Luise Light, MS, EdD
Luise Light, MS, EdD, former USDA Director of Dietary Guidance and Nutrition
Education Research, was responsible for the original food guide pyramid and
revamping USDA's nutrition information. Hired as an expert to develop new
nutrition and cancer prevention programs, she devised the National Cancer
Institute's first diet and cancer prevention guidelines, and directed national
health promotion programs with supermarkets, the American Cancer Society, the
Red Cross, schools, and State health departments. After the Cancer Institute,
she founded and led a Washington-based nonprofit organization that educated the
media, Congress and the public about cutting edge, controversial health and
nutrition issues that were the subject of high profile, disinformation campaigns
by industry interests.
Dr. Light has been health editor of Vegetarian Times and executive editor of New Age Journal, and now teaches, counsels and writes in Vermont, where she also is an elected Bellows Falls official. Her new book, What to Eat; The Ten Things You Really Need to Know to Eat Well and Be Healthy, published by McGraw Hill, is in bookstores now.
 Fluoride -The Battle of Darkness & Light by Mary Sparrowdancer
A Fatally Flawed Food Guide by Luise Light, Ed.D
Where we, the USDA nutritionists, called for a base of 5-9 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables a day, it was replaced with a paltry 2-3 servings (changed to 5-7 servings a couple of years later because an anti-cancer campaign by another government agency, the National Cancer Institute, forced the USDA to adopt the higher standard). Our recommendation of 3-4 daily servings of whole-grain breads and cereals was changed to a whopping 6-11 servings forming the base of the Food Pyramid as a concession to the processed wheat and corn industries. Moreover, my nutritionist group had placed baked goods made with white flour — including crackers, sweets and other low-nutrient foods laden with sugars and fats — at the peak of the pyramid, recommending that they be eaten sparingly. To our alarm, in the “revised” Food Guide, they were now made part of the Pyramid’s base. And, in yet one more assault on dietary logic, changes were made to the wording of the dietary guidelines from “eat less” to “avoid too much,” giving a nod to the processed-food industry interests by not limiting highly profitable “fun foods” (junk foods by any other name) that might affect the bottom line of food companies.
But even this neutralized wording of the revised Guidelines created a firestorm of angry responses from the food industry and their Congressional allies who believed that the “farmers’ department” (USDA) should not be telling the public to eat less of anything, including saturated fat and cholesterol, meat, eggs and sugar.
I vehemently protested that the changes, if followed, could lead to an epidemic of obesity and diabetes — and couldn’t be justified on either health or nutritional grounds. To my amazement, I was a lone voice on this issue, as my colleagues appeared to accept the “policy level” decision. Over my objections, the Food Guide Pyramid was finalized, although it only saw the light of day 12 years later, in 1992. Yet it appears my warning has come to pass. A Fatally Flawed Food Guide by Luise Light, Ed.D
Q: Why did you write this book?
A: I have a dramatic story to tell and feel passionate about it. After all, more people get sick and die of diet-related health problems than terrorist bombs in this country, yet we ignore the former and invest in the latter. We need to do both. When I looked at survey data, it was apparent that the public was following the number of grain servings recommended in the new food pyramid (1992), and it was having a dire affect, as I had predicted it would: massive and widespread obesity, skyrocketing rates of Type 2 diabetes even among children. I kept seeing the pyramid foisted on the public as a nutrition solution when I knew better than anyone that it was the food industry's solution, not that of professional nutritionists worried about the public's health. I also saw the pervasive changes in commercial foods undermining the nutritional adequacy of diets, especially those of children, teens, young and elderly adults who were eating fewer fruits and vegetables and more synthetic ingredients and additives dangerous to health.
Q: There are a lot of other people the media could interview about
nutrition and dieting. What can you share about the topic that the others can't?
A: There are many nutritionists who say we need to eat differently--better and more simply, eating more fresh, local and whole foods. They have the message, but they don't know why the old food messages (eat everything in moderation; all food is good food, no matter how altered in processing) keep swinging back around into the limelight, despite rejection by most nutritionists and public health authorities. The reason these old, discredited messages keep coming back to haunt us is because they are promoted by global, multi-national companies aiming to control global food and agriculture, and their biggest profits from foods made of sugar, fat and refined flour. Nutrition in their view is just a marketing tool All this and more I learned working at the USDA, lobbied continuously by the major food trade groups, my work subject to their edits and revisions. Remember, "Ketchup is a vegetable?" I was there. I tell the story in my book. Today, the government-lobbyist revolving doors are as robust in agriculture as in all the other agencies under the present administration. The agency that released the new food pyramid in 2005 was led by a former vice president of the Pork Producers Association. Do you think he might have a slight bias about what's good to eat?
Q: What opinion, belief, advice, or information do you have which is
"counter-intuitive" for most people?
A: My counter-intuitive advice about dieting and healthy eating follows ten simple guidelines, based on solid research--research that's been buried or neglected by USDA because it doesn't support the food industry's marketing objectives, which are to keep major food groups from taking a nosedive in the stock market because consumers are not buying them based on nutrition advice not to eat them. There are 50,000 foods in the average big box supermarket. We can only eat 14 or 15 foods daily. We have to prioritize based on nutrition and avoid the foods we can least afford for good health and good weights. Marketers don't want to hear that.
Q: Can you help people solve or avoid a serious problem? If so, how would
you dramatize the problem during an interview?
A: Yes, my book can help you avoid or mitigate most of the major chronic illnesses and conditions many of us are prone to, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, osteoporosis, neuromuscular, and autoimmune diseases, among others. Best of all it is a natural and "sane way" to lose weight without starving or compromising your nutritional state. Glamour magazine (January 2006 issue) deemed it "one of the sanest diet books we've seen in years."
Ketchup is Not a Vegetable; Sane Eating in a Toxic Food World.