The two leading authorities from Harvard School of Public Health and the Children’s Hospital in Boston chastised the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for pandering to “agro-industrial interests” in the creation of the newly developed 2010 Dietary Guidelines, in a closed-door process that relied on “outdated and flawed studies.”
The authors point out that USDA bowed to “big food” thereby compromising the health of Americans and particularly those most reliant on government programs. The authors argue that while directing Americans to limit the fat content of their diet is commendable, the Dietary Guidelines promote the increased consumption of carbohydrates without, however, distinguishing between high glycemic (high GI) refined starches and low glycemic (low GI) carbohydrates, which are proven to be more healthful. The USDA missed an opportunity, the authors stated. Notwithstanding the current administration, motivated by First Lady Michelle Obama’s personal campaign against childhood obesity, since the Dietary Guidelines dictate government programs, “the diets of millions of Americans who participate in school-lunch programs remain loaded with refined carbohydrates in an effort to reduce fat as a proportion of total calories.”
The authors wrote, “The original Food Guide Pyramid, which encouraged substituting grain products for dietary fat (irrespective of their nutritional quality), may have inadvertently contributed to epidemics of metabolic syndrome and related chronic diseases by increasing refined-starch consumption.” The new MyPlate depiction of Dietary Guidelines “is inherently constrained, most notably by failures to distinguish between whole grains and refined grain products.”
The authors rebuke the USDA for not paying proper attention to the Glycemic Index, a now globally recognized and utilized tool that could help address the growing worldwide epidemics of obesity and diabetes. The Glycemic Index is the only scientific measure of how fast and how high a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugar—the lower and slower the better. The culprit, refined grains and processed carbohydrates, rank high on the Glycemic Index because they are easily digested and cause a rapid and significant rise of blood sugar and insulin levels. In contrast, low-GI foods, such as the Solo GI Low Glycemic Bar, are formulated and clinically validated to have a much more gradual and healthy effect on blood sugar, raising it more slowly, which is better for managing weight, sustaining energy and disease prevention.
In their article about the newest food guidelines, Doctors Willet and Ludwig boldly assert: “A clearer message would be that Americans must reduce the consumption of red meat, cheese, butter and sugar, but that message would have offended powerful industries.”
The agro-food industrial complex has a vested interest to continue the consumption of refined (high glycemic) carbohydrates, notwithstanding their contribution to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, gout and dental caries. For example, clinical studies evidencing the benefits of low glycemic foods, such as a National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded study by the author Dr. David Ludwig at the Children’s Hospital in Boston using Solo GI Low Glycemic Nutrition Bars in a study with obese pregnant women evidenced that a low GI diet is better for both the mother and infant than the conventional low fat diet.
“Big food” prefers to push processed carbohydrates as they have not incorporated low GI into their product development process. They would compromise their revenue stream if they educated the public to properly choose low-GI over high-GI food choices. If one was cynical, they might believe that big food prefers the status quo perpetuating the viscous spike, crash and crave cycle, caused by high glycemic foods and beverages, notwithstanding their established contribution to these inter-linked epidemics.
The USDA is a politically driven body charged with creating and implementing public policy. In doing so, it must carefully weigh the interests of the agriculture industry as well as that of public health. And herein lies the art of compromise, putting millions of people at risk for developing obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease against the interest of the agricultural and food industries. When it comes to public health—and the ability to prevent the onset of these disease states—compromise is not only wrong, it is unsound and unacceptable. Compromising on the side of big business makes the USDA an accomplice endangering the health of millions.
We need to raise the bar in the food industry, and teach consumers a very simple, logical practice: it is not about “no carb” or “low carb” it’s about “smart carb” and “slow carb.” The Glycemic Index can be instrumental in helping industry to develop responsible products that become part of the solution instead of compounding the problem. If we are to slow the growth of “Diabesity,” we need to modify the 2010 Dietary Guidelines to encourage consumers to consider the blood sugar impact equal to the nutrient content when choosing a food or beverage.