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Nutrition Diagram Falls Short

The Harvard Law states: Under controlled conditions of light, temperature, humidity and nutrition, the organism will do as it damn well pleases.

- Larry Wall

by Susanna Walsh, M D

Harvard University professor and national nutrition researcher Walter Willett falls short of recognising the components of an optimally healthy diet ("Rebuilding the Food Pyramid," Cover Story, Life, 26 July).

While the article mentions that it is well established that the bulk of a healthy diet should be based on a foundation of complex carbohydrates, it does not emphasize the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Willett correctly impugns red meat because of its lack of fiber and high content of saturated fatty acids, but then he places poultry and fish in the same category as nuts, beans and soy as protein sources.  Thus, he fails to point out that, as an animal product, poultry also has no fibre and is high in saturated fats.  Fish has omega-3 fatty acids, but these are also found in flax oil.

Further, meats, which are at the top of the food chain, contain environmental toxins such as DDT and dioxin.  Fish, especially freshwater types, contain these toxins as well as mercury in levels considered by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to be potentially dangerous for young children and pregnant women. Massachusetts recently issued an advisory to that effect.

The US Department of Agriculture issues dietary guides, but a government agency influenced by the powerful meat, dairy and sugar industries can hardly be trusted to produce unbiased, accurate data.  The current guidelines along with the fast-food industry have produced a nation in which nearly half of its people are obese.  We suffer from heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, bowel problems and cancer at alarming rates when compared to vegetarian populations.

The food pyramid does need drastic revision; the large body of scientific data support a vegetarian diet for the health of our nation and of the planet.

Susanna Walsh is assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts

Source: USA Today Thursday 2 August 2001

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