Research suggests a powerful link between dietary factors and the so-called “diseases of civilization.” In other words, some element or elements of the Western diet seem to trigger not just obesity and diabetes but also related ailments, like renal disease. Dr. Peter Cleave, in his book, The Saccharine Disease, suggested that these diverse metabolic ailments could be considered variations of what he considered to be a “master disease,” driven, in part, by the presence of refined carbohydrate and sugar in the diet.

Whether or not Dr. Cleave’s hypotheses are correct, the American diet has undergone profound shifts over the past several decades. These shifts have coincided with spikes in the rates of many of the diseases of civilization, including type 2 diabetes, obesity and ESRD.

Award winning science journalist, Gary Taubes, discusses an intriguing hypothesis about why the “diseases of civilization” may have surged over the past 30 years. In his best-selling journalistic inquiry into the diet and health science of the 20th century, Good Calories, Bad Calories, Taubes argues that our collective embrace of a low fat, high carbohydrate diet – as enshrined most famously by the famous USDA Food Guide Pyramid – may have inadvertently caused Americans to consume poorer quality foods. Per Taubes, in the late 1970s, politicians – based on inconclusive science – decided to launch what was effectively a giant nutritional experiment involving the United States public. Based upon a newfound institutional fear of dietary fat and cholesterol (which were suspected agents in heart disease), the USDA guidelines encouraged all Americans to cut fat and eat more carbohydrate. The U.S. populace complied. Per the USDA’s own statistics, our country today consumes much less animal fat than we ate in the 1970s and much more carbohydrate and sugar.

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