Soon, The Dietary Guidelines for 2020 are due to be released. As usual, there will be a flurry of discussions, debates, praise and criticisms somewhat dependent on what sections of the food industry are happy and those who are not. The Dietary Guidelines, in my opinion, reflect who won the battle for the food industry’s interests this time around, to make sure their profit margins are kept intact. Little else new is gained from them and little attention is paid to them after their endlessly repeated advice based on lobbyists and politics. Who will win out this time? In the past few decades, the advice has lacked conviction, e.g. what is moderation, and has been so diluted, it plays little role in how our food supply affects our health. Enjoy a little history of past advice and forgive me for the cynicism.
Do you feel guilty if you do not eat healthy foods? Most of us don’t but there are people who now comprise a group exhibiting a new eating disorder called orthorexia.
The following article by Mark Bittman may put this eating pattern in a reasonable perspective. The Bottom Line? Enjoy food but make healthy choices (most of the time). This philosophy as stated by Bittman is refreshing – Seems to resemble the traditional diet of the French – the Good Life Savored.
“Eating well is an integral part of their national heritage. To say the French know their food is an understatement and it has been said that even their children are serious “foodies” with two-hour multi course lunches (not uncommon in France)” – all this without guilt. Contrast that with the typical American with a quick drive-through grabbing a burger with fries and eating them in the car with some snacking throughout the day. The French also maintain their weight with little dieting, calorie counting or snacking.” They simply say: If you eat too much one day, cut back the next day. Pretty simple advice but it seems to work (at least for them).
Source: 30 Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Cuisines. by Steven Jonas, M.D, and Sandra Gordon.
Note: Obesity rates in France are among the lowest in Europe, but have been increasing steadily. The increase has been attributed to an increased adoption of the Western diet or Standard American Diet.
In France, almost 40% are overweight (including obese). You can contrast that with the U.S. at 70% (overweight and obese).
A number of diseases and disorders share common risk factors of low intakes of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, excess calorie intake, body fat, and high animal fat intake. These risk factors are associated with the development of chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, conditions that are strongly related to the development of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and other chronic diseases that include stroke, osteoporosis, and obesity.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of at least three of five conditions: hypertension, high blood sugar, obesity, high triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol that increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. These diseases are all related to our diets and other lifestyle factors – namely exercise and smoking habits.
A new study in the journal Diabetes Care is the first to look at the impact of metabolic syndrome on outcomes for Covid-19 patients. “Together, obesity, diabetes and prediabetes, high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels are all predictors of higher incidences of death in these patients and were more than three times more likely to die from the disease.
“The more of these diagnoses that you have, the worse the outcomes”, says lead author Joshua Denson , assistant professor of medicine and pulmonary and critical care medicine physician at Tulane University of Medicine.
“The underlying inflammation that is seen with metabolic syndrome may be the driver that is leading to these more severe cases.” Dr. Denson adds. In this study, the most common conditions were hypertension (80%), obesity (65%), diabetes (54%), and low HDL (39%.)
Dr. Denson would advise anyone who meets the criteria for metabolic syndrome to be vigilant in taking measures to reduce risk or exposure to the coronavirus. “It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, we took that into account” he says.
After 150 years of becoming a nation obsessed with weight loss, we still have not grasped the true experience of how difficult it is to lose and more importantly maintain that loss (if it occurs) so many still seek the “quick fix” Of course, the obesity industry likes it that way – success does not help them obtain more business and appears to keep their customers coming back for more promises and sometimes unhealthy claims.
This post addresses with more detail a previous post on a diet time line, tilted Is Dieting Dead ? from Banting to weight loss surgery for the morbidly obese. The obese get blamed for their dilemma which adds to their guilt, whereas, the emphasis should be more focused on not only how hard weight loss is, but keeping it off avoiding the Yo-Yo dieting phenomenon. This leaves the obesity industry even more gleeful as their customers keep returning. From Obesity Soap in 1903 to the dangerous Tape Worm Diet, the Drinking Man’s Diet, and eating disorders, the quest furthers our national obsession with weight. An excellent book,The Hundred Year Diet: America’s Voracious Appetite for Losing Weight, by Susan Yager aptly addresses this issue.
The New York World’s Fair: 1964
“In 1964, international cuisine was scarce in the United States , and few Americans had tasted Indian, Korean or Middle Eastern food. At the 1964 New York World’s Fair they got their chance. With 140 pavilions representing 37 countries on a concourse of nearly 650 acres, taking in the entire fare was difficult with 112 restaurants to choose from, deciding where to eat was even tougher. The exhibition boasted regional foods from Japan and Lebanon, Africa and Spain, Hawaii and Belgium. The Indian pavilion served tandoori and paratha; The Korean pavilion featured kimchi and other garlicky specialties. Jordan’s restaurant offered hummus and shwarma and the Hawaiian pavilion had a luau. Spain’s stunning pavilion complete with an art gallery displaying original works by Goya, Valezquez, El Greco, Miro and Picasso, offered authentic Spanish fare at three restaurants. the Belgium village had a 1500 seat beer Hall and a breakfast house that introduced the Belgium waffle to America. The fat, fluffy treat piled high with strawberries and whipped cream was, without a doubt, the fair’s biggest food sensation.” Bon Appetit, September, 1999.
‘Eggo waffles were invented in San Jose, California, by Frank Dorsa, who developed a process by which waffles could be cooked, frozen, and packaged for consumers. In 1953, Dorsa, along with younger brothers Anthony and Sam, introduced Eggo frozen waffles to supermarkets throughout the United States. Because of the egg flavor, customers called them “Eggos”. Eventually the name became synonymous with the product and, in 1955, the Dorsa brothers officially changed the name to “Eggo”. In 1968, as a means of diversification, the Kellogg Company purchased Eggo. Their advertising slogan—”L’eggo my Eggo”—developed by Leo Burnett in 1972 is well known through their television commercials.” WIkipedia
White House Style: The Kennedy Years
“From the moment Jacqueline and John F Kennedy moved into the White House in 1961, the world could see that a new generation had arrived. With their keen interest in history, literature, the arts, food and entertaining, the youthful, scholarly charismatic Kennedy’s roused stodgy Washington by setting new standards in everything from clothing to table decor and cuisine. The first lady, an avid recipe collector who loved French food, hired French chef Rene Verdon from New York’s Carlyle hotel to serve as executive chef at the mansion. The Kennedys hosted legendary dinners with dance, concerts, poetry readings, performances of Shakespeare, and other entertainment that showcased the best America had to offer.”
Bon Appetit, September, 1999.
1951 I Love Lucy debuts on CBS.
1952 The Lipton food company rolls out its dehydrated onion soup that will earn it fame as a base for onion soup mix: 2 envelopes of mix plus 1 cup of sour cream. Lipton eventually prints the recipe, “California Dip” on the package.
1953 Eggo Frozen Waffles are introduced.
1954 Employee Gerry Thomas from the C.A. Swanson Co, has an idea (although fellow workers nearly laughed him out of the Omaha plant): package the left-over turkey, along with some dressing, gravy, cornbread, peas and sweet potatoes into a partitioned metal tray, sell it frozen, and consumers could heat it up for dinner. His name for the leftover meal: TV Dinner.
1954 The first Burger King opens in Miami. A burger is 18 cents, as is a milkshake. The Whopper is introduced in 1957 and sells for 37 cents.
1955 Milkshake-machine salesman, Roy Kroc tries to persuade Dick and Mac McDonald (owner of the original McDonalds in California) to franchise their concept. They aren’t interested but tell Kroc to go ahead and try his hand. Kroc opens his first restaurant in Des Plains, ILL., and eventually buys out the McDonalds.
1956 Jif Peanut Butter is introduced.
1956 More than 80 percent of U.S. households have refrigerators. By contrast, only 8 percent of British households have refrigerators.
1957 Better Homes and Gardens prints its first microwave-cooking article.
1957 Margarine sales take the lead over butter.
1958 Eighteen- year-old Frank Carney sees a story in the Saturday Evening Post about the pizza fad among teenagers and college students. With $600 borrowed from his mother, he and his fellow Wichita State classmate, opens the first Pizza Hut in Wichita, KS.
Question: Does plant or animal protein affect mortality and/or longevity?
A study found that for every 3% of a persons daily energy intake coming from plant protein instead of animal protein reduces a person’s risk of premature death by 10%.
For this study the researchers analyzed dietary data from more than 237, 000 men and 179, 000 women gathered between 1995 and 2011 as part of a long-term study on eating patterns and health. During 16 years of follow-up, a pattern emerged where plant protein intake appeared to reduce risk of early death. Every 10 grams of plant for animal protein swapping per 1000 calories resulted in a 12% lower risk of death for men and 14% for women, the finding showed.
Bottom Line: The findings provide evidence that dietary modification in choice of protein sources may influence cardiovascular health and longevity.
Taking red meat out of your diet can be beneficial, but only if you swap for a healthy substitute, said a lead researcher from the US National Cancer Institute. For example, replacement of 3% energy from egg protein or red made protein with plant protein such as whole grains or cereals resulted in a protective Association for overall mortality, the researcher said on the other hand replacement of 3% energy from egg protein or red meat protein with other foods such as sugar sweetened beverages may or may not result in a reduction in mortality.
There are many reasons why choosing plant protein over animal protein could help extend your life; meat protein tends to come with higher levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and other nutrients that aren’t very good for your health. For example, one ounce of red meat mixed with whole wheat pasta and veggies would provide much less saturated fat than a 9 ounce steak
On the other hand, plant proteins come with loads of fiber , antioxidants, and other compounds like vitamins and minerals that add to the nutrient density along with lesser calories as fat than in some meat products (processed meat in particular).
The researchers also added that there might be something specific about the products formed from the breakdown of animal-based protein that could cause arteries to grow harder or inflammation to occur. In 2011, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic demonstrated that meat eaters produced a metabolite that promotes heart disease called Trimethylamine-N-Oxide or TMAO. Of great interest, TMAO was not elevated in vegans who were asked to meet eat a meat meal for the purposes of the study. .
Huang, Jiaqu, et al. JAMA Intern Med. Published online July 13, 2020.
Even though it has been reported that meat consumption has declined recently, in the past, Americans have been consuming about 150 pounds of “red meat” per capita/year. The percentages are startling: 60% beef, 39% pork, with only 1% for lamb and mutton. The percentage of goat is too small to even mention.
Pork had been the meat of choice since Colonial Days in the Plymouth Colony (circa 1623). The dense American forests were ideal for raising pigs. They were allowed to remain “wild” and roam freely most of the year with only penning them in the winter. They were “finished” on corn that made the flesh firm and they gained weight quickly. Pigs were more efficient than cattle for meat, so cattle were more used for milk, butter, cheese and plowing. Other food animals that were available were goats, sheep and chickens.
Goat meat was the first to be abandoned which virtually disappeared. Goat meat was occasionally consumed in the South by low-income groups as well as some Hispanics. Goat meat is still served in some Mexican restaurants.
Sheep migrated into British cookery as a by-product of wool production, especially in Scotland and Ireland. Lamb eventually became more popular associated with the wool industry in New England, but did not catch on in the South due to the influence of the cotton industry. Later, dairying replaced sheep herding in New England.
The Great Plains became the ideal location for raising cattle. When the corn production moved west, the pig and cattle industry followed. Then, they had to be “walked” back over the mountains to the Eastern seaboards by “drovers”. Cincinnati became known as “Porkopolis”. By the time of the Civil War, Americans were “hooked on pork and had become “the staff of life”, primarily in the South and Midwest.
The Northeast became more partial to beef. New Englanders no longer raised pigs due to the cutting down of the forests for the shipbuilding industry. Little corn was grown to “finish” the pork.
In the Western plains, the American Indians preferred the buffalo, so the government (U.S. Army) figured out that if they could get rid of the buffalo, they also could rid the area of the Indians. Cattle ranchers with the help of the railroads began to raise herds of cattle to replace the once prolific buffalo herds. Progress with the railroads replaced the cattle drives and the Chicago stockyards became the center of cattle slaughter. In 1882, refrigerated cars became more available for safer transportation; the West was running out of grazing land that forced more feedlot “finishing” with corn.
Beef became cheap and ranchers were paid to supply the Indian reservations with beef to prevent starvation (after eliminating the buffalo). For a while beef consumption fell again due to losing its price advantage at the turn of the century until about 1940.
In the early 1950s Americans were eating about equal amounts of beef and pork. By the late 1950s, beef consumption in the U.S. surpassed pork for the first time. By the 1960’s Americans were eating 10 times more pounds of beef and by the 1970s, 25 pounds more.
Why is beef king in the U.S?
- Changes in beef production and marketing at the end of WW II fit the new postwar lifestyles. Meat had been rationed during WWII.
- Improved breeds appeared that were given soy, fish meal, corn, sorghum, hormones, antibiotics that allowed faster “finishing” times due to accelerated growth since the cattle ate day and night.
- Lifestyles began to involve more home ownership in the suburbs, which lead to outdoor grilling. Beef patties were ideal grillers; pork patties fell apart.
- There were no dangers of trichinosis with beef.
- Women entered the workplace that resulted in eating outside the home.
- The fast food industry exploded and the hamburger became the staple at the drive-in.
- Presently it is estimated that Americans are eating about three hamburgers a week.
American still eat more meat than most cultures in the world, but even here, consumption is declining. It is estimated the U.S meat consumption may fall by more than 12% from 2007 to 2012. This computes to about 165.5 pounds per person, or about one-half a pound a day.
- Health concerns about meat consumption are reaching the public.
- Campaigns like Meatless Mondays may be having an effect. People are getting the message to cut down on saturated fat.
- Some lower income people may attempt to obtain cheaper sources of protein like grains and soy to improve their health while wealthier groups may have some environmental as well as health concerns.
- All meat production in America requires a great deal of fossil fuel. Production relies entirely on nonrenewable fossil energy. There are also concerns about adding grain crops to animal feed, water scarcity, and animal welfare.
- Cost of meats has risen due to animal feed prices.
How do cows negatively affect the environment? Take a look at these statistics from a recent PBS News Hour video.
- It takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of grain-fed beef.
- We use eight times more land to feed animals in the U.S. than we use to feed humans.
- The 500 million tons of manure created each year by American cows releases nitrous oxide, a gas that has 300 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide.
- The 17 billion pounds of fertilizer used to grow feed for cows flows into rivers and oceans, creating huge algae blooms or dead zones where nothing can survive. In the U.S. we find them in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Oregon, and the Chesapeake Bay.
- In total, 6.5 pounds of greenhouse gases are released to produce just one quarter-pounder burger.
Americans still value animal protein from meats and dairy with 65% of the U.S. protein coming from animals. The global average is about 30%; some low-income countries only get about 6-7 % of their protein from animal sources.
Will the U.S. population accept the current trend of plant-based diets as part of their protein source as well as their taste buds? Time will tell – but it will be a hard road ahead. The current trends for plant-based burgers (aka as the Impossible burger, and Beyond Beef) will be trial balloons to see how accepting the typical American consumer responds. It is now recognized that most healthy cultures globally depend on a more vegan diet approach than what we find so far on the American plate. The environmental benefits of growing plant crops may help to persuade some Americans to accept this diet pattern more readily. (my opinion).
A very long article by Michael Pollan but is worth reading if you want to understand the complexities of our food system. It involves the “elephant in the room” consisting of Covid -19 that exposes the interrelated factors associated with our our current food system and health care costs. Based on this essay, our “diets may be killing us” as a few recent articles have suggested. Click the link below or find it on the Website of Michael Pollan of (“eat food, not too much, mostly plants” fame).
A quote from Forbes, May 12, 2000 in an article from Nav Athwal sums it up:
“One thing the coronavirus pandemic has taught us is the level of control we have over our lives is not as great as we think. Whether it be our ability to be mobile, our ability to meet with friends or the food we eat and how we eat it, the conveniences we took for granted not long ago are luxuries in a post-coronavirus world.”
Any suggestions for a solution?
“The United States is faring far worse than other countries and shoulders a disproportionate share of global disease burden — with 4% of the global population, yet, at the time of writing, nearly a quarter of global Covid-19 fatalities.”
Are there reasons? I’m sure, but sorting it out requires a miracle.