So what’s your opinion of the USDA’s new food pyramids? I note that all twelve listed pyramid versions contain large amounts of “milk.”
As a human, I’d like to know what grocery store has ‘human milk’ priced competitively to cow’s milk? It’s curious that the pyramid itself doesn’t specify the type of milk, leading me to wonder if it’s an implicit form of the advertizing slogan from the 70s, “Milk is Good for EveryBody”, and which is not true for about 75% of the world’s population when considering the milk commonly found in U.S. grocery stores. Furthermore, nature doesn’t appear to prescribe human milk for more than the first few years of human life.
Is nature wrong? What sorts of manipulations are the committiees of the USDA up to now? How long do human mothers naturally breastfeed their young? How long are infants breastfed in today’s cosmopolitan societies? Do the USDA’s recommendations have anything to do with the BGH commonly given to milk cattle? Why does the USDA tell us that relatively large amounts of milk for all age groups is recommended when nature apparently thinks it’s best for only the first few years?
“Lactase deficiency occurs normally to some degree in about 75% of adults, except those of northwest European descent, in whom the incidence is < 20%. Although statistics are unreliable, most nonwhites of North America gradually become lactase-deficient between ages 10 and 20 yr. Incidence is 100% in Chinese, 75% in black Americans, and high in persons of Mediterranean descent."
It appears there’s more broad-brush ‘we know what’s best for you’ coming from the near top of the U.S. hierarchy. In all fairness, the USDA’s new nutritional advice does give a disclaimer for lactose intolerance (LI) in some of their illustrations (see mini-poster link below), unlike the ones linked above, but how many people know whether they are LI or not? For that matter, how many people know the difference between milk allergy and LI? Lactose free dairy products are available, if you look for them, but they are not priced the same, and they are not available at all stores that sell milk. Even if lactase deficiency numbers are less than 20% for those of northwest European descent—it’s still a significant number of people.
Some symptoms of LI are: nausea, abdominal cramps, intestinal rumbling, bloating, and flatulence. Putting on my tinfoil hat, I imagine if I was a kid in school who drank milk several times a day, those symptoms might make me shift in my classroom seat a bit, and the teacher would likely, in a well-intentioned effort, tell me to stop. If I repeated that activity, perhaps I’d be embarrassed and when asked, “Why?” I might respond, “I don’t know.” I certainly think it’s likely the discomfort would be a distraction to my attention and learning. Because teachers and school districts today reportedly strong-arm parents to get attention-deficit-hyper-active children on medications, too much milk in everyone’s daily diet is probably good for sales of ADHD pharmaceuticals for kids, and gets those adults-to-be who are prescribed into the mindset that drugs are the solution to most any ailment.
If you have a color printer, you might want to print out the official pyramid mini-poster, it’s a PDF. At least this one graphic includes the LI disclaimer. It doesn’t say, though, that 75% of people are likely LI.
Is that just an oversight?
Edit of 1/6/2007: Via Dave Pollard’s blog, a PDF named the Honest Food Guide.
It also appears that the link to the medical statistics above is no longer valid, perhaps another edition of the Merck Manual has been published (a common occurrence) and their website restructured. At the date of this edit, a similar paragraph can be found here.
Edit of 2/16/07: Another food pyramid published by Harvard.