Friday, April 8, 2011

Grain and weight gain

Are grains killing us--or at least, killing our New Years Resolution to lose some weight? ...

It's totally true that if you look at the change in the American diet since the 1960s, grain consumption has gone up dramatically, growing right along with our waistlines. The problem is that this is only true for the 1960s. Check out my sadly less snazzy infographic showing the caloric contribution of various elements to the US food supply since 1910:



As you can see, we have never gotten back up to the nearly 40% of calories from grains that we consumed in the early part of the 20th century. ...

Was it that all the grain consumed before 1950 was healthier whole grain? No. As flour became an industrial product in the late 19th century, mills began processing out the germ and other "whole wheat" elements because the fats in the germ caused the flour to go rancid. By 1914, your great grandmothers were mostly baking with white flour. Polished ("white") rice was similarly well established, and for some of the same reasons. And of course corn, the other major American grain, does not have a healthier "whole" alternative. ...

If you look earlier, you notice that our sturdy forebears were in fact giant balls of carbohydrates (the grain figure doesn't even include the two hundred pounds of potatoes Americans ate every year in the early 20th century.) Yet they were not fat.
--Megan McArdle, Atlantic Monthly, on why there's this continent called Asia where people eat lots of white rice and yet are mostly not fat

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