Science as a Candle in the Dark

October 02, 2010

nhanes obesity

That of course is the subtitle of the late Carl Sagan's 1995 book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. (Affiliate link.) A book I read on my honeymoon 14 years ago on the island of St. John. A book that changed the way I view everything.

Not many things in life affect a person profoundly (though I believe that more things should.) We are often numb to things that should have great meaning to us and rather than embrace the experience, concept or idea, we give it short shrift or ignore it completely. This is a shame because we have such precious little time here. We are all too often walking in our sleep.

While sauntering around in our human fog, it's commonplace to kid ourselves and talk about things - things we know little or nothing about - with staunch conviction. We often blindly accept concepts that we do not understand; concepts we have not researched or studied but which require such. And one of them is nutrition.

The USDA recently came out with its 2010 guidelines. The major changes from the last published guidelines are:

1. Eat even less saturated fats
2. Eat less salt

That's about it.

The table at the top of this post indicates the rising levels of obesity in the U.S. since the USDA has introduced its guidelines. Yep - we're getting fatter - a lot fatter. The excuse of course is that no one is following the darn guidelines! But that is not true. Take a look at the NHANES data for macronutrient consumption:


As you can see, we have indeed complied. We have decreased total fat intake and increased carb intake.

Many of the proponents of the current guidelines poo-poo this and state that this is because the type of carbs that people have been eating more of are the refined carbs, not fruits and vegetables.

OK but the refined carbs are what the USDA wants us to ea the most of. Take a look-see:


So we have indeed complied. And we have indeed gotten fatter and sicker. Since the powers that be are clearly motivated by profit and impervious to nutritional reality, who do we call for help? Ghost Busters?

Enter the Metabolism Society. Enter Science as a candle in the dark.

If you care about your family, if you care about yourself, if you care about your fellow man you will read this paper in its entirety.

Here we go. Paul Revere would be proud.