Saturday, March 1, 2014

Food Chemistry: Have you had enough yet? {Week 8}

You guys have all seen this before, right? This is the new dietary guidelines provided by the USDA. However, as soon as this came out (June 2011), the critics started. Dr. Andrew Weil of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, wrote in the Huffington Post about the different problems this food guide exemplifies. For example, it just says "fruits". Some may think that fruits are "Fruit-roll ups" which carry 7g of sugar in each .5 oz role. Then, there is no distinction between "simple carbs" and "complex carbs". Plus, the most talked about controversy, the "dairy" section. So on this food guide, they have put dairy in a cup obviously signaling milk. However, the dairy industry is up in arms fighting because the industry is responsible for things like cheese, creams, yogurts etc. not just milk! Now, if people follow this guide "to the T" (which is the goal of the USDA) then, people should be consuming their dairy in a glass. Uh oh, bye bye Kraft cheese singles.
Lets take a walk down memory lane, shall we?

The first ever food guide was created in 1943, called "The Basic 7".The purpose was to create a balanced nutrient diet even during war time (World-war 2). What I really like about this guide is the bottom line, "In addition to these 7 groups, eat any other food you want." So back then, it wasn't about calorie control or trying to maintain healthy weights, or even exercise. It was merely a way to sustain yourself during war time. So they recommended you to make sure to eat the 7 groups, in terms of nutrient needs. But to feel free to eat anything else as long as you meet these 7! Sounds kinda cool...  But also interesting to see how far we've come to our current guidelines, but we'll get to that in a minute!
The next food guide, was the "Basic 4" created in 1956. The USDA basically said, make sure to eat these 4 things (no quantities given) and then you can also just eat anything else to... "round out your diet". Pay special attention to the fact that they have included things like, cheese in for dairy and how they include both fish, cows, chicken etc. for meat. It's more of a well rounded guide than the MyPlate, cause it tells you the foods in each group.

Then came the "Food Pyramid". This is by far my favorite one! Maybe because i'm so use to seeing it. This guide lasted from 1992- 2005! This guide includes serving sizes, the different foods included in each section, and gives visuals! They also include "milk, yogurt, and cheese" in the dairy section. This is more than I can say for the current guide.
Then came the MyPyramid. Or as I like to say it, here comes the decline of all USDA food guides.... This was an "attempt" to make the food guide pyramid from above, more personal to the consumer. It showed a hierarchy of steps and was more visual. Honestly, at first glance I had no idea how to even read this. What did it mean? Does it mean the first steps you take are the highest food group you should consume? But I think it has something to do with the wedges. Like if the wedge is big and wide then you eat more of that, and if the wedge is smaller like in the case of fats/oils (yellow) then you eat less? I don't know, it sounds really silly and looks silly and very confusing. The foods are all clustered on top of each other, how would anyone even know what wedge goes with which color.
Then, last but not least came MyPlate. I have a picture of MyPlate at the very top of the post. Like, I said.. this is just a steady decline of all food guides from the point of the "mypyramid" until now. Honestly, we need to just revert back to the food guide pyramid. It not only has serving sizes, it has all the foods that are in the food group, and it's visual and not confusing at all. You eat the most at the bottom and less as you go up, it's actually visually drawn in that way! For the first time, "advancement" may have actually hurt us instead of helped us.

However, a grand success of the USDA is the ability to create something so user-friendly from information that is so completely "science" based. What do I mean, "science-based"? If you've never taken a science or nutrition class, you probably haven't heard of the terms "estimated average requirement" or "adequate intake". Well, that's what you have me here for right? I pay ~ $30,--- a year to explain these terms to you.

So, I will have to draw on my nutrition classes to answer most of these terms as we didn't go into full detail in this chemistry class. But, you know what they say, if you're able to recall information from previous years and apply it again, it's that much more rooted in your brain for long-term storage. Starting with the first term Estimated Average Requirement, is the act of providing the exact amount of a given nutrient you need to consume to meet the needs of half of all healthy people in the population. Conversely, a recommended dietary allowance accounts of 97% of all healthy people. But, say for example you cannot establish either of these numbers. I don't know, maybe it's not impossible to track. Then an adequate intake value would be provided. I like to think of this one as the "ball park". Get somewhere around this "ball park value" and you are pretty well off. Like this value, there is also the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range. This provides you with a "ballpark range " to help prevent or lower the risk of chronic disease. Finally, tolerable upper intake level is the maximum amount of something you can consume before hitting toxic level.

These new "recommendations" are here to replace the old recommended allowances. Okay, so what does this mean? Basically, before they use to tell us, that It is recommended you consume 500mg of Calcium (for example only). Now, it's more reasonable. There are sometimes just two numbers. An ERA (For example) 500 mg of calcium is recommended to meet the needs of half the people. So If you eat 500 mg, you're like "almost there"  to completely fulfill your needs. But they can also give you an RDA: "750mg of calcium is recommended" this tells you that if you eat 750 mg of calcium you are more than likely fulfilling your calcium needs, because an RDA accounts for 97-98% of all healthy people.


Does that make sense?

But be careful. Often times (especially in America) we always think "more is better" this is not at all true. Just because they are considered vitamins or nutrients doesn't mean you should start consuming a ton of calcium.
Picture Source
The sad part about the food industry, however, is that all food contains nutrients... right? For this reason, the industry goes to great lengths to try an determine the nutrient amount and uses various analytical methods, quantitive analysis and various measurement techniques to figure out what nutrients are in the commodity they produce.  One way to do this is by using various analytical methods such as: gravimetery, spectrophotometry, fluorometry, chromatography or microbiology analysis. Because all foods have, energy sources (fat ~ 9 kcal/g, carbs ~4 kcal/g, protein ~ 4kcal/g), nitrogen sources (protein), Fatty Acids, vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber it is crucial to know "how much".

The industry determines "how much" by quantitative estimates. So determining how much of a specific nutrient is in the food (via scientific methods) and dividing it by the standard portion in the population. This method is much like determining protein quality, where you divide the amount of protein in your food in question, by the amount in a "complete" protein such as an egg. It's not just important to determine the amount of nutrient in a food, you need to educate the population! I mentioned this in my last post about the population getting active about their health. But they can't get active with resources not there. So the industry puts out information about nutrient content through means of the USDA. For example, they have various databases where you can go and find the nutrient content of foods. But that's the point, you need to go.

What do you guys think? Is the industry doing a good job educating its consumers? How about the food guides, how helpful are they? Honest answers: have you even followed a food guide before? Did you know that the food guide changed to MyPlate?  Comment below!

~ D


Sources: 
"Food Demonstrations To Be Held Over Nation"The Tuscaloosa News. The Associated Press. 2 April 1943. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
"The thing the professor forgot"National Agriculture Library Digital Repository. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
Huston, Diane (29 April 1992). "Food guide pyramid is built on a base of grains"Daily News (Bowling Green, Kentucky). The Associated Press. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
"MyPyramid -- Getting Started" (PDF). United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
"USDA's MyPlate"United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2 June 2011.

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