Thursday, January 3, 2019

When the dietary guidelines on fish are…wrong

by Ioannis Zabetakis

One of our latest papers is on the dietary guidelines in Ireland, with regard to meat and fish. We need to bear in mind that we rely on dietary guidelines provided often in a form of a pyramid. The current food pyramid in Ireland was published in December 2016.

When such a pyramid is projected on a piece of paper, or a screen, it looks like a triangle with several shelves. The lower the shelf a food occupies, the healthier this food is and therefore the more often it must be consumed. Therefore, we can get a general guideline on what to eat and how often by looking at the pyramid. This is widely available and is also taught in all secondary schools around the country.

Alas it is wrong! And this is why…

The concept of food pyramids stemmed from the pioneering Seven Countries Study that was inspired by Ancel Keys in the 1950s and was carried out in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Keys' research collaborators around the world screened the diet, the levels of serum cholesterol and the incidents of heart disease in different populations around the world.

They found a clear linear relationship between serum cholesterol and heart disease in countries like US, Finland and Netherlands. The higher the cholesterol in the blood, the more fatal heart incidents were observed.

 However, no such correlation was found in countries like Greece, Italy and Japan, i.e. blood cholesterol did not have an impact on heart-related deaths. Their observations were used, in order to design the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, by combing all the dietary habits in these countries. The message of this pyramid is that this diet has a cardioprotective effect and cholesterol does not cause heart diseases.

Read more HERE.

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