The USDA: In Bed with Breakfast Cereal

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for publishing Dietary Guidelines for Americans every 5 years. These serve as the basis for school lunch programs, nutritional recommendations in hospitals, and are held as the social norm for what is considered healthy eating. You can find the previous USDA reports (1995 to 2005) here, and the current 2010 one here.

If the guidelines had our best interest at heart, they would reflect the latest nutritional research and objectively inform us of the best possible diet to fend off chronic disease and reverse the rise of metabolic syndrome.
Unfortunately, that’s not entirely the case. The guidelines are more a reflection of political forces and a tool to market US-made food products rather than a guide to better the health of Americans. Following on last week’s article, I’d like to look at the long-standing relationship between the USDA and processed food manufacturers.

Case in point: the ready-to-eat breakfast cereal industry.

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The Evolution of the USDA Food Pyramid: An Unsound Foundation

2015 is going to bring great things. Among others, HBO’s Veep season 4, the AppleWatch, but most importantly, the USDA is going to publish their new Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Every 5 years, the institution graces us with a data-filled report, and a simple take-home message, usually in the form of a pyramid (or more recently, a plate) to tell us what diet to adopt in order to “maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health” (sic).

While we wait with bated breath, please allow me to take you on a trip down memory lane and look at the evolution of this dear Food Pyramid.

Let’s start in 1943. The USDA created the ‘basic seven’ food groups which they recommended every American ate on a daily basis.
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These were the first guidelines, and in my opinion, the best the USDA ever gave. It’s all down hill from here…
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How the Media Misleads the Masses: ‘High-Fat’ Diets and Cancer

Observational studies linking diet to illnesses are, at best, flawed. Usually, an observational study works this way: a sample group of people are asked to fill out a questionnaire which prompts them to remember what they have eaten and in what quantities over a past arbitrary time period. (This is usually filled with memory mistakes- try and precisely tell me how many 3.5-ounce serving of lean red meat you have had over the past 30 days)
Then, researchers let some time go buy (it could be years) and observe who of these people develop the disease they are interested in. They then try to find a correlation between what these people reported as their diet a few years back, and the illness they developed.

It is very difficult to isolate single variables (for example, if you find that people who ate 20+ servings of red meat per month have a 7% increase in atherosclerosis, how can you be certain that the red meat is causing it and not the carbohydrates, alcohol, or poor exercise regime which usually accompany it?)

May I introduce the second most common type of research which tries to inform us on the way humans work: mouse-model studies!

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Omega-3’s, Omega-6’s: A Balancing Act

My late uncle, Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, was the author of a book called Anticancer. In its pages, he spoke at length about the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in our diet. This post explores why they are so important, and how they can help you.0d0f4d61a0616cca3233e68c45abca70

Both omega-3’s and omega-6’s (also called PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids), or n-3 and n-6 fatty acids), are essential to our body. They control gene function, regulate our immune system, impact the speed and efficacy of our metabolism, and are a vital component of the cell membranes that cover every single one of the 100 trillion cells in our body.

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The Science Behind ‘BulletProof’ Coffee

There has recently been a lot of press for ‘BulletProof’ coffee, which is just branding for a traditional kind of coffee used for centuries. Here is a link to the company selling their BulletProof mix. It is actually very easy to make yourself.

All hype aside, does it help you? Does it have any health benefits, does it actually increase your mental sharpness, or is it just another fad?

I came across this Guardian article yesterday, which I found wildly inaccurate and terribly uninformative. So here is my attempt at giving you all some information about this wonderdrink.

What is it made of?
It is made by blending your favourite cup of black coffee, MCT oil, grass-fed butter, resulting in a latte-like, foamy, oily mixture. Standard measurements are 1 cup coffee, 1tbsp MCT oil, 1tbsp butter, blended at high speed for 20 seconds, and enjoyed immediately.
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Reversing Type 2 Diabetes and Why Rice Cakes Are Evil

Whether you are pre-diabetic, or are suffering from Type 2 Diabetes, it is possible to reverse the symptoms and heal your body through food.. Because food is what got you there in the first place. I am hoping through this article to add to Mark’s Daily apple summary (see the first link below). So print out all this, and as Mark says, give it to your aunt! It is a comprehensive actionable summary, that anyone can start right now to stop or prevent ever becoming insulin-dependent (by the way, you will also loose weight).

Here we go. This is one of my favourite articles by one of my favourite bloggers, Mark Sisson, which sums up the Type II Diabetes issue quite well – read it before continuing, it explains the biochemical mechanisms behind this all: Mark’s Daily Apple

So, what to do in order to reverse the dangerous path towards T2D?

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What to Eat

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It isn’t easy to know what the best decision is when you are about to put food into your cart at the supermarket. Farmed organic or wild caught fish? Soy milk or whole milk? Local and conventional or organic from Chile? Whole wheat or extra-fiber flax bread? Fortified cereal with 100% of your vitaminD requirements or gluten free oats? ‘Organic’, ‘natural’, or ‘farm fresh’? Bottled water or tap water?

Don’t worry, Marion Nestle is here to help.
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