“The Food Pyramid? It’s just wrong.”

“A diet based on food that turns to sugar once it’s in your body was never going to end well.” The last 35 years of dietary advice summed up in one tweet-worthy sentence, and the whole embarrassing public health nutrition fiasco explained in less than 3 minutes.

Hooboy, do I have a treat for you.

Despite the recent nobody-is-listening-so-we’d-better-yell-louder American Heart Association report that encourages everyone to chug soybean oil like it’s cheap beer, butter is baaaaack–and starring in its own video.

My friend, Jenni Calihan at EatTheButter is the mastermind behind this, but I’ll humbly take credit for some “editorial input” here.

Watch first, then we’ll talk:

First of all:  I’m still snickering over the “not based on rigorous science” frame:

Next:  Maybe you’re a newbie to the world of non-mainstream, it’s-actually-okay-to-eat-animal-fat nutrition, or maybe you are just nutrition-skeptic curious, or maybe you’ve been around all of the various dietary dogma blocks.  For whatever reason, if you get a little uncomfortable with all the hyperbole, oversimplification, and finger-pointing about who Made America Fat–the cows! the Snackwells! the stupid lazy gluttonous Americans!–this little video offers a straightforward, easy-to-understand explanation for our current nutrition quandary, without resorting to distortions, exaggerations, and the blame game.

I’m happy to take some credit for that. For me, when you’re talking physiology and biochemistry (crackers turn into sugar, fat doesn’t “make you fat”), things are pretty straightforward. But it gets trickier talking about “good” or “bad” science or what the Food Pyramid did or didn’t do, or cause.

This is one my favorite things about this video: Although the relationship between dietary guidance and outcomes is noted, cause and effect regarding the specifics of the diet is not explicitly stated (although I suspect that various parties will infer what they will).

For example, when the voice-over says “The Food Pyramid? It’s just wrong,” does that mean, “The science behind the Food Pyramid is just wrong” or that “Pyramid-shaped food advice is just wrong”? The first is an argument waiting to happen, but the second just says that the advice we gave out–whether pyramid- or plate-shaped–was, for some reason, the wrong advice for most Americans.

Was it all those starches turning to sugar after few minutes in our stomachs?  Did eating less nutrient-dense food, like red meat, mean we ended up eating more food overall in order to be adequately nourished? Did the division of food in to “good” and “bad” categories set up cycles of “good” and “bad” eating? Or, to get all academic on you, did the application of the halo of “healthy” to cheap, convenient, tasty, but nutritionally lacking industrialized food, coupled with a neoliberalist imperative to make health the responsibility of the individual and “solutions” to health a matter of the marketplace, make many Americans–particularly those caught in a widening income gap and increasing economic pressures–more susceptible to eating patterns that exacerbated all of the other toxicities of modern life?

You don’t have to answer that.

My point is that we (really) don’t know what exactly about our dietary advice is the problem, and—as far as I am concerned at this point—it doesn’t matter.

For 20th (and now 21st) century Americans, this kind of dietary advice, provided in this particular political, sociocultural, industrial, and economic context, simply did not—and still does not—“work” to keep Americans healthy. That’s it.  We can argue until the grass-fed cows come home about why it didn’t work, but it didn’t work.  Acknowledge and move on.

And in the meantime, you can share this video with friends and family and know that it got the “hyperbole-free” stamp of approval from me.

 

 

 

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