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Jewish World Review Sept. 12, 2003 / 15 Elul, 5763

Tom Purcell

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Consumer Reports

Food Guide Pyramid has a "stupidity factor"? | "What do you mean the Food Guide Pyramid is wrong? I thought the government updated it in 1992?"

"Yes, the pyramid was designed by a committee formed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. It encouraged people to eat less fat and replace fat calories with calories from carbohydrates."

"What's wrong with that?"

"Well, the pyramid encouraged 11 servings a day of foods rich in carbohydrates, such as bread, cereal, rice, pasta, etc. It also recommends potatoes. We now know these things can cause obesity."

"Obesity! You've been telling us to eat food that makes us fat?"

"Well, it's not all our fault. So many carbs are made with processed ingredients. All the fiber is scrubbed out. When you eat highly processed cereal, pasta or rice, it's as good as eating sugar right out of a bowl."

"Now you tell us!"

"And fat isn't so bad after all. Some fat is bad, but some fat is good. Trans fats increase the risk of heart disease, for instance, but fats such as omega-3 that can lower the risk." "For the love of god!"

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"Well, it's not all our fault. There were political pressures. Some of the scientists on the original committee received lucrative grants from the meat, fruit, vegetable and dairy people. We'll never know how much their recommendations were influenced by money. And there was the stupidity factor."

"The stupidity factor?"

"You see, proper nutrition is complicated but Americans like things simple. The pyramid sought to simplify proper nutrition so you morons could understand it."

"Hey, American eaters may be morons but our nutrition scientists are nitwits. Thanks to you, we avoided fat and devoured carbs and now 65% of Americans are overweight. Diabetes and heart disease have increased astronomically."

"There is some truth in your charge."

"Then a fellow named Dr. Dean Garnish told us we could reverse heart disease by cutting out all fats and eat food that tastes like cardboard. They should call him Dr. Garnish."


"Yes, because that's the size of the portions he recommends. But then Dr. Atkins came to our rescue. He said we could eat as much beef, nuts, cheese and eggs as we wanted, just so long as we avoided the carbs. G-d rest your soul, doc!"

"But the government is wary of that diet."

"But there have been a number of recent independent studies that show the Atkins diet works better than the low-calorie, low-fat diets, and that it even reduces bad cholesterol just like the good doc said it would!"


"And now there is the South Beach Diet. Dr. Arthur Agatston shows us how to eat good fats and good carbs and avoid bad fats and bad carbs. He even lets us drink wine!"

"What's your point?"

"Look, American science has got us to the moon and back. You've deciphered the human genome - the blueprint for how to build a human. You've invented powerful computers that sit on the head of a pin. Why can't you agree on what we're supposed to eat?"

"Well, that's exactly what we're doing. The Agriculture Department plans to assemble a new scientific committee to revise the pyramid. We're going to account for people's age, gender, weight and the amount of exercise they get so they can better calculate their dietary needs."

"And you're going to get it right this time?"

"Well, we'll certainly give it a whirl. There will always be political pressures as a lot of money is at stake - or should I say steak?"

"You're a regular comedian. And when will the new pyramid be ready?"

"We expect to release it in 2005."

"2005! What are we supposed to eat in the mean time?"

"Nobody knows."

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09/05/03: Flag waving and football cheering
08/29/03: People who have it all, too often don't
08/25/03: Attack of the 'virus twits'
08/08/03: Why not have a whole slew of the world's dignitaries and leaders come by to visit you?
08/01/03: Do you really want to live until 500?
07/18/03: "Ain't-my-fault" lawsuits are becoming more creative
07/18/03: The real story never makes for good summertime drama in Washington
07/11/03: Government bureaucrats, not elected officials, are really the ones determining what people and organizations can and can't do
07/03/03: Overworked Americans
06/27/03: The Metrosexual Male
06/20/03: Crime Etiquette in Washington, D.C.
06/13/03: My Father, the Thief and the MGB
06/05/03: An Open Letter to Bill and Hillary
05/30/03: We are a busy people
05/23/03: Liar, Liar
05/16/03: Laffer all the way to the bank
05/09/03: My mother's house
05/02/03: Teaching the Iraqis how to protest
04/25/03: Iraqi TV
04/21/03: Explaining Democracy to the Iraqis
04/11/03: Major increases to the beer tax? That's a cheap shot right to the beer gut
04/04/03: War humor
03/31/03: Dolphins, PETA and the USA
03/21/03: Traffic Wars
03/14/03: Ronald Reagan's St. Patrick's Day
03/03/03: My Family's Tragic Secret: We're French
02/21/03: I'm worried about my people
02/14/03: George Washington Makeover
02/07/03: Making quiet sacrifices
01/24/03: "Gimme the, goo-goo, gah-gah, remote!"
01/21/03: "Misunderestimated"
01/10/03: Republican night life
01/06/03: Exercise pills
12/31/02: They provide unending joy to those who are wise enough to let them in
12/13/02: Hurried Man Syndrome
12/06/02: In DC, snowstorms have important ramifications --- or, at least, they should
11/26/02: Police advertising
11/15/02: An Interview with Osama
11/01/02: How to vote in America
10/25/02: On edge in Washington, D.C
10/11/02: Giving new meaning to "selling your body"
10/04/02: Bush's Angels
09/27/02: Conservatives, Liberals, Dick Armey and Barry Manilow
09/20/02: Are SUV drivers are the new GOPers?
09/13/02: Bubba is Dubya's man
09/06/02: The Freedom to Picnic
08/16/02: Ah, the $izzle of anti-terrorist pork
08/09/02: Vacationless prez and gutless Americans
07/26/02: Study gives women permission not to hide their emotions
07/15/02: Patriot food
06/28/02: Eavesdropping on a San Fran classroom
06/21/02: The crowded skies
06/14/02: Contemporary Father's Day: A conversation for the ages
06/07/02: Legal rights for animals?
05/19/02: Advice for prom goers this year: Hold onto your money
05/10/02: Don't take her for granted
05/03/02: Letter to the parents of a tubby teen
04/26/02: Zacarias Moussaoui gets expert legal advice

© 2002, Tom Purcell