Dietary Recommendations Food Guide Pyramid to Change

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will revise its well-known Food Pyramid. Introduced 12 years ago by the USDA, which spent about $1 million just to decide on using a pyramid shape, is considering scrapping the pyramid for another shape and making other changes. 1

The existing pyramid has a number of deficiencies. For example, the graphic recommends consuming 6 to 11 servings daily from the grains group of foods. That appears to suggest that a consumer should consume 6-11 such servings each day. That’s an erroneous conclusion that a consumer would discover only after carefully reading accompanying materials. In reality, the recommendation is for six servings for those with very low caloric needs and 11 servings are only appropriate for those needing a very high caloric diet.

The most serious problem with the dietary recommendations represented by the pyramid is that they are not based on science. Instead, they are based on political compromises between agricultural producers with conflicting economic interests. Is too much red meat recommended? Blame the beef producers. Are too many eggs recommended? Blame the egg producers. The USDA’s Food Pyramid is really the lobbyists’ Food Pyramid.

Amazingly, the Food Pyramid was not developed by any of the federal agencies whose purpose is to promote health or any of the agencies concerned with nutritional or medical issues, but by the agency designed to promote agriculture and food consumption.

Diet recommendations should be based on objective scientific medical research rather than the winners of competing economic self-interests. The USDA Food Pyramid serves its masters well, but the public suffers. "At best, the USDA Pyramid offers wishy-washy, scientifically unfounded advice on an absolutely vital topic - what to eat. At worst, the misinformation contributes to overweight, poor health, and unnecessary early death." 2

Because of these inadequacies, doctors at the Harvard University School of Public Health and the Harvard School of Medicine have created a food pyramid based on scientific research findings rather than economics or politics.

Because it’s based on scientific medical evidence rather than politics and pressure groups, the Harvard Good Eating Pyramid recommends regular exercise and weight control for everyone and vitamin supplements for most people. Similarly, it recommends the moderate and regular consumption of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, or distilled spirits) for all adults except for those who have good reason not to drink.


For more about the Harvard Good Eating Pyramid, visit Alcohol in the Diet.

Information about the health effects of alcohol is found at Alcohol and Health.

Concerned about weight ? Visit Alcohol, Calories & Weight.


  1. USDA Redesigning food Guide Pyramid. Washington Post, July 13, 2004, A5; Burros, Marian. Food pyramid is in for an overhaul. New York Times, July 13, 2004, A14; Healthy eating guide may take new shape. USA Today, July 13, 2004, 8D.
  2. Willett, Walter C., with the assistance of others. Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.


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