What the Government Tells You To Eat May Be Killing You

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

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.”

My colleague 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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71 Responses to “What the Government Tells You To Eat May Be Killing You”

  1. #1 |  bobzbob | 

    The goverment research, guidelines and food programs have helped contribute to a vast improvement in the health and longevity of americans, the latest issues not withstanding. It probably is true that the current guidelines overemphasize carbohydrates (under the influence of big agribusiness perhaps?). But on the whole a lot more good than harm has been done. “…when wrong to be set right”.

    I bet if we reduced the influence of big business on government policy this kind of error would occur less frequently.

  2. #2 |  Marty | 

    this is gonna bring a whole new meaning to ‘government cheese’.

  3. #3 |  Radley Balko | 

    The goverment research, guidelines and food programs have helped contribute to a vast improvement in the health and longevity of americans, the latest issues not withstanding.

    Did you read the article? The guidelines started in 1980. And they started by telling us to stop eating eggs and meat, and to replace them with carbs. Which we’ve done for about a generation. It’s hard to use a phrase like “the latest issues not withstanding” when the issues we’re talking about have been a problem since the program’s inception.

  4. #4 |  Mark R. | 

    Carbs also create smaller LDL cholesterol particles which is actually a more accurate warning sign for heart problems than high levels of LDL cholesterol.

    Carbs will kill you. Steak is at worst neutral to your health.

    For your health!

  5. #5 |  Mattocracy | 

    Of course it’s always big business. Maybe they wouldn’t have the power to influence government if government stayed the hell out of our personal lives. Maybe these errors wouldn’t occur at all if the nanny staters would mind there own business and let people live their lives as they want with the expectations that they should bear the consquences of their own actions.

    If agribusiness is influencing government, why whould it pitch any form of food over another? Why not meat or fruits or sea food? That doesn’t make any sense.

    There is always someone making an excuse why beaurocrats shouldn’t have to take responsibilty for fucking up and hurting people. Stop blaming others for government mistakes.

  6. #6 |  Mark R. | 

    @bobzbob

    So the problem was the steak and egg industry was too small? Big Business forces can be considered neutral when you’re talking about food policy, I’d say. Everyone is pushing, so no one gets served. The government got fooled by junk science and intuition. OMG fat must make fat must be bad! And the science on cholesterol and how it works is still quite incomplete, like every other science. Lots of LDL is not necessarily bad for you, a low LDL level with lots of small LDL particles will almost surely kill you. That wasn’t even hinted at 20 years ago. Ignoring the problem and the science now with a knee jerk defense of government probably isn’t going to win you any points on this site.

  7. #7 |  Mark R. | 

    @Mattocracy

    By bobz’s own logic if you reduced the effect of government policy you would be taking big business out of the picture and satisfying his goal. So it’s pretty easy to figure out a way where we all win right? Business gets out of government policy since there’s no incentive to be in it, and the power of government policy is drastically reduced.

  8. #8 |  Jim Collins | 

    I don’t think so Mark. Thanks to Obama care the government now has a vested interest in our health. I don’t see them giving up that potential power anytime soon. As a matter of fact I expect to start seeing them suspend certain Rights to increase that power. SOCTUS has already ruled that the Government’s interest in the public’s safety overrules an individual’s rights with their supporting DUI checkpoints. How long will it take them to rule that the Government’s interest in Public health overrules your Right to determine what you eat?

  9. #9 |  Marty | 

    I don’t blame big business for swat style raids on unpasteurized milk drinkers.

    Bloomberg has his own twisted reality in NY.

    with the IRS taking a larger role in the obamacare fiasco, we’re going to see a much larger intrusion into our lives. special interests from all angles are going to be diving into this cesspool.

  10. #10 |  Kristen | 

    I’d be hard pressed to find an organization I loathe more than the CSPI. And it galls me to no end that they have the word “science” in their name. Buncha panicky superstitious fuckers.

  11. #11 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Anyone who believes a word from the government deserves their fate.

    I’m all for any idiot who listens to the government getting any disease and eliminating themselves from the population post haste, hopefully, but not likely, before they breed.

    The smart folk look to the government as a contrarian indicator, nothing more.

  12. #12 |  SJE | 

    Wait: it gets better.

    As part of the drive to decrease heart disease, the government moved us away from saturated fats. People merely replaced them with unsaturated fats, mostly omega-6 FA, which are the cheapest source of unsaturated fatty acids. Recent research shows that omega-6 FAs increase production of endocannabinoids, which increase hunger, which lead to you wanting to eat more….of things with omega-6 FAs. (Omega-3 fatty acids do not have this effect.)

    omega-6 FA are also higher in grain fed meat, versus wild or grass fed animals. Guess why there is so much grain fed: corn subsidies, and centralized USDA beauracracy. Of course, more research needs to be done, but it suggests that its not just the carbs, but the oils.

    Then, there is booze. Yesterday I saw a study showing beer consumption directly correlated with scores on verbal IQ. Of course, the nanny staters don’t like us to drink.

    Finally, you have road subsidies, in which those who drive are subsidized by the general taxpayer.

    Next time someone tells me how much government has done for the health of Americans, slap them.

  13. #13 |  SJE | 

    Oh yeah: I forgot about school lunches. Most educational beauracracies like centralized purchasing, and everything cooked etc. The rationale is more central control, less risk from disease etc. Of course, you then get vile food that the kids don’t like.
    1. In France, each school has its own chef, who buys what he wants. They trust the cook to know what he is doing. Anathema in the USA.
    2. Kids in NY public schools would not eat the fruit. Why: it was f** aweful. As soon as they replaced it with local apples, albeit ones that were not centrally sourced, the kids ate them.
    3. Michele Obama today was complaining that school lunches were UNDOING the good that parents were doing.

    Again, stories of centralized administration not being good for health of the kids

  14. #14 |  travis | 

    Did meat and egg consumption actually go down after those recommendations?

  15. #15 |  Mark R. | 

    “SOCTUS has already ruled that the Government’s interest in the public’s safety overrules an individual’s rights with their supporting DUI checkpoints. How long will it take them to rule that the Government’s interest in Public health overrules your Right to determine what you eat?”

    We somewhat agree on the larger issue but that’s a slippery slope fallacy. Since DUI increases the chance of killing others as well as yourself there’s a more legitimate case to be made for government intervention. It might still be a wrong case, but it’s much more legitimate than outlawing pork, or some other interventionist nightmare scenario policy. Not to make your argument for you, but the draconian regulation of raw milk would be a lot more relevant here. Or the war on drugs. The government doesn’t need “Obamacare” to have ample incentive and inclination to regulate what you do or don’t put into your body. Fear-monger away, though.

    I’d like to see education administration out of the hands of government, which would severely limit the scope of these kinds of policies since they mostly impact kids. Can’t remember the last time someone I knew consulted the food pyramid before making dinner.

  16. #16 |  Cappy | 

    Tell a little sumpin here.

    I was just a couple south of 200 at 5’10″.

    Started the Atkins diet and dropped to 150 pounds in 4 months, this combined with workouts. Discovered, carbs aren’t that bad in slight levels, but the worst thing for your body is processed grains (bread and the like) and processed sugars. These are what pack on the pounds.

    I now sit at 165 pounds, eat as much meat and vegetables as I can stuff into my mouth.

    My cholesterol is sitting at 180 from 220 even though my LDL and HDL are still flip-flopped towards the dark sides, but they are closer to canceling each other out as opposed to before x-ing out the processed grains.

    I’m no longer on the Atkins diet, have merely eliminated most processed grains.

  17. #17 |  delta | 

    I can’t say as I see much evidence for this claim that “Americans dutifully complied”. (Implying the government suggestions were causal in the obesity increase in the last few decades.)

    I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who knew what government recommendations were, to say nothing of it actually informing their diet. The few times I travel the country, the problem looks like portion sizes and lack of exercise, nothing else.

  18. #18 |  Elemenope | 

    While I have a great deal of sympathy for the point that since nutrition is at best an infant science, probably proto-science (two steps above alchemy), the government has no business even making suggestions about what to eat.

    But ultimately delta@#17 has the right of it. I think it very unlikely that people radically changed their eating habits on the say-so of government, and more likely that diet changes were driven by simple family economic calculations, cultural drift (on matters of cuisine, portion size, and exercise particularly), and similar factors. I mean, even doctors bitch that when they tell their patients that what they’re eating *will kill them*, they still ignore the advice most of the time.

  19. #19 |  Kuwarestee | 

    I agree w/ 17, LMNOP was before me in saying that of course.

  20. #20 |  SJE | 

    #18: I agree that people are not going to make radical changes just on the govt say so. But I think you overlook the ability of goverment to change diet through other means.
    - Agricultural policy affects the price of food, and people respond accordingly.
    - Food at school. Because most people cannot afford private schools, children eating food at school more or less will have to eat what they are given.
    - Food safety policy. It is illegal to buy raw milk, or hunted meat.
    - Zoning. Most places do not allow chickens or other agricultural animals.

  21. #21 |  Frank Hummel | 

    Nevermind transfats. What’s the pizza/burger thing in the image, and where can it be ordered?

  22. #22 |  Mark R. | 

    @Elemenope

    Yeah the problem isn’t the recommendations they make it’s the policies they push. Subsidizing corn and wheat farmers because it’s “good for nutrition” would be a terrible outcome. That’s what we’d like to avoid. Not that there aren’t other reasons politicians will use to justify their subsidies.

    The biggest problem is school lunches. That has an easy solution though, get government out of schools.

  23. #23 |  MattJ | 

    …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.

    I’m with Travis at #14 on this one. A citation is needed regarding Americans cutting back on meat and dairy products. And remember, what applies to budgets applies to food consumption – a decrease in the rate of increase is not a cutback.

  24. #24 |  Joe | 

    The government should not be in the business of telling us what to eat or getting involved in food production (other than reasonable limited powers for maintaining food sanitary safety).

    As for carbs, there is nothing wrong with eating them if they are in the form of fresh veggies. In fact, they are very good for you (along with lean fresh meats).

    The problem is substituting fresh food with processed sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and highly processed grains, all subsidized by tax payer dollars to make them artificially less expensive to the consumer.

  25. #25 |  Tom | 

    I remember Stossell talking about school lunches and their horrible dietary value. They make you buy milk (to help the subsidized dairy farmers) feed corn fed and corn based products (to help the subsidized corn farmers) and are generally feeding poor tasting unhealthy food, using government economic logic and central planning to regulate diets instead of nutrition.

  26. #26 |  Joe | 

    Those subsidized grains also encourage corn fed feed lot fatty beef, as opposed to grass fed (which is usually leaner).

    A friend of mine had prostrate cancer. The docs told him, avoid beef products (cheese, steak, hamburger) on a regular basis. When you do have them, do it in moderation.

    Fish, pork and chicken are better for you, but again, always have fresh veggies with them. You look at diets of people who have the longest life spans (Sardinia, Okinawa, etc) and it is mostly a diet of some pork or lamb, some fish, lots of veggies, some alcohol. You really do not have to sacrifice too much.

  27. #27 |  Joe | 

    #17 has a point, but when you fund those big portions (thorugh hidden price supports and other means), the government contributes to it. End the subsidies and let food at least costs what it really costs.

  28. #28 |  Silver | 

    This is covered quite well by Michael Pollan in “In Defense of Food”.

    Although portion sizes are a big one too…when I was 10 years old in 1985, an extra-large soda at McDonald’s was 16 or 20 oz, if I remember right. The medium soda was the same as the kid’s size one is today.

    At the end of the day though, the problem is simple: We eat every day like a Tour de France rider and get the physical activity of a dead goldfish. It’s not a good combo.

  29. #29 |  Joe | 

    Then, there is booze. Yesterday I saw a study showing beer consumption directly correlated with scores on verbal IQ. Of course, the nanny staters don’t like us to drink.

    That explains why I always feel smarter after a couple of drinks!

  30. #30 |  Joe | 

    I got through college on government cheese. They would give her bricks of that stuff to my grandmother at the senior center in the 80s. She would give it to me. It was rather unpalatable until about 3:00 in the morning when you were Jonesing for mac and cheese after a late night of …studying. Yeah, studying.

    And the free cheese helped me save up more money for…studying.

  31. #31 |  JS | 

    I never really listened to anything the government said about how to eat. Does the government tell us how to have sex too?

  32. #32 |  Skeptic | 

    You and Jacob Sullum are pitching this alcohol thing pretty hard, but the science there is just as shaky, situational, and debated as the science on saturated fats was in the 1980′s. Anything can look overwhelming if you want to believe it. We need to drive the focus away from the fact that the government is making WRONG predictions, because as some have pointed out, they will inevitably make some RIGHT predictions. Instead, we need to focus on how the government shouldn’t be in the business of making health recommendations to the public at large to begin with. There are too many parties that have an interest in those recommendations coming out one way or the other for that recommendation to be anything but pernicious. The people will have to learn what’s good for them and what’s not the same way we learn any other scientific truth–not by government decree.

  33. #33 |  divadab | 

    DE-FEDERALIZATION!

    The US Govt is too big, too controlled by corporate interests, too interfering with State’s rights. Here are some of the Fed depts which should not exist:
    Education, Housing, DEA – all are unconstitutional on their face, abrogating States’ and/or personal freedom rights.

    And don’t buy any “food” advertized on TV – it is not healthy for the body.

    Better to throw away your tv, and quit paying federal taxes. (legally, I mean, by reducing your income and doing more for yourself and within your community). Support local farmers and buy local!

  34. #34 |  Joe | 

    Does the government tell us how to have sex too?

    Yeah, bend over!

  35. #35 |  Kristen | 

    Does the government tell us how to have sex too?

    Umm….’cha! Local & state governments have been doing this forever….no anal and no homo sex for you!

  36. #36 |  JS | 

    lol, fix the damn roads, deliver the mail and leave me the hell alone!

  37. #37 |  t1 | 

    “Americans dutifully complied”.”

    Bullshit.

    The dietary guidelines also state that people should limit their caloric intake.
    That simply hasn’t happened.

  38. #38 |  Samk | 

    Eat what feels right, don’t overdo it, and toss some variety in. Also, move the fuck around once in a while. That pretty much defines how I think we should approach things.

    …and I hate to be in bobzbob’s corner but I do think that having a focus on food safety is an important government function, now taken way too damned far.

  39. #39 |  SJE | 

    #30 | JS | August 2nd, 2010 at 2:02 pm
    I never really listened to anything the government said about how to eat. Does the government tell us how to have sex too?

    Haven’t you noticed?

    Oral and Anal sex was illegal for a long time, in many places (and may still be, as long as there is no specific intent to ban sex between gay people). Except in NV, paying for sex is illegal. Crossing state lines for paid sex is a federal offense. Pornography can be banned by the censors. B&D and other “kinky” activities is often banned. Sex toys are banned in many states and counties. If you are under a certain age, sex is illegal. Sex ed was one of the biggest battles of the culture wars. Contraception used to be illegal until the 60s. Sex between unmarried people and adultery used to be illegal and is still on the books in some places.

    Need I go on?

  40. #40 |  SJE | 

    “#37 | t1 | August 2nd, 2010 at 2:53 pm“Americans dutifully complied” Bullshit. The dietary guidelines also state that people should limit their caloric intake. That simply hasn’t happened.”

    One of the findings regarding omega 6 fatty acids is that these fats make you more hungry. Similarly, refined carbohydrates give you insulin spikes that also make you hungry. So, while the government preached moderation, it was also changing the dietary and agricultural system so that people FELT hungrier even when eating more calories. The gov’t can’t hide behind “we told you to eat less” if it was doing everything to make people want to eat more.

  41. #41 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Listen to what government says. Then, immediately forget all of it and “paddle your own canoe”.

  42. #42 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    The gov’t can’t hide behind “we told you to eat less” if it was doing everything to make people want to eat more.

    They have no intention of hiding because the obvious answer to the FAIL is MORE GOVERNMENT. When the government wins, it wins. When it loses, it wins.

  43. #43 |  JS | 

    SJE, I must not have been paying attention that day in school. I blame gender integration because there was this really hot girl that sat right across from me…

  44. #44 |  Marty | 

    #39 | SJE-

    well- said!

  45. #45 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Well yes, Radley, since 1988 there’s been a heap of evidence discovered about Trans Fats. Your crusading on that issue frankly makes me discount a lot of other things you say, since they and HFCS are things which DO need severe restrictions or bans.

  46. #46 |  Alex | 

    45- Radley didn’t say trans fats were good for you…
    And look for some evidence that HFCS is worse than regular refined sugar. You won’t find it. Not that I’m advocating eating cheap government subsidized heavily processed kind-of-like-food corn products.

  47. #47 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    Radley, how can you show us that photograph and not tell us what it is? You tease!

  48. #48 |  Joe | 

    When the government does it, anal sex is always legal! To paraphrase the advice Queen Victoria got before her wedding night: Bend over and think of bigger government.

  49. #49 |  Steve Clay | 

    The quoted article seems light on evidence. Particularly when the claim is that Americans dutifully follow USDA guidelines…

  50. #50 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    History turns a lot of experts into fools. Consider the looooooooong list of “facts” experts held up 200, 100, and 50 years ago.

    It isn’t that no one can be an expert. The point is that experts are often, often, often, often completely wrong. Putting the force of law (and that means a gun and a jail) behind government experts is just folly. Having a government eagerly stepping into as many areas as possible to be the expert is downright mean.

    Anal sex seems to be popping up everywhere. Entourage, this comment stream, the guy at Arby’s.

  51. #51 |  republicanmother | 

    The government issued food pyramid guidelines are similar to feeds designed to fatten cattle. Wonder if this isn’t some sort of soft population control campaign is being paid through the tax-exempt foundations whose money effectively controls our country. Check out a little article I wrote about how the Soviets would used food to weaken a population and make it more susceptible to control:
    http://therepublicanmother.blogspot.com/2010/07/demoralization-of-everyday-life-heallth.html

  52. #52 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Boyd – Well yes, that’s what happens in science, even food science. There’s also a marked difference between withdrawing certain products from the market which are known major issues in Human health, and dietary *advice* based on the current consensus.

    Who would you prefer to provide dietary advice, the food companies? Please try and persuade me that they care what happens thirty years down the line (or indeed beyond the next few years profits).

  53. #53 |  Felix | 

    Dr. Melik: This morning for breakfast he requested something called “wheat germ, organic honey and tiger’s milk.”
    Dr. Aragon: [chuckling] Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.
    Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or… hot fudge?
    Dr. Aragon: Those were thought to be unhealthy… precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.
    Dr. Melik: Incredible.

  54. #54 |  Pablo | 

    “Americans dutifully complied.”

    Well partially so. They are indeed eating less saturated fats. This (along with the rise in grain-fed meats/eggs/dairy) has led to a surfeit of omega 6 fats in the modern diet. I dont recall the cite but the research I have read indicates that compared to 1980, Americans today eat about the same amount of protein; about the same amount of fat BUT a lot less saturated/animal fat and a lot more processed vegetable oil; and more carbs, esp. HFCS and other refined sugars. So the total calorie intake is higher along with more carbs and Frankenfats. All three factors likely have had negative effects but it is hard to tease out one from the others.

    I dont think HFCS’s effects are much different than table sugar since they both are roughly half glucose and half fructose. The problem is that HFCS is so much cheaper (partly due to govt. subsidies) and it has a different “mouth feel” than sucrose. So it is used not just as a sweetener but also as a preservative and a cheap filler. It’s in almost everything these days.

  55. #55 |  Rich | 

    Seriously though, how about an answer to Frank’s question? Where can we get some of that burger?

  56. #56 |  Mike | 

    -45 Radley is correct, sugar (sucrose) and HCFS are equally as bad for you as both have almost equal amounts of fructose. Fructose appears to be the culprit due to the way it interacts with our metabolism. Unlike glucose, it does not interact with our satiety/hunger hormones 9we don’t recognize that are consuming calories) and it is metabolized very similarily to alchohol – in our liver and causes fatty desposits in liver and organs.

    Chronic over consumption can cause metabolic syndrome (obesity, diabetes, etc.) The main problem is the two-fold, the low cost of HCFS and the switch to a low-fat diet. Low cost HCFS allow produces to offer larger and larger portions at affordable price point and HCFS was subsituted for fat in many processed or prepared foods.

    The result is that since the 70′s we have almost doubled our intake of sugar and over 5x consumption of a century ago.

    Suggest you view Sugar: the bitter truth on YouTube for more info

  57. #57 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Leon,

    Boyd – Well yes, that’s what happens in science, even food science. There’s also a marked difference between withdrawing certain products from the market which are known major issues in Human health, and dietary *advice* based on the current consensus.

    So, you agree with me.

    Who would you prefer to provide dietary advice, the food companies?

    Yes, I would prefer the food companies over the government to provide dietary advice. Primarily because of the role of competition and potential failure (back when we let companies fail in America). Here’s a short list of entities I’d prefer provide dietary advice over the government:
    1. Urine soaked winos
    2. Crazy shut-in cat ladies
    3. Sane shut-in cat ladies
    4. Unlicensed dieticians
    5. Unlicensed barbers

    Not related, but none of the above has ever threatened me with a gun (except for the wino) like the government does on a daily basis.

    The argument against the government’s involvement certainly contains “Limited Constitutional Powers” and the corrupted political motivations (Big Food’s campaign contributions). But, I also include the more Popperian growth of knowledge factors that just get shut down in the current US model.

    So, I support the competition of ideas in a free market when compared to the central planning model of the US.

    Please try and persuade me that they care what happens thirty years down the line (or indeed beyond the next few years profits).

    Why would I try to do that? I’ll concede that they care about nothing more than maximizing profits (just for sake of argument). In fact, let’s say that is the primary role of business. And, they will quickly realize there’s a huge profit potential for providing quality food and advice. If they don’t, I’ll gladly step into that void to provide that service and grow rich.

    If no such demand for quality food and advice exists, they we learned that the good people don’t care about that. Now, I’ve asked this before “Who will provide a good/service that no one cares enough about to buy?” That answer is, of course, the government in the “Nanny knows best” role.

  58. #58 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Not related, but none of the above has ever threatened me with a gun (except for the wino) like the government does on a daily basis.

    I only included this sentence so I could easily be dismissed as an anti-government zealot. It’s like giving candy to a baby.

  59. #59 |  Paul Antosh | 

    Who would you prefer to provide dietary advice, the food companies? Please try and persuade me that they care what happens thirty years down the line (or indeed beyond the next few years profits).

    Let’s try this:
    Who would you prefer to provide software developers with service oriented architecture advice, tech companies like Oracle, MS, and IBM (or the government)? Please try to persuade me that they care what happens 30 years down the line.

  60. #60 |  Pai | 

    If folks are actually interested in a blog that is all about fats vs. carbs and which dissects actual published research to prove it’s points, go here:

    http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/

  61. #61 |  Tim | 

    @56: Sucrose “contains” fructose in the same way baking soda “contains” lye.

  62. #62 |  La rana | 

    For the love of god radley, 99% of the population doesn’t even know what the governments recommendations are, let alone follow them. Yet here you are again promoting the idea, sounding like a complete boob, because you can’t bring yourself to admit that private industry plays the biggest role here. Government statements certainly have an impact, because they get co-opted, and the impact is of course pernicious, but pretending that government is the only problem here is just willful blindness.

  63. #63 |  Pablo | 

    #62–I would agree, the vast majority have no idea what the recommendations are but they are affected by them nonetheless. The “food pyramid” is binding on any institution which receives federal funds and serves food. So 1) anyone in a federal jail or prison, 2) anyone in the military, 3) anyone in an elementary school or high school or college that gets federal funds, and 4) anyone in a hospital which gets federal funds, e.g. all of them–all of these people are being fed according to the recommendations. Which means they are getting a lot of cheap processed carbs and Frankenfats, because you know, tater tots and french fries are vegetables and flavored sugar water counts as fruit. And that butter cant be good for you, so you need lots of corn oil.

  64. #64 |  SJE | 

    #63: Two other factors amplify this effect.
    1. People’s expectations are shaped by their experience with all this “Federal” food.
    2. Catering, food processors, cooking schools, etc, will adjust products to match the expectations of larger customers. This is why people get upset about the text books that are approved in Texas, because any (e.g. creationist) bent gets into the textbooks throughout the entire country. Most publishers would not make separate print runs.

  65. #65 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    but pretending that government is the only problem here is just willful blindness.

    Who is pretending they are the only problem? That is not, if I may be so bold, Balko’s premise.

    Personally, I see this as yet-another expansion of government that will only escalate with collectivist health care. Then, we’ll see some real pooch-screwing as Nanny rushes to tell us to do millions of things (recommended by the most politcally powerful).

    Of course, there will be no recourse if following Big Nanny’s advice leads to a stroke. Instead, they’ll just shrug.

    But if I tell folks to eat lots of apples, I’m liable for dozens of lawsuits after I get out of the clink for giving nutritional advice without a license.

    This is one reason why Federal Dietary Guidelines are Bullshit!

  66. #66 |  Preston Earle | 

    #4 | Mark R. | August 2nd, 2010 at 11:43 am wrote:

    “Carbs also create smaller LDL cholesterol particles which is actually a more accurate warning sign for heart problems than high levels of LDL cholesterol. ”
    —————

    I believe you have this exactly backwards. I’m no expert on lipoprotiens, but Gary Taubes, who is, explains the scienc fully and understandably ( well, fully anyway) in Good Calories, Bad Calories. Low carb diets lead to large fluffy safe LDL while low fat (high carb) diets lead to small dense dangerous LDL.

    In this PDF: http://higher-thought.net/wp-content/uploads/Notes-to-Good-Calories-Bad-Calories.pdf (page 11)he summarizes this complex issue:

    “• the non-simplified picture:
    ◦ LDL is different than LDL cholesterol: the former is the lipoprotein (carrier molecule) and the latter is the cholesterol content carried by the LDL molecules
    ◦ LDL is heterogeneous: ranges from small, dense LDL to large, fluffy LDL
    ▪ a low-density lipoprotein is analogous to a balloon: a protein backbone—apo B—, an outer membrane of phospholipids, and inside are the triglycerides and
    cholesterol inflating it

    ◦ small, dense LDL is bad: strong negative correlation with HDL,

    ▪ a high number of LDL particles (the # of apo B proteins) strongly correlates with heart disease (reflecting elevated small, dense LDL)
    ▪ many small LDL is bad, but the same amount of cholesterol in fluffy LDL is
    fine

    ▪ small, dense LDL can more easily get through damaged artery walls to
    form plaques; they oxidize more readily (must oxidize to become plaque
    forming)

    ▪ small dense LDL is invariably accompanied by high trigs and low HDL (fluffy LDL is not)

    ▪ low-fat, high-carb diets promote the bad dense LDL (promote heart
    disease)

    ▪ the reverse is true: high-fat, low-carb promotes fluffy LDL

    ▪ funny: researchers who firmly believe that dense LDL is
    atherogenic refuse to comment on the dietary implications!

    I believe if you’ll slog your way through GCBC you will see how wrong the government has been over the past 30 years to promote low-fat diets and how this has contributed to our national obesity problem.

  67. #67 |  Paula | 

    I have to agree with most of the comments. I remember when they said that eggs are bad. My mom flipped. She said that this comes from the same ppl that said that formula was better than breast milk!

    I will say that these were the recommended guidelines given the science at that time. But to say that eating a juicy, delicious hamburger everyday is not bad is incredulous.

    It is balance and moderation.

  68. #68 |  billy-jay | 

    It doesn’t matter if people know what the guidelines are. Anywhere that the government provides food, the guidelines must be followed. That includes schools, the military, and prisons. Do you not think that anyone picked up any bad eating habits along the way?

  69. #69 |  Fascist Nation | 

    http://www.mercurynews.com/rss/ci_15662126

    Low-carb diet trumps low-fat on ‘good’ cholesterol

    By Stephanie Nano

    Associated Press
    08/02/2010

  70. #70 |  Guru | 

    If you don’t think that government food recommendations lead policy and or a fundamental change is what and how we eat in this country, consider…

    Government schools get the guidelines handed to them from the government (the department has changed over time) and the school lunch program must comply. They teach the latest “Guideline” to your school age children and send home a flyer which gets put up on the fridge- we are all going to eat healthier now, the government has our best interest in mind and knows what it’s talking about.

    The Schools, who buy as much process/prepared food as possible, start looking for products from food manufacturers, who see a big bulk business and start making stuff, with all the preservatives, and artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors, texturizers, msg, they can put into it (and the FDA is to happy to approve all these chemicals for human consumption)

    Since they ( Food Manufacturers) have a product, they will just package it smaller and put it into the grocery store, and label it as fat free, or cholesterol free, what ever the buzzword that sells.

    You’ve got the information from the government on what to do to eat healthier. Your kids ( remember the cheerios commercial?) are telling you “eat this so you’ll live longer” So you start buying this packaged stuff. Which leads to the development of more packaged stuff with more health claims on it (lowers your cholesterol)

    That’s one vector. You get the same thing via your doctors office. (Shocking lack of nutrition background and education for doctors)

    meanwhile, drugs to treat the symptom of these diseases of malnutrition, indigestion and obesity explode. Approved by the government, whose members get lobbied heavily and get lots of contributions.

    Let’s not even get into how this affects insurance…

  71. #71 |  Blagnet.net » What the government tells you to eat may be killing you | 

    [...] really liked this post by Radley Balko. Nothing needs to be added to it: Over at City Journal, Steven Malanga looks at the recent history [...]

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