Cheerios a Health Food, Says Leader of White House Conference on Nutrition
Dean of Tuft's Nutrition School Gives Top Rankings to Sugary Cereals
Recently I had a popular tweet, which I thought I’d share it with you—since it helps understand why one might have doubts about the upcoming White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, billed as the biggest event on food policy in more than fifty years.
Here’s the tweethttps://twitter.com/bigfatsurprise/status/1548730633953968128:
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(Full food-item rankings can be found here.)
This food scoring system, called the “Food Compass,” was published in Nature Food in 2021, with lead author, Dariush Mozaffarian, who is the Dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Mozaffarian and Tufts have also led the development of the White House conference slated for sometime in September.
The Food Compass, which gives top ratings to Cheerios, Lucky Charms and Cocoa Puffs, is absurd on the face of it. In all, nearly 70 brand-named cereals from General Mills, Kellogg’s, and Post are ranked twice as high as eggs cooked in butter or a piece of plain, whole-wheat toast. Egg whites cooked in vegetable oils are also apparently more healthy than a whole, boiled egg, and nearly all foods are healthier than ground beef.
Tufts University touts the Food Compass as the “most comprehensive and science-based” nutrient profiling system to date that “clears up confusion to benefit consumers, policymakers.” Created by a team of Tufts researchers under the leadership of Mozaffarian, the project ranks 8,032 foods and took three years to complete.
What kind of dystopian world has nutrition “science” entered into whereby a university, a peer-reviewed journal, and one of the field’s most influential leaders legitimize advice telling the public to eat more Lucky Charms and fewer eggs? Simply eyeballing these recommendations should be enough to know this diet is a get-sick, diabetes diet, a high-carb, sugar-laden, candy-coated highway to ill-health.
An academic critique of the Food Compass should be superfluous, but it does help explain some of the assumptions leading to these bizarre results. (The chart above is from this article.) For instance, the Compass:
· Automatically assigns negative scores to red meat and dietary cholesterol;
· Puts a low priority on protein, giving it equal value to fiber and phytochemicals;
· Makes no distinction between nutrients obtained from animal foods versus those from plants or the artificial nutrients added to enriched, fortified foods—even though most nutrients are in their most bioavailable forms in animal foods.
Each of these assumptions is contradicted by substantial data to the contrary. Just take the subject of dietary cholesterol, for example. The science on this topic was systematically reviewed by the American Heart Association in 2013, and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines expert committees in 2015and 2020. All these reviews found no link between cholesterol in the diet and cholesterol in the blood. It turns out that restricting eggs and shellfish is ineffective, since the body simply adjusts its own cholesterol production to keep a steady amount available for the body’s many essential functions. Ranking “egg whites” higher than a whole egg, as the Food Compass does, is therefore not supported by the evidence. Outdated hypotheses die hard, we know, but the dean of a nutrition school should be up-to-speed on the latest science.
Since Mozaffarian is widely credited with being the driving force behind the upcoming White House conference, his views on nutrition are worth examining. If he and his team at Tufts really think Frosted Mini Wheats are a super food, there’s clearly reason to have some concerns about the outcome of this event.
More on that in a future newsletter.
The expert committee said it would “not bring forward this recommendation [on cholesterol caps] because available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol…” and “[c]holesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”
Part D, Chapter 9, p. 12.
I was born in 1960. My mother RIP bought into the Ancel Keys studies as did many stay at home moms with multiple kids. What mom wouldn't who could stop cooking eggs and bacon for 4 kids and just provide a bowl of sugary cereal death and skim milk to boot?
NOW, fast forward to 1974 when I was 14, very active very slim, muscular and athletic, and I lifted too much weight on a barbell deadlift and immediately felt pain in my groin on my right side. I had forced not only a hernia, but a hydrocele as well that required surgery. Keep remembering I was very trim and athletic.
After the surgery the doctor told me it took a lot longer than they anticipated because they had to my work around a huge amount of visceral fat. I told him, I'm not fat. He told me this is fat that builds up around your organs on the inside. I said OK and he offered nothing as to whether that was good, bad or anything else and of course my parents though[t] all docs were gods and especially surgeons so that was the end of that.
By the time I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the year 2000 at age 40, I had probably been hyperinsulinemic my entire life, ALL with the blessing of THOSE in charge, telling moms that sugary cereal was healthy and to limit meat consumption.
Keep exposing this, and many thanks for doing so!
Sadly, many who follow your work have observed how unscientifically The Science operates in a number of other contemporaneous public health realms.
Which I shall not name so as to avoid tainting your important nutrition science critique by association...
But thank you thank you thank you, for helping prepare me for the possibility that scientific authorities are occasionally spectacularly faith based, dogmatic, and wrong on a massive scale.
You’ve prepared me to look for quality of evidence, rather than loudness of voice/reputation of institution, in assessing any major health claim.