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You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

New Food Pyramid : Re-examining the new food guide pyramid

A year ago this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled MyPyramid, its replacement for the outdated food pyramid. But although it redecorated and renamed the old pyramid, the USDA didn't carry out the necessary changes needed to offer clear information on strategies for healthful eating, reports the April issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

MyPyramid fails to convey key messages from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the document that the food pyramid is supposed to represent, and it makes some recommendations that aren’t the best nutrition advice, says the Harvard Heart Letter. For example, the guidelines recommend cutting back on animal fats, avoiding harmful trans fats, and limiting intake of salt and added sugars. MyPyramid only urges you to “choose wisely” when it comes to fat and carbohydrates.

MyPyramid’s advice on protein also poses problems. Lumping together red meat, poultry, fish, and beans as equally healthful protein sources sidesteps the evidence that eating less red meat and more of the other protein sources offers numerous health benefits.

The good news? MyPyramid does stress physical activity. It also uses common measurements like cups and ounces. And it tries to get away from one-size-fits-all recommendations.

When all is said and done, MyPyramid is not an unbiased source of information. It comes solely from the USDA, the government agency that promotes American agriculture. For better advice, the Harvard Heart Letter recommends the Dietary Guidelines for Americans or the Healthy Eating Pyramid, created by Harvard’s Dr. Walter Willett and described in his book, Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy.

Also in this issue of the Harvard Heart Letter

  • Ask the doctor: Which is more important, high bad cholesterol or high good cholesterol?
  • Heart Beat: Testing a no-warfarin heart valve
  • Heart Beat: Soy it ain't so!
  • Heart Beat: FDA okays new drug for tough-to-treat chest pain
  • Heart Beat: Bone thinning linked to blood thinner
  • Finding your way through the (mini) Maze
  • The riddle of MyPyramid
  • Clash of the titans
  • Problems with the Pyramid
  • Write a letter for MRI-safe pacemakers and ICDs
  • April 2006 HeartBeat references

More Harvard Health News »


About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.