Urgent need to counter this attack

by Morton Sosland
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To say it is sobering is to understate the threat inherent in a study recently released saying eating preferences are shifting to the point that the next 15 years will witness the reversal of factors that long have favored grain-based foods. It is the Credit Suisse Research Institute that issued a study based on what it describes as a far-reaching study of hundreds of nutrition studies and books, as well as direct consultations, pointing to a surge in consumption of fats. The latter comprises foods like dairy products, meat, fish and eggs. These gains will be offset by cutbacks in carbohydrates, primarily sugar, but also bread and grain-based foods.

The Credit Suisse report asserts that recommendations made beginning in the 1970s and widely accepted by nutritionists and physicians as well as consumers have now been found wrong. These “bad” suggestions urge people to reduce consumption of high cholesterol foods like eggs, meat and dairy products and to eat less fat. In dismissing these ideas as incorrect, the report says eating foods high in cholesterol has no relevance to cholesterol levels in a person’s body or to whether an individual is prone to heart diseases. In asserting no nutrition-related harm from eating foods high in fats, the study declares that increased consumption of carbohydrates like bread and cereal foods as well as vegetable oils are the likely culprits causing obesity and related problems.

Essential to determining whether such a report justifies the groans that are sure to be caused by its release is appreciating its source and the reality of conclusions. Credit Suisse is one of the dozen largest and most profitable banks in the world. It has been called the world’s best equity manager and investment adviser. Here, the report on prospects for food consumption in the next 15 years, to 2030, is especially important since it is meant to provide advice on investing, where caution is needed to avoid mistakes. Having this institution say the dairy products and the meat industry will prosper and that sugar and grain foods will suffer is a message that could impact these businesses.

Accepting that possibility leaves grain-based foods needing to grasp whether current nutrition research really takes this bleak view. The assertion is that grain-based foods are barely neutral from a health standpoint, a statement hardly upheld by the following: “The main factor behind a high level of saturated fats in our blood is actually carbohydrates, not the amount of saturated fat we eat.” It goes on to say that the effective way of lowering saturated fat is reduced carbohydrate eating, not less fat consumption. Of course the report excludes transfats from good fats and applauds efforts to prohibit their use.

Even the “neutral” rating for carbohydrates is subject to doubt in the bank’s report. It anticipates a review “at some point” of this neutral stance, asserting that these foods are “one of the, if not the major cause behind the fast growth of metabolic syndrome cases in the U.S.” This leads to the bank’s forecast that the winners will be dairy products, eggs and nuts with annual demand growth of 2.5 to 4 per cent per year, followed by meat and fish at 1.4 and 1.6 per cent.

“The losers are likely to be wheat and maize (corn) and to a lesser extent solvent-extracted vegetable oil,” says Credit Suisse’s Research Institute. This is harsh for an industry like grain-based foods that has prided itself for nearly a century on the positive contributions it makes to the American diet. To have a headline on this story on one wire service saying, “No Bread, Please, Just Pass the Butter,” signals the urgent need for action to counter such a serious attack on this key food industry. Without an effective answer based on good research, these forecasts meant to guide investors might well foretell a future that no one in the industry wants.

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