Food and Behaviour Research

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Food Pyramids - What Should You Really Eat?


Reliable information and advice on the links between diet and health can only come from a proper appraisal of the scientific evidence. Unfortunately, both media reports and government guidelines on nutrition and health issues are often influenced instead by powerful commercial interests.

This excellent report by the Harvard School of Public Health reveals what's wrong with the official US government Food Pyramids (both the old and new versions), and provides an alternative model based on the real scientific evidence to date. See also the New Scientist article from 2003, Rebuilding the Food Pyramid

From the Harvard School of Public Health website:

"More than a decade ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture created a powerful and enduring icon - the Food Guide Pyramid. This simple illustration conveyed in a flash what the USDA said were the elements of a healthy diet. It was taught in schools, appeared in countless media articles and brochures, and was plastered on cereal boxes and food labels.

Tragically, the information embodied in this pyramid didn't point the way to healthy eating. Why not? Its blueprint was based on shaky scientific evidence, and it barely changed over the years to reflect major advances in our understanding of the connection between diet and health.

With much fanfare, the USDA recently retired the old Food Guide Pyramid and replaced it with MyPyramid, a new symbol and "interactive food guidance system."

The good news is that this dismantles and buries the flawed Pyramid. The bad news is that the new symbol doesn't convey enough information to help you make informed choices about your diet and long-term health. And it continues to recommend foods that aren't essential to good health, and may even be detrimental in the quantities included in MyPyramid.

The USDA's MyPyramid had many builders. Some are obvious - USDA scientists, nutrition experts, staff members, and consultants. Others aren't. Intense lobbying efforts from a variety of food industries also helped shape the pyramid.

As an alternative to the USDA's flawed pyramid, faculty members in the Harvard School of Public Health built the Healthy Eating Pyramid. It resembles the USDA's in shape only. The Healthy Eating Pyramid takes into consideration, and puts into perspective, the wealth of research conducted during the last ten years that has reshaped the definition of healthy eating."