Friday, 15 July 2022

Questioning the food pyramid

There have been a number of issues raised about the validity of the mid-20th century research done by Ancel Keys which the US nutrition pyramid guidelines have been based on in recent years, and it seems that there now may be almost enough evidence to overturn the food pyramid advice, particularly as it relates to heart heath. I have become very interested in the guidelines since going on an effective diet for migraine control (Stanton, 2017).

To gain an overview of why there is a growing shift in dietary guidelines thinking, a guest lecture by Nina Teicholz at NYC's Cato Institute (2019) is very good watching. Visiting senior fellow, Terence Kealey introduces Ms Teicholz by saying:

"For 60 years now the authorities have told us we should eat less fat, more carbohydrate, [...] less saturated fat [and] more unsaturated fat. This has been terrible advice, which has at the very best coincided with this epidemic of diabetes and obesity; and that worst has been causative rather than associative. The extraordinary thing about this huge collective public error is that the person who has done more than anything anybody else has to explode it, Nina, is neither a scientist; nor a doctor; nor [a] nutritionist; [but] is in fact an investigative journalist. And perhaps it [must] take someone from completely outside the field to recognize that the [research being used in the] field was flawed" (The Cato Institute, 2019, 0:06).

The lecture is available free to view on YouTube at the link referenced, or below (The Cato Institute, 2019):

I also recommend reading the book (Teicholz, 2014). There is a substantial bibliography of 37 pages, containing almost 900 entries of entries from both sides of the debate. Additionally, while the book has been out for eight years, a check of GoogleScholar provides more current evidence, as Ms Teicholz has remained active researching and writing in the field, as a co-author publishing in academic journals such as Nutrients, The Lancet, and BMJ. 

What is disturbing is that Ms Teicholz talks about how academics may leave themselves open to legal action if they find themselves unable to agree with the established US dietary guidelines. When questioning the establishment becomes punishable, we are moving away from scientific inquiry. Professor Emeritus Tim Noakes, a medical doctor and sports science and nutrition researcher of low-carb diets, was pursued by the Association for Dietetics in South Africa's (ADSA) which took a complaint to the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) saying that Mr Noakes was giving 'unprofessional' legal advice. There were two court cases. Mr Noakes was exonerated in both (Diabetes UK, 2018; Sboros, 2018). 

The fact that the cases have been taken seems ludicrous: where is debate if academics may only spout the party line? It sounds similar to how Communist China used to be presented: you can say anything you want to as long as the party agrees. That does not sound like research to me. It sounds like dogma... or a 'paid political broadcast'. 

A question arises: in whose interest is it to maintain the food pyramid status quo? There is some argument (The CATO Institute, 2019; Veitch, 2017) that it is perhaps modern food companies, largely based in the USA, collectively having created an enormous lobbying powerhouse. These companies form vested interests which remain interested in keeping their interests vested. 

If we are really taking a scientific approach, what we need is discussion, debate, and an objective review of all evidence. We don't need researchers being shut down, taken to court or afraid of prosecution. We also don't WANT them to be funded by large food companies who are setting out to 'prove' their own position. 

Open discussion, debate, and an objective review of all evidence is how we need to test the science, so that we may continuously improve. 



Diabetes UK. (14 June 2018). Low carb guru Professor Tim Noakes again found not guilty of misconduct.

Indie Rights Movies For Free. (29 July 2021). Fat Fiction [video].

Sboros, M. (3 May 2018). Noakes exposed: real beef dietitians have with him.

Stanton, A. (2017). Fighting The Migraine Epidemic: How To Treat and Prevent Migraines Without Medicines - An Insider's View (2nd ed.). Amazon Digital Services LLC.

Teicholz, N. (2014). The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet. Simon & Shuster.

The Cato Institute. (5 April 2019). Big Fat Nutrition Policy | Nina Teicholz [video].

Veitch, J. (2017). HPCSA v Prof. Tim Noakes - The Verdict and Implications.

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