Obviously, a lot has happened in nutrition since the first Thanksgiving in America. Many scientific discoveries have given us a better idea how foods can contribute to health and disease. At first, little was known about nutrition science and there is still a lot to know. Knowing our progression helps us to know how we got from there to here. The bottom Line: After all the science, we often still ponder on “what’s for dinner?”and “how do we lose weight”?
Note: Those events in Bold type tell the story of how our current food patterns evolved and have affected our present health status.
1621 First Thanksgiving Feast at Plymouth Colony
1702 First coffeehouse in America opens in Philadelphia
1734 Scurvy recognized
1744 First record of ice cream in America
Lind publishes “Treatise on Scurvy”and citrus is identified as cure.
Sandwich invented by the Earl of Sandwich
Potato heralded as famine food
Americans drink more coffee in protest over Britain’s tea tax
1775 Lavoisier (“the father of nutrition science) discovers the energy property of food (calories)
1816 Protein and amino acids identified followed by carbohydrates and fats
1833 Beaumont’s experiment on a wounded man’s stomach greatly expand knowledge about digestion
1862 U.S. Department of Agriculture founded by authorization of President Lincoln
1871 Proteins, carbohydrates, and fats determined to be insufficient alone to support life, there are other “essential” compounds in foods
First milk station providing children with un-contaminated milk opens in New York City
Pure Food and Drug Act passed by President Theodore Roosevelt to protect consumers against contaminated foods
Pasteurized milk introduced
Funk suggests scurvy, beriberi, and pellagra caused by deficiency of “vitamines” in the diet
1913 First vitamin discovered (vitamin A)
1914 Goldberger identifies the cause of pellagra (niacin deficiency) in poor children to be a missing component of the diet rather than a germ as others believed
1916 First dietary guidance material produced for the public released: Title is Food for Young Children
1917 First food groups published for the Five Food Groups: Milk and Meat, Vegetables and Fruits, Cereals, Fats and Fat Foods, Sugars and Sugary Foods. (Imagine: Sugar is a food group).
1921 First fortified food produced: iodized salt needed to prevent widespread iodine deficiency goiter in many parts of the U.S.
1929 Essential fatty acids identified
1930’s Vitamin C identified in 1932, followed by pantothenic acid and riboflavin in 1933 and vitamin K in 1934
1937 Pellagra found to be due to the deficiency of niacin.
1938 Health Canada issues nutrient intake standards
1941 First refined grain enrichment standards developed (Niacin, riboflavin, and iron added)
First Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) announced by President Franklin Roosevelt on the radio
1946 National School Lunch Act passed
1947 Vitamin B12 identified
1953 Double helix structure of DNA discovered
1956 Basic Four Food Groups released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
1958 The Seven Countries Study was conceived by Ancel Keys, a Minnesota physiologist, who brought together researchers from all over the world. It became a collective effort to study questions about heart and vascular diseases among countries having varied traditional eating patterns and lifestyles. This alone changed the U.S. food supply dramatically to emphasize low fat diets high carbohydrate foods that continued to dominate until around 1983.
1965 Food Stamp Act passed. Food Stamp program established
1966 Child Nutrition Act adds school breakfast to the National School Lunch Program
1968 First National nutrition survey in U.S. launched. (The Ten State Nutrition Survey)
1970 First Canadian national nutrition survey launched (Nutrition Canada National Survey)
1972 The “Atkins Diet” by Dr. Robert Atkins started as a fad, but quickly became a counter-conventional movement that reset people’s thinking of nutrition and weight loss, and its link to health. It promoted a low carbohydrate, high fat diet to replace and challenge the current conventional thinking that a low fat, high carbohydrate diet promoted by Keys was heart healthy.
1977 Dietary Goals for the U.S. issued
1978 First Health Objectives for the Nation released
1989 First national scientific consensus report on diet and chronic disease published
1992 The Food Guide Pyramid is released by the USDA that contained a food group recommending 6-11 servings a day from the Bread, Cereal, Rice, Pasta Group (High carbohydrate foods).
1994 The nutritional food label was put into effect by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act.
1997 RDAs expanded to Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI’s)
1998 Folic acid fortification of refined grain products begins
2003 Sequencing of DNA in the human genome completed; marks beginning of new era of research in nutrient-gene interactions
2015 – 2020 The current U.S.Dietary Guidelines include the following:
- Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. Eating patterns are the combination of foods and drinks that a person eats over time.
- Focus on variety, nutrient-dense foods, and amount.
- Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats, and reduce sodium intake.
- Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.
- Support healthy eating patterns for all.
2020 Obesity and diabetes have become global epidemics/pandemics with the highest rates in the U.S. The custom is for them to be revised every five years. The latest U.S. Dietary Guidelines are due to be published sometime in 2020 or early 2021.