20 April, 2005

Obesity rant #6: the Return of Obesity Rant

Uh. So, the government released a new "Food Pyramid". This one seems to be a slight departure from the "Food" portion of the concept, since it also includes recommendations on exercise. You can find it at MyPyramid.gov (proving that our government is staffed entirely by dorks).

I don't hate it. It does things that are generally good, emphasizing the positive, telling you what to eat and why it's good for you. If people follow it they would generally do better, health-wise. And the inclusion of exercise recommendations is a great bonus.

The obvious failings are the same as with previous editions of these guidelines:

First, it is passive. It's unlikely to have much influence outside of junior high school health curriculums. And we all know how much respect health teachers get. None. They get no respect.

Second, the pyramid still refuses to say what you should avoid, and why. There are several additions to the American diet that are horrible for public health: refined grains and high fructose corn syrup, for example. Simple, direct messages about why these things are bad for you would be extraordinarily effective at curbing consumption of horrible foods. But since these guidelines are published by the USDA, which is probably the branch of government most comfortably in the pocket of industry (maybe the Department of the Interior rivals it), there's little chance of seeing recommendations that would surely depress sales of crap-quality foodstuffs. Just imagine the shitstorm if the USDA came out and said "Soda pop makes you fat. Stop drinking it."

Anyway, I'll say it for them.

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