More Wisdom from Jon Gilson

Disturbing Counsel

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the United States Department of Agriculture is an asphalt factory.

The USDA is responsible for providing Americans with dietary recommendations.  Unfortunately, they’re also responsible for creating national and international markets for American crops, a money-driven mission that makes a mockery of diet and health.

The United States’ primary agricultural products—wheat, corn, and milk—are all carbohydrate-rich.  This is not a problem in and of itself, were the USDA to recommend their consumption in moderation.  They do not.  The USDA asks Americans to consume over of 70% of their calories from these sources.

Carbohydrate consumption, in the form of wheat, milk, and high fructose corn syrup, subsidizes American crops and keeps the USDA in business.

The financial incentive for this request, embodied by the Food Pyramid, is easy to ascertain.  More carbohydrate consumption, in the form of wheat, milk, and high fructose corn syrup, subsidizes American crops and keeps the USDA in business.  It benefits the economy and the American farmer, a worthy endpoint.

Regrettably, it also prescribes hyperinsulinemia to 300 million trusting souls.

Hyperinsulinemia is a state of chronically elevated blood sugar, brought about by the incessant overconsumption of carbohydrates.  It is linked to diabetes, heart disease, and obesity through a very simple and undeniable causal chain.

Insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas, removes sugar from the bloodstream, putting it into cellular storage for later energy production.  When blood sugar is chronically elevated, insulin is unable to remove the bulk, and the pancreas ramps production back, recognizing the futility of rampant insulin release.  Sugar remains in the blood stream, where it oxidizes with LDL cholesterol and creates arterial plaques.  

Artery walls harden, and people die.  

Clearly, money and health are at odds at the USDA, yet the conflict of interest goes unaddressed.  As their mission statement illustrates, the organization is more interested in the economic benefits of high carbohydrate consumption than they are in health of the American people:

“USDA has created a strategic plan to implement its vision. The framework of this plan depends on these key activities: expanding markets for agricultural products and support(ing) international economic development, further developing alternative markets for agricultural products and activities, providing financing needed to help expand job opportunities and improve housing, utilities and infrastructure in rural America, enhancing food safety by taking steps to reduce the prevalence of foodborne hazards from farm to table, improving nutrition and health by providing food assistance and nutrition education and promotion, and managing and protecting America's public and private lands working cooperatively with other levels of government and the private sector.”

Nutrition warrants a brief mention, but actions speak louder than words.  Visiting, I plugged in my statistics to get a dietary recommendation.  As a 5’9”, 170-pound male with less than a half-hour of physical activity per day, the site recommended I eat 2600 calories per day, including a whopping 9 ounces of grains and 24 ounces of milk, while consuming only 6.5 ounces of meat.  

Per the Zone Diet, my recommendations amounted to 27 blocks of carbohydrates, 9.5 blocks of protein, and 24 blocks of fat, a short path to hyperinsulinemia and more than enough to induce obesity.

Seemingly unaware that they’d just doomed me to poor health, the USDA left me this little gem:

“The weight you entered is above the healthy range for your height. This may increase your risk for health problems. Some people who are overweight should consider weight loss. Click here for more information about health risks and whether you should try to lose weight, or talk with your health care provider.”      

The irony is palpable.

Given the USDA’s (colossally laughable) position as America’s foremost authority on nutrition, this ignorance is unforgivable, and worth fighting.  The power to dictate diet needs to be removed from the hands of an organization with so much skin in the game, and transferred to individuals with the knowledge and freedom to act in the best interests of the American people.

This will not happen at the top level. Billions of dollars and an extraordinarily powerful farming lobby dictate that grassroots education and individual change are the only tenable way to affect a diet revolution in America.

American farmer or no, this will not stand.  We will bring the USDA’s elemental flaw to light, one person at a time. The road to hell is still under construction, but we’re bringing the jackhammers, and the asphalt will crumble. 

Chris fights obesity at Crossfit Boston.  Picture courtesy of The Napping Poet.