Sue The Nutritionist

A study published in the respected JAMA indicates that eating dark chocolate can lower blood pressure. USA Today notes that: “Other experiments show cocoa flavonoids may reduce harmful blood clotting properties and decrease low-density-lipoprotein (LDL), known as the ‘bad cholesterol.’” And the Associated Press reports: “Dark chocolate contains plant substances called polyphenols — ingredients scientists think are responsible for the heart-healthy attributes of red wine.”

While the science on chocolate remains inconclusive, and no one would recommend eating a pound a night, the very fact that chocolate may be good for you should give pause to advocates of “sin” taxes on targeted foods. We now know about those healthful omega-3 fatty acids in fish, and the difference between good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. But we flatter ourselves to think that ours is an age of dietary enlightenment. The battle of the titans waged between defenders and detractors of the late Dr. Atkins’ “diet revolution” tells us that even expert nutritionists are certain about very little.

Now a group of reckless trial lawyers, who think they somehow know more about nutrition than unsure PhDs, are suing restaurants and food manufacturers. They’ve already gone after fast food companies and cookie makers. Ice cream manufacturers have also been put on notice. So sure are the trial lawyers that they’ve threatened to sue school boards for allowing 17-year-olds to get near a soda machine.

What in the world makes trial lawyers so confident about their nutritional wisdom? Even the government can’t keep its dietary advice straight for very long. The famous food pyramid was released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1992, but now most experts have serious questions about it. The head of NYU’s nutrition program, food scold Marion Nestle, jokes that she “may be the last remaining nutritionist who thinks there’s anything good about it.

The Agriculture Department has a long history of proffering less-than-definitive dietary advice. Its first recommendations were published when Grover Cleveland was President — years before the discovery of vitamins and minerals.

In a July 2nd story on fast food lawsuits, a CBS news reporter made the obvious point: “Food considered unhealthy today could become tomorrow’s health craze,” she noted. “Can a judge and jury really lay down the law on something nutrition experts haven’t been able to figure out?” (Click here for video.)

Of course, none of this has stopped the food police. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has, predictably, condemned chocolate consumption in the past. New Zealand’s Ministry of Health proposed a minimum purchase age for chocolate in April. And where would chocolate-bashing be without everyone’s favorite animal-rights doc, Neal Barnard? His new book — which was pitched as an argument for lawsuits against restaurants and food manufacturers — includes an entire chapter dedicated to the unfounded notion that “chocolate is, in essence, an addicting drug.”

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