My Thanks To The Dietary Guidelines Committee

Dear Members of the USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee: 

I’m writing to thank you and all the members of the previous committees for your tireless work on the USDA’s dietary guidelines. You’ve made my job as a parent quite a bit easier.

I came to that conclusion yesterday when my wife and I joined our seven-year-old for lunch in her school cafeteria. My wife sends our girls to school with lunches she packs at home … usually some kind of meat or meaty stew accompanied by cheese sticks, carrots, apple slices, or olives. She also puts small bottles of water in their lunchboxes.

Most of the other kids eat lunches prepared in the cafeteria, which of course is required to follow the USDA guidelines. Yesterday’s government-approved lunch consisted of chicken nuggets (battered and deep-fried in vegetable oil), macaroni and cheese, mandarin oranges in some kind of syrup, and a drink. Some kids chose juice boxes for their drinks, others chose 1% or 2% milk, but the most popular choice was the 1% chocolate milk.

Naturally, I was horrified to see kids eating a meal consisting primarily of processed grains and sugar, and only slightly less horrified to realize that the meal was nearly devoid of natural fats. When I observed how many kids seemed to prefer the chocolate milk, my wife informed me that since the new USDA guidelines call for restricting fat even more, the school will soon limit its milk offerings to 1% white milk, skim white milk, and skim chocolate milk.

That’s when I realized what a huge favor you’ve done me.

Like any other father, I want my kids to succeed in life. I want them to win scholarships, attend the best colleges, and excel in whatever fields they choose to study. According to their teachers, they’re both bright girls. However, their school district is the highest-ranked in Tennessee and also one of the higher-ranked districts in the country, which means there are a lot of other bright kids in their classes. The competition to win scholarships some years from now ought to be fierce — but I don’t think it will be, at least not by the time my girls are in high school.

In an otherwise equal competition, there are two ways to gain an advantage: make yourself stronger, or find a way to weaken your opponents. We’re helping our daughters become as strong and as smart as we possibly can, but that may not be enough. Luckily for us, your dietary guidelines will simultaneously weaken the competition … sort of like a federally-funded Tonya Harding conspiring to give a whack to Nancy Kerrigan’s knees.

A growing human brain needs plenty of natural saturated fat and cholesterol, which is why Mother Nature was smart enough to put rather a lot of both in breast milk. Unlike their classmates, my girls have no idea what skim milk tastes like, because we never buy any. In fact, my daughters sometimes ask for extra cream in their whole milk, and we give it to them. They also eat lots of Kerry Gold butter, egg yolks, bacon fat, and marrow fat whenever my wife makes a stew.

Your committee and the previous committees have scared most parents away from serving kids these amazingly nutritious foods, which means my girls will have an advantage in cognitive development — especially now that you’ve instructed schools to remove what little natural fat was left in the milk. It may take some time for the difference in cognitive development to manifest, but the high concentrations of grains and fructose in the government-approved meals are already working to our benefit. While my girls are both alert and calm in class, other kids are already exhibiting signs of hyperactivity or difficulty concentrating.

When my seven-year-old was a toddler, she had occasional play dates with a boy her age who struck me as bright at the time. The boy’s mother served him fruit-spread sandwiches and juice for lunch and proudly informed us that she kept the boy on a low-fat diet. We learned recently that the boy — now a seven-year-old — is in a special class at school because he’s been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. Multiply him by several million, and you can see why I’m confident your dietary guidelines are giving my daughters a leg up on the academic competition. I don’t expect all kids who follow your recommended diet to be quite so hampered, but frankly, even a minor deceleration in cognitive growth will push my girls that much higher on the curve.

And if for some reason my daughters don’t reach the top academically, I think it’s possible they’ll nonetheless surpass their peers physically and win some kind of athletic scholarship. The kids in my daughter’s second-grade class are all lean at this point, but when I looked over to where the fifth-graders were eating, I saw several examples of what just a few extra years of a government-approved diet can accomplish. It’s kind of depressing to see 11-year-old girls with pretty faces and protruding bellies, but when I reminded myself that young women with fatty livers aren’t going to beat my daughters out of starting positions on the college track or basketball teams, my spirits were lifted.

So again, my sincere thanks for all the work you put into the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. I don’t know how much interaction you have with similar committees in other countries, but I urge you to do whatever you can to promote these guidelines around the world. After all, my girls will someday need to compete in a global economy.

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164 thoughts on “My Thanks To The Dietary Guidelines Committee

  1. gallier2

    Dani, don’t get me wrong, I’m far from being against hemp seeds. As I said, the granola (it’s called müesli on this side of the Atlantic) I had which contained them tasted actually quite good, the problem is that I don’t consume a lot of grains anymore, so müesli is out, hemp or not hemp. Thank you for the link, but I suppose the benefit of GLA comes from relieving a bit delta-6 desaturase allowing a higher conversion rate on the omega-3 fats.
    Baby formula lacks even more of DHA and EPA (and contain often other nasties not present in mother milk, like sucrose or even starch).
    As for the oil, I think that the danger of fatty acid oxydation far outweighs the benefit the GLA could ever provide. The last bottle I bought (in 2001 before low-carb/paleo thinking) went rancid in less than 2 weeks.

    Reply
  2. Dani

    Peanuts (for particular wild-bird feeds) and sunflower seeds are sold as bird food as well, but the processing is slightly different, as is the case with hemp seeds.

    Having an issue with the taste is one thing, but I don’t think that a food can be discounted based solely on taste. I actually like the taste of it, and I know quite a few other people who do as well. Of course, here, I can buy it directly from the farmers who grow it, and receive it in a week, so the freshness and quality may be higher than when it has to be shipped and stored for longer periods. The quality of hemp seed is a major issue, even here, and you can’t just buy any ol’ hemp seed and think it’s going to work out. I have also never tried the oil, because I like the protein that I get from consuming the seeds themselves.

    The oils are far less stable than many others, admittedly, but the seeds can be kept for a year in the freezer (which is what I do). I’ve never had issues with hemp and I’ve been buying it for years. I used to eat it more sparingly, but began to eat it more regularly for the protein and fats.

    The oils need to be stored properly, preferably in dark glass, and I’ve seen plastic bottles with hemp oil, which is part of the problem. The oil (as with the seeds) can also be stored in the freezer to extend shelf life.

    I agree with you, galleri2, that one should not try to survive solely on hemp seed.

    And, while not a lot is known about GLA and all the benefits (or lack thereof), we do know that it is found in breast milk, and babies who are fed formula rather than breast milk are deficient in GLA, which can cause developmental problems (http://www.thorne.com/altmedrev/.fulltext/9/1/70.pdf and I do apologize for not making these clickable links; I’m not exactly a pro when it comes to things like that). There is also promising evidence regarding GLAs but as with many natural products that don’t have to be manufactured by a pharmaceutical company, it’s not where the research dollars tend to go.

    I’m going to continue my research into hemp seed as a food product, as sparse as the data seems to be.

    Reply
  3. gallier2

    Dani, don’t get me wrong, I’m far from being against hemp seeds. As I said, the granola (it’s called müesli on this side of the Atlantic) I had which contained them tasted actually quite good, the problem is that I don’t consume a lot of grains anymore, so müesli is out, hemp or not hemp. Thank you for the link, but I suppose the benefit of GLA comes from relieving a bit delta-6 desaturase allowing a higher conversion rate on the omega-3 fats.
    Baby formula lacks even more of DHA and EPA (and contain often other nasties not present in mother milk, like sucrose or even starch).
    As for the oil, I think that the danger of fatty acid oxydation far outweighs the benefit the GLA could ever provide. The last bottle I bought (in 2001 before low-carb/paleo thinking) went rancid in less than 2 weeks.

    Reply
  4. Jen

    Oh my goodness. This is just brilliant. I’m going to be sharing it with quite a few folks!

    Thank you.

    Reply
  5. Dana

    I actually like the taste of toasted hempseed and if I had to eat seed I’d rather eat it than wheat. That said, there is far too much polyunsaturated oil in it, and any time you’ve got PUFAs you want to aim for a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. Look at your O6:O3 ratio again, Dani. You’re buying yourself a one-way ticket to chronic disease.

    I know, I know, hemp’s so healthy. They used to say the same thing about whole wheat. (Some folks still do.) I was born in 1974 and I remember when wheat germ was hailed as a health food to the extent that hemp is now. Wheat germ’s just about always rancid when you purchase it, too.

    If I have to keep the oil in the fridge just to avoid rancidity I use it very, very sparingly or not at all. I keep my butter in the fridge, but mostly out of habit; it’s just about all saturated and it’d take a long, long time to go bad. Stable fats are by far the best for the body. Doesn’t matter if it’s solid at room temperature. If my body were at room temperature I’d have worse to worry about than whether saturates were clogging my arteries. (They’re not.)

    I’d love to see hemp legalized for all its non-food uses. But to eat it, well, I’d rather leave it for the birds, who need it far more than I do. Their metabolisms are better suited to seed-eating; they make more amylase, for one thing, than humans do and their body chemistry is better capable of neutralizing phytic acid and various other factors protecting seeds from digestion in such a way that over the long term, they ruin human health.

    Tom: I can’t promise my daughter’s diet is perfect but she eats a lot more butter than the general population, she drinks whole-fat milk (grass-fed, non-homogenized), and she eats things that would horrify the average six-year-old, such as those little dried and salted fish they sell as snack foods in Japanese groceries. She eats them whole, eyes and all. Blew my mind, I can’t bring myself to join her but I recognize how good they are for her.

    It bothers me a lot to see parents hand-wringing about the USDA dictating school lunches. Don’t they know they have other options than public school? There are lower-income and welfare parents homeschooling their kids, so I don’t see why a middle-class family can’t.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree about the whole paying for health care thing. Had we not had publicly funded fire and police departments all this time I bet there would be libertarians arguing against them being paid for with public funds. Preventative medicine is always better than fixing problems after they arise, but even if everyone adopted perfect diets tomorrow, accidents still happen. I should think we’d at least have some kind of funding scheme in place for those, because it’s the sudden stuff that seems to bankrupt a lot of people. There’s never been a time when everyone could afford to pay the doctor in cash; some folks didn’t even have much to barter. As long as we insist upon organizing ourselves into nation-states wherein we are obliged to identify total strangers as “one of us”, it seems to me there ought to be some level of social benefit that comes along with that as well. I benefit when half the people around me are not diseased or missing limbs or grieving lost loved ones because they couldn’t get themselves or a loved one to the doctor in time. Period.

    Reply
  6. Dana

    I actually like the taste of toasted hempseed and if I had to eat seed I’d rather eat it than wheat. That said, there is far too much polyunsaturated oil in it, and any time you’ve got PUFAs you want to aim for a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. Look at your O6:O3 ratio again, Dani. You’re buying yourself a one-way ticket to chronic disease.

    I know, I know, hemp’s so healthy. They used to say the same thing about whole wheat. (Some folks still do.) I was born in 1974 and I remember when wheat germ was hailed as a health food to the extent that hemp is now. Wheat germ’s just about always rancid when you purchase it, too.

    If I have to keep the oil in the fridge just to avoid rancidity I use it very, very sparingly or not at all. I keep my butter in the fridge, but mostly out of habit; it’s just about all saturated and it’d take a long, long time to go bad. Stable fats are by far the best for the body. Doesn’t matter if it’s solid at room temperature. If my body were at room temperature I’d have worse to worry about than whether saturates were clogging my arteries. (They’re not.)

    I’d love to see hemp legalized for all its non-food uses. But to eat it, well, I’d rather leave it for the birds, who need it far more than I do. Their metabolisms are better suited to seed-eating; they make more amylase, for one thing, than humans do and their body chemistry is better capable of neutralizing phytic acid and various other factors protecting seeds from digestion in such a way that over the long term, they ruin human health.

    Tom: I can’t promise my daughter’s diet is perfect but she eats a lot more butter than the general population, she drinks whole-fat milk (grass-fed, non-homogenized), and she eats things that would horrify the average six-year-old, such as those little dried and salted fish they sell as snack foods in Japanese groceries. She eats them whole, eyes and all. Blew my mind, I can’t bring myself to join her but I recognize how good they are for her.

    It bothers me a lot to see parents hand-wringing about the USDA dictating school lunches. Don’t they know they have other options than public school? There are lower-income and welfare parents homeschooling their kids, so I don’t see why a middle-class family can’t.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree about the whole paying for health care thing. Had we not had publicly funded fire and police departments all this time I bet there would be libertarians arguing against them being paid for with public funds. Preventative medicine is always better than fixing problems after they arise, but even if everyone adopted perfect diets tomorrow, accidents still happen. I should think we’d at least have some kind of funding scheme in place for those, because it’s the sudden stuff that seems to bankrupt a lot of people. There’s never been a time when everyone could afford to pay the doctor in cash; some folks didn’t even have much to barter. As long as we insist upon organizing ourselves into nation-states wherein we are obliged to identify total strangers as “one of us”, it seems to me there ought to be some level of social benefit that comes along with that as well. I benefit when half the people around me are not diseased or missing limbs or grieving lost loved ones because they couldn’t get themselves or a loved one to the doctor in time. Period.

    Reply
  7. Danielle

    LOL I love this!! You are too funny.
    Just wanted to tell you: I have read many of your blog posts and interviews. I watched your movie last winter and it changed my life. I have researched so much into health and nutrition. I have read countless books. I have received innumerable health benefits which also my friends and family adopted too.

    I am in college now majoring in math. As a part of the Honors College students I will write a 12 page research paper due in December on any topic I choose. My paper is about cholesterol and saturated fat. I explain the anthropology, marketing, clinical studies, and the breakdown of the two lipids.

    I would have done none of this if I did not watch your movie that you so generously gave to hulu. Thank you Tom!

    Outstanding. I hope that paper shakes up your professor.

    Reply
  8. Danielle

    LOL I love this!! You are too funny.
    Just wanted to tell you: I have read many of your blog posts and interviews. I watched your movie last winter and it changed my life. I have researched so much into health and nutrition. I have read countless books. I have received innumerable health benefits which also my friends and family adopted too.

    I am in college now majoring in math. As a part of the Honors College students I will write a 12 page research paper due in December on any topic I choose. My paper is about cholesterol and saturated fat. I explain the anthropology, marketing, clinical studies, and the breakdown of the two lipids.

    I would have done none of this if I did not watch your movie that you so generously gave to hulu. Thank you Tom!

    Outstanding. I hope that paper shakes up your professor.

    Reply
  9. Dani

    Well, I’m not sure if anyone would go back and re-read their comments, but just wanted to give a little update. I’m the “hemp seed” Dani from earlier. Dana and gallier2, I’ve cut the hemp out of my diet. I did more research, watched the film, read a stack of the books recommended on the site, and realized that I was still eating a grain, even if its profile is better than wheat.

    As Tom has put it before, saying that hemp is better than wheat would be akin to saying that filtered cigarettes are better than unfiltered ones. Yikes.

    I’m not strictly Paleo and probably never will be, but I’m eating better than I ever have. All thanks to Tom!

    So thank you Tom! I’m still spreading the word, trying to get people to watch the DVD. It was a revelation for my Mom, who has been trying to convince my Dad to watch it. I’m going to keep trying to get people to look into their diets and nutrition. I’ll just start putting my before and after photos into the DVD case when I lend it out, because I think it’s a lot easier for people to believe it when they actually know you. Not that I really want to show a bunch of people my picture at 40 pounds heavier, but if it might encourage one person to change, I think it would worth it.

    I appreciate the compliment and I’m gratified to know Fat Head helped.

    Reply
  10. Dani

    Well, I’m not sure if anyone would go back and re-read their comments, but just wanted to give a little update. I’m the “hemp seed” Dani from earlier. Dana and gallier2, I’ve cut the hemp out of my diet. I did more research, watched the film, read a stack of the books recommended on the site, and realized that I was still eating a grain, even if its profile is better than wheat.

    As Tom has put it before, saying that hemp is better than wheat would be akin to saying that filtered cigarettes are better than unfiltered ones. Yikes.

    I’m not strictly Paleo and probably never will be, but I’m eating better than I ever have. All thanks to Tom!

    So thank you Tom! I’m still spreading the word, trying to get people to watch the DVD. It was a revelation for my Mom, who has been trying to convince my Dad to watch it. I’m going to keep trying to get people to look into their diets and nutrition. I’ll just start putting my before and after photos into the DVD case when I lend it out, because I think it’s a lot easier for people to believe it when they actually know you. Not that I really want to show a bunch of people my picture at 40 pounds heavier, but if it might encourage one person to change, I think it would worth it.

    I appreciate the compliment and I’m gratified to know Fat Head helped.

    Reply
  11. gallier2

    Yes Dani, I get also informed of responses on old comments (the magic of rss syndication) on some blogs and thank you for your update. It’s always a nice thing to see people getting better even when not knowing them.

    Reply
  12. gallier2

    Yes Dani, I get also informed of responses on old comments (the magic of rss syndication) on some blogs and thank you for your update. It’s always a nice thing to see people getting better even when not knowing them.

    Reply
  13. Dani

    I only came upon your site yesterday evening and haven’t yet watched the film, so it’s highly possible you’ve addressed this elsewhere, but I was wondering about your opinion on hemp seed oil. It seems that animal fats are more highly-touted than plant fats through the site, though I do see quite a bit of information on coconut oil.

    I eat 60 grams of shelled hemp seed every morning for breakfast. 320 calories, 22 grams of protein, 2 grams fibre, 19.6 grams of fat (1.4 saturated, 4g omega-3, 12.4g omega 6, 1.6g omega-9). I do use coconut oil as well, though not as much as I probably should. I cook in butter or olive oil, or bacon fat. After reading this, I’m just realizing that I’m getting quite a lot of my fat intake from plant sources. I’ll be doing a lot more research into this diet style, but I was wondering about your (or any of the posters, really) experience with hemp seed.

    I realize that it is not widely available in the United States as it is regulated by the DEA, as there are trace amounts of THC, and consumption has not been deemed safe (http://www.educatingvoices.org/MediaKit/Final%20OverviewoftheLegalityofHempFoodProducts.pdf). I don’t know if there are instances of availability, but I know that the product is available in Canada even at Superstore, so it’s moved out of just the ‘health food’ stores. I bought my 25-pound bucket direct from the supplier because it’s too expensive to buy it otherwise, but it’s good to know that it’s becoming more easily available.

    I have no idea about hemp seed.

    Reply

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