In 1985, the National Cholesterol Education Panel delivered its Adult Treatment Panel guidelines to Americans, advice to cut cholesterol intake, reduce saturated fat, and increase “healthy whole grains.” Congress followed suit with legislation requiring that the USDA provide dietary advice to the American public.
Per capita wheat consumption increased accordingly. Wheat consumption today is 26 lbs per year greater than in 1970 and now totals 133 lbs per person per year, or the equivalent of approximately 200 loaves of bread per year. Because infants and children are lumped together with adults, average adult consumption is likely much greater than 200 lbs per year, or the equivalent of approximately 300 loaves of bread per year. (Nobody, of course, eats 300 loaves of bread per year; tallying up the pretzels, pizza, bagels, focaccia, bruschetta, breading, rolls, etc., it all adds up to approximately 300 loaves-equivalent.)
Another twist: The mid- and late-1980s also marks the widespread adoption by U.S. farmers of the genetically-altered semi-dwarf variants of wheat to replace traditional wheat. While in 1980 the loaf of bread–or bagel, pretzel, pizza, bruschetta, ciabatta, or roll–likely came from 4 1/2-foot tall traditional wheat, in 1988 it was almost certainly a product made from high-yield semi-dwarf wheat. No questions were asked about its appropriateness for human consumption, no questions asked about animal safety testing. Just grown, processed, and sold.
And that’s when the dough hit the fan.
The Centers for Disease Control has been tracking multiple health conditions, including diabetes. Here is the curve for diabetes up until 2009:
From 1958 until 1985, the number of diabetics nationwide was climbing. After 1985, the curve shifted sharply upward reflecting the explosion in the number of diabetics across the U.S. The data (not shown) for 2010 are even worse, with the curve now headed straight upward.
Eat more “healthy whole grains” . . . indeed.