The MyPlate Unrest


This review of the MyPlate situation will tie back to another recent subject, but first, what is the situation? MyPlate is a graphic that was created to replace the old Food Pyramid. Its message is described more thoroughly by the official dietary guidelines, which are revised every five years. The revision rule was made for excellent reasons — because new information is acquired, and knowledge grows.

During the most recent committee’s efforts, some parties tried to remind the authorities that things had changed since the previous edition. For starters, it had been discovered that scientists took payola to blame obesity on dietary saturated fat, instead of sugar and carbohydrates. Everybody just went along with it for decades.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines still recommend carbohydrates over fats, and by doing that, science writer Matt Ridley says they ignore too many scientific findings. He cites Professor Christopher Ramsden’s re-analysis of a 45-year-old study, which actually showed that the risk of death is higher with vegetable oils than with butter.

It also found that cutting fats from the diet can do much more harm than good. Ridley says:

Scientists are performing a screeching U-turn on dietary advice, away from demonizing fats and towards demonizing carbohydrates. In the case of obesity, they cannot quite bring themselves to admit it. They want to tell us not to eat sugars, yet they won’t exonerate fat.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association publicized its opinion that the proposed guidelines should be critiqued from a “purely scientific and methodological perspective,” implying that the guidelines — as they stood — were not entirely scientific, or even very methodological. It is always tempting to be skeptical, when lobbyists step into an affray. But these days, lobbyists are everywhere, and unavoidable. They can’t always be wrong, and occasionally might be right, even if for the wrong reasons, like naked greed, as sometimes happens.

Language problem

Traditionally, the six food groups are: veggies, fruits, grains, dairy, beans/meats, and fat. Protein is a nutrient contained in some of those food groups. For the sake of rational parallelism, the items on the plate should all be same-level entities.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) said:

MyPlate is an illustration that divides a serving plate into three common food groups — vegetables, fruits, and grains — and one nutrient category — protein — an anomaly that perpetuates the myth that protein is absent in vegetables, fruits, and grains, and that people must take special care to include protein in their diets.

The PCRM would like to remove the dairy group altogether, maintaining that the consumption of dairy products “fuels the nation’s diet-related disease epidemics.” Dairy products have not really done a whole lot for bone health, and they negatively impact health by increasing the risk of several cancers, along with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular disease. Also, somewhere between 30 and 50 million Americans face the daily discomfort and embarrassment brought on by lactose intolerance.

The organization also wants to replace “protein” with “legumes,” to discourage the eating of meat, especially red meat, which is described as high in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. They are keeping their old-school attitude:

Evidence indicates that meals high in saturated fat adversely affect the compliance of arteries, increasing the risk of heart attacks.

From Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health came a rival paradigm, the Healthy Eating Plate (HEP), which its creators pointedly mention “was not subjected to political or commercial pressures from food industry lobbyists.” Here’s the quick rundown of the main differences:

  • MyPlate did not used to advocate whole grains, but was revised to recommend that at least half a person’s grains be whole. The HEP is whole grains all the way.
  • MyPlate is fine with red meat and processed meat, while the HEP recommends limiting red meat, and getting protein through fish, poultry, and beans.
  • MyPlate “does not distinguish between potatoes and other vegetables.” The HEP is anti-potato.
  • MyPlate doesn’t mention oils or fat. The HEP is in favor of olive, canola, and other plant oils, and against butter.
  • MyPlate recommends dairy, but the HEP wants everyone to drink water.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Exoneration of Dietary Fat,”, 04/14/16
Source: “The money behind the fight over healthy eating,”, 10/07/15
Source: “USDA’s MyPlate Is Making Americans Sick, Says Doctors Group,”, 08/10/17
Source: “Healthy Eating Plate vs. USDA’s MyPlate,”, 09/14/11
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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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