Did you ever notice those little food pyramid guideline posters that are issued by the government to remind us how to eat healthy? Did you also notice how these guidelines have managed to change over the years? Turns out that industry lobbyists, front groups, special interest organizations, and a long line of pseudo-scientists are working very hard to demand official dietary guideline changes that will benefit their specific financial goals. And compared to other arguably healthier non-government eating programs like the Mediterranean diet or Harvard University’s Healthy Food Pyramid Alternative, one wonders just how good these processed carb-heavy government pyramids are anyway.
This year, the powerful lobby group called The Sugar Association, for example, is calling any official government recommendation to reduce daily sugar consumption “impractical, unrealistic, and not grounded in the body of evidence.” The National Dairy Council’s recommended three daily servings of dairy products could mean consuming as much saturated fat as 13 strips of bacon every single day if we chose to consume those dairy products in the form of three glasses of whole milk.
The food industry, which has a fierce preference for setting its own guidelines, is fond of exerting pressure on this Committee to eliminate or soften recommendations in any dietary guidelines that may end up harming commercial interests. So of course, industry lobbyists do not like this year’s seemingly benign proposed dietary improvement recommendations so far, such as:
- reduce our daily sodium intake from 2,300 mg to 1,500 mg
- reduce the amount of saturated fat in our diet from 10 to 7%
- consume less food and drinks with added sugars
- avoid artificial trans fats altogether
- reconfirm the benefits of eating two servings or 8 ounces of fish per week
Last month, about 50 food industry lobbyists went to Washington, DC to attend the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and to hammer away at - oops, I mean: provide oral arguments on the proposed new American guidelines for 2010, which will be released at the end of this year.
The Committee’s suggested new recommendation to reduce salt intake, for example, is backed by the Institute of Medicine’s findings that 100,000 North American deaths could be prevented annually through a population-wide reduction in sodium consumption. But that fact drew this dramatic argument from lobbyists at the Salt Institute, which to nobody’s surprise, insists that reducing salt intake is a very bad idea, especially for people who make money selling salt. The Salt Institute’s objection to the new lower sodium consumption guidelines?
“No modern society consumes so little salt.”
A dietary supplements industry group called the Council for Responsible Nutrition objected to the Committee’s proposed statement that “a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement does not offer health benefits to healthy people.” This Council said:
“The Committee’s statement somehow implies that it’s reasonable to allow people to live with nutrient inadequacies!”
The really compelling objections, however, came from those disputing the need to decrease saturated fat consumption from 10 to 7% by shifting towards a more plant-based diet – and away from the 215 pounds of red meat per person that North Americans on average consume each year. The loudest howls came from groups like the infamous Weston A. Price Foundation.
You may have heard of this organization, promoters of the questionable “saturated fat is good for you” dietary theories. But according to many doctors, nutritionist and scientists, the Foundation that now bears the name of the late dentist and “nutritional pioneer” promotes dietary practices that are sometimes suspicious at best and hilariously goofy at worst.
The always outspoken New Jersey family doc, author, and former world-class figure skater Dr. Joel Fuhrman for example, writes:
“The Weston Price crowd promotes the twisted logic of this dentist. Price travelled around the world in the 1930s and apparently observed that populations who did not eat processed foods had good teeth. So he argued that because some of these cultures ate lots of animal products, it must mean diets rich in animal fat are good. But just because processed foods, sugar, corn syrup and white flour are bad, does not make a diet high in animal products good.”
In fact, he calls their ideas “irresponsible and potentially dangerous”. Of particular concern are these WAPF theories:
- Butter and butter oil are “super foods” that contain the “X factor” discovered by Dr. Price.
- Glandular organ extracts from animals promote the health and healing of the corresponding human organs.
- Poached brains of animals should be added to other ground meats for better nutrition.
- Raw cow’s milk and meat broth should be fed to newborns who don’t breast-feed, rather than infant formula.
- Regular ingestion of clay (Azomite Mineral Powder) has detoxifying effects because the clay particles remove pathogens from the body.
- There are benefits to feeding sea salt to infants and babies.
- Fruits and vegetables should be limited in children’s diets.
According to Dr. Justine Butler writing for The Guardian, most of the current anti-soybean talk out there can now be traced back to the Weston A. Price Foundation’s insistence that:
- animal fat intake and high cholesterol levels are not connected to heart disease or cancer
- vegetarians have lower life expectancy than meat-eaters
- other pro-meat propaganda that contradicts leading health experts, not to mention basic common sense
In fact, one of WAPF’s more ardent supporters, Dr. Stephen Byrnes, published an article in The Ecologist magazine claiming that vegetarianism is unhealthy and is destroying the environment. He openly boasted about his own high animal fat diet and robust health—until he died of a stroke at age 42.
The non-profit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has been fighting proponents of high animal fat diets like Atkins Nutritionals Inc. for years. Lawyers for Atkins finally admitted in 2005 court proceedings that they are willing to “assume the diet is dangerous”—the first public admission of any kind that dieters following the Atkins plan may face real and severe health risks.
Another credible critic of the Weston A. Price Foundation theories is John Robbins, who as the only son of the founder of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream empire, was groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps. Instead, he chose to walk away from the Baskin-Robbins fortune in order to “…pursue the dream of a society that is truly healthy, practising a wise and compassionate stewardship of a balanced ecosystem”, according to his always-intriguing website.
The best-selling author of Healthy At 100, The Food Revolution, Diet For A New America, and many other books, criticizes the Weston A. Price Foundation’s philosophy that in order to be healthy, people must eat large amounts of saturated fat from animal products.
“They insist that only with the regular consumption of lard, butter and other full-fat dairy products and beef, can people derive the nutrients they need to be healthy.”
In other words, says Robbins, we should not be going to the Weston A. Price Foundation looking for nutritional guidance – or for any help in coming up with revised dietary guidelines.
Last month’s frenzy of one-sided lobbying around this year’s U.S. food pyramid guidelines is yet another reason behind my recurrent nag: CONSIDER THE SOURCE.
Consider as well the members who sit on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee itself.
A Center for Science in the Public Interest analysis revealed that almost half of the Committee’s 13 members have taken money from industry lobby groups or companies including General Mills, The Dannon Institute, Kraft General Foods, Campbell’s Soup, Tropicana, King Pharmaceuticals, Bayer Pharmaceuticals, McDonald’s Corporation Global Advisory Council on Healthy Lifestyles, the American Cocoa Research Institute, the Peanut Institute, Abbott Laboratories, Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., Johnson & Johnson, McNeil Nutritionals, Weight Watchers, Novo Nordisk, Roche, Eli Lilly and Company, Merck & Co., Novartis AG, Sanofi-Aventis, the Grain Foods Foundation, Wyeth-Ayerst, Knoll Pharmaceuticals, Lilly Pharmaceuticals, Genentech, Knoll, Neurogen, Warner-Lambert, GlaxoSmithKline, the Minnesota Soybean Promotion and Research Council, Kelloggs, the U.S. Egg Board, Sugar Association and the National Dairy Council – all clear conflicts that for some reason were not disclosed by government.
When the professional journal Today’s Dietitian contacted the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion about this conflict of interest accusation, the government agency “declined to comment” about the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s statement.
And in PR, we know full well what “no comment” means.
Find out more on this subject, or read about Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s opinions at www.diseaseproof.com. And to find out why vegetables are evil, download the Weston A. Price Foundation’s information brochure. Or to find out why vegetables help you live longer, read this journal abstract from the Annals of Internal Medicine.