Every new iteration of the USDA Dietary Guidelines spawns the same debate over sugar, alcohol and other foods that, when ingested in excess, can be bad for you.
Come to think of it, too much of almost anything will have a negative impact on a person’s health.
Just look around.
According to Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 40% of Americans are obese. That’s about 131 million men, women and children.
Also, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control, 34.2 million Americans are diabetic. That’s a little more than 10% of the U.S. population.
Though certain genetic factors come into play, the vast majority of Americans got that way by eating too much and exercising too little. A 10-minute consultation with a doctor or nutritionist would most likely reach that conclusion.
But the USDA cannot be held responsible for what, or how much, food people eat.
Here’s an example. The latest edition of the guidelines states that kids under 2 years shouldn’t have cake or candy.
It’s insulting to tell a parent that baking Junior a birthday cake will in some way hurt his health. If a toddler were to eat only cake and candy, that would be a problem, but every parent already knows that.
The guidelines also suggest that men limit their alcohol intake to no more than two drinks a day and that women should stop at one. That’s if they choose to drink at all.
Critics say the USDA should have clamped down and told people not to drink, and that it’s the government’s responsibility to make all 328 million Americans healthier.
The problem for the critics — and the government, for that matter — is very few Americans care what Uncle Sam says about sugar, alcohol or food in general.
Ultimately, any decisions about what to eat or drink come down to the man — or woman — in the mirror. Each individual decides what to ingest.
Each person is also smart enough to look in the mirror and determine whether he or she is packing extra pounds, which in turn impacts their health and how they feel and look.
A person may eat a healthful salad during one meal — and at the next meal splurge on something a little more “calorie-dense.”
Either way, it’s up to that person, not Uncle Sam.
Health advocates say schools should serve only the healthiest of meals. That’s fine, but try making kids eat foods they don’t like. Ultimately, much of that “healthy” food goes into the garbage, which benefits no one.
A couple of decades ago, Congress and the Food and Drug Administration thought they had the key to making Americans healthier. If they labeled every food product with the ingredients, calories, serving size and other information, people would know what to eat — and how much.
Since then, Americans have only gotten more overweight and unhealthy.
If a person wants to improve his or her diet, there’s plenty of help available from professionals.
But Uncle Sam isn’t one of them.