Diet Advice Abounds, But Are We Getting Healthier?

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Even if you're relatively secure about your health and waistline, it'd be impossible to completely miss the buzz around the major diet trends of recent years. We want to know what to eat and when to eat it, and we sometimes take it to extremes. In Japan, a fad called the "Morning Banana Diet" even set off a banana shortage — spiking banana prices by 20 percent in 2008.

But as we careen from one diet to the next, we’ve been making substantive changes in our eating habits, too. Over the past 30 years, Americans’ per capita consumption of red meat fell by more than 20 lb. per year. We drink less than a third of the amount of whole milk we did in 1980 and almost twice the amount of skim milk. We eat less margarine, less lard, less shortening, and less sugar.

And we keep getting new advice. This week The New York Times reported on another new kind of diet: The Mediterranean Diet. It's designed to be rich in in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even red wine, and the diet is said to extend the lifespan of its adherents.

But is all this nutrition advice actually making us healthier? Michael Moss, author of "Salt Sugar Fat" is an investigative journalist whose new book focuses on the corporate side of what we eat.

According to Moss, one reason we seem to be losing the health battle amidst so much advice and information on the issue is economic disadvantage. Moss quotes Bob Drain, the inventor of Lunchables, in his book as saying "The people who make the processed food don’t eat the processed food. And therein lies the class issue that really goes with the food industry in America." 

Moss says of the executives in the processed food industry: "They know better, because salt, sugar and fat are the three pillars, the holy grail, of the processed food industry. The scientists are driving as hard as they can to reach those perfect amounts that will send us over the moon."