Marcia at Frugal Healthy Simple recently wrote an excellent, heartfelt post about the Food Pyramid, and how, basically, it's just wrong. It contains too many grains, not enough proteins and fats, and far too many carbs. It's an improper mix of dietary inputs.
But it's worse than just being wrong. When the Food Pyramid came out some twenty years ago, people followed it. Marcia included. And with reason: after all, isn't the government here to help? It has our best interests at heart, right?
Now that more and more of us know the Food Pyramid's wrong, many of us can't help but wonder: were all our efforts to lose weight, and all those years struggling with our diet and with excess body fat... were we sabotaging ourselves all along by eating too many carbs? As our own government instructed us?
I think you'd be completely justified for being angry.
Granted, people--and governments--make mistakes. And the scientific consensus on many, if not most, issues is in a constant state of flux and iteration. In fact, I'm working on a post right now about the various health and dietary myths that have been thoroughly debunked over the past few decades (the Food Pyramid's "six servings of healthy whole grains per day!" is just one of many), and it really makes you wonder: how many things out there do we believe are true that we just haven't debunked yet?
Think about this for a few minutes and it will make you very humble, not just about government dietary guidelines, but about most the things we think we know. This is the reason Marcia's post--and the entire Broken Food Pyramid debate--resonates with me.
There's often a process of consensus-building that makes some subject domains, dietary science included, appear more "decided" than they really are. In fact, we see consensus thinking in many areas: economics, investing, the social sciences, and not to mention in ideologically contentious domains like climate change, environmental policy, trade policy, tax policy and so on.
But just because elite "experts" reach a consensus and hand it down to us doesn't mean things are as conclusive as they appear.
Worse, even after thinking begins to change in a given domain, the overall scientific consensus lags this change in thinking--often by years, even decades. And since government policy recommendations are determined by whatever consensus is in effect at the time they're created, it's the very last to adjust.
We're seeing this right now with the Food Pyramid. And the process is glacial, to put it diplomatically.
And in the meantime, citizens like Marcia and many, many others are coming to realize: they wished they'd never seen these guidelines when they came out twenty years ago.
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