12/06/2013 04:47 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2014

Did the Government Cause the Obesity Epidemic?

"[Governmental] dietary guidelines necessarily are political compromises between what science tells us about nutrition and health and what is good for the food industry." -- M. Nestle, New York University [25]


As our knowledge of the human body becomes ever more exact, scientists have made remarkable leaps forward in many fields. We have completed the study of the human genome. We can combat horrible diseases such as childhood leukemia with terrific success rates. Yet for one question that many of us would like answered -- what foods boost health and help burn fat long term? -- we find all sorts of confusing claims. Since we know so much about how our body works, can't science tell us the answer? As it turns out, science already has, and it is surprisingly simple:
  1. Eat a lot of water, fiber and protein-rich whole foods slowly
  2. Do a little safe, low-impact and forceful exercise slowly
  3. Drink so much water (and green tea) that your urine is clear, you are never thirsty, and you are too "full" to drink sweetened beverages (soda, etc.)
  4. Get at least seven hours of undisturbed sleep per night
The scientifically proven facts of fat loss are intuitive and simple. The confusion comes from bureaucrats acting like biologists and marketers imitating MDs.


Let's clear up this unnecessary confusion by looking at the history of eating using a scale of one day. Say 12:00 a.m. last night was the dawn of our first ancestors, and right now it's one second before midnight. For 23 hours and 57 minutes (up until 11:57 p.m.) our ancestors stayed healthy and fit, eating vegetables, seafood, meat, eggs, fruit, nuts and seeds. At 11:57 p.m., people started farming, became "civilized," and began eating starch and a small amount of sweets. Two seconds ago, people started eating processed starches and sweets. Only right now -- one second before midnight -- did people start getting most of their calories from manufactured starch -- and sweetener-based food products. That means the diet recommended by the government's Dietary Guidelines was not possible for 99.8 percent of our history. [1 - 4]


It is an unarguable anthropological fact that for the vast majority of their existence, our ancestors did not consume much starch and did not consume any added sweeteners. They did not eat whole grains. They ate no grains. They did not cut back on added sweeteners. They did not know what added sweeteners are.


Emory University researcher Dr. Eaton tells us:

"During the late Paleolithic [the vast majority of human history], the great majority of carbohydrates was derived from vegetables and fruit, very little from cereal grains and none from refined flours." [5]

This idea is interesting to think about when it comes to our health. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cardiovascular disease are called "diseases of civilization." They did not become issues until agriculture enabled production of starches and sweets about 12,000 years ago. And they did not reach epidemic status until starches and sweets made up 43 percent of our diet. [6 - 8]


Some people might object: "Back then, people did not live as long as we do now." That is an excellent point. I felt the same way until I read research revealing three facts about our hunter-gatherer ancestors:


  • Fact: They are few and far between today, but hunter-gatherer tribes are still around, and scientists have studied them intensively. The studies show that they are free from obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cardiovascular disease. [9]
  • Fact: While their average age of death is lower than ours, many ancient hunter-gatherers lived beyond the age of sixty. Emory University researcher Dr. Eaton tells us: "Occasionally one hears the claim that primitive people all died too young to get degenerative diseases. This claim is simply false -- many lived well into and through the age of vulnerability for such disorders, yet didn't get them." [10 - 14]
  • Fact: Let's take old age out of the equation entirely. Obese and Type 2 diabetic "civilized" children are running around all over the place. The children of hunter-gatherers were obesity and diabetes-free. [15]


The lowering in the quality of our diet and the lowering in the quality of our health are not coincidences. Could it be possible that we are not designed to digest the food that makes up the majority of our diet?


The Chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health states unequivocally: "The USDA Pyramid is wrong. At best, [it] offers wishy-washy, scientifically unfounded advice." Here's what the Journal of the American College of Cardiovascular Exerciselogy has to say: "The low-fat-high-carbohydrate diet, promulgated [publicized] vigorously by the food pyramid, may well have played an unintended role in the current epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndromes." The Cofounder of the Center for Science in the Public Interest chimes in: "Good advice about nutrition conflicts with the interests of many big industries, each of which has more lobbying power than all the public-interest groups combined." [16 - 18]


We are not getting bigger and sicker because we are eating a lot of food. We are becoming hormonally "clogged" and losing our natural ability to burn fat from eating the wrong quality of food. The further the quality of our calories has gotten from the high-quality sane food we ate for 99.8 percent of our history, the bigger and sicker we have become.


Decades of advanced dietary research have taken place alongside spiking obesity and disease rates. This research recommends a diet much different than any version of the government's Dietary Guidelines.


For example, Dr. Marion Nestle at New York University notes how the scientific community has long criticized the USDA's Food Guide Pyramid's failure to "recognize the biochemical equivalency of sugars and starches in the body." More simply, starch has the same impact on our body as sugar. Why don't the government's guidelines reflect this research? Who needs science when a constant barrage of food, fitness, and pharmaceutical industry marketing bullies us into believing that the government's recommendations are healthy? [19 - 23]

"The USDA-sponsored Dietary Guidelines for Americans and its Food Guide Pyramid are nutritionally and biochemically unsound. They radically changed the food habits of tens of millions of Americans in a massive human experiment that has gone awry. Today, there is little doubt that there is a clear temporal association between the "heart healthy" diet and the current, growing epidemics of cardiovascular disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes." -- A. Ottoboni, in the Journal of the American Physicians and Surgeons [24]

A great deal of money is being made from our nutritional confusion. Even worse, the government created these guidelines in much the same way it creates laws: by listening to lobbyists and by making compromises. The history of the USDA guidelines and graphics is nothing short of shocking. We'll dig into the details starting in the next post.


Yours in making "healthy" healthy again,
-- Jonathan Bailor
Author, The Calorie Myth.



  1. Agriculture started about 12,000 years ago. Our ancestors débuted about 5,000,000. Early food processing-canning etc-started about 200 years ago. Low-calorie food engineering started about 60 years ago. All of human evolution = 5,000,000 divided by 24 hours in a day = 208,333.33. A day has 86,400 seconds in it. One second is .0016 percent of a day. Smallest increment needed = 60 years which is 0.0012 percent of all of human evolution. .0012 percent of a day is 86,400 seconds times .000012 is about 1 second. 12,000 years is .024 percent of human evolution. 0.24 percent of a day is .0024 times 86,400 seconds which is about 207 seconds, or 3 and a half minutes. 200 is 0.004 percent of all of human evolution. .00004 times 86,400 seconds is about 3.5 seconds.
  2. 195,000 years of human history. Agriculture emerged 10,000 years ago.
  3. O'Keefe JH Jr, Cordain L. Cardiovascular disease resulting from a diet and lifestyle at odds with our Paleolithic genome: how to become a 21st-century hunter-gatherer. Mayo Clin Proc 2004 Jan;79(1):101-8.
  4. Wood B. Hominid revelations from Chad. Nature. 2002 Jul 11;418(6894):133-5. PubMed PMID: 12110870.
  5. Macaulay V, Richards M, Hickey E, et al. The emerging tree of West Eurasian mtDNAs: a synthesis of control-region sequences and RFLPs. Am J Hum Genet. 1999;64:232-249.
  6. Eaton SB, Konner M. Paleolithic nutrition. A consideration of its nature and current implications. N Engl J Med. 1985 Jan 31;312(5):283-9. Review. PubMed PMID: 2981409.
  7. Eaton SB, Eaton SB 3rd, Konner MJ. Paleolithic nutrition revisited: a twelve-year retrospective on its nature and implications. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1997 Apr;51(4):207-16. Review. PubMed PMID: 9104571.
  8. Diamond, Jared M.. Guns, germs, and steel: The fates of human societies. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1998. Print.
  9. Cordain L, Eaton SB, Sebastian A, Mann N, Lindeberg S, Watkins BA, O'Keefe JH, Brand-Miller J. Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Feb;81(2):341-54. Review. PubMed PMID: 15699220.
  10. O'Keefe JH Jr, Cordain L. Cardiovascular disease resulting from a diet and lifestyle at odds with our Paleolithic genome: how to become a 21st-century hunter-gatherer. Mayo Clin Proc 2004 Jan;79(1):101-8.
  11. Lee, R.B. (1968) What hunters do for a living, or how to make out on scarce resources, in Man the Hunter (Lee, R.B. & DeVore, I., eds), p.30 Aldine, Chicago & Boyd, S., Melvin Konner, Marjorie Shostak, and M.D. Eaton. The Paleolithic Prescription: A Program of Diet & Exercise and a Design for Living. New York: HarperCollins, 1989. Print.
  12. Truswell AS. Diet and nutrition of hunter-gatherers. Ciba Found Symp. 1977;(49):213-21. PubMed PMID: 244410.
  13. Truswell, A. S. & Hansen, J. D. 1976 Medical research among the !Kung. In Kalahari hunter-gatherers. Studies of the !Kung San and their neighbors (ed. R. B. Lee & I. DeVore), pp. 168-195. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  14. Arthaud JB. Cause of death in 339 Alaskan natives as determined by autopsy. Arch Pathol. 1970 Nov;90(5):433-8. PubMed PMID: 5476239.
  15. Popkin, Barry. The World is Fat: The Fads, Trends, Policies, and Products That Are Fattening the Human Race. New York: Avery, 2008. Print.
  16. Boyd, S., Melvin Konner, Marjorie Shostak, and M.D. Eaton. The Paleolithic Prescription: A Program of Diet & Exercise and a Design for Living. New York: HarperCollins, 1989. Print.
  17. Eaton SB, Konner M. Paleolithic nutrition. A consideration of its nature and current implications. N Engl J Med. 1985 Jan 31;312(5):283-9. Review. PubMed PMID: 2981409. & Moodie PM. Aboriginal health. Canberra, Austrlia: Australian National University Press, 1973:92.
  18. P.J. Skerrett, and W.C. Willett. Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating. Free Press Trade Pbk. Ed ed. New York City: Free Press, 2005. Print.
  19. Weinberg SL. The diet-heart hypothesis: a critique. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2004 Mar 3;43(5):731-3. Review. PubMed PMID: 14998608.
  20. Jacobson, Michael F.. Nutrition Scoreboard. New York: Avon Books, 1975. Print.
  21. 2005 U.S.DA Dietary Guidelines:
  22. 2000 U.S.DA DietaryGuidelines:
  25. Nestle, Marion. Food politics: how the food industry influences nutrition and health. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. Print.
  26. Ottoboni A, Ottoboni F. The Food Guide Pyramid: will the defects be corrected? J Am Phys Surg 2004;9:109-113.
  27. Nestle, Marion. Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition, and Health, Revised and Expanded Edition (California Studies in Food and Culture).