Last fall I took a class in Nutrition and sports performance in college. To be perfectly frank, this class brings to me even more confusion and frustration with the current state of science with regard to sports nutrition and performance. As I have stated many times throughout this course I have followed this subject for the better part of two decades as I have been involved in providing athletes information on the subject of nutrition. The more I study the more I find contradictory information. In my early years of study I found the guidelines that were presented in the text, Sports Nutrition Guidebook, by Nancy Clark were the best advice available. I think I even had an earlier edition of the text years ago (mid 1990’s). As of today, more studies have been released and a new group called the Nutrition Science Initiative is heading the way for a new way of determining how America eats.
I will address the topics as assigned but I feel compelled to present further discussion on my perplexity. In the early 1970’s Senator George McGovern headed the United States Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs sometimes referred to as the McGovern Committee. This committee held hearing on the subject of human nutrition and McGovern made a spectacle of the poor to illustrate the importance of his committee. After numerous hearing, in February 1977, the committee proposed six dietary goals (Committee) which would become the basis for what we know as the “Food Pyramid”. There was much hesitation from the medical community on applying these guidelines. Dr. Ahrens Jr., of Rockefeller University stated, “Advice to the public on changing its dietary habits in hope of reducing the rate of new events of coronary heart disease is premature and unwise.” In a letter from the American Medical Association they stated, “The evidence for assuming that the benefits to be derived from the adoption of such universal goals as set forth in the report is not conclusive and … potential for harmful effects.” Clearly there was apprehension on part of the medical community. Senator McGovern told one of the witnesses that the Senate committee didn’t have time to wait on such an important issue and issued the guidelines which were then presented to the Department of Agriculture for dissemination to the public. I state this to highlight the fact that these guidelines may have been prepared for the benefit of the grain industry. Senator McGovern had many influences from the grain and cereal industries.
The odd curiosity of these goals is that in research from the Nutrition Science Initiative (nusi.org) they present graphs of obesity and diabetes since 1977 and the rates of incidence has risen dramatically. Refer to graphs below:
Is this just a coincidence? I’m not so sure. The textbook presented to the class as a guidebook relies heavily on the guidelines developed from this 1977 study. The Choose My Plate website is an extended version of the 1977 guidelines but it all relies heavily on cereal and grain carbohydrate consumption. (To be continued)