My Thanks To The Dietary Guidelines Committee (Again)

Dear Members of the USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee:

I wrote to you eight years ago to thank you and all the previous committees for your tireless work on the USDA’s dietary guidelines. As I explained back then, your guidelines and the federally approved school lunches based on them are giving my daughters a competitive advantage in life by causing other kids to become tired, experience difficulty concentrating in class, etc.

My prediction that my daughters would bypass most of their classmates is looking pretty good, by the way. My older daughter was recently selected to participate in a math competition. Only the top 50 math students from her high school’s 900 freshmen and sophomores were invited. She ended up with the highest score among the 50.

Granted, her math abilities are largely genetic. But when I see her eating brain-building foods like fatty meats and eggs while so many of her classmates live on “heart healthy” vegetable oils, processed grains and other frankenfoods, I can’t help but think your dietary guidelines tipped the scale in her favor.

But I’m not writing today to thank you for that. No, today I’m writing to thank you for weakening each succeeding generation of Americans so thoroughly, I no longer fear growing older like I once did. Thanks to your dietary advice, you’ve guaranteed that if old guys like me take care of ourselves, we’ll remain stronger and healthier than many guys who are young enough to be our children or grandchildren – and it will stay that way for years to come.

I’m thinking back to a story that hit the news several years ago. Some knife-wielding young punks tried to rob a group of tourists on a bus. The robbery was foiled when a 65-year-old man grabbed one of the young punks and snapped his neck. Later that year, I read a news story about a man in his 70s who cold-cocked a 20-something who attempted to mug him in a men’s room.  Just plain punched out the punk.

What is going with these butt-kicking old guys? I thought at the time. Well, now I know. Those young would-be robbers were probably weak, tired, sick, diabetic, soft-boned … heck, there are all kinds of ways your dietary advice could help us old guys come out on top in a physical confrontation.

And thanks to your tireless efforts to convince Americans to cut back on meat, eggs and animal fats and eat even more hearthealthywholegrains!, the weakening of each succeeding generation is continuing. Back in 2012, researchers reported that Baby Boomers aren’t as healthy as their parents were at the same age:

Obesity among baby boomers is more than double the rate of their parents at the same age, and boomers with three or more chronic conditions was 700 percent greater than the previous generation.

In 2017, Bloomberg news reported this:

Americans in their late 50s already have more serious health problems than people at the same ages did 10 to 15 years ago, according to the journal Health Affairs.

And now an article in the Daily Mail informs us that Millennials aren’t even waiting until middle age to decline physically:

It’s all downhill from 27, new research reveals. At least if you’re a millennial, chronic conditions and diseases start to rear their heads in your late-20s, and from there things continue to deteriorate, according to a new Blue Cross Blue Shield report.

Millennials, as a generation, are in overall poorer health than their predecessors, Gen X-ers, with higher rates of depression, hyperactivity, substance misuse, type 2 diabetes and Crohn’s disease, among other chronic conditions.

When the researchers narrowed their focus to older millennials, ages 34-36, they found higher rates of nearly all of the top 10 most common conditions than were seen in generation X at the same ages – despite the fact that 83 percent of millennials think they are in ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ health.

Yup … each succeeding generation is getting fat, sick and tired at a younger age, while testosterone levels among men keep dropping compared to previous generations.  I’m waiting for bumper stickers that read 30 is the new 50!

Give it another generation, and your awesome dietary advice will revolutionize sports. Teams will be out-bidding each other for players over 50. People will follow the senior leagues in golf and tennis because the youngsters just can’t compete at the same level.

But sports are just the beginning.  Soon we’ll see 25-year-olds in big cities crossing the street to avoid walking past a couple of 60-year-olds lurking on the corner — you can never be too careful with these old guys, you know.

Or imagine an urban road-rage incident: some 30-year-old believes he was cut off in traffic, so at the next red light, he starts to exit the car to confront the offending driver… until his wife yanks on his arm, screaming, “Are you trying to get yourself beaten to death? Look at him – he’s at least 70!”

So thanks again, USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee. I used to worry that I’d feel over the hill by the time I turned 60. But since I ignore your advice and so many young people don’t, I’m looking pretty darned fit and healthy by comparison.

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30 thoughts on “My Thanks To The Dietary Guidelines Committee (Again)

  1. Jeff


    But, sadly, because there is such an element of truth. Which good comedy always has, and you know something about that!

  2. Pissed at the experts

    Unfortunately, not all of us older folks are in such good condition. I’m a little older than you (turned 71 last month), but not in nearly as good health as you. I am type 2 diabetic, had a heart attack, a stroke (fortunately with only minor lingering effects), and a triple bypass. I’m convinced the main contributing factor is following the government diet guidelines from the time they were first established until a couple years after my bypass surgery in the 00’s, when I started encountering articles online explaining how those guidelines were bunk.

    Some of us older folks like you can take those weak youngsters, but I’m not among them.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I’m sorry to hear that. I’m grateful I figure it out in my late forties, when there was still time for a dramatic turnaround.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Wow. In that photo at age 96, he looks as if he could still punch out a mugger.

      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        I remember Jack LaLanne from when I was kid. Mom used to exercise to his TV show.

  3. Jennifer

    Interesting tidbit about your daughter. My 17 year old son who used to have all kinds of issues with focus control and moods, changed his diet pretty radically. We weren’t willing to medicate him so he just powered through the challenges, but it was painful. A few years back we went from cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and pasta for dinner to no grain and no seed oils; last spring we cut out sugar completely. He took the PSAT this past fall and the SAT this March (for the first and only time) . He will likely be named a National Merit Semifinalist this fall and he scored a 1590 on the SAT without doing any of those expensive prep testing services (nor did we bribe anyone!). Everyone thinks he is some kind of genius. Nope. He’s bright, but he will tell you it was getting rid of the sugar, he’s got focus like he’s never had before. He also went from being at risk of obesity at age 8 to being athletic and trim as a teenager and he has clearer skin than either of his parents did at that age!

    Every time I feel a little sad that I didn’t find this way of eating until middle age, I am reminded that at least our son will have the benefit of a lifetime of feeling well and reaching his potential because we figured it out when we did and that is comforting.

    I have told so many people that have kids with ADD or mood disorders what our experience has been and they are reluctant to believe it. He had OCD so severely when he was younger, he washed his hands until they cracked. This went on for years. His anxiety and depression as a small child had us taking him to a psychiatrist at four. We took him off grain at age 8 and it all resolved. I am not sure why people think I would be making any of this up, but they aren’t willing to even try this with their kids. I hear things like “What would I feed them?” Steak and broccoli! Lunch meat and cheese! An omelette! “But my kids don’t like that kind of food!” Yeah, well, my eight year old wasn’t pleased when Mac and Cheese was taken off the menu either but it really worked out for him! A little bit of pain in the short run, and it really is just a little in the short run has been so worth everything he’s gained.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Stories like yours are why we do what we do. One of the most touching emails I ever received was from a woman thanking me for turning her son’s life around. He was doing poorly in school, couldn’t concentrate, and flew into rages frequently. After Fat Head convinced her to change the family diet, he became a calm, straight-A student.

      1. Jennifer

        You know, I wish a good journalist would interview several of these kids and their families (because I know it’s not just us and the other woman you mention) for a feature. When I tell people this is what we did and the change it made, because they can’t imagine my son ever had the challenges we describe because he is so ‘put together’ at 17, it’s as if they won’t believe it. It seems like if you get a STORY that is published somewhere, people are willing to believe it. It’s not as if I want to be vindicated, I don’t really care if random people believe it or not, it’s that I think so many children and young adults are needlessly suffering. And it would be great if their parents could have some examples of success.

        Growing up in the 70s my diet was cheap starches and oils and my moods and attention were all over the place. I ultimately was medicated in my late 20s and gained a tremendous amount of weight because of the drugs which is why I started cutting things out — to drop the weight. That’s when I discovered what grain was doing to me and decided to take my young son off of it. Happily, almost 9 years later I am down 113 pounds – back to a normal BMI and I am mentally healthier than I have ever been – despite being told my mood disorder was genetic and I’d need to be on meds the rest of my life. I have been off of them for 11 years now with no relapse. I don’t think I am unique.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I’d like to see more feature articles on the topic as well. A child with mental and emotional problems made a tremendous turnaround in “The Magic Pill” after getting off the cheap carbs and onto a paleo diet.

    2. chris c

      I wish I’d known what was causing my not dissimilar problems as a child, I was over 50 when I eventually wised up. ,The difference was like night and day.

      I am going to patent the Suffolk Diet (Suffolk is that buttock’shaped bit on the eastern side of England). It’s full of massive agriculture, mostly wheat and other grains, rapeseed, sugar beet, potatoes, peas (for freezing) and other vegetables – basically carbs and margarine.

      As one of the women who works in the supermarket pointed out, you see all the fat people with their baskets of “low fat” food getting ever fatter, while you see all the fit healthy old folks in the butchers, veg shops and farm shops eating the Real Food like grass-fed beef and lamb and free-range pigs and chickens, and game, and fish. I’ll have what they’re having.

      What’s truly depressing is to see kids already obese. Fortunately there are still some slim fit healthy kids and grandkids too and some of them are really nice, bright and intelligent but outnumbered. This has only happened since we adopted your “food pyramid”, which I think we turned into the Eatwell Plate before you did MyPlate, but that didn’t work here either.

    3. Fred Jones

      well done Jennifer; we are all so thrilled to hear these stories; (I remember in the Magic Pill documentary that a family had a similar, really good, outcome) .. great to hear folks being helped.

  4. Mike Cortopassi

    I love your columns, Tom!

    Some comments from a person we know who has a tendency to cancel appointments:

    “I’m terribly sorry to again cancel. I’m not sleeping at all and really struggling due to my statin medication. My doctor lowered my dosage last week but it hasn’t helped.”

    “My back is killing me and I’m going to call it a day. Side effect of my statin. Some days are worse than others. Today is a bad day. My apologies. ”

    I feel so sorry for the guy, but like my parents (in their 80s) they have been so indoctrinated that they believe the day they stop taking statins they’ll have a major heart attack. Not to mention the look on their faces when I told them how often I eat eggs. I’ll never know how much of my dad’s muscle and joint pain has been due to statins because he’ll never stop.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      So sorry to hear that. Statins ruined my very intelligent, very witty father’s brain long before he should have faded. I’ll never forgive the bastards who promote statins.

  5. Deb

    Love the letter, Tom! Unfortunately, government functionaries don’t “do” sarcasm very well, in my opinion. They take themselves way too seriously to be ribbed about it, even mildly.

    On a separate, yet related note, I recently had a cardio work up after not doing so well on a treadmill test. All the medical personnel got very excited about one anomalous cholesterol profile, which dropped down to my normal levels after a couple of weeks. They insisted on the statin talk (I refused, of course), but man, were they ever pushy! It was quite discouraging to have to stand against my doctor’s advice, it it was the right thing for me.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I’d say get a coronary calcium score. If it comes back zero, maybe the doctor will stop pushing statins … or maybe not.

      1. Firebird7478

        I had a blood test in 2011 and they ran it through an MRI (experimental procedure). My total cholesterol was 300 but my ratio of HDL/LDL was perfect. So was my HDL/Trigs. Still, my doctor sent me to a cardiologist for a stress test. They went so far as to do an MRI on my heart. The cardiologist was puzzled because my cholesterol was so high and that they could not find any blockages. She told me that my heart was in great shape, but I should still go back to my primary care doctor and get on a statin “just in case” I get heart disease.

        In the follow up with my primary care, he also tried to push a statin on me, which I declined. He then told me about one of the pharmaceuticals had come out with a time released niacin, which is good at reducing cholesterol. Co-Pay $40. I told him, “no” because A) I can get niacin for $10 at The Vitamin Shoppe and B) I knocked 30 points of my cholesterol totals with a combination of Niacinamide and lecithin and he wasn’t impressed by that.

        Today, that doctor is in a lucrative weight loss clinic where he feeds his patients replacement drinks and protein bars to lose weight.

  6. Orvan Taurus

    I know a fellow who is now 96. He survived the Great Depression, WWII (Pacific theater), and everything after. His ‘secret’ is that 1) he seems to ignore gov’t sponsored dietary “advice{ and he *keeps moving*. Before he slowed down (at 93 or so he gave up tower climbing…) he tended to do more before breakfast than many do all day. Every year or two he asks his doctor if he can keep drinking his liquor (one or maybe two “Windsor and sweet” with supper) and the [smarter] doctors reply, “It’s worked so far. Whatever you are doing, KEEP doing it!” Now, this doesn’t mean a dose of Windsor is for everyone, but… at 96+, why change?

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Heh-heh … I remember when my dad gave his grandfather a bottle of whiskey for his 96th birthday. Grandpa thanked him and said he only sips a bit of whiskey in the evening, to which Dad replied, “You keep doing that, Grandpa, you might live to a ripe old age.” Grandpa turned to me and said, “He’s kidding me, you know.”

  7. LauraS

    It is sad, isn’t it, that the SAD is clearly destroying people’s health. It certainly meets the definition of insanity.

    I tell those around me to cut the sugar, grains and processed oils, but no one wants to give them up, even when they understand the harm being done. They just figure big pharma will come up with a pill to fix it.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      If I had a dollar for each time I’ve heard “What do you eat if you don’t eat wheat?” As if that’s the only food available.

      1. Firebird7478

        That reminds me of the reporter for our local news’ “Health Check” segment. If I had a dollar for every time she said, “As a nurse, I can tell you…” I could afford better Christmas presents. Of course, she then follows up with dreadful health care advice. In just the last two weeks alone she did a segment that reminded everyone to slather on the sunscreen…then the following week she reported on the harmful chemicals in those sunscreens that get into the skin…then the other day she warned viewers NOT to use homemade sunscreens, but rather use FDA approved sunscreens, which, one week ago, she warned us about their harmful chemicals.

        I am now in physical therapy for post concussion symptoms due to Head. Bang. On. Desk. Syndrome.

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