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Steven Malanga
The Washington Diet « Back to Story

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Very good review of dietary misinformation. Doctor Atkins seemed to have figured it all out long ago, but it's never as simple as one thing or another. Vigorous exercise is required for good health, but very difficult to come by in the busy and crowded world we now occupy.

Get out and work out! Make a large portion of your free time dedicated to exercise. Shop in the produce section of the grocery store. Tell the politicians to stay out of your life, out of your bedroom, out of your refrigerator, and out of your wallet. All will be well.

Oh, sorry, I forgot in my earlier comment to mention Greg Judy. He is another excellent source for good agriculture that could provide healthy food and a cooler climate.
Thanks for the article. It made me realize that the NM Society has dropped the ball on a very important area about food - agriculture and is impact on the environment. As mentioned in the article, two books, one by Paul Ehrlich and the other by Frances Moore Lappé’s helped promote the current government food guidelines.

Well, there is now new science that could (Please note that I wrote 'could' instead of 'will'.) promote the use of animals to prevent and actually reverse climate change. See all of the You Tube videos with Allan Savory and Joel Salatin, especially Allan's TED talk.

Both of these gentlemen have books and websites that should be promoted by the NM Society, in my opinion. The potential benefit of raising animals in semi-arid and some arid lands could be immense for both cooling the world's climate and feeding the world's population with healthy food. These synergistic benefits should be fully and accurately described and promoted by the NM Society. Thus, providing another argument for the Society to use to reach its stated goal.
My dad had his first heart attack in 1965 at the age of 32. Prescription? Total bed rest for 30 days and a no-fat diet (high in carbs). Second one in the 70's. Prescription? Federal dietary guidelines for a heart diet, low fat, high carbs. Had bypass in 1982. Same prescription. Got a new doctor who listened to him describe all the many diets he'd been on in 30 years with which he never lost weight. New doctor put him on the Atkins Diet saying that a few months wouldn't kill him. You should have seen the look on his face when he was able to have bacon and eggs for breakfast for the first time in 25 years. Surprise: Dad lost 50 pounds and his cholesterol went down 100 points and he was off the drugs. He lived another 30 years. Long enough for Parkinson's and Esophageal Cancer to kill him (not a heart attack). New strategy: Find out what the "experts" and the government recommend and do the opposite!
I find it interesting that conservatives talk about freedom, less government and personal responsibility yet support government mandated limits on personal choices and consumption like the ones Bloomberg champions.

We have calories on menus, decreases in trans fats and soda has become public enemy #1 - yet we're not losing any weight as a nation. Wonder why? Because we are still not going after the culprits... (1)food companies and their use of unnatural ingredients and (2)lack of exercise. Until we provide solutions to those two issues, the obesity epidemic will continue regardless of what Bloomberg dictates.
Anyone else think Michelle Obama is a closet anorexic? I truly worry about the fate of her daughters - they will both end up bulimic, I'm sure, with such a "food prude" for a mother.
Great article. One that is long overdue. Wish there was a way to hold the FDA and all the people in the chain propagating this foolishness criminally and civilly liable for the damage they've caused.

One point not mentioned in this otherwise spot-on article is the effect that misinformation about eggs (and egg yolks in particular) and liver has had as contributing factors to liver damage. Choline is an essential nutrient found only in a few foods -- eggs and liver being two of the best sources. It appears to have a critical role in transporting fat out of the liver.

Lack of choline is now being attributed to the (epidemic) rise of non-alcoholic fatty liver disorder. An unfortunate (possibly criminal) consequence on the foolish unfounded campaign against eggs.

Thanks FDA. Well played.

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What to do? What to do? Allow overweight, fat & obese parents to raise children or rather to allow an overweight, fat & obese government to raise them. Hmmmm....

I'm just going to eat a Twinkie to calm down.
I liked the article very much.
The Government has no right to dictate what we eat and it can certainly not be a one size fits all diet. The Obama administration has over stepped it's bounds as far as this Granny is concerned. I am sick an tied of this administration trying to micro-manage every aspects of our lives.
Su-called "experts" are dangerous to your health!In fact It's the "expert" (in all fields of endeaver) who has screwed up our lives. Agenda driven "studies" and "guidelines" are worthless.
Hello. And Bye.
Dear Canadian Lover of this country...were you older and had visited BEFORE the government passed well meaning and thoughtful legislation to help us get more fit, you'd have found a country of much thinner and far more fit people. You finally have a PM who knows what is needed and a country which is responding. We'd love to draft him for 8 years.
The old bromide..."Hi, I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." should be repeated endlessly until we finally understand that it is only about a job for them as they take our money to impose their beliefs.
There's one where researchers used a saturated fat and dietary cholesterol index. They determined the amount of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol consumed in 40 nations. They then determined the ischemic heart attack death rate.
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My son has convinced me to go "Paleo". All the meat I want (lean or fatty) eaten with vegetables, salads and fruits. No bread, no starches, rice, potatoes. No grains, no corn, no dairy. This diet goes against everything the government wants you to eat. Collectively my son and I have lost in excess of 160 pounds, possibly more. Go Caveman and live because your government wants you to die young.
some accuracy in journalism!!
this is interesting as a certain school of thought.
I am Canadian. When I visit the USA, I would subjectively add, that your citizens on the average are shockingly fat. I am a lover of freedom too, but see that a bit of well pointed legislation could remedy what to an outsider and proportionately seems a striking obesity problem. It is clear, citizens are not making the best use of their freedom, in the realm of diet, and could use some help in restraining themselves and putting less stress on the overall medical system. There seems to be an appalling lack of physical activity as well. I don't have the answers but from an outside visitor, and lover of your country, there is on a more relative scale clearly something unwell.
I await anxiously for the news that ice cream is actually good for me!
Besides sugar, how about growth hormones given to animals used for meat. So-called low-fat and diet foods contain chemicals that actually make you crave the food and eat more.

The Weston A. Price web site is a good reference for nutrition and diet studies.
Jeff Burke Thomas May 19, 2011 at 4:35 PM
Interesting article. I would also very much like to see the 20 year-old study.

So, they are basically saying that people with high cholesterol are more likely to die of a heart attack and therefore less likely to die of other causes, QED having lower cholesterol is less healthy? They're "disproportionately likely to die from all causes" and "found that cholesterol levels made no difference at all in death rates among women?" It's fraudulent on the face of it.

Well, lung cancer is caused by smoking, so it would make sense that very obese nonsmokers are more likely to die from heart attacks than skinny smokers. Respiratory disease means TB and pneumonia, i.e, poor people, so malnourished and AIDS patients are definitely more likely to have lower cholesterol and die of that. Digestive disease presumably means diarrhea and/or worms, so really poor people are likely to be malnourished and die of diarrhea.

The connections between disease and eating red meat are well known. Thorogood, et al. (1994:1669) conclude that there is a “roughly 40% reduction in mortality from cancer in vegetarians and fish eaters compared with meat eaters.” The American Heart Association website (2011) states that “many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease…, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and some forms of cancer.” Specifically, red meat consumption is correlated with higher rates of colorectal, esophageal, liver and lung cancers (Cross, et al. 2007). Consequently, the American Heart Association (Lichtenstein, et al. 2006:83-85) advocates replacing red with lean meats, while limiting processed meat. And the American Institute of Cancer Research (2010:18) recommends that individuals limit their consumption of red meats and avoid processed red meats entirely.

Thorogood, M, J Mann, P Appleby and K McPherson. “Risk of Death from Cancer and Ischaemic Heart Disease in Meat and Non-meat eaters.” British Medical Journal 308:1667-1670. June 25, 1994.

American Heart Association website. “Vegetarian Diets.”

American Institute for Cancer Research. “Recommendations for Cancer Prevention.” nIdr00q3q8xo3ga5.app46a.

Cross, Amanda J, Michael F Leitzmann, Mitchell H Gail, Albert R Hollenbeck, Arthur Schatzkin, and Rashmi Sinha. “A Prospective Study of Red and Processed Meat Intake in Relation to Cancer Risk.” PLoS Medicine 4(12). December 2007.

Lichtenstein, Alice H, et al. “Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations Revision 2006: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee.” Circulation 114:82-96. 2006.
Heard on the news today that the government is looking to ban potatoes in school lunches.
I can see banning FRIED potatoes, but they can just as easily be oven baked.
Full of potassium, vitamin c and fiber. what do they plan to substitute for them?
What happened, the potato lobby didn't pay enough tribute?
From Mark Green May 18, 2011 at 12:28 PM
Lots of controversy that I see regarding statin drugs and cholesterol levels. After I finish my current Crestor 20 mg bottle I would like to get a blood test and go back to 10mg if my levels are ok.

Mark Green
My top weight was 196. I'm 6' tall, 60yrs old. When I moved to the Sierra Foothills from the SF Bay Area and started building decks and such my weight dropped to 160 and I never changed my diet with the exception of drinking a lot more water. My basic diet was always meat, potatoes, veggies and fruit. My VA doctor asked me if I was dieting because for a while my weight dropped to 147, then back to 160. Sometimes I read all day sometimes I cut the field grass, sometimes I cut firewood, and sometimes I work in my garden. My food intake philosophy was for the most part 'moderation'. I never saw the need to eat more than satisfied my hunger. However my wife who is more sedentary has to watch her diet and eats no beef, or pork. Her diet is mostly Fruit, veggies,rice,chicken and fish, with some cookies and such. Point being we're all different and a bit of common sense should direct us in what we eat. We don't need the governments interference.

However when we are paying for a persons food, health, home etc. I think it can be that the government tell the fat person to go on a diet and do some exercise, get a job if well enough and stop watching TV all day long.
My thought.
A good article, but the statement "The idea of a sugary drink becoming fat is absurd", is absurd.
“The idea of a sugary drink becoming fat is absurd.”

It's a well-known fact that excess blood sugar gets converted to fat and stored away. In fact, this is where most of our excess body fat comes from. Soda is one of the major culprits in this. The campaign, while naive in some of its parts, is not scientifically inaccurate.
Choose your dates: The obesity epidemic is not the past; the obesity epidemic is still going on. And fat consumption and all calories consumption has gone up. Meat consumption per capita went from 144 lbs in 1950, 161 in 1960, 189 in 1970, 190 in 1980, 193 in 1990, 211 in 2000, 219 in 2005, 222 in 2007. Yes, beef consumption declined from a peak in 1975 from 85 to 66 in 2007--while chicken went from 39 in 1975 to 87 in 2007. There were also increases of 8 lb per capita in pork from 1975 to 2007 and 10 lb per capita in turkey consumption from 1975 to 2007. And yes, those numbers all increased between 1970 and 2000, and 1980 and 2000, also. Not only beef, but chicken has become leaner over the years.

Consumption of added dietary fats (oils and shortenings) increased about 25 percent from 1970 to 1997.

Refined grain consumption also increased, but from a record low after declining (while meat consumption increased) over the century.

Why did the CSPI push for the use of trans fats over saturated fats to begin with?
We're fat because we no longer eat the diet that the human body evolved on- meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, berries, eggs- and instead we eat a diet that is high in sugar and flour and grain.

Grain fattens cows and pigs for slaughter. Why are we surprised it does the same for people?
This column ignores a ton of evidence implicating dietary fat, especially saturated fat, as a causal factor in cardiovascular disease.

I'll just mention a couple of studies.

There's one where researchers used a saturated fat and dietary cholesterol index. They determined the amount of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol consumed in 40 nations. They then determined the ischemic heart attack death rate. The correlation between the CSI (cholesterol and saturated fat index) very closely explained the ischemic heart attack death rate. Two countries, however, were outliers. Finland and France. Finland had a higher death rate than could be expected from the CSI and France had a lower death rate than could be expected from he CSI. But butter fat and milk product consumption explained the death rate very well.

There's another one where researchers tracked the eating habits of men in Baltimore Maryland, paying special attention to their consumption of fruits and vegetables (FV) on the one hand and their consumption of saturated fat (SF) on the other. The research showed that FV was protective against early death while SF increased the early death rate. These two variables, FV an SF, acted independentaly to affect the death rate.

The bottom line is that this column gives the reader the misleading impresssion that we are all clueless about the relationship between diet and disease.
My underweight mother in law has high blood pressure and she keeps ending up in the hospital with low sodium.
I've wondered for a long time if there was a connection between dietary guidelines and obesity. I remember being taught at grade school during the 1970's, "4-4-3-2; that's the formula for me and you." - yet people were skinnier back then. (If you were taught it too, you'll know what I'm referring to.) Obviously, the article is not conclusive, but it should (but won't) give pause to those who think they have everything figured out and are ready to apply their solution to everyone.
Richard David Feinman May 16, 2011 at 4:41 PM
Some relevant facts. According to the CDC, during the obesity epidemic
1. It is not just percentages: for men the absolute amount of fat went down. The absolute amount of saturated fat went down 14 %. For women it went up only slightly.
2. Almost all of the increase in calories was due to increase in carbohydrate.
3. Almost all foods increased in consumption including fruits and vegetables. The only things that went down were red meat and eggs.
Exellent article...hope Mrs. Obama reads it.
James F. Crystal May 16, 2011 at 1:07 PM
Dr. Robert Lustig, M.D. UC San Francisco

Google him, and watch his youtube sensation from 2009. "Only" 1.2 MILLION views.

Those who don't believe eating HFCS, high fructose corn syrup, leads to obesity, resemble defenders of smoking, who claimed sucking in tobacco smoke didn't tend to lead to cancer.

When will conventional wisdom take into account Dr. Lustig, who should win a Pulitzer?

The prediction I read was that by 2020 over TWO THIRDS of Americans will be overweight or obese!

Malanga has written an ill-informed article, yes, part of his continuing series of articles to justify his own diet of fat crap. The AMA diet, which he sites as low-fat, is anything but. It is 30 to 35 percent of calories from fat.

He cites the percentage balance of calories shifting a few points lower in fat and a few points higher in carbohydrates, but he ignores the 800-lb ape in the data--that this did NOT represent a reduction in fat consumption, as total calories rose substantially and fat consumption rose as carbohydrate consumption rose. And carbohydrate consumption rose in the form of simple carbohydrates. And no, it wasn't "potatoes"; it was sugars in soda and virtually every processed food. And while potato consumption rose, it was french-fried potatoes and potato chips that increased massively, which--Malanga may be shocked to hear this--have the majority of their calories not in carbohydrate but in fat.

Americans are more obese than ever, and it's not because they're eating baked potatoes with a little salt on them. It's because they're eating more foods high in fat and refined sugars, highly processed foods, and meat (which is, of course, always high in fat, even when it's called "lean"), which has become a religion with the help of diet charlatans like Taubes (Malanga's chosen expert).
Richard David Feinman May 16, 2011 at 11:45 AM
I am grateful to Steven Malanga for bringing to the public our critique of the DGAC. The publishers have kindly made the article available without subscription at the journal Nutrition webset. The problem is lack of openness -- an unwillingness of experts to confront their critics and an unwillingness of granting agencies to fund studies by people who hold to a minority opinion. Do Nestle and Woolf really believe that the scientific evidence showing the dangers of tobacco are in any way comparable to the risks from any of the food changes they recommend? Of course not, but they don't have to face their critics who would provide data. If they did so they would not be able to keep saying the same old thing, (or maybe they would) but at some point, with appropriate light on the situation we would ask why we keep funding them and not people with real scientific ideas. They would not be invited to every panel. They would not be flown to Washington to tell us all what to eat. What are those factors compared to the scientific truth? The problem is real and immediate: it affects what is in your kid's lunchroom. The experts have to be made responsible -- there has to be really open hearings. We have to fund real tests of carbohydrate restriction. Citizens can write to their elected officials and contact me or Lauri Cagnassola or Pete Farnham at the Nutrition & Metabolism Society.
This article has the ring of truth. I hope it gets read by many, many people!
B. Samuel Davis May 16, 2011 at 10:28 AM
Part of a disturbing tactic by many groups, usually those favored by the left, including environmental groups, to ignore truth and accuracy if it supports the goals of the group. These groups count on the traditional media, which is sympathetic to their views, not to question the scientific accuracy of the claims, and to use it as part of an overall effort to keep the populace engaged with the media - "stay tuned for further updates."

Global warming is a good example - even as the science withers away, groups with a vested interest in keeping the issue alive (and the money for the groups goals coming in) ignore evidence to the contrary, and count on the traditional media not to look too deeply into the science. I recall reading a series of quotes from those involved in the controversy to the effect that even if the science was bad the issue was useful for other reasons.

On a more basic level, these people have a deep contempt for the masses, and have no fear when it comes to telling people what to do.This view is typically, and paradoxically, combined with the the view that they are open minded and tolerant, when in fact, the reverse is true.
What is new in our diet (as a species)? Meat? Fat? Fruit & Veggies? Clearly not. To these, it seems reasonable to assume, we are adjusted. What then? Obviosly the culprit is carbohydrates in refined form - sugars and starches. And this is Taube's hypothesis.

Louis M>
My general impression is that the position taken by the author is very similar to that taken by those he castigates - that is, driven primarily by ideology, and ignoring evidence from successful projects such as the Karelia Project in Finland. Specifically, I would simply note that his statement that "America’s obesity rate was far lower .. before government became widely involved in the diet-advice business" may well be true, but the conjunction of two unrelated facts, with the implication of dependency, is an old rhetorical device ...
"First do no harm." Physicians and Politicians could do a world of good, if they would do only that.
Common-sense continues the struggle!
Um, actually, soda *does* contribute to obesity. Researchers are finding that sugar, and fructose in particular, is a huge contributor to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which seems to cascade into insulin resistance (and, later, diabetes), which is a major cause of obesity in many people. Researchers are *also* finding that sugar leads to those problems in people who are choline-deficient. Two of the major sources of choline in the human diet are liver and eggs, both of which have fallen out of favor among Americans in particular and which are also advised against by the health experts. I won't go so far to say that someone who eats liver and eggs several times a week will be able to drink all the soda they want and not get fat; there are other reasons to not ingest that much sugar besides worrying about your weight. And there are other reasons to not want to get fatty liver disease, like not wanting to be a liver transplant candidate in 20 years. But let's not pretend that ingesting that much sugar has no health consequences at all--and let's PLEASE stop pretending that the only health concern we ought to have is how much we weigh.
I'm not sure what to make of this article. It seems to want to make a point. But it's so unbalanced and poorly informed I don't even know where to begin dissecting the guiding logic of keeping government out of decisions about diet and health.

All government decisions are not bad. All government decisions are not good. Therefore some are good and some are bad. And I guess Malanga's entitled to his opinion - but that's pretty much all I got from this windy piece.

I would suggest reading a few books by Nestle, Pollan and T. Colin Campbell. I really like a book by the guy who wrote Lady Sings the Blues - William Dufty with the fitting title Sugar Blues.

It's funny to read this type of uninformed gobbledygook because it's well written technically but has no meat! It seems to be all bombastic puffery. Unfortunately I do not yet have insight into this writers motives. I don't see how it can help anyone improve their approach to thinking about healthful eating.
Thanks for this. The 'goal posts have been moved' on this stuff so many times it's not funny. What's so dangerous, as is noted several times here, are the unintended and unanticipated collateral effects of a particular target du jour.

Also, I'm convinced that the final word is not out on the long term effects of their hideous concoctions they seem to want everyone on.
Excellent summary regarding current findings on diet, carb's, saturated fat, cholesterol from diet, healthy cholesterol levels, etc.

Malanga writes another ideological driven, anti-govenment diatibe, regardless of the benefits of curbing the marketing of poor nutritional products.

Bob Gardin
Cleveland, Ohio