What the Government Tells You To Eat May Be Killing You

Over at City Journal, Steven Malanga looks at the recent history of federal dietary guidelines and finds they may well be killing us.

As a recent review of the latest research in Scientific American pointed out, ever since the first set of federal guidelines appeared in 1980, Americans heard that they had to reduce their intake of saturated fat by cutting back on meat and dairy products and replacing them with carbohydrates. Americans dutifully complied. Since then, obesity has increased sharply, and the progress that the country has made against heart disease has largely come from medical breakthroughs like statin drugs, which lower cholesterol, and more effective medications to control blood pressure.

Researchers have started asking hard questions about fat consumption and heart disease, and the answers are startling...

According to Scientific American, growing research into carbohydrate-based diets has demonstrated that the medical establishment may have harmed Americans by steering them toward carbs. Research by Meir Stampfer, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard, concludes that diets rich in carbohydrates that are quickly digestible—that is, with a high glycemic index, like potatoes, white rice, and white bread—give people an insulin boost that increases the risk of diabetes and makes them far more likely to contract cardiovascular disease than those who eat moderate amounts of meat and fewer carbs. Though federal guidelines now emphasize eating more fiber-rich carbohydrates, which take longer to digest, the incessant message over the last 30 years to substitute carbs for meat appears to have done significant damage. And it doesn’t appear that the government will change its approach this time around. The preliminary recommendations of a panel advising the FDA on the new guidelines urge people to shift to “plant-based” diets and to consume “only moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry and eggs.”

Jacob Sullum wrote last week about how the dietary guidelines have been reluctant to embrace overwhelming scientific research showing the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption.

I think my favorite example of self-proclaimed nutrition expert oopses was a campaign run by the Center for Science in the Public Interest in the late 1980s and early 1990s to get restaurants to switch from animal fats to trans fats. From a 1988 CSPI newsletter:

"All told, the charges against trans fat just don't stand up. And by extension, hydrogenated oils seem relatively innocent."

Of course, CSPI now wants to ban the stuff outright.

As the government takes over more of the health care system, expect to see more calls for more government "nudges" to help us eat healthier in order to save the government money. It's worth remembering that like everything else government does, the government's dietary recommendations are susceptible to all sorts of pressures and influences, which may or may not have anything to do with nutritional science.

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  • Old Mexican||

    I think my favorite example of self-proclaimed nutrition expert oopses was a campaign run by the Center for Science in the Public Interest in the late 1980s and early 1990s to get restaurants to switch from animal fats to trans fats.

    Ha ha ha! Don't they feel silly now!

    Oh, right . . . they don't. Authoritarian busybody assholes do not think they are ever wrong.

  • tarran||

    Just as the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire,

    The Center for Science in the Public Interest is neither a center, conducts no science, and rarely, if ever, promotes anything that truly furthers the interests of the public.

  • Almanian||

    You just channeled Linda Richmond there for a minute...that was awesome :)

  • ||

    self-proclaimed nutrition expert oopses

    These sham "public interest" outfits are never held accountable by a complicit press. To do so would be to admit culpability. The mainstream press will never do that.

  • Joe M||

    We have always been at war with Eurasia.

  • waffles||

    but we were at war with Oceania last week!?

  • ||

    No, no we were not. Report to room 101 at Minitrue right now.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Authoritarian busybody assholes do not think they are ever wrong.

    That's because the whole objective is the thrill they get from pushing us around. Hence getting it wrong is a feature, not a bug, since they can wipe off the fingerprints and then bully us to do the opposite.

  • WTF||

    Here's an idea: eat what you want, but in moderation and variety. Fruit, veggies, meat, starches, and yes - carbs, goodies, sweets, cake, etc. Just don't pig out on only one thing all the time.

    And get off yer ass once in a while and go for a walk.

    It's not really all that complicated.

    How your body metabolizes any particular food item is largely determined by genetics - you'll live as long as you're going to live, pretty much. Enjoy it while you're alive. For me, this includes not limiting myself to eating only lettuce and water.

  • The Gobbler||

    I live on a simple diet of raw calve's brains and meal worms (when in season).

  • WTF||

    Whatever works for you.

  • ||

    I live on a simple diet of raw calve's brains and meal worms (when in season).

    Those canned mealworms really taste horrible. I don't know why my neighbors bring them to the pot luck dinners.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Do you live next to a family of geckos?

  • The Gobbler||

    I raise my own, but again, they are seasonal. Oh, I suppose I could have some shipped up from Ecuador during the off-season, but they're just not the same. Think home grown tomatoes verses store bought.

  • ||

    Those canned mealworms really taste horrible. I don't know why my neighbors bring them to the pot luck dinners.

    They're called Spaghetti-Os, J sub. If they were really mealworms, they'd taste better.

  • ||

    And remember, health food doesn't make you live longer, it makes it seem longer.

  • cgee||

    +1 werd

  • ||

    Every food company that gets sued for transfat needs to start impleading the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

  • ¢||

    "LEAKED! Exclusive screenshot from Pac-Resident Evil."

  • Old Mexican||

    Hahaha!!!

  • weak attempt at trolling||

    The government telling us what we should eat is a public health accomplishment.

  • ||

    Is that thing a giant pizza with a giant hamburger inside?
    O brave new world, that has such food in't!

  • waffles||

    this is why you're fat dot com is a great place to start looking for such awesome magnitudes of culinary monstrosity.

  • ||

    I'm torn between whether the meat tank or the snackadium were more awesome at thisiswhyyourefat dot com.

    Thanks for tipping me off about that site -- full of win!

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    I once enthusiastically ate a cheeseburger which was topped with a fried egg and had two girlled cheese sandwiches in place of a bun. But that picture up there makes me want to throw up.

  • ||

    I'm actually thinking of trying to make that thing this weekend.
    Somebody please talk me out of it.

  • ||

    Step away from the burger and no one will get hurt, sir. I mean it, sir!

  • marlok||

    Was that the double bypass burger from the Vortex?

  • ||

    Here is an idea, how about the government stop making scientific pronouncements period. The problem is that once the government says something, people actually believe it. So the downside of being wrong is huge.

  • Psychic Octopus||

    But if it saves even one child! (preferably poor, minority, or gay)

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    It's not the FDA's fault if the whole country makes the largest and most appealing laboratory in the history of medical experimentation. (I wonder who they use as a control group.)

  • The Gobbler||

    The Norks.

  • Warty||

    That food-abomination looks incredible.

    Here, have an hour and a half about biochemistry.

  • Old Mexican||

    Researchers have started asking hard questions about fat consumption and heart disease, and the answers are startling...

    Whatya mean they "have started"???

    You mean AFTER ALL THESE DAMNED YEARS, only now they have STARTED to ask hard questions?

    Is that how science is supposed to work now? Ask questions when the shit already hits the fan and flies everywhere else?

  • Elena Kagan||

    Many people ask me, "What is your fat consumption?"

  • ||

    I think that the phrase "researchers have started asking hard questions ..."

    should be translated as follows:

    "knowledgeable researchers have been saying that current guidelines are bullshit for many years. However, for the most part they have been ignored and vilified. However, the evidence has become so compelling and freely shared freely that establishment researchers and propagandists cannot blithely peddle their crap so easily anymore.

  • ||

    I remember my phisiology profressor saying you could eat butter and it wouldn't matter (he was a big believer in the homostatic mechanisms of the body).
    I didn't believe it, but after going on a diet higher in protien and fat, and almost carb free, and losing 15 pounds, I tend to think Atkins was on to something. After all, what are carbohydrates but sugars holding hands?

  • Warty||

    My life has been much better since I started eating half a pound of butter a week, for what that's worth. Fats are much more pleasant than sugars.

  • West Coaster||

  • zoltan||

    Atkins is a tool. But high-fat, low-carb diets where carbs that are consumed come from vegetables and few fruits is the best. Nothing processed except for oils and stick with olive, almond and coconut and other non-hydrogenated oils. Excepting the oils, it's the type of food humans have evolved on for millions of years.

    Mark's Daily Apple has been my friend for a looooooong time now.

  • ||

    Atkins is a tool. But high-fat, low-carb diets where carbs that are consumed come from vegetables and few fruits is the best.

    That is Atkins.

  • dave b.||

    Mark Sisson has co-opted Atkins and repackaged it as his own.

  • Corey S.||

    Someone needs to listen to Skeptoid's recent food episode.

  • Madbiker||

    "Mark's Daily Apple has been my friend for a looooooong time now."

    Heard. Love MDA and I have moved my diet to be in line with the "primal" lifestyle. I've seen big gains in energy, my sleep patterns have improved, and stress levels have lowered. I'm eating primal through my pregnancy and have a very different experience from my last pregnancy - less morning sickness, better sleep, less weight gain and bloating, etc.

    Being able to indulge my craving for bacon is really, really awesome.

  • Apologetic California||

    Is there anything government can't do?

  • Almanian||

    No. I love Big Brother.

  • Rich||

    Can it make a mess so big it can't clean it up?

  • ||

    Working on it.

  • AlmightyJB||

    The War on Fat is here. Start building more prisons. The SWAT teams will need to start working out so they can drag those fatties out (after they shoot their dog of course).

  • theocrat||

    Here's good takedown cspi over transfats.

    http://www.westonaprice.org/kn.....-cspi.html

  • Old Mexican||

    After the "fats=bad, carbs=good" mythology is fully placed to rest, we can then move on to the following food heresies, like putting brown sugar or molasses on EVERYTHING (yuck!) or using yellow American cheese (instead of fresh white cheese) in Mexican food (double-yuck!)

  • zoltan||

    True, I don't know how anyone can think eating 300 grams + of carbs a day is good for you. I stay at 80 grams--so much better for the insulin response system.

  • Almanian||

    Especially yes re: American vs Mexican cheese. It is an abomination to put anything except Mexican cheese on Mexican food.

    Yeah, I said it....god DAMN I love Mexican food!

  • ||

    As a Tex-Mex aficionado, I beg to disagree. Not that I have any problem with white cheese or regular Mexican food - but cheddar soaked Tex Mex is amazing.

  • Warty||

    The beauty of Mexican food is that it's always delicious, even when it doesn't come even close to resembling Mexican food.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    That's because actual factual Mexican food kinda sucks. Yay, unspiced beans, flour and corn.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    I'm not sure why I typed flour there. I think maybe I meant to put tomatoes?

  • Warty||

  • Take Care of THIS!||

    I forget the name of the show, but it's one of those shows where the host goes to different countries and eats weird shit. Anyway, the guy was in this town in Mexico where the local delicacy is apparently fried wasps. Basically, the townspeople would go find a big wasp nest, cover the nest with a sack, and then throw the nest on a hot griddle while the wasps are still alive. Call that what you will, but I don't think boring is a very good description.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Take Care of THIS,

    It could have been Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods.

    But look, Anthony Bourdain has been in Mexico many times and KNOW what Mexican food looks and tastes like, and has NOTHING to do with Tex-Mex.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Slut Bunwalla,

    "Actual factual"? Uh, ok.

    You haven't tried the pork belly gorditas or the barbeque tongue tacos. You cannot fathom what Heaven would be like without tasting these two, at least.

    And enchiladas done with yellow cheese are good for lubricating bearings, not for eating. YUCK!!!!

  • Madbiker||

    OM,

    I try to cook authentic whenever I cook ethnic food, and for me that means sourcing 100% authentic ingredients and recipes. Queso blanco can be had in my area of the US, but I decided to make my own day (cheesemaking being one of my nascent hobbies).

    Holy moly what a difference fresh white cheese makes to enchiladas. And garden-fresh tomatilloes. I tried growing some this year and have been converted to growing them, canning them for fall/winter, and never buying them from the store again.

    Here's one question, for one in the know: vinegar - yes or no on its place in salsas verdes? For a long time I cooked many Mexican recipes but could never quite replicate a certain taste, until a friend told me that vinegar was the secret to giving salsas, moles, and certain bean dishes the missing but necessary tang.

    I use raw cider vinegar to draw out the taste of tomatilloes, chiles, cilantro, and to finish bean and rice dishes. Is this common in authentic Mexican, or am I confusing my Cuban/Caribbean with my Mexican?

  • Old Mexican||

    I have never used vinegar for salsas. Normally, I use serrano chiles, onion, tomatoes (without skin), or green tomatillos for the green salsas. If you want a green salsa with no hotness, don't add serrano peppers - you may add a Jalapeño but with no seeds to your salsa to give it zing, but you get hotness with slightly flame-burned serrano peppers.

    No water needed, if you want something more authentic. I don't think people use vinegar with their salsas down south.

  • Warty||

    or using yellow American cheese (instead of fresh white cheese) in Mexican food (double-yuck!)

    Or using flour tortillas instead of corn. Barbarians.

  • Almanian||

    Word

  • Corey S.||

    It's not even close. The best argument against free markets is the fact that flour tortillas exist.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    For some pork applications, I'll agree. But usually flour just tastes better. And doesn't fall apart nearly as much.

  • ||

    Mexican?

    Have you seen what corn tortillas do to people?

    No one grows about 5'4" and all the women have muffin tops, wear tank tops above their fat-rolling bellies.

  • Take Care of THIS!||

    all the women have muffin tops, wear tank tops above their fat-rolling bellies.

    Selma Hayek begs to differ.

  • ||

    One in a million, most likely with Germanic DNA, doesn't alter truth.

    Corn tortillas = junk food. Same as corn chips, HFCS in sodas, which comes from corn.

    Flour tortillas are as bad. Flour is the base ingredient for junk food -- bread, pasta, cupcakes, cookies, pancakes.

    Corn and wheat are grasses. Giant-sized animals graze on grasses.

    Typical reponse from the marginal IQ: "Oh, wow, I didn't think of that."

  • ||

    A long time ago, I had a girlfriend who harangued me regularly about eating butter and drinking whole milk.

    As Nelson Muntz would say, "Hah, hah."

  • theocrat||

    Oh. BTW, want get colon cancer? Eat lots of fiber.

    http://www.radianthealthofdesmoines.com/fiber.html

  • zoltan||

    Fibermenace.com is a good one too.

    I was watching the Today Show this morning (not of my own choice) and they said women are supposed to get between 21-28 grams and men 31-38! Are you fucking kidding me?!?! These leaves and twigs need some time in my intestine to digest and get all those nutrients into the bloodstream, not get squished out like a tube of toothpaste.

  • Almanian||

    Oatmeal - nature's Liquid Plumr

  • Ragin Cajun||

    Cue Wilford Brimley.

  • Rastus||

    Isn't he that guy who got diabetes from eating oatmeal?

  • ||

    The proper term for it is "DIABEETUS!"

  • ||

    "He that killeth the ox is as if he slew a
    man." Each juicy morsel of meat is alive, and swarming with the
    same filth as found in the carcass of a dead rat. Meat eaters, sir,
    are drowning in a tide of gore. What is a sausage? A sausage is an
    indigestible balloon of decayed beef, riddled with tuberculosis.
    Eat and die! For I have seen many a repentant meat glutton his body
    full of uric acid and remorse, his soul adrift on the raft in the
    ocean of poisonous slime, sloshin against the walls of the bodys
    kitchen."

  • ||

    PETA Poetry?

  • The Gobbler||

    Wow! When did Allen Vanneman write this? It's clearly his best work yet.

  • ||

    Please, Vanneman, doesn't have the talent for...well, anything.

    It is a quote from the movie The Road to Wellville.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    That's a good movie. Weird, but good.

  • The Gobbler||

    I know he didn't write it. It was a knock on the fact that Vanneman doesn't write anything original.

  • Rich||

    Meh. Check out Cattle Decapitation lyrics.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    That made me kind of hungry.

  • ||

    We can fix this with just one more food pyramid (or rhombic triacontahedron or whatever).

    Mom said eat a balanced diet, meat starch, and veggies. Fruit for dessert or snacking. Mom, depression educated HS grad, apparently knew more about this shit* than the feds and the CSPI.

    * She didn't tell us to drink moderately for our health. She told us to drink moderately so we wouldn't be lushes.

  • Ragin Cajun||

    Since the food pyramid is about as useful as our current political alignments, why don't they just describe foods as "Republican" or "Democrat"? At least it would make family barbecues more interesting.

  • Madbiker||

    "She didn't tell us to drink moderately for our health. She told us to drink moderately so we wouldn't be lushes."

    same difference?

  • Paul||

    What will the pyramid be made of?

  • ||

    Caption contest: "And the rockets red glare..."

  • Rich||

    Wait! WAIT!! We need to deep-fat-fry that first!

  • Adam Richman's Obit||

    Nick Gillespie's fat, less attractive brother dies after eating a gigantic hamburger with two stuffed crust pizzas for buns.

  • ||

    Hmmm. . . . If more carbs are making us fat and more animal based food is good. Why aren't vegetarians big fat slobs?

  • Warty||

    Dude, tons of them are. How many hippies do you know?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: hmd,

    If more carbs are making us fat and more animal based food is good. Why aren't vegetarians big fat slobs?

    Which ones do you mean? Lacto-ovo vegetarians, or vegan? Because most vegans look like concentration camp prisoners...

  • Warty||

    I've known fat vegans. Candy's all vegan, after all.

  • ||

    Because the substances they refer to as 'food' are so disgusting, they prefer to just not eat at all. That, along with the incessant drooling from the smell of delicious meat keeps them pretty thin.

  • ||

    a good article.congratulations.

  • ||

    No one is being steered toward the Atkins definition of "carbs". first off, American bread is jam-packed with HFCS, the main source of calories in bread. Carbs or not, a potato or a loaf of wheat bread is much healthier for you than any burger or a sausage. You don't have to be a nanny-state ninny to realize that a Cigar Dave diet is not really good for you.

    Oh and BTW plenty of vegetarians gorge on junk food and don't exercise. That's why they're big fat slobs.

  • Corey S.||

    Example: Fielder, Prince.

  • Suki||

    Amy Alkon was talking about the fat diet myths on her blog just the other day. Good stuff.

  • ||

    RC's Rules for Dieting:

    (1) Eat when you're hungry. Not when you're bored, or because there is food within reach.

    (2) Eat food you like. If you eat "diet" food that you don't like, you're liable to eat something else later that you do like.

    (3) When you're eating, slow the fuck down. Seriously. Time your next meal. How long does it take to clean your plate? Most Americans bolt their food like starving hyenas. Try putting your fork or spoon down between bites.

    (4) If you eat what you like, when you're hungry, and you enjoy it and eat slower, you won't want to snack all the time. So, don't snack.

    Its not what you eat (within very broad limits), its when and how you eat, that determines whether you need a rascal to get around at Walmart.

  • Jason||

    I can't tell you how many times I've thrown away "diet" food my SO insists on buying but we never eat because it's nasty.

  • ||

    Anecdotal and unscientific, but packed with common sense, particularly #3) which goes a long way toward explaining why many Europeans, who eat wicked amounts of starch and fat, don't look like Monique. They take astonishing (and utterly un-American) amounts of time relishing their meals. Ever eaten at an Italian azienda agricola? The degustazione took five of us more than two hours to eat. Awesome.

  • Ass of Catalonia||

    cyclical ketogenic diet + heavy squats & Olympic lifts + test & tren = :D

  • DEA||

    We're on our way.

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