The Food Pyramid Topples
January 13, 2005 12:12 PM   Subscribe

The US Government pronounces the Food Pyramid dead. More information from the USDA. Hail the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005! The guidelines won't be released for a couple months yet, but some graphics on Food Groups, being On The Go and Physical Activity are being circulated as teasers.
posted by FlamingBore (18 comments total)
It's about time the food pyramid went. 6-11 servings of bread, rice and cereal? No wonder Americans are obese.

And let's all think for a few minutes about the fact that these nutrition guidelines are released by the US Department of Agriculture, not the department of, say, Health and Human Services, or maybe the FDA. No, the guidelines on what we should eat are provided by the department that is controlled by the farming industry lobbyists. While we're at it, why don't we let the oil industry revise the guidelines for pollution standards, while the pharmaceutical industry gets to decide what drugs get FDA approval?

Oh wait.
posted by salad spork at 12:17 PM on January 13, 2005

Most annoying how you can't just download the whole guidelines document as a single file, but can access every other PDF on the page.
posted by lowlife at 12:25 PM on January 13, 2005

Love the background color in the Food Groups poster.
posted by Coffeemate at 12:27 PM on January 13, 2005

Oh, and apparently:
The 2005 edition of the Guidelines was released at 11 AM, January 12, 2005.
So I guess they *have* been released. Then again, if you want to get dead-tree versions of the guidelines, then yes, you have to wait until February 4th.
posted by lowlife at 12:28 PM on January 13, 2005

Growing up in Canada I remember a bastardized version of the USDA pyramid being used in our health classes. At the very bottom, it was clear who supported it since their logo was all over it.

It really bugged me, because Health Canada had a much, much better version available.
posted by purephase at 12:30 PM on January 13, 2005

The pyramid is dead. Long live THE COLUMN!
posted by kamus at 12:38 PM on January 13, 2005

Looking it over, it seems to resemble a variation of the Mediterranean pyramid, though with more emphasis on meats. Still, an improvement over the current one.
posted by erisfree at 12:39 PM on January 13, 2005

Wow, sound advice.

Though, 1600 or under calories per day? Sorry no sweets.
posted by lacus at 12:59 PM on January 13, 2005

> It's about time the food pyramid went. 6-11 servings of bread, rice
> and cereal? No wonder Americans are obese.

For a sedantary life, I guess it might be a bit too much. Swap it with
Fruits & Veggies, emphasis on veggies. Although you might want
to consider that whole cereals, whole bread and whole rice carry
less of the slow sugars and more of the fibers and other fillings that
are useful but won't give you too many calories.

But if you work outside by freezing cold temperature, or if you're
an athlete, 6-11 servings of slow sugar aren't that bad.
posted by NewBornHippy at 1:25 PM on January 13, 2005

I thought that the link was going to provide new federal information about how a school age child can live on prayer and water for lunch.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:27 PM on January 13, 2005

I, for one, and pleased and shocked at this administration releasing something that makes sense. I bet it's going to cost them some states in
the next elections.

Fruit and veggies, less meat? The terrorists have won.
posted by NewBornHippy at 1:31 PM on January 13, 2005

If for once it doesn't look like something designed by the US Dairy Council, The American Cattleman's Association, and Archer Daniels Midland, I'll be mildly impressed. But I'm not holding my breath.
posted by kyrademon at 1:54 PM on January 13, 2005

Or crap, now I don't know what to eat. I think I'll have to stop until the new guidelines are released. How could the USDA leave us hanging like this?!
posted by nomad at 1:59 PM on January 13, 2005

Food choice by committee decision. Wonderful. The amount of politics behind this would make your stomach church. As kyrademon said.
posted by stbalbach at 3:15 PM on January 13, 2005

> Food choice by committee decision.

Except that 1) the proposed diets are making sense and 2) a sizeable proportion of this country population doesn't really understand what they should eat.
posted by NewBornHippy at 3:43 PM on January 13, 2005

At least note this: "Development of the Dietary Guidelines is coordinated by HHS's Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and Agricultural Research Service."

The Tribune had a good overview of the conflict of interest question last fall, as it was clear that the pyramid was going to change significantly or even disappear entirely some time ago, under heavy pressure from several quarters:

Q: Is it fair to blame the food pyramid when people don't follow it anyway?
A: The food guide pyramid has actually had a substantial impact.... If we look back 20 years ago, the percentage of calories from fat in the American diet is quite a bit lower. Second, there're some important indirect impacts of the pyramid, in that billions of dollars of federal food policies have to be compliant. So many programs -- what's fed to young children, to pregnant mothers, to low-income families -- have to be consistent with low-fat diets. So the impact really has been, overall, substantial.

Q: Behind the food pyramid were a collection of constituencies. Were people receptive when you raised these criticisms in the '90s?
A: There was not much receptivity when we raised these criticisms. It was almost an accepted religious belief that fat was bad and carbohydrates were good. Then there were economic interests behind the food pyramid as well. Clearly the dairy industry is extremely well represented. The beef industry is there, and it's very convenient that beef is combined along with fish and poultry and nuts and legumes. So each one of those industries can say: It's healthy to have three servings a day of our product. …

I assume there are studies that support the food pyramid, or these new guidelines, at least to some extent. I think it woudl be instructive if there were studies which demonstrated, a la Super Size Me, that following the guidelines for a month is clearly unhealthy, or that the guidelines have a sort of UI failure in communicating the right message. That said, I think the main criticism of the USG guidelines up to now has been that they've lagged behind mainstream nutrition by several years (something the agency probably perceives as a virtue). But then, I know from my own experience that it's extremely difficult to process all the advice, good and bad, that we see in our culture, and especially to make the next step into practical reduction in portions, calories, fat, cholesterol, or whatever. It's comparatively easy to just buy something billed as low fat and placate yourself. Counting calories is a nightmare of paperwork and math (even with sites like FitDay); for myself the only thing I've found effective is long-term awareness of general caloric and fat content, and portion control, combined with more exercise. I think the pyramid/guidelines emphasis on portion control is well-placed, then, because it targets something that people can do fairly easily.
posted by dhartung at 10:05 PM on January 13, 2005

I just went on the South Beach diet. In the book they talk a lot about the food pyramid, the original research that created it, and what assumptions led them astray.

I never thought I would go on a diet like this, because I assumed there would be something unhealthy or non-sensical about it. After reading the book, I found it very logical.

Basically, the overemphasis in the old food pyramid on starches, like processed white bread and rice are aborbed so quickly by your body they are basically sugar. It was easy for me to accept that it did not make much sense to be eating plain sugar three times a day - hence the emphasis on whole grains. The entire diet can basically be summed up in "don't eat so much sugar, and it's not in the foods you expect."

The part of the book I did not understand very well said something along the lines of "sugar tells your body to start storing fat - that it's good times and start saving for the future."

I've been on the diet a couple weeks, effortlessly lost weight, and didn't pay attention to my serving sizes at all. With a diet where you are not changing what eat - you need to reduce your caloric intake by at least 30%. That's really hard. Changing my diet was pretty easy and the only thing I cut out was sweets and am now eating whole grain cereals and breads.

That said, of course if you are exercising like mad you are probably going to want eat more pasta, etc for stored energy.
posted by xammerboy at 7:23 AM on January 14, 2005

Oh by the way, I wasn't a sweet-tooth or sugar fanatic before either. I would just have it in my coffee. It was just in a lot more food than I thought. Fruit juice for instance. How long have we historically been able to have a glass of fruit juice every day that basically contains the sugars of 20 oranges? I used drink juice ALL the time, without thinking anything of it.
posted by xammerboy at 7:26 AM on January 14, 2005

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