Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels writes in Forbes how our federalized food system is designed to please as many lobbies as possible. Last year, for example, half of our corn was burned up “to please the environmental lobby (global warming), the farm lobby (bloated corn prices) and the defense lobby (energy security).” Next year the U.S. Department of Agriculture will revise dietary guidelines that will tell us what we should or should not eat, which on the surface seems harmless enough. But who are the 15 members of this Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee whose advice is also followed by public schools, the army and congressional cafeterias? Read here from Mr. Michaels why a lot of these recommendations are likely to be more ominous rather than helpful.
Back in the day, the Guidelines recommended a lot of dairy products and meat, in no small part to encourage consumption of our enormous agricultural output in as inefficient a way as possible.
Based upon the track records of the new panelists, we can make a few predictions about what it is likely to recommend. Some are, well, pretty cheesy.
- The panel will urge frequent consumption of foods containing fish oils or their equivalents. Once the darlings of the nutrition-health complex, they don’t seem to show the cardioprotective effects that they were supposed to, judging from heart attack morbidity and mortality data. But their consumption is associated with a 44% increase in the risk of prostate cancer, especially the aggressive ones that kill men. That’s a lot of deaths and misery for no gain whatsoever. (Source: Brasky et al., 2013 Journal of the National Cancer Institute)
- The panel will recommend limiting the use of salt, because sodium increases blood pressure. That’s soooooo 20th Century! The vast majority of the population is simply insensitive to salt and—attention—restricted salt diets are now known to significantly increase the frequency of heart attacks, probably because of disturbed cardiac rhythms. (Source: Staessen et al., 2011 Journal of the American Medical Association)
- No deep-fried food please. The breakdown products in overused oils are associated with a very slight increase in prostate cancer frequency—which is dwarfed by the increase that will be caused by the committee’s likely perseveration over fish oils.
- The committee will recommend a ban of trans (partially hydrogenated) fats from all foods. One of the advisors to the panel, Sonia Angell, was Mayor Bloomberg’s henchperson in the NYC ban, resulting in impalatably soggy donuts and foods with unattractive “mouth feel”.