It never fails: The more I read, the more I get pissed off.
In the latest book on my food journey, “Food Matters” by Mark Bittman, I came across a piece of information that stopped me in my tracks: The USDA’s 1992 Food Pyramid, which had been widely disseminated as the Bible of healthy eating, had been hijacked from its original designer, Luise Light, a nutrition expert at New York University.
According to Bittman, Light’s recommendations “stressed high consumption of vegetables and a low intake of starchy foods.” She suggested we eat 2 – 4 servings of whole grains (also known as the bread and cereal group) and placed the group towards the top of the pyramid.
However, the USDA was unsatisfied with these instructions provided by its own nutrition expert and the panel of top-level nutritionists she managed.
It decided to create its own pyramid and increased the number of servings from the bread and cereal group from 2 – 4 to 6 – 11, eliminated any reference to the whole grains Light insisted it add and made the bread group the foundation of the pyramid.
In her own writings, Light said, “When our version of the Food Guide came back to use revised, we were shocked to find that it was vastly different from the one we had developed … my nutritionist group had placed baked goods made with white flour — including crackers, sweets and other low-nutrient foods laden with sugars and fats — at the peak of the pyramid, recommending that they be eaten sparingly. To our alarm, in the ‘revised’ Food Guide, they were now made part of the Pyramid’s base.”
The USDA made the changes, Light suggested, to indulge the food industry.
“As I learned from my days as a USDA nutritionist, nutrition for the government is primarily a marketing tool to fuel growth in consumer food expenditures and demand for major food commodities: meat, dairy, eggs, wheat,” she said. “It’s an economics lesson that has very little to do with our health and nutrition and everything to do with making sure that the food expenditures continue to rise for all interests involved in the food industry.”