Does The New Food Pyramid Really Help Anyone?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) finally revealed its new food pyramid yesterday and it's certainly eye-catching: It looks like a multi-colored rainbow. Although the symbol still looks like a pyramid, it's divided into six colored vertical stripes, representing the different food categories. The left side of the graphic is flanked by a person walking up stairs, symbolizing exercise.

If it sounds simple, guess again. You'll need a roap map to figure out what all of the colors mean, which is the USDA does on its new MyPyramid Web site devoted to the new program. If you can't figure it out, there's plenty of information available on their site. And, if you're really unsure what to do, on the near right corner of the MyPyramid Web site there is a box that dispenses automated advice to consumers based on their age, gender and activity level.

To the good, the USDA realized previous "pyramids" forced people from all walks of life to fit into a very narrow, one-size-fits-all nutritional plan, no matter how unhealthy it might be for them (although one could argue the automated advice box on their new site does just that). But, in the long run, will it truly help consumers improve their eating habits? It's really not much of an improvement from the previous model, and I have a lot of experts who agree with me on this one.

The confusing design of the graphic certainly dodges the question about which foods are best for you to eat and, according to a spokesperson for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, doesn't do anything to warn people about the dangers of eating sugary processed foods and drinks either.

One esteemed critic of the new plan from the Harvard School of Public Health (who ought to know because he's a member of the dietary guidelines advisory committee) quoted in my favorite newspaper in the world, the New York Times, probably said it best: "The pyramid is incredible to me. I'm pretty skeptical this graphic is going to produce many healthy people except for some highly motivated ones."

An interesting sidenote about conflict of interest: Porter Novelli, the advertising firm that was hired to create the site for the USDA, also represents clients in the processed food industry. Just another sign that the food pyramid is plagued by conflicts of interest that prevent them from getting to the heart of the obesity epidemic that hurt this country. So let me make it simple for everyone to understand...

Everyone has a unique body type and the only way to find out what you should be eating is by determining your nutritional type.

And, just as important to your continued optimal health is following an exercise program. I encourage patients to gradually increase the amount of time they are exercising to 60-90 minutes per session. Initially, the frequency is daily. This is a treatment dose until they normalize their weight or insulin levels. Once normalized, they will only need to exercise three to four times a week.

Chicago Sun-Times April 20, 2005

New York Times April 20, 2005

USA Today April 20, 2005

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