Rebuilding the Food Pyramid-- Scientific American

Rebuilding the Food Pyramid-- Scientific American -...

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Rebuilding the Food Pyramid In 1992 the U.S. Department of Agriculture officially released the Food Guide Pyramid, which was intended to help the American public make dietary choices that would maintain good health and reduce the risk of chronic disease. The recommendations embodied in the pyramid soon became well known: people should minimize their consumption of fats and oils but should eat six to 11 servings a day of foods rich in complex carbohydrates--bread, cereal, rice, pasta and so on. The food pyramid also recommended generous amounts of vegetables (including potatoes, another plentiful source of complex carbohydrates), fruit and dairy products, and at least two servings a day from the meat and beans group, which lumped together red meat with poultry, fish, nuts, legumes and eggs. Even when the pyramid was being developed, though, nutritionists had long known that some types of fat are essential to health and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, scientists had found little evidence that a high intake of carbohydrates is beneficial. Since 1992 more and more research has shown that the USDA pyramid is grossly flawed. By promoting the consumption of all complex carbohydrates and eschewing all fats and oils, the pyramid provides misleading guidance. In short, not all fats are bad for you, and by no means are all complex carbohydrates good for you. The USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion is now reassessing the OLD FOOD PYRAMID Fats, oils and sweets USE SPARINGLY Milk, yogurt and cheese 2-3 SERVINGS Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts and dry beans 2-3 SERVINGS Vegetables 3-5 SERVINGS Fruit 2-4 SERVINGS Bread, cereal, rice and pasta 6-11 SERVINGS
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pyramid, but this effort is not expected to be completed until 2004. In the meantime, we have drawn up a new pyramid that better reflects the current understanding of the relation between diet and health. Studies indicate that adherence to the recommendations in the revised pyramid can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease for both men and women. How did the original USDA pyramid go so wrong? In part, nutritionists fell victim to a desire to simplify their dietary recommendations. Researchers had known for decades that saturated fat- found in abundance in red meat and dairy products-raises cholesterol levels in the blood. High cholesterol levels, in turn, are associated with a high risk of coronary heart disease (heart attacks and other ailments caused by the blockage of the arteries to the heart). In the 1960s controlled feeding studies, in which the participants eat carefully prescribed diets for several weeks, substantiated that saturated fat increases cholesterol levels. But the studies also showed that polyunsaturated fat-found in vegetable oils and fish-reduces cholesterol. Thus, dietary advice during the 1960s and 1970s emphasized the replacement of saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat, not total fat
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Rebuilding the Food Pyramid-- Scientific American -...

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