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How Did the Food Pyramid Come into Being?

By September 30, 2011 June 12th, 2018 No Comments

Healthy Food Pyramid

The food pyramid in brief

The food pyramid as created by the USDA in 1972 and updated in 2005 has six segments. One for breads, cereals, whole grain rice and pasta, one segment of the food pyramid is reserved for vegetables, one for fruits, one for meats and poultry, one for milk and dairy products and one for fats, oils and sweets.

The food pyramid came into being to provide authoritative dietary advice for people of age 2 and older.

The USDA created the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The book contains dense data and is written in technical language that would be difficult if not impossible for the lay person to understand. So the USDA decided to distill all that information into a graphic that could be understood by the general public and so after several trials and errors, the food pyramid graphic was born.

The name “food pyramid” obviously comes from the fact that the graphic looks like a pyramid.

It was felt at the time that the pyramid best depicts the quantum of food from each food group that should be consumed. Thus foods that should be consumed in greater quantities were at the bottom of the food pyramid. With each progressive layer upwards, the quantum decreases. The top of the food pyramid is occupied by fats, oils and sweets which should be consumed in smallest quantities.

The food pyramid dietary advice icon created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was really a powerful graphic. It conveyed the dietary message in a flash and the food pyramid was taught in schools, also appeared in countless brochures and media presentations. It also made an appearance on cereal boxes and food labels.

Unfortunately, brilliant though it might have been, the food pyramid graphic was not without controversy

because it was said to have been based on scientific evidence that was at best deemed to have been controversial. Also, over the years while our understanding of human diet and the way our body metabolizes food has improved, the food pyramid icon did not change to reflect the new information.

In 2005, the USDA decided to do something about it and updated the food pyramid graphic.

Unfortunately, the new food pyramid update did not go down well as it was found to be difficult to understand, vague and totally confusing. Because the USDA was too slow to react, the faculty members at the Harvard School of Public Health created an alternative food pyramid which they called the Healthy Eating Pyramid. It resembles the USDA’s food pyramid but takes into consideration recent advances in our understanding of diets and human metabolism.

Unfortunately, anything the government does is not free from interference by the powerful business houses of USA.

If there is anything that threatens their interest (profits), powerful lobbying ensured that bill or in this case dietary advice and food pyramid graphic was ‘severely watered down’ and failed in its original scope and plan. Even then, having the food pyramid was better than not having any dietary advice at all.

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