Government Gives Bad Diet Advice

The latest nutritional thinking has zeroed in on carbohydrates as a likely cause of heart disease, the biggest killer of Americans, yet government nutrition policy recommends 6-11 servings.

What's the Latest Development?

Steven Malanga traces the history of government nutrition guidelines from 1977—the first iteration of such government standards—to the present day, where First Lade Michele Obama has taken on childhood obesity as her primary cause. The first guidelines, which were pioneered by then-Senator George McGovern and which have set the tone ever since, were published before the first government studies on the role of fat and cholesterol in heart disease were even conducted, says Malanga. He argues that the government's advice to eat carbohydrates has been a public health disaster. 

What's the Big Idea?

Challenging conventional wisdom when it comes to eating healthily has proven extremely difficult. Despite clear advances in scientific knowledge concerning what constitutes a healthy diet, government policy remains largely unchanged. Still, its efforts to encourage the population to eat well are justified, just as it has successfully campaigned to stop millions of Americans from smoking. As for its latest efforts at shaping up ailing public health: "The U.S.D.A., again with uncertain scientific warrant, is now targeting sodium as a public-health menace. ... For the general population of healthy Americans, however, that advice may be pointless or, again, even harmful."

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

For a long time, the West shaped the world. That time is over.

The 21st century is experiencing an Asianization of politics, business, and culture.

  • Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
  • The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, particularly in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
  • European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, however, what we're seeing now is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
Keep reading Show less

Why modern men are losing their testosterone

Research has shown that men today have less testosterone than they used to. What's happening?

Flickr user Tom Simpson
Sex & Relationships
  • Several studies have confirmed that testosterone counts in men are lower than what they used to be just a few decades ago.
  • While most men still have perfectly healthy testosterone levels, its reduction puts men at risk for many negative health outcomes.
  • The cause of this drop in testosterone isn't entirely clear, but evidence suggests that it is a multifaceted result of modern, industrialized life.
Keep reading Show less

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less