The (Processed) Food Pyramid

The (Processed) Food Pyramid
Just in case you thought that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) famous (or infamous depending on your point of view) food pyramid is created by unbiased experts on nutrition, think again. According to the consumer advocacy group the Center for Science in the Public Interest, seven of the 13 experts on President Bush’s newly appointed task force, which is assembled to create the next version of the food pyramid, have received research and consulting money from the food and drug industries.

More specifically, most of these seven panel members appear to be closely associated with the processed food industry, those purveyors of the sugary, and hydrogenated oil-laden foods that are making Americans ever-fatter. Given that little progress has been made in the fight against heart disease, and we have bigger (literally) than ever problems with obesity and its primary side effect, diabetes, the Bush administration might want to overhaul the food pyramid, starting with the people appointed to update it.

Analyzing and interpreting nutritional research is a minefield of special interests and bias. Most of it is paid for by the food industry: the sugar folks reassure us that research shows that sugar doesn’t make kids hyper (needless to say they didn’t consult parents on this subject). The processed grain and milk industries (e.g. cereal) find that we should avoid eggs. Poultry industry research has us avoiding beef. The soy industry has spent many millions to fund studies designed to convince Americans they should shun meat and have daily servings of their legume.

The moral of the story is to take nutrition research with a grain of salt and eat sensibly.