Favorite Quotes from the 1980 USDA Dietary Guidelines

Inspired by by Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens recent article “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies” I pulled out my copy of the official 1980 USDA dietary guidelines for Americans pamphlet, to review.

Fascinating and even surprising some of the word choices used throughout this document, but here are two of my personal favorites under the sugar section page fifteen, paragraph three:

“Contrary to widespread opinion, too much sugar in your diet does not seem to cause diabetes.”

“There is also no convincing evidence that sugar causes heart attacks or blood vessel diseases.”

Were these statements based on scientific evidence of that time or rather the influence of big sugar industry, lobbyists and politicians determined to suppress language implying that sugar was somehow toxic or unhealthy? You be the judge.

  • Guest

    While it is true that the evidence (especially as current in the 1980s) might be inconclusive. I still think it is telling that a pamphlet/guidelines which is presumably designed to tell people what to eat to stay healthy, goes out of its way to downplay potential risks of sugar… why did they even need to say it?

  • We don’t know what causes diabetes. We have such solid evidence that reducing carbohydrates will essentially cure diabetes that it is likely that carbohydrate is at least partly a cause. We don’t know what causes heart disease. If you give up on science, you have nothing.

    • Well said Dr. Feinman. It was unknown back then and maybe even today if sugar actually causes these diseases, but why the need for them to use such strong language suggesting that sugar was essentially safe? For some reason they had much stronger warnings about saturated fat and cholesterol in the guidelines. Did they know more about saturated fat and cholesterol compared to sugar or were these statements politically driven based on opinion more then anything else?

      • Barry Erdman

        The more we progress with age, the less we can be sure of anything… I wish we could trust science in the long run, but I fear we will never quite ever get to the truth of diabetes causality. There are so many cultural and environmental toxic and potentially harmful factors current that may well add to the complex mystery of the cause of diabetes. Will we ever be able to determine what fumes from cars or processed food ingredients and the like contribute to the increase in disease? Also, it may very well take a few more generations to determine if GMO’s in our current food chain was a good idea. By then, no one will notice or remember that we even had a choice back then/now. For example, Walmart recently approved selling corn that is no longer considered a food, but is now rated by the usda as an insecticide. What shifted in our culture and buying habits over the past 40 years or so that we took for granted? Cooking with aluminum pans or reheating frozen aluminum trays for example? Reheating plastics with microwaves? Fluoride in the tap water? I would like to think that someone with diabetes is perhaps more highly evolved in the Darwinian way, by demonstrating an increasingly sensitive to the complexity of modern day factors. But I cannot…

        • Barry – So what are we left do today as consumers in this world of scientific uncertainty?