Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Hurry up on healthy food"

The administration is telling manufacturers to hurry up and make food more "healthy". The hidden message with this sort of prodding is that if an industry doesn't move voluntarily, they'll sic the Congress on you and make it a law.

The problem with such government meddling: it assumes that we know what 'healthy' is. Not only does the government not know what 'healthy' is, neither does Science. We have some ideas, but nutritional science should have a little more humility.

For a while now, evidence has been accumulating that we don't really understand how or even whether fats are bad for us. Thirty years ago Americans dropped butter as if it were made at Love Canal, and switched to margarine. Of course, now we know that margarine is actually worse than butter, and that the ill effects of butter were exaggerated. Similar damage was done to the reputation of Palm Oil and other saturated fats.

Conventional wisdom holds that lots of fat in the diet leads to high cholesterol and other problems. But the evidence shows otherwise:

Metabolic Syndrome
After decades of lazy 'consensus science', researchers are taking a fresh look at 'metabolic syndrome' - the very heart of the current 'obesity epidemic' - and may (once again) learn that we've been given bad advice:

A Game of Consequences?

The Food Pyramid
Another great government victory... not. The 1992 food pyramid turns out to have had a lot of problems. Of course, the 2005 pyramid is much better. We should all switch to its guidelines immediately. Not.


My Point
You should view dietary pronouncements with a healthy dose of skepticism (but no more than 1000mg daily!). It's one thing for the government to distribute dodgy information - another entirely to legislate on it. Science has a particularly bad reputation in this area - it doesn't help that food choices have a kind of 'moral' component to them. Government has no business telling people what to eat.

By the Way
If you've never tried Foie Gras, you might want to do that soon. In some parts of the U.S. (including California) it will soon be illegal.

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