In the early 1980’s, nutrition expert Luise Light, MS, Ed.D., was teaching at New York University when she was recruited to work for the Department of Agriculture. As the director of Dietary Guidance and Nutrition Education Research, Light was asked to create a new Food Guide. The idea was to replace the “Basic Four Food Groups” with something fresh and more memorable.
Luise Light and her team developed the concept of the “Food Pyramid”. Her version of the food pyramid promoted a diet based on fruits and vegetables. Lean meats and fish came next. And grains were placed near the top, where only limited amounts were recommended. As an expert in nutrition, Light knew that the body processes breads, cereals and starchy foods just like sugar.
That is how the Food Pyramid was originally submitted to the authorities within the USDA. The USDA loved the idea of the Food Pyramid. And they were thrilled with the simplicity of the design. But when Light saw “her” pyramid in its final form, she was shocked.
Dedicated to Health and Prosperity (of the Food Industry)
When the Food Pyramid was released to the public, the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture had made drastic changes to it. These changes had nothing to do with improving nutrition – and everything to do with improving the profits of the food industry!
Crackers, baked goods and low-nutrient processed foods were taken from the top of the pyramid and moved to the base, where they were to make up the bulk of the American diet. The team’s recommendation of 2 to 4 servings of whole-grain breads and cereals was nixed. The “new” Pyramid called for 6-11 servings of bread, cereals and pasta. No doubt, these changes pleased the corn, wheat and packaged food industries.
Subtle changes were also made to Light’s wording to emphasize processed foods over whole foods and change recommendations such as “eat less” to “avoid too much.”
Over her strenuous objections, the Food Guide Pyramid was finalized and approved.
Luise Light recently wrote, “The health consequences of encouraging the public to eat so much refined grain, which the body processes like sugar, was frightening.” At the time, she made it clear to the USDA that their version of the Food Pyramid would lead to an epidemic of obesity and diabetes.
And that is exactly what has happened. Welcome to America 2009!
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), two out of three Americans are overweight or obese. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that the number of children who are overweight has doubled in the last two and a half decades. And not surprisingly, heart disease and diabetes are now the first and the sixth leading causes of death.
So What About the New “New” Food Pyramid?
In 2005, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) revealed a brand-new Food Guide Pyramid. While the previous pyramid was flawed in its recommendations, at least it was easy to understand.
Besides the enigmatic design, the new pyramid has a major problem. It appears that it is meant to convince us that there are no foods that should be completely avoided.
The Food Guide Pyramid is simply a reflection of the financial interests of food and farming groups. They contend that the USDA is held hostage by the industries they supposedly regulate.
It doesn’t help that the new pyramid was designed by a PR firm that has also represented McDonald’s and the Snack Food Association. The PCRM actually filed suit against the USDA because six of the 11 members of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee have financial ties to the food industry.
Uncle Sam: Subsidizing a Junk Food Nation
The USDA heavily subsidizes corn and soybean growers, who receive the bulk of the $15 billion annual farm subsidies. Besides animal feed, two of the top uses for these crops are for the production of corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. These are two of the most notorious killers in the food supply – ingredients for which the USDA recommends only “limited” consumption. The USDA also heavily subsidizes sugar, wheat and rice.
On the other hand, do you know how much fruit and vegetable farmers receive in subsidies? According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, these farmers receive no subsidies at all.
The correlation between poverty and obesity is directly tied to agricultural subsidies. Is it any wonder that we have become a junk food nation?
Excerpted from “The Fatally Flawed Food Pyramid” by Jon Herring