Joshua Rosenthal in “Integrative Nutrition” has stated, “Good nutrition is straightforward and simple, but in America pressure from the food industry makes it almost impossible for any public oﬃcial to state the plain truth. Public nutrition policy is dictated by the political process, which is now heavily dictated by a corporate agenda to maximize proﬁts.” The facts appear to prove Mr. Rosenthal correct.
As Rosenthal relates in his book, as far back as 1917, when the USDA released its ﬁrst dietary recommendations and launched the food-group format, it ignored research that Americans were eating too much, especially too much fat and sugar, because food manufacturers wanted to encourage the public to eat more. It wasn’t until the 1970s, when a few legislators started to speak about the connection between overeating—especially fats, sugar, salt and cholesterol—and chronic disease that the USDA began advising people to restrict these foods in their diets with the Dietary Goals of 1977. With this new advice came strong objections from the meat, dairy and sugar industries. Unfortunately, these people pay a lot of money to governmental officials who become their best allies. The elected representatives from Texas, Nebraska, and Kansas succeeding it eliminating the planned mention of decreasing our red meat consumption. It’s pretty obvious that they were the beneficiary of the National Cattleman’s Association and other lobbying groups. Unfortunately it led many of us to consume more of what we shouldn’t have worsening our health challenges.
In 1991, the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services created the ﬁrst-ever Food Guide Pyramid in an attempt to provide accurate guidelines about what to eat for optimal nutrition. Immediately, the meat and dairy industries blocked publication because they claimed it stigmatized their products. They blocked the publication because it put them in the “eat less” category. Finally after a year of compromising, the language and placement was altered the report became pubic. Politics subdued health.
The medical profession, registered dietitians, insurance companies, politicians and bureaucrats all advocated this Food Guide from 1991 to 2005. These guidelines inﬂuenced government nutrition programs, food labeling, and food promotion. Certiﬁed nutritionists used this as their foundation for working with clients, as did the makers of school lunch programs. These recommendations were the foundation of America’s outlook on health, diet and nutrition for a time period that had a substantial increase in obesity and diet-related health concerns.
In 2001, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine won a lawsuit, on the topic of the USDA’s ties to the food industry. PCRM objected to the over-promotion of meat and dairy products by the government because of the prevalence of diet-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. The PCRM showed that the majority of the committee that reviews and updates the federal dietary guidelines had strong financial ties to the meat, dairy or egg industries.
“Having advisors tied to the meat or dairy industries is as inappropriate as letting tobacco companies decide our standards for air quality,” Dr. Neal Barnard, president of PCRM, said. The verdict found that the USDA had violated federal law by withholding documents that revealed a strong bias by the committee. PCRM’s victory was a huge embarrassment to the USDA, especially because the government ruled against itself, which very rarely happens.
In 2005, the USDA and Department of Health & Human Services came out with a report to: eat more vegetables and whole-grain products, cut down on certain fats such as butter, margarine, and lard, and consume less sugar (the sugar industry was incensed). It strongly recommended that people get off their butts and exercise more. Sounds good doesn’t it? Well, just a wait a moment.
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines still had many limitations. First, the guidelines were supposed to be about diet, and emphasizing weight loss through exercise shifts the responsibility for dietary change to the individual and away from the food industry’s multibillion-dollar budget for marketing and promoting unhealthy foods. In addition, the guidelines didn’t speak a language easily understood by the people who most needed the advice. What if they had said we should stop frequenting certain fast-food restaurants, or to cease eating certain snacks? That’s something we would all understand!
Another shortfall was the politically pressured omission regarding dairy products. Citing only high-fat content, they advised shifting to “low-fat” or “fat-free” products. They conveniently did not mention the adverse daily effects such as mucus, digestive upset, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, iron deficiency, breast cancer, asthma, headaches, and food allergies. Milk is a big American industry with pressure on legislators. Milk is not considered an essential part of the human diet and in most areas of the world; it is not consumed at all. Besides, how many people are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy products?
And how about our intake? We can eat as much as we want, as long as we exercise every day. Calories in, calories out is a concept that beneﬁts both the food and the exercise industries. That said, how about a program that fits the vast majority of people who do not exercise at all?
Would you believe that in the midst of an obesity epidemic, our federal government with an annual budget of more than $3.8 trillion spends zero dollars promoting food guides? They leave it in the hands of the powerful vested interests to guide us. Campaigns such as “Got Milk?” “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner” and “Pork, The Other White Meat” demonstrate that what the government tells us to do is contradictory to where it focuses its attention.
Ever notice that unhealthy foods are cheaper than healthy foods? You may think nothing of it, but our government policies and practices help lower the prices of unhealthful foods. Since the 1920s, American farmers have received government subsidies to help maximize production, reduce cost of raw materials, stabilize crop prices, and keep the cost of food down for the American public, allowing farmers to stay in business. This originally well-intentioned government money has led to the overproduction of corn and soybeans, and consequently, lower prices for these crops and foods containing them as ingredients. This may seem harmless. Corn and soybeans are healthy, right?
In their natural states, these corn and soybeans are not bad, but the outcome of the overproduction of these crops has led to their increased use as cheap, unhealthy ingredients found in processed foods on the grocery store aisles. High fructose corn syrup—an artiﬁcial ingredient found in most sodas and junk foods—is an inexpensive use of corn. Low corn prices have led to artiﬁcially low meat prices, because corn has become the number one feed for cattle—a major shift from a traditional grazing diet. The overproduction of soybeans and corn provides an inexpensive way to add ﬂavor to packaged junk food, fast food, corn-fed beef and pork, and soft drinks. For consumers, these less nutritious foods are cheaper, and particularly tempting to people living on a limited budget. These subsidies contribute to the obesity epidemic by making it cheaper to produce and purchase unhealthy, packaged foods. Can you now see why the poor or also more frequently obese and ill?
As a result of the subsidies, growing fruits, vegetables and other grains is less lucrative for farmers. Less than ten percent of USDA subsidies are spent on fruits and vegetables. What the government urges people to eat does not match what it pays farmers to grow. Isn’t that disappointing?
Do you know what a Sofa is? No, it’s not a living room couch, but what the government refers to as sugars and solid fats. In the government’s message to us, they avoid using terms we can understand, like naming actual unhealthy foods. In other words, we should eat less red meat, less cheese, less ice cream, and less refined grains. Again, pressure has been mounted to soften the message to protect the producers. And come to think of it, can you or anyone in your supermarket define or direct you to refined grains versus unrefined ones.
Recently, it seems every food corporation is trying to create a healthy image and pass oﬀ its products as being good for you. No one regulates the word “health.” No standards exist for the phrase “good for your health.” So these food corporations are using their millions and billions of dollars to trick the public into thinking their products are healthy, simply because one of the ingredients is derived from a whole grain. And did you also realize that if a processed food contains any organic ingredient, it gets to label itself as organic? One percent organic and 99 percent treated don’t spell organic in my book.
People around the world are becoming mesmerized by our food industry’s marketing message and with that they have been abandoning their traditional healthier diets. In December 2010, the European Commission reported that 50% of European women were obese. Food corporations spend millions of dollars inﬂuencing people in developing countries to consume more of these modern foods and abandon their traditional diets. Even Africa, a continent previously thought of as being synonymous with hunger and food scarcity, is seeing a drastic rise in obesity and diabetes. More than one-third of African women are now overweight. Overweight people now outnumber undernourished people in the in the world by almost a factor of 2-1!
It’s clear that health concerns do not drive the American Government’s recommendations, industry pressures do.
Did you know that Americans eat less than one piece of fruit a day and that the three most popular vegetables are iceberg lettuce, tomatoes (either canned or in sugary ketchup) and potatoes? That’s more than sad, it’s pathetic as these products offer little or no nutrition.
So what’s on my plate you ask? It pays to be aware of what is happening around you and why. I still eat cheese and red meat, but far less of it. When I don’t exercise as much, I watch my portion intake. While I still snack, I am now moving to eat natural fruits and vegetables, and essentially have cut out processed foods. I also have totally eliminated my soft drink consumption (the devil’s urine), and am apt to drink clean filtered water in its place. I now shop for colorful fruits and vegetables and pass by those beige ones (except for the mushrooms). I am more apt to eat more often than three meals daily, but in smaller amounts.
I start my day with a big glass of filtered water with organic lemon juice added. A big boost I’ve discovered is a healthy protein shake with almond milk that actually saves me honest-to-goodness money! I’ve been adding fruits and vegetables in a blender to enhance it. In just over three weeks, I’ve trimmed down 10 lbs. and lost 18% of my body fat. What’s best is that I feel better – lots more energy. It’s not the only such shake; there are many out there.
Nutrition is an odd science. It seems the only field where people can scientifically prove opposing theories and still be right. There is probably no one correct way of eating so here are a couple of tips:
Set an Intention – Define and clarify your goals surrounding health, nutrition, and well-being.
Be Open to Discovery & Experiment – Try different foods, preparations, and portions to find out what works best for you.
Be Patient – Absorbing new information and redoing old habits can take time. Just master one baby change at a time while having fun.
Don’t Obsess Or Feel Guilty When Eat Badly. The the best and bless the rest for feeling guilty can be as harmful as the trash you’re eating. At least, enjoy it.
Educate Yourself & Vote Accordingly – If these issues are important to you, it only follows that you learn all you can, educate others, and vote for people that will more truly represent our healthy interests.
P.S. Since writing this, I’ve learned so much more and am now striving to eat raw, natural organic fruits and vegetables. While I am not a vegan or even a vegetarian, I am focused in that direction. I’ve also discovered that cooking the best foods destroys their nutrients so I am more apt to consume a cold soup over a hot one. When eating meats, I will look for animals that have been maintained in a free range, unforced, more humane mode, free of environmental dumping (mercury in the oceans) or pesticides or herbicides. Is eating organic more expensive? Yes, a little bit, but my energy has improved and a medical condition that I was told I would have to permanently medicate is completely back to healthy with no medication. Furthermore, I’m back to my college waistline and a body-fat ratio of a school athlete.