PART II – The Leaning Tower of Pisa
When Designs are Flawed From the Beginning
By Brent Leung, C.N.
“More die in the United States from too much food than too little.”
John Kenneth (1908-2007) Canadian-American economist
Obesity in the U.S. during the 1960’s and 1970’s remained relatively constant at eight percent. In 1980, everything changed.
Political influence, combined with the lobbying efforts of billion dollar industries was the driving influences behind the architectural bureaucrats of the first set of established dietary guidelines and subsequent Food Guide Pyramids.
At the core of these nutritional recommendations was a diet rich in complex carbohydrates (breads, cereal, rice, and pasta) and a reduction in fats. Over the past 30 years, U.S. residents followed these guidelines and as a result, have tallied in excess some 200 or more calories per day, the bulk originating from highly processed, nutrient-depleted, grain-based foods.
Climb the Pyramid from the bottom level and you get to veggies and fruits. It is here that this tale gets more disheartening. Imagine two children, side-by-side, sitting down to enjoy their school lunch. One opens his lunch pail and inside is a sandwich made from quinoa bread, covered with flavorful butter (not margarine), heirloom tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli sprouts and avocado. A glass (not plastic) container houses a savory kale salad topped with olive oil and sesame seeds. Sitting next to him is a boy enjoying pasteurized fruit juice from concentrate (with added sugar of course), some French fries topped with ketchup, and some pizza with extra tomato sauce.
My granny would look at these two and using common sense, would proclaim only one of these lunches is real food, let alone healthy. Ironically, according to the Food Guide Pyramid, ketchup, French fries and tomato paste are all considered part of the 3 – 5 servings of veggies required daily, and both boys satisfy the requirements. This sort of broken logic has helped to fuel our current health crisis.
“If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as the souls who live under tyranny.”
~ Thomas Jefferson ~
Since the U.S. government ordained their first set of dietary guidelines, the rate of type-2 diabetes has tripled. Hypertension, heart disease, and a plethora of other chronic diseases are spiraling out of control in the country. Currently, more than 78 million people in the U.S. are obese. That represents more than 35% of the county along with a waste of nearly 192 billion dollars on obesity-related diseases. These statistics are a direct result of their dogmatic dietary preaching.
Outside the U.S., the story of industries’ influence on dietary recommendations is sadly mirrored. In 2003, a leaked report from a WHO independent consultant revealed that food companies, attempting to place scientists favorable to their views on the WHO and Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) committees, had compromised these international bodies. He went on to state that these companies financed research and policy groups that supported their views and that they “exerted undue influence” on WHO dietary policies.
Governments and international bodies have become the self-appointed arbiters of dietary health throughout the developed world. As a result, private industry wallets are getting fatter (pun intended) and countries are wasting tens of billions a year on unnecessary health care. In Canada, from 2000 to 2010, health care spending, year on year, has outpaced education spending. In October 2012, ABC Australia reported that, “there has been a significant boost in care for patients with chronic illnesses” and “Australia’s health care is rising at an unsustainable rate.”
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is very quickly becoming the Standard Diet and spreading as quickly as cancer. In 2001 during my first visit to Shanghai, only handfuls of U.S. fast food chains could be found. But five short years later, McDonalds, KFC, Starbucks and various other fast food brand names were become far more plentiful and if you could not get to them, they would deliver to you. The proliferation of the SAD and presently plump children in China is an undeniable correlation.
After all, with over 4,200 chains, around 50% of YUM Brand’s (owner of KFC) global revenue was generated in China alone last year and there’s no sign of that slowing. McDonalds plans on christening some six hundred new fast food establishments in 2013 bringing their total chains to 2000. That’s more than two brick and mortar buildings being erected a day.
Sitting here holding a magic eight ball, I ask it if the future looks nutritionally brighter. The swift answer: Not Likely. Surveying the current landscape, we don’t need an eight ball to predict the folly of our tomorrows, but need merely look at today’s state of affairs.
In the wake of thirty years of nutritional guidance, the United States made their latest adjustments to dietary recommendations in 2010 (as they do every five years), proclaiming, “The new Dietary Guidelines provide concrete action steps to help people live healthier, more physically active and longer lives.” In order to accomplish this lofty goal, they referenced their nutritional map for healthy eating, called the USDA Food Patterns. These patterns were touted to embody the present dietary guidelines for health. However, flip a couple pages down in the official publication and you’ll read that the food patterns, “have not been specifically tested for health benefits.” It doesn’t take Granny’s common sense to realize that this is doublespeak.
Astonishingly, in the face of deteriorating national health, the present guidelines still maintain that healthy diets are high in carbohydrates. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results may not be psychology’s accurate definition for insane, but insane is exactly what the nutritional guidelines are.
“Bad men live that they may eat and drink, whereas good men eat and drink that they may live.”
~ Socrates ~