Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The harmful effects of the USDA Food Pyramid

Along with religion, the medical industry has had to adopt the greatest refinements in order to maintain adherents -- they are often proved wrong through experience or experiment. Much is the same with healthful eating and the food industry. Even the supposed bellwether of nutritional well-being -- the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Pyramid -- has been the subject of public scrutiny and pressure requiring changes. Still, it remains a contrived standard built upon political ideologies rather than sound nutritional needs.

Scientific studies generally begin with a premise -- the hypothesis sought to be proved or disproved. The basis for the hypothesis often evolves from anecdotal experiences such as poliomyelitis [Polio] can be treated through mobility. "Sister Kenny" was the Australian nurse who developed the effective treatment.

Although not a qualified nurse she had served in that capacity during World War I because of the dire need for nurses. During her service in the war she developed treatments for meningitis which became the basis for her Polio treatment. In 1929 she was summoned to provide car for a young girl suffering from Polio. At the time the normal medical procedure for dealing with infantile paralysis consisted of immobilizing the affected limbs in splints or plaster casts. Instead Sister Kenny developed a treatment using hot compresses and exercising the affected muscles. This method was reportedly successful and later subject to evaluation.

The Queensland Government Royal Commission evaluated Kenny's work and published its Report of The Queensland Royal Commission on Modern Methods for the Treatment of Infantile Paralysis in 1938. Its most critical comment was, "The abandonment of immobilization is a grievous error and fraught with grave danger, especially in very young patients who cannot co-operate in re-education." The medical community opposed her treatment methods yet when subject to scientific examination her method proved to be effective. After public awareness increased and pressure was placed on the medical community her treatment became the new standard.

The importance of the adoption of the Sister Kenny treatment method is that its' basis was founded upon a concept developed by a lay person in direct opposition to the accepted treatment method required by the professional medical community. It is often the observations or practices of people outside the professional community that provide the hypothesis for scientific examination and supported findings. Such has been the case of the evolution of findings and laws that relate to child custody.

It was long held that the tender years doctrine which provided that young children, especially girls, be provided for through sole custody of the mother while fathers remained a distant visitor was in the children's best interest. Fathers collectively began a movement challenging that belief and claiming that the results were poorer academic achievement, higher rates of drug use/abuse along with other deviant behaviours and incidents of abuse and neglect. Studies would later verify the claims by finding that when fathers were removed from the children's lives children were more likely to be abused, especially sexually, than if the mothers had been removed from their lives.

The lack of father involvement and support also led to greater incidents of delinquency, particularly aggressive criminal acts. This resulted from the children's brains becoming hardwired for impulsive aggression as a consequence of abnormally higher or lower serotonin levels and chronically elevated cortisol and adrenaline levels. The effects of lack of parental involvement are further corroborated through the treatment of premature babies.

When I was young, the medical community -- as it so often does -- required the opposite be done of what produces a healthful result and prolongs treatment and increases costs. What a surprise that doctors would recommend a course of treatment that is more profitable to them. They insisted, contrary to logic, that premature birth babies not be touched. But what exactly do humans need for the first few years following birth -- a sense of security from significant and continuing parental involvement including touch. This lack of touch causes the babies brain to experience a sense of abandonment and therefore to operate in survival mode -- conserving energy for basic organ functions, then for growth and finally for social and cognitive development. It was no wonder that my premature birth classmates were developmentally retarded. Doctors made them that way by forbidding necessary touch, primarily from parents.

Although not politically correct to say it, the truth is that lack of parental involvement is harming children. In general, children of a single parent, unwed parents or ones who are regularly raised in an institutional daycare setting are being overstressed and suffering. These effects are compounded when malnourishment is added to the mix.

So now it is onto food

The Food Pyramid had its origins over 100 years ago although not officially recognized as a guideline until the 1917 How to select Food published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA]. In 1902, Wilbur Olin Atwater, Ph.D., an agricultural chemist, published a USDA Farmer’s Bulletin which emphasized the importance of variety, proportionality, and moderation in healthful eating in the diets of American males. In his research, he determined that the calorie was a means to measure the efficiency of a diet. He calculated that different types of food produced different amounts of energy, and he stressed the importance of a cheap and efficient diet that included more proteins, beans, and vegetables, and to limit the intake of fat, sugar and other starchy carbohydrates.

But that is not what was recommended using the Food Pyramid. This is because the food industry in the United States is highly regulated, highly manipulated, and over politicized with artificially inflated prices.

Although a myriad of fad diets has been propounded through the years nothing has proven to be more successful and beneficial than a diet based upon the evolved needs of the human body. There are a plethora of fad diets that are less effective than sensible food consumption based upon primary physiological needs resulting from the evolution of the human body and the available food supply.

False diets include anything with prepackaged meals, all-or-nothing classes of nutrients -- the high protein, low fat, no carbohydrates -- and the starvation based plans. It is clear that the American diet, whether a program or habitual, is harmful as exhibited by the obesity epidemic.

It is important to understand the distinctions between what is a food and what is edible or consumable. A food is implicitly nourishing and can be processed by the body for the objective of nourishing the body -- providing energy, and resources for growth, cognitive development and the maintenance of organ functioning.

This is why all of the food plans that I put my clients on are premised upon a prohibition of high fructose corn syrup [HFCS], hydrogenated oils, artificial colours and artificial flavours. Although each is edible they do not provide nutrition. Even gasoline -- an effective nutrient for a combustion engine -- is consumable but not an effective nutrient for the human body.

Low cholesterol diets, often followed by people with cardiovascular concerns, may provoke impulsive or aggressive behaviour. The consequences of diet are often subtle but significant.

Children and adults who consume foods consistent with the food pyramid may appear healthy -- full of energy, growing or maintaining body weight consistent with healthful expectations and feeling good. But beneath these surface indications brews a harmful potential, especially for violence and depression.

The Food Pyramid at its core is based upon a high consumption of unhealthful fats and proteins such as those found in meat and dairy products. These are compounded by the inclusion of GMOs. A report based on a study done by Brigham and Women’s Hospital indicates that not only are the fats in meat and dairy harmful for the heart but may also reduce brain functioning.

A proper balance of healthful foods can not only produce positive physiological effects but can increase brain functioning as well as elevate mood. Livestrong.com suggests the following to help boost Serotonin and Dopamine -- two neurotransmitters associated with combating depression and other mood disorders.

Cold-water fish, such as tuna, herring, salmon and mackerel, are high in the B vitamins, which help trigger the production of serotonin and rich in the polyunsaturated fatty acid known as omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish also help trigger the production of serotonin. A third reason to consume fish is that it is a good food source of the trace mineral selenium. A low intake of this mineral has been linked with depression. You can meet your selenium needs by eating more fish. Other food sources of selenium include whole grain cereals and breads.

Vitamin B6, found in abundance in leafy green vegetables, fish, poultry and whole grains helps elevate serotonin to "feel good" levels. Not consuming enough folate-rich foods can also decrease the amount of serotonin in your brain. In fact, folate deficiency is a common nutrient deficiency in the United States. Often, those who have been diagnosed with clinical depression have low levels of folate in their bloodstreams. Leafy green vegetables and starchy beans, such as chickpeas, kidney and black beans, are rich in folate, but it is easily destroyed by cooking. Enjoy your leafy greens raw as often as possible.

Tyrosine is another important amino acid. It encourages your brain to release dopamine and norepinephrine. Tyrosine-rich foods that help increase dopamine levels are almonds, avocados, bananas, lima beans, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.

Recommendations by nutritionists have seemingly been ignored by the USDA. However, that is far from true. Senator George McGovern's bipartisan, non-legislative Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs to testimony in January 1977 from Ancel Keys and other doctors and scientists. The Committee then published the "Dietary Goals for the United States" recommending that all Americans reduce their fat, saturated fat and cholesterol consumption, and increase their carbohydrate consumption to 55-60% of daily calories.

Upon release of the guidelines, lobbyists for the cattle, egg, and dairy industries exploded into congressional offices to demand changes to the guidelines. Congress was telling people that animal products were bad for health!

These industries were able to use their intense pressure to persuade the committee into revising the report in late 1977. In 1980, the USDA partnered with the Health and Human Services department to issue the first edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which eventually became the USDA Food Pyramid.

The net result of a diet based on the USDA Food Pyramid recommendations is the maladaptive effects of abnormally high weight or body size, increased levels of psychiatric conditions -- chronic stress, depression, and various mood disorders -- reduced cognitive development, alertness, socialization problems including impulsive control, hypertension, and lowered productivity.

As with nearly all government regulations or recommendations the purpose is not to maximize your health or well-being. In fact, the intent is to do just the opposite. Regulations exist to limit competition and opportunities for less costly and more healthful alternatives. Recommendations are made to ensure longevity but reduced healthfulness which results in more frequent and longer period of services from the very profitable medical industry.

Blind adherence to the dogma or propaganda of profiteers will certainly cost you financially and well as steal your well-being from you. In extreme cases it can take your life.

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©2008, 2012 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.


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