The USDA Dietary Guidelines can stay wrong longer than you can stay healthy

With the recent publication of the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), I am reminded of this quote attributed to the famous English economist John Maynard Keynes (1883 – 1946):

The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.

Why do I like this quote so much?

Because for a long time, it’s the same idea I’ve had about the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines, and the latest “scientific” report from the DGAC has not altered my opinion in the least.

Here’s my corollary:

The USDA Dietary Guidelines can stay wrong longer than you can stay healthy.

In my mind, our situation with regard to dietary guidance is (unfortunately) much like what happened with the financial crisis of 2008. We don’t have a single crash like the financial collapse of 2008, but an ongoing, slow-motion, accelerating health crash as our rates of unhealthiness and chronic disease such as diabetes continue to rise dramatically.

The worst part of the financial crash is that the economists who failed to predict the crash steadfastly continue to refuse to admit they were wrong—even after all the devastating evidence clearly shows otherwise.

This stubbornness has given rise to the growth of Behavioral Economics as an antidote to the Efficient Market Hypothesis (theory) that prevailed before the 2008 financial crash. The Efficient Market Hypothesis postulates essentially that the markets are always right.

If you want to see what I’m talking about, watch this NOVA PBS program from 2010 called Mind Over Money http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/mind-over-money.html.

Here’s a brief description of the program:

Mind Over Money
Can markets be rational when humans aren’t?  Aired April 26, 2010 on PBS

Program Description
In the aftermath of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, NOVA presents “Mind Over Money”—an entertaining and penetrating exploration of why mainstream economists failed to predict the crash of 2008 and why we so often make irrational financial decisions. The program reveals how our emotions interfere with our decision-making and explores controversial new arguments about the world of finance. In the face of the recent crash, can a new science that aims to incorporate human psychology into finance—behavioral economics—help us make better financial decisions?

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