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mhymanbw“Dr. Hyman, I grew up following the guidelines of the Food Pyramid,” writes this week’s house call. “Now the guidelines keep changing. What about these new MyPlate guidelines? And what about the new 2015 Dietary Guidelines? I am confused. What should I eat?”

Here’s the truth: The government recommendations released in 1980, promoted low-fat diets that have catapulted us into the worst epidemic of obesity and diabetes in history. To understand why the government told us to do something that actually turns out to be making us fat and sick, let’s first take a look at the back story.

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During the 1970s, when it became evident obesity and heart disease were on the rise in the U.S., some well-meaning concerned politicians held hearings about how to best advise Americans about their diet, health and preventing heart disease.

In 1977, Mark Hegsted, a nutrition professor at Harvard, led a group of scientists in the study of the connections between food consumption and heart disease. The group issued the very first set of U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which the federal government updates roughly every five years.

Low-Fat Religion: How We Got It Wrong

From the beginning, the low-fat philosophy became cemented as our official diet. 

Among its findings, Hegsted’s report urged Americans to increase their carbohydrate intake to 55 to 60 percent of their total daily calories. And told us to reduce fat intake to 30 to 35 percent of calories.

Americans also learned they could protect themselves against cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases by eating more fruits and vegetables. That was commendable, as were recommendations to include poultry and fish in your diet.

We were told to eat more sugars and carbs and cut way back on saturated fat from meats, eggs, butter and whole milk, which turned out to be a bad idea.

Rather than consume these so-called bad saturated fats, we were told to eat low-fat foods, like skim milk. We were told to replace saturated fats in animal products with polyunsaturated fats from inflammatory vegetable oils (like soybean oil).

These first flawed guidelines were replaced by even worse recommendations—the Food Guide Pyramid in 1992. At the base of the pyramid were carbohydrates, particularly refined carbohydrates like breads, pasta, rice and cereals, of which we were told to eat six to 11 servings a day.

These carbohydrates break down to sugar, which gets stored in your body as fat. In addition to the 152 pounds of sugar we eat every year, we’re getting 146 pounds of flour that also breaks down into sugar. Altogether, that’s nearly a pound of sugar and flour combined for every American, every day! That’s a pharmacologic dose of sugar.

Among the havoc those refined carbs creates are inflammation (which triggers most chronic diseases including diabetes and obesity or what I call diabesity), heart disease, cancer, dementia and depression.

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