Dealing with Decades of Dietary Dogma

On Tuesday, April 28th, Terry and Joe Graedon of NPR’s popular “Peoples’ Pharmacy” spoke to a large gathering of their fans and friends as the last ‘Being Well’ Talk of the season.   With humor and good spirits, they presented their research to an engaged audience – answering many questions.

Is the US Department of Agriculture about to reverse the dietary advice they have been giving for so many years? As they issue new guidelines on what Americans should be eating, some old bans are indeed falling. It’s now okay to eat an egg! But others will stand, despite weak scientific evidence to support them.

Joe and Terry described the beginnings of the guidelines as political documents, and several questions during the evening pointed to the fact that politics is still present in the decisions about what Americans should eat.

They also discussed the pros and cons of cutting back on cholesterol, salt and saturated fat. Questions from the audience focused on whether the fat in nuts is good for us (yes) and how the Guidelines will affect the food choices available in low-income neighborhoods (food stamps and WIC vouchers are now accepted at many urban farmers’ markets).

The Graedons described how our diets have changed in response to dietary dogma, which changes are beneficial and which are not. Should we all be shunning sugar? (Probably, or at least keeping consumption to a moderate level) What about gluten and the grains that contain it? (For some people, it is critical to avoid gluten; for most others, the current attention to the topic represents a fad.)

In keeping with the topic of food as medicine, Terry and Joe gave copies of their books, Favorite Foods or Recipes & Remedies from The People’s Pharmacy, to members of the audience who asked good questions. All the experts they have interviewed emphasize that food is more powerful than drugs in determining health. The questions of how food is grown and how spices affect human physiology rounded out the evening’s discussion.