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The USDA Food Pyramid is wrong

Thursday July 26, 2001

Press Release

ADVISORY/Debate Over Food Guidelines Heats Up

(BUSINESS WIRE)--July 26, 2001--

TOPIC: The chairman of the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, Walter Willet, has written a new book called ``Eat, Drink and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating,'' that reportedly criticizes the USDA food pyramid and has ignited another flare up in the debate over American nutritional guidelines. According to a story by USA Today, opponents of the food pyramid -- which advises eating six to 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta a day; two to three servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts; and fats, oils and sweets sparingly -- claim it is too general, puts too much stress on carbohydrates and may contribute to obesity and poor health. Proponents of the pyramid cited in the story say that the general guidelines are simple enough for everyone to use and understand, work better than a completely unrestricted diet, and serve the population better than other untested fads and guidelines.

In reference to an earlier press release:

The USDA Food Pyramid is wrong

Friday July 13, 2001

Press Release

SOURCE: Simon & Schuster

The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating A HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL BOOK By Walter C. Willett, M.D.

NEW YORK, July 13 /PRNewswire/ -- The USDA Food Pyramid is wrong. This ubiquitous American icon, seen everywhere from the backs of cereal boxes to elementary school bulletin boards, has been proven a dangerous and misleading dietary guide, contributing to the generally poor state of American nutrition?including the increasing incidence of obesity in the United States.

Walter C. Willett, M.D., one of the world's most distinguished experts in nutrition, reveals the danger behind this deceptive resource and provides a new pyramid that offers huge potential for longer, and better, living. Derived from decades of research based on the world-famous Harvard Nurses' Health Study, the Harvard Physicians Health Study, and Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the Framingham Heart Study and supported by dozens of other surveys and investigations, this new food pyramid and other valuable nutritional information is now available to the public in EAT, DRINK, AND BE HEALTHY: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating, by Walter C. Willett, M.D. (Simon & Schuster Source, August 1, 2001, $25.00).

By promoting the USDA Food Pyramid, The Department of Agriculture-the agency responsible for promoting the products of American agribusiness, not one of the many federal agencies established to monitor and protect our health -- is serving two masters. This can be tricky -- especially when one of them includes persuasive and well-connected representatives of the formidable meat, dairy and sugar industries. The end result of their tug-of-war is a set of positive, feel-good; all-inclusive recommendations that completely distort what could be the single most important tool for improving the health of the nation.

At best, the USDA Pyramid offers indecisive, scientifically unfounded advice on an absolutely vital topic -- what to eat. At worst, the misinformation it offers contributes to overweight, poor health, and unnecessary early deaths.

The Harvard Medical School's Healthy Eating Pyramid presents more accurate, less biased, and more helpful information than that found in the USDA Pyramid. It was not only developed with a wealth of information unavailable to the USDA Pyramid builders ten years ago, but was developed by researchers who did not have to negotiate with any special interest groups.

The book reveals:

To eat fat or not to eat fat? That is not the question.

The message that ``all fat is bad'' has not fallen on deaf ears: fats and oils make up about 34 percent of the calories in today's average diet, compared with 40 percent in the 1960s. Good news? Hardly. Much of the reduction has been in the consumption of beneficial unsaturated fasts, and is one reason for the minimal reduction in heart disease rates in recent years. Unsaturated fats are actually good for you and can improve the levels of cholesterol and other fat particles in your blood, fortify your heart against erratic heartbeats, and help counteract a number of processes that contribute to atherosclerosis, the gradual clogging and narrowing of arteries.

Calcium: No emergency.

The ``calcium emergency'' campaign, sponsored by the National Dairy Council to promote the consumption of milk is a hoax. The United States is near the top of the list of per capita calcium intake, and studies -- documented in Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy -- have failed to show that high milk consumption reduces the risk of fractures. Moreover, it cannot be assumed that high daily consumption is safe for everyone. For men, a high milk intake seems to increase the odds of developing prostate cancer, while for women, high milk consumption may be linked with higher rates of ovarian cancer.

Go nuts!

The next time you're seeking a snack, think nuts. Contrary to popular belief, they are not junk food. One ounce of nuts gives you about 8 grams of protein. Yes, nuts have quite a bit of fat but these are mostly unsaturated fats that reduce LDL cholesterol and keep HDL (the ``good cholesterol'') high.

EAT, DRINK, AND BE HEALTHY is a revolutionary guide to food choices from the renowned Harvard Medical School and School of Public Health. Walter C. Willett, M.D. is the chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and a Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School. A world-renowned researcher, he was one of the principal authors of the famous Nurses Health Study and is regarded as one of the most distinguished experts on nutrition in the world. In recognition of his research contributions, Dr. Willett was awarded the Mott Prize from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation in 2001, one of the most prestigious prizes awarded to medical scientists. He also has been elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

It is a simple, obvious truth. We need food for the basics of everyday life -- to pump blood, move muscles, and think thoughts. But we can also eat to live well and to live longer, more exuberant lives. By making the right choices, you can help yourself avoid some of the things we think of as the unavoidable consequences of aging, and EAT, DRINK, AND BE HEALTHY can literally help you do that.

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