Richard G. Petty, MD

Green Cheese Claims and Needless Dietary Chaos

The front cover item of today’s Newsweek Magazine concerns the confused and confusing state of dietary advice in America, and indeed around the world. So much of the advice on offer is based on political considerations and a fundamental misunderstanding about the way in which knowledge grows.

People outside the academic world are often astonished to discover that it is not a world of quiet painstaking investigation and careful intellectual deliberation, but is instead a hot bed of neo-Darwinian competitive frenzy. Every academic is under constant pressure to publish or perish. There are constant and intense demands to bring in grant money. This pressure can lead to huge problems. Data is often published before it is ready.

As regular readers of my columns know already, I have been vigorous in exposing scientific misconduct, but I am also concerned about raising false hopes or giving false guidance on the basis of single studies. Any study, however well designed and executed and however many subjects it contained, still needs to be confirmed and confirmed again. If somebody at NASA produced evidence that the moon was made of green cheese, I doubt that they would be believed. Not unless the observation could be confirmed by hundreds of independent investigators around the world.

Yet every day I see people who have fallen victim to green cheese claims. People who have been persuaded to part with millions of dollars to buy supplements to help them lose weight, on the basis of very limited data and sometimes wild extrapolations. Often they are just not needed. As an example, people are usually not told that ten minutes in the sun and a glass of low fat milk will give them all the calcium and vitamin D that they need for a day.

The Newsweek article does a great job of teasing apart many of the competing claims.

A year ago Mike Johanns, the Secretary of Agriculture, launched the new MyPyramid initiative to highlight the 2005 Government Guidelines for healthy eating, which for the first time emphasized the importance of individualizing any approach to diet and exercise. Although there were all the usual allegations that the guidelines were simply a confection designed for the health of American farmers rather than the health of the American population, I really cannot agree with those comments. The guidelines represent a considerable advance on the old food pyramid, but as I have pointed out in previous postings, the problem with weight management is not just what you leave out, but also what to include in any healthy eating plan. I really do suggest that if you haven’t already, you look back at some of the suggestions that I’ve made previously on this blog.

Let me also direct you to another resource: The Psychiatric Resource Forum’s article “Nutrition for Americans” will point you toward other good sources of information that we have carefully vetted for accuracy. Although this blog was created for healthcare professionals, it also contains a lot of information of value to readers of this blog.

Later this year, we plan to publish a short book on the precise approach to healthy eating that I have been using with great success for many years now.

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About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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