Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Clear-Eyed View

Alas, for all of us, politics and common sense do not often meet in the middle in much of anything these days.

But occasionally?  Miracles do happen.  Via Marion Nestle:
The new guidelines recognize that obesity is the number-one public health nutrition problem in America and actually give good advice about what to do about it: eat less and eat better. For the first time, the guidelines make it clear that eating less is a priority.
Why is it such a miracle that the national dietary guidelines would say something so obvious when we have a nation faced with a serious obesity problem?

I'll let Marion explain:
Consider the history. In 1977, a Senate committee chaired by George McGovern issued dietary goals for the United States. One goal was to reduce saturated fat to help prevent heart disease. To do that, the committee advised “reduce consumption of meat.”

Those were fighting words. Outraged, the meat industry protested and got Congress to hold hearings. The result? McGovern’s committee reworded the advice to “choose meats, poultry and fish which will reduce saturated fat intake.”

This set a precedent. When the first dietary guidelines appeared in 1980, they used saturated fat as a euphemism for meat, and subsequent editions have continued to use nutrients as euphemisms for “eat less” foods....

So the new guidelines break no new ground, but how could they? The basic principles of diets that protect against chronic disease do not change. Stated as principles, the 2010 dietary guidelines look much the same as those produced in 1980 or by the McGovern committee.
Same old song, right? Except this time, they sort of found some semblance of a tune, so long as you read between the lines.

It's like dietary advice from Pravda, circa 1973.  Sometimes, you just have to laugh.

If you haven't read Marion's wonderful work on the intersections of food, our own choices, and politics, you really should.  Start with the wonderful What to Eat.

(Photo via [clint].)


Anonymous said...

Awesome post. Do you mind if I ask what your source is for this information?

Christy Hardin Smith said...

If you go through the links to Marion Nestle, you'll see the PDF of the USDA report is available, as well as the link to Marion's fantastic book "What To Eat." Her work is really well documented and a great read -- I highly recommend it.