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Why New Dietary Guidelines Can't Solve the Obesity Crisis

The USDA released a new set of dietary guidelines this week and the updated guidelines were enough to put nutritionist Marion Nestle in "shock":

I never would have believed they could pull this off.  The new guidelines recognize that obesity is the number one public health nutrition problem in America and actually give good advice about what to do about it: eat less and eat better. For the first time, the guidelines make it clear that eating less is as priority.

She did criticize the guidelines for talking about "food" when it came to things you needed more of (such as vegetables) and "nutrients" when it was time to talk about cutting back (less saturated fat instead of less meat).

But to be honest, I don't really want to talk about the dietary guidelines. As important as they are -- they are central to school lunch menu creation, for example -- they are just guidelines and don't exactly have the force of law.

In fact, two recent studies suggest the causes of the obesity epidemic are so pervasive and so deeply intertwined with our advanced industrialized way of life, that we'll really need to "go long" if we're to have any hope of addressing it.

The first study out of Oxford University, which appeared in the journal Economics & Human Biology, suggests that the root cause of obesity can be summed thusly: "It's the economy, stupid."