Spare Us Another Pyramid

The Nazis Had Their Eintopf,*
the OMB Has Its Diktats

Spare Us Another Pyramid

move is underway to replace the old United States Department of Agriculture food pyramid—which purported to tell us what we should eat and how much of it—with a new one. Instigated by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments have been urged to revise the current guidelines so that ordinary folks can distinguish between the evils of trans-fatty acids that escalate the risk of heart disease and the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids that can lower the risk (don’t they know that the FDA believes that “It is not known what effect omega-3 fatty acids in fish may or may not have on risk of CHD in the general population”?).

If a nongovernment agency were to advocate the creation of such a guideline, I would be wholeheartedly in favor, but because the government wields so much power (independent of having been wrong so many times—and they continue to be wrong about most things), I must protest this current continuation of dietary dictatorship.

In the current pyramid—and more than likely in any forthcoming one—few distinctions are made among the various carbohydrates, yet it’s the carbohydrate craze rather than any fat craze that has been the principal source of the obesity epidemic, more than doubling its prevalence in the last 20 years.

According to a recent report in The New England Journal of Medicine,1 which studied the effects of the low-carbohydrate, high-protein, high-fat diet made famous by the late Dr. Robert Atkins, the conventional wisdom is a high-carbohydrate, low-fat, energy-deficit diet, exactly what the current USDA pyramid supports. Has it been successful? Not really.

Ironically, however, a low-carbohydrate, high-protein, high-fat diet may be successful, at least from a propaganda point of view. It may be successful because, while fat consumption has increased substantially in the last 30 years, in the same period carbohydrate consumption (including refined sugars and starches, as well as plain old whole fibers, grains, and fruits) has dramatically increased by many times that of fat.

According to a recent statistical bulletin,2 “In 1997, each American consumed, on average, 81 pounds more of commercially grown vegetables than in 1970; 65 pounds more of grain products; 57 pounds more of fruit; 32 pounds more of caloric sweeteners; 13 pounds more of total red meat, poultry, and fish (boneless, trimmed equivalent); 17 pounds more of cheese; 13 pounds more of added fats and oils; 3 gallons more of beer; 70 fewer eggs; 10 gallons less of coffee; and 7 gallons less of milk.”

The problem, however, has not been carbohydrates per se, but high-glycemic carbohydrates—those such as potatoes, pasta, sugars, some fruits, and especially convenience foods that contain little to no fat (buts lots of sugar and starches) but increase the release of insulin (also known as the hunger hormone), leading to the metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and so on. And the pyramid perpetrators gave a green light to the consumption of these fat-making foods because they didn’t make a clear distinction among them. And why should they? There are far too many lobbyists, of various political persuasions, who become rabid if their ox is about to be gored.

So what’s the solution, you ask? Keep the government out of the arena of making any nutritional pronouncements, and protect commercial free speech to the hilt. In an open society where the markets are free and unrestricted by political whim, the truth has a far better chance of winning. Science and politics are a lethal combination. They do not mix, and consequently, their union should be avoided like the plague.

Will Block



  1. Foster GD, Wyatt HR, Hill JO, McGuckin BG, Brill C, Mohammed BS, Szapary PO, Rader DJ, Edman JS, Klein S. A randomized trial of a low-carbohydrate diet for obesity. N Engl J Med 2003 May 22;348(21):2082-90.
  2. Putnam JJ, Allshouse JE. Food Consumption, Prices, and Expenditures, 1970–97. Food and Rural Economics Division, Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Statistical Bulletin No. 965.

*This was the “one-pot” dish that German families were encouraged to eat instead of their usual meal on one Sunday of each month, in order to save money that was to be donated to the needs of the State.

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