Nutrition Timeline: How the U.S. Diet Evolved

Nutrition Timeline:

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.

 

 

 

 

Is All Sugar Equal?

Simple sugars are considered simple because they are small molecules that require little or no digestion before they can be used by the body. They come in two types: monosaccharides and disaccharides. First, here is a little sugar biochemistry.

Types of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are chemical compounds that contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Simple carbs, also called sugars include monosaccharides (fructose, glucose, and galactose)  and disaccharides (sucrose, lactose, and maltose). They are found in foods such as table sugar, honey, milk, and fruit.

Complex carbohydrate include oligosaccharides and polysaccharides. Glycogen is a polysaccharide found in animals, and starch and fiber polysaccharides are found in plants. Sugars and starches consumed in food are broken down in the digestive tract to monosaccharides which can be absorbed in the bloodstream.

The simple sugars the body uses directly to form energy are glucose and fructose. Galactose is readily converted to glucose by the body. So, basically, all sugars and starches (chains of glucose) end up as glucose in the body. When the body has more glucose  than it needs for energy, it converts the excess to fat and and glycogen. The glycogen is stored in the liver and muscles. When the body needs energy, glycogen is broken down making glucose available for energy formation. Glucose can also be obtained from certain amino acids and the glycerol part of fat. A constant supply is needed for the brain, red blood cells, white blood cells and some special cells in the kidney.

What are Added Sugars?

It is now a requirement to state the amount of added sugars on the Nutrition Facts Panel of most food products. Most of the simple sugars in our diet comes from foods and beverages sweeteners as sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup. Added sugars make up 15% of the total caloric intake of Americans.

High-fructose corn syrup is a liquid sweetener found in many soft drinks, fruit drinks, breakfast cereals and other food products.  It consists of 55% fructose and 45% glucose, compared to sucrose that contains 50% glucose and 50% fructose. For example, one 12 oz serving of a soft drink contains about 9 teaspoons of sugar. That’s a lot of sugar and far more than is good for health.

The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons a day and men only 9 teaspoons a day.

Source: Judith E. Brown, Nutrition Now,  7th Edition.

CLICK HERE.

How much sugar?

We know in times like these, our sugar intake is the last concern on our minds. In fact, we may be eating more of it due  to stress and discontent of our current environment.   But when this horrible pandemic is over, we have to try to get back to improving our diets as much as possible to make up for lost time. Here is a good article about sugar intake that is in reality reasonable and informative in general about the glycemic index, fructose, and artificial sweeteners and processed foods.

CLICK HERE.

Processed Food: Are We Addicted?

The following post may explain in part the possibility of food addiction, a highly controversial topic especially when it comes to processed foods.

Perhaps it is best explained by this excerpt from Michael Moss, Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.

” The blood gets especially besieged when processed food is ingested, flooding the system with its heavy loads of salt, sugar, and fat…, there, narcotics and food…act much alike. Once ingested, they race along the same pathways, using the same neurological circuity to reach the brain’s pleasure zones, those areas that reward us with enjoyable feelings for doing the right thing by our bodies. Or, as the case may be, for doing what the brain has been led to believe is the right thing.”

The following link provides us with a video (suggested (13 min.) and the text of a recent TED talk. Interesting analysis.

CLICK HERE.