What we need isn’t another set of one-size-fits-all guidelines, a pyramid or plate or dodecahedron illustrating oversimplified rules for a theoretical public. We don’t need more advice based on faceless averages and political nannying. We don’t need another dietary death star pointing its super laser at rivaling paradigms. What we need is an approach to diet that synthesizes what has worked—scientifically, historically, globally, consistently—and pairs it with the reality of individual variation. And that means looking at all the successes out there and finding what they have in common.Minger, Denise. Death by Food Pyramid: How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Have Ruined Our Health (p. 216). Primal Nutrition, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
These are the words of Denise Minger from 2014, prior to the last iteration of the United States Dietary Guidelines for Americans, issued in 2015.
We’re now in the 2020 cycle and it’s fair to say the something of a revolution has happened after 2015, at least in the minds of us who are health/nutrition activists 🙂 .
I got to know Denise’s work initially when I was searching for information on the (in)famous China Study, and I found it on her blog – a most exquisite critique, some would say take down. The critique is really one of large scale epidemiologic studies which are now being called into question as the basis for our nutritional guidelines.
The book is a good historical overview of how we got here, and I re-read the last section, the part with sage advice for the future.
If you choose to put a label on your diet, make sure it doesn’t undergo a sneaky “mission creep” into the realm of your self-identity. Your current food choices may be low-carb, or lowfat, or plant-based, or any other number of descriptors—but you are not low-carb; you are not lowfat; you are not plant-based. You’re a human being trying to make choices that best serve you and your specific goals at this point in time. You are not defined by the foods you eat. You are not a slave to an ideology. Make your diet work for you; don’t work for your diet.Minger, Denise. Death by Food Pyramid: How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Have Ruined Our Health (p. 244). Primal Nutrition, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
She’s a smart writer and has done her research, covering the bases of the various types of eating patterns out there. The common denominator that she draws from all of the ones we hear about (plant-based, Mediterranean, Paleo, low-carbohydrate) is the removal of ultra-processed foods.
There is also oh, so much for history geeks. I went on my own exploration while reading the book and found the most fascinating examples of the way physicians were educated about nutrition. And they were, just not from good sources:
Yes, some of us are science and history geeks. If you want to hear it from a smart one, take a look.