January 29, 2007

1977 Gov't report: Eat food. Not too much. But it never happened!

In the New York Times Sunday magazine's cover story, Unhappy Meals, Michael Pollin lays out at length what happened with our food as scientists, nutritionists, the government and even journalists got involved. Pollin's conclusion: everything about food is extremely confusing. But what is not confusing, is that we should be eating less than we currently are eating.

If you care at all, in what you eat everyday, you should not miss this article.

A couple of facts jumped out at me:
In 1977, a Senate Select Committee on Nutrition, headed by George McGovern drafted a recommendation advising Americans to actually reduce consumption of meat and dairy. But after outrage by beef and dairy industries plain talk was replaced by confusing: “Choose meats, poultry and fish that will reduce saturated-fat intake.” The new language exonerates the foods themselves; now the culprit is an obscure, invisible, tasteless — and politically unconnected — substance that may or may not lurk in them called “saturated fat.”
Instead — 30 years later — we have an obesity epidemic.
We produce 3,900 calories in total food calories every day for each American, but the average number of those calories Americans own up to eating is only 2,000.
Not only are we eating twice as much than what we need, but we lie about as well.

In plain talk, we're big fat liers.

And we seem to jump from one food fad to another.
Of course it’s also a lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a potato or carrot, with the perverse result that the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims, while a few aisles over, the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming about their newfound whole-grain goodness.
In Pollin's final analysis he gives us a few rules of thumb, one of which is:
Pay more, eat less. The American food system has for a century devoted its energies and policies to increasing quantity and reducing price, not to improving quality. There’s no escaping the fact that better food — measured by taste or nutritional quality (which often correspond) — costs more, because it has been grown or raised less intensively and with more care. Not everyone can afford to eat well in America, which is shameful, but most of us can: Americans spend, on average, less than 10 percent of their income on food, down from 24 percent in 1947, and less than the citizens of any other nation.

“Eat less” is the most unwelcome advice of all, but in fact the scientific case for eating a lot less than we currently do is compelling. “Calorie restriction” has repeatedly been shown to slow aging in animals, and many researchers (including Walter Willett, the Harvard epidemiologist) believe it offers the single strongest link between diet and cancer prevention.

Eat less everywhere, at home, on the road, in restaurants.

1 comment:

the veggie paparazzo said...

My husband sent me that article, and I didn't read it. But now I think I'll go back and read it after all.