.' You can watch a 2 minute segment HERE from CNN where this change is discussed in more detail. I particularly enjoyed when the CNN anchor asks the nutritional expert incredulously at one point, "what the heck is this even for?"

When I grew up in the 1970s, the USDA  promoted what it called the 'Four Food Groups,' which it recommended from 1956 to 1992. Then in 1992, it changed over to a 'Food Pyramid.'   Why were the Four Food Groups replaced back in 1992? And why then?  It was surprisingly hard to find a concise answer to that simple question, actually. But on the USDA website I did find a somewhat turgid and self-congratulatory 18 page history of its nutritional guidance, which states in part:

"In 1977, Dietary Goals for the United States by the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs (U.S. Senate, 1977) heralded a new direction for dietary guidance. The focus shifted from obtaining adequate nutrients to avoiding excessive intakes of food components linked to chronic diseases... The goals drew attention to the need for new guidance on diet and health... Therefore, work began in 1988 to develop a graphic presentation of the food guide that conveyed the key concepts of the guide: variety, proportionality, and moderation. Consumer studies were conducted with adults having a high school education... After this testing, the food guide graphic was presented as a pyramid design."

So to summarize, in order to promote the fact that fats and sugars should be eaten more sparingly than other foods, in 1988 (a mere 11 years after that 1977 Senate committee report), the USDA began conducting extensive "consumer studies" and after four more years of work ultimately came up with a 'Food Pyramid' design that put those very fats and sugars at the very top.

And that design flaw is precisely the reason for the changeover now (a mere 20 years later) to the 'Food Plate,' apparently.

Our government at work.

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