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Death by Food Pyramid - a book recommendation

Note: This review was originally sent out in our In Shape For Life newsletter in January of 2014

Denise Minger is a nutrition blogger (www.deniseminger.com) who first gained notoriety when she critiqued The China Study, a popular book by T. Colin Campbell which advocates a plant based diet. Minger took the figurative magnifying glass to the raw statistics in the study/book and found Campbell's conclusions lacking. The diets and subsequent health effects of various Chinese populations did not, in fact, point to meat and dairy consumption causing heart disease and cancer. Needless to say, advocates of vegetarian and vegan diets, who point to The China Study as justification for their diets, were not happy, so Minger's careful analysis caused an uproar. Interestingly, Minger herself was a practicing vegetarian/vegan for 10 years and still has respect for those who follow that path.

Minger has recently aimed her critical analysis skills at the USDA and its Food Pyramid. Although officially no longer in use, the Food Pyramid and its predecessor dietary guidelines influenced several generations of Americans in their eating habits. Minger's book, Death by Food Pyramid: How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics, and Shady Special Interests Have Ruined Our Health shows that there is a world of difference between what the government recommends and what additions or deletions to the diet actually promote health and longevity.

In Death by Food Pyramid, Minger reviews how politics and business interests shaped the food pyramid recommendations, as opposed to sound science. Minger also takes in depth looks at the various sacred cows of modern nutrition, including the lipid hypothesis (cholesterol as the cause of heart disease), the Framingham Heart Study, Ancel Keys and the Diet Heart Hypothesis, and more. She shows again and again how statistics have been skewed by researchers and/or governments in order to bend to suggested dietary guidelines (ex. 6-11 servings of grains, using fats and oils sparingly, etc.). Finally, Minger looks at populations that have been remarkably disease free for many generations and what they eat. While there is an amazing range of diets, spanning from almost vegetarian to almost purely animal based, there are some similarities across all these groups. Those similarities include minimal refined flour, minimal refined sugar, minimal vegetable oils, and a definite and substantial source of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), via either dairy, meat, fish, butter or some combination.

I highly recommend reading Death By Food Pyramid, as well as Minger's various blog articles. The science and statistics being examined can be complex and unexciting, but Minger brings her arguments alive with a great sense of humor, a very balanced approach, as well as a voracious hunger for uncovering the truth.

Posted July 16, 2019 by Tim Rankin