In no period of our history as a nation have Americans been so concerned about the subject of diet and nutrition. Yet if we accept the premise that what we eat determines our health, then we must add the observation that in no period of our history as a nation have Americans eaten so poorly.

Several dangerous errors are built into the edifice of the Food Pyramid. First, the guidelines imply that everyone can eat the same foods in the same proportions to be healthy. According to Department of Agriculture recommendations, grains should be the basis of our diet; but many people do poorly on grains. Others cannot tolerate diary. These intolerances are due to genetic and other factors. Secondly, the pyramid calls for reduced fats without addressing the dangers of low-fat diets. Finally, the guidelines perpetuate the myth that fats, carbohydrates and proteins have equal nutritional properties no matter how much or how little they are processed. the experts make no distinction between whole grains and refined, between food grown organically and those grown with pesticides and commercial fertilizers; between raw milk and pasturized; between range-fed meats and those raised in crowded pens; between natural and battery-produced eggs, between foods that nourished our ancestors and new-fangled packaged products that dominate the marketplace.

The Diet-Dictocrats that maintain the Food Pyramid and other American Health warnings and guidelines are generally doctors, researchers, and spokesman for various government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration; the American Medical Association; prestegious hospitals and research centers such as Sloan-Kettering and the National Institutes of Health; university medical schools and nutrition departments; and large philanthropic organizations like the National Heart and Lung Institue and the American Cancer Society, ostensibly dedicated to combatting our most serious diseases. Based on what we read in the newspapers and national magazines, these organizations speak with one voice. “Exercise, eat vegetables, stop smoking, reduce salt,” they say,“cut back or eliminate animal fats and red meat.”

Although heart disease and cancer were rare at the turn of the century, today these two diseases strike with increasing frequency, in spite of billions of dollars in reasearch to combat them, and in spite of tremendous advances in diagnostic and surgical techniques. In America, one person in three dies of cancer, one in three suffers from allergies, one in ten will have ulcers, and one in five is mentally ill. Continuing this grim litany, one out of five pregnancies ends in miscarriage and one quarter of a million infants are born with birth defects each year. Other degenerative diseases-arthritis, multiple sclerosis, digestive disorders, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimers, epilepsy, and chronic fatigue-afflict a significant majority of our citizens, sapping the energy and very life blood of our nation. Learning disabilities such as dyslexia and hyperactivity afflict seven million young people. These diseases were also extremely rare a couple generations ago.

Clearly something is very wrong, even though Americans have been conscientious about following dietary advice from experts. they take exercise seriously; many have stopped smoking; consumption of fresh vegtables has increased; many have reduced salt; and a good portion of Americans have cut back on red meats and animal fats. But none of these measures have put a dent in the ever increasing toll of degenerative disease. We buy foods labled low-fat, no cholesterol, reduced sodium, thinking they are good for us. Why then are we so sick?

-Sally Fallon