Saturday, September 20, 2014

Military Leaders Promote Nutrition Standards - For Illogical Reasons

In terms of developing policy statements, I expect our nation's military leaders to be more logical and critical in the conclusions they draw and the positions they take. Thus, I was a little disappointed to learn that our head soldiers apparently fancy themselves nutrition and weight loss experts. And I was more disappointed in the clear hypocrisy in the news, "Retired Military Brass say Stay the Course on School Lunches." Apparently, the military has concluded that 70% of soldier candidates are ineligible for military service due to obesity factors. And, they have concluded that it's school lunches that contribute to weight problems and that the new nutritional standards will lower the obesity rate. Their position is naive, if not outright incorrect.

Truly, diets impact weight. And many school lunch programs have traditionally served foods of questionable nutrition. The classic image of the students with a slice of pizza, fries, and a cookie is synonymous with our nation's unhealthy relationship with food. All people need to decrease their sugar and carbohydrate intake and increase their consumption of fresh vegetables. But the changes mandated by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act are based in faulty science, and they are out of sync with what the military actually feeds its men when they arrive on base.

The primary problem with the National School Lunch Program is that it sets calorie counts for "acceptable consumption" to correlate with minimal weight gain. But the needs of high school students vary widely, and the military cafeterias are all you can eat. Secondly, the NSLP puts restrictions on fat, sugar, and sodium that do not correlate with weight control. First, there is no connection between milk fat and obesity. In fact, people who drink whole milk lose more weight than those who consume low-fat and fat-free milk. Thus, Michelle Obama and the federal government are literally off their rockers with their "anti-fat" crusade, and they are only making the problem worse. And, of course, the US military does not limit soldiers to low-fat milk. The US military does not arbitrarily limit calories. And the US military does not impose the HHKA's limits on sugar and sodium.

So, the US military is promoting an idea that they don't even believe in. And that is pretty pathetic. If the US military leaders and the First Lady Michelle Obama want to impact weight and health, they need to go after processed food manufacturers. It's highly processed foods which are heavy in white carbohydrates that are causing weight gain. And "nutrition" leaders need to get a clue.


Mike Thiac said...

Good post, but your off with one thing. As a rule, continental United States military cafeterias are not "all you can eat". I've seen a 20 year old private trying to gain muscle have to beg for a 3rd egg at breakfast and be denied. The contracted facilites overseas (Kuwait, etc) are practically all you can eat, but the budget is not as big an issue there.

As far as the obesity issue, I think if we started to get kids moving again and away from the TV, video games, etc that will have a greater impact on weight control that processed foods. But that requires work on the part of parents, etc. Too easy to say "it's the food that did it"

mmazenko said...

Thanks, Mike. I appreciate your insight and information. My experience with friends in CO is that they eat till their full. But that may be in selective places - especially at the Academy.

And exercise, overall, is certainly an important part of health. But a lack of it is not the cause of weight, nor is the addition of exercise the answer.

Weight gain is far more complicated, as we all know people who eat tons of junk food and never exercise and never gain weight. And we all know people who work out hard and still don't lose. It's not simply about burning calories.

That's the mistake that the processed food companies led Michelle Obama into. She started off taking on companies pushing high sugar foods, and the next thing you know, she is saying, "we can get our kids up and running around more."

Nutrition research is pretty clear on the food causing weight gain. Not so much on "you can just run it off." It's not about calorie in, calorie out. That's just science.