Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Is Canada’s Food Guide making us fat?

4 Comments

Oh goodie. Nina Teicholz is at it again (still at it?). In an article in the National Post the other day she purportedly claimed that the cause of obesity in Canada is our strong adherence to Canada’s Food Guide.

See, that might be a remotely good argument if Canadians were actually following Canada’s Food Guide (even then, the causal relationship is unlikely). However, we’re not. Not even close. Only one quarter of the population (two years of age and over) met the minimum recommendation for vegetables and fruit according to one study. Similar results are consistently found through the CCHS (Canadian Community Health Survey administered by Stats Canada). We don’t eat enough vegetables and fruit, we don’t get enough milk (or alternatives), we eat too much meat…

Even if it were true that we were all following Canada’s Food Guide there are significant flaws with this logic. One, it’s a spurious correlation. You know, like the correlation between the number of people tripping over their own feet and dying and the number of lawyers in Nevada.

number-of-people-who-tripped-over-their-own-two-feet-and-died_number-of-lawyers-in-nevada

Just because two things happen to correlation doesn’t mean that there’s a connection between them. Just because obesity rates have been rising since the latest incarnation of CFG doesn’t mean that the CFG caused the rise in obesity.

Two, what about the rising obesity rates across the planet? Does Teicholz mean to suggest that Brits, Americans, and Australians are all strictly adhering to the Canadian Food Guide? Who knew our guide was so popular!?

Three, obesity rates were quite likely rising before we adopted Canada’s Food Guide. Both in Canada, and around the world. It’s impossible to say what the trend in obesity would have been if Canada’s Food Guide hadn’t been adopted in the 1980s. It’s possible that the trajectory would have been the same. Maybe it would have been even more rapid, slower, or dropped. There’s probably no causal relationship between the adoption of our national food guide and the increase in obesity rates.

Fortunately, there’s a voice of reason. Unfortunately, it comes in at the end of the article (after most people have likely stopped reading). Lyons says what I’ve said all too often, that we shouldn’t be demonizing or glorifying any foods. Rather than go all-in on saturated fat, we should be consuming fat from a variety of sources (save for man-made trans-fat). Rather than go from low-fat to high-fat we should consume a variety of foods. Let’s not sweat the small stuff so much.

Advertisements

Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

4 thoughts on “Is Canada’s Food Guide making us fat?

  1. Hi Diana,
    I saw the NationalPost article yesterday, and rolled my eyes over how people are not using the right arguments when they critiquing the food guide.
    It is unfortunate using that title too that scares people of food and nutrition in general.
    Thanks for writing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I read the article yesterday my reaction was that the author must be in the High Fat, Low Carb camp….after googling her name I found she wrote a book called “The Big Fat Surprise” that has a premise that we need more fat in our diets. It was nice to confirm my suspicions.

    I find that when someone is entrenched in a specific kind of diet, they find a way to twist things to make everything around them support their ideas and beliefs.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s