Is the Food Pyramid Healthy?

Have you tried the food pyramid and still failed to lose weight? Have you tried the food pyramid and still ended up being sick? Have you tried the food pyramid and haven't felt more energetic than before you tried?

The food pyramid - while sounding good in theory and promoted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture - seems to fail in practice. The food pyramid overemphasizes the need for carbohydrates while drastically underestimating the need for protein. Its caution against a high-fat diet also raises suspicious.

To show how controversial this pyramid really is, I've interviewed some experts who specialize in nutrition, and some of whom hold higher degrees, such as MDs or Ph.D.s in nutrition. Let's review these views and see if we can pick up on a pattern:

Tom Naughton of Fat Head:

There's a reason we've become fatter and more diabetic as a nation since the Food Pyramid was promoted: we started consuming less natural fat and more grains and other carbohydrates, exactly as we were told to do. The result was a cascade of biochemical reactions that led to overeating, high blood sugar, low HDL, high triglycerides, small LDL particles and pretty much most of the conditions we now call Metabolic Syndrome. The Food Pyramid was created by people with good intentions, but they never had any real science backing up their advice. They just assumed they were correct ... but they were tragically wrong.

Dr. Layne Norton's view:

I think you could turn the food guide pyramid upside down and it probably would work better to be frank. In the 30 some years that the food guide pyramid has been around, people have actually typically followed it (increased grain consumption, cut down on meat/egg/dairy consumption) and we have done nothing but get fatter and more diseased. Recent studies have shown increasing proportions of protein and decreasing carbohydrates not only provides more favorable body composition outcomes, but also provides better health outcomes (reduced cancer, cardiovascular disease, and better blood lipid profiles). Some anti-meat 'experts' will conveniently point out correlation data showing an association with meat consumption and cancer. What they DON'T point out is that people who eat more meat typically eat higher total fat, calories, exercise less, and eat less fiber. When the data is statistically corrected for those variables, there is absolutely no association with meat consumption and cancer.

Christine Cronau's view:

If someone wants to get fat, then I suggest following the food pyramid. Back in the 1940s, a few farmers fed their cows saturated fat in an attempt to fatten them before selling them at the market. To their surprise, the cows didn’t gain weight; they lost body fat and became more active. Ever since then, farmers have fattened cows with grain, yet we still recommend a grain-based diet to people! Grain fattens cows, and it fattens us too.

Dr. Carlos Munoz's view:

There are so many things wrong with what the USDA promotes as a "healthy diet" that I don’t know where to begin. I usually have two answers to this common question: one based on verifiable, concise scientific evidence, the other based on more "empirical evidence."

I like to think as carbohydrates as kindling, used to burn quickly and provide an energy surge. A high carbohydrate diet as promoted by the pyramid could almost make sense if we were still living in the same biological and sociological environment as our ancestors, where our energy expenditure as hunter-gatherers would "burn" that fast yielding energy. And if not burned, it would be stored for more dire or cold times through insulin production. Fast forward several thousand of years and this high carbohydrate diet does not make any sense, as we are more sedentary than ever, food is more abundant than ever, and for most of us, exposure to extreme cold temperatures is not really an issue (clothing, heating). All the current recommendations and the ensuing Standard American Diet do is promote a constant insulin surge, leading not only to insulin resistance and diabetes, but to all kinds of other disease processes, as insulin is an inflammatory substance on the long term. The second thing wrong with the pyramid (or the "plate" I should call it, as the USDA desperately tries to make its propaganda simpler), is the absurd amount of grains that are recommended.

However, no matter one’s attachment to grains, the current science weighs seriously against grain consumption. Without going into too much detail (I strongly recommend Dr. Loren Cordain’s book: The Paleo Diet for more information), grains were not part of our evolutionary history. In fact, cereal grains were only introduced 10,000 years ago, which seems like a long time for most, but on a historical scale represents less than…a day! The implication of this "recent" introduction of grains is important, as most humans did not evolve to digest and process grains. This still holds true today, and according to certain references, and Dr. Aristo Vojdani in particular, close to half of the world’s population have the genetic inability to break down a very important protein contained in most cereal grains: gluten. Again, without going into too much detail (books have been written on the topic), gluten is substance that if not normally broken down into micromolecules, will irritate our intestinal lining and eventually favor breaking down of the intestinal barriers, promoting a condition called "leaky gut," that in turn can result in chronic infections, pro-inflammatory states, and auto-immunity. Furthermore, grains contain all kinds of other substances also called "anti-nutrients" such as lectins and phytic acid that contribute to their poor digestibility and therefore pathogenesis.

Dr. Catherine Shanahan's view:

The Food Pyramid was designed by lobbyists with industrial relationships rather than by scientists intending to help anyone engineer a healthy body. The notion that starches should form the base of your daily food intake and that a person on a 2000 calorie diet should get at least 250 grams of carbohydrates every day makes no physiologic sense because carbohydrates are absorbed into the blood as sugar. So as far as your body is concerned, a plate of whole grain pasta is like a pile of sugar laced with traces of fiber.

We've grown up equating sugar to energy, but research into a metabolic state called "nutritional ketosis" is uncovering incredible advantages to burning fat.

Even if you get those 250 grams of carbohydrate from supposedly healthy whole grains, few people are so active that they can afford 1000 calories of mostly empty energy. Don't forget the FDA recommends those 250 grams from whole grains in addition to several servings of fruit. Fruit, too, is mostly sugar. An average banana has about 30 grams of carbohydrate and only 1 gram of protein.

Topping off the food pyramid is more sugar! In the form of added sweeteners, which should make up 10 percent of your caloric intake according to the government. This would not be there at all without industrial lobbyists and the fact that such a ridiculous suggestion made it to print gives you some idea the degree to which the foxes have taken over our FDA henhouse.

As far as the recommendation of 2000 calories per day, this is way more than I can eat and I exercise regularly. Most women over 40 need significantly less than 2000 calories.