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Death by Food Pyramid: How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Have Ruined Our Health

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  1,503 ratings  ·  186 reviews
Warning: Shock and outrage will grip you as you dive into this one-of-a-kind expose. Shoddy science, sketchy politics and shady special interests have shaped American Dietary recommendations and destroyed our nation s health over recent decades. The phrase Death by Food Pyramid isn t shock-value sensationalism, but the tragic consequence of simply doing what we have been t ...more
Hardcover, 300 pages
Published January 1st 2014 by Primal Nutrition, Inc. (first published November 26th 2013)
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 ·  1,503 ratings  ·  186 reviews

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Sam Torode
Dec 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"Death by Food Pyramid" is both educative and entertaining.

I remember being taught the Food Pyramid around the time it first came out, in my 8th-grade "home ec" class. While learning essential adult skills like keeping a budget and baking cookies, we had to keep a food diary, and I scored points by eating PB & J sandwiches and Combos every day at lunch. Bread was the most essential food, jelly counted as fruit, and Combos satisfied the requirements for both grains *and* dairy--genius! It was har
Crystal Starr Light
The Food Pyramid was constructed under some suspicious circumstances. The meat and dairy lobbies both were upset by their location near the top, near the vile "fats and oils", the ones that had been vilified since Ancel Keys did his infamous Seven Countries Study. There was a lack of clarity of what a "grain" could be defined as - was it whole grain bread or could Pop Tarts fit in that category? And if Pop Tarts could be grains, why wasn't cream cheese a dairy product? And why did it take the go ...more
Feb 14, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: morbid-curiosity
The majority of the food industry debacle is covered in better detail in a shorter chapter of a university course by Dr T Colin Campbell, hilariously. Ms Minger is a writing/English graduate and it shows - her writing is entertaining and it pulls you in... but her grasp of statistics and interpreting other elements of science falls short. I'm all for proving The Man wrong, which is why I read things outside my plant-based scope. I don't agree wholeheartedly with the aforementioned Man entirely m ...more
Jan 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Unencumbered with advanced degrees and reeling from a bad experience with a raw vegan diet, food blogger and investigator Denise Minger set out to explore “How shoddy science, sketchy politics and shady special interests ruined your health.”

It’s an impressive investigation and, often, a fun read, though Ms. Minger’s takedown of raw veganism in the beginning of the book set the wrong tone for me and took me longer to get into her work than it should have. I did raw vegan for a year and had an exc
Oct 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: medical, skepticism
Denise Minger was a teenager when she discovered an online community extolling the virtues of raw food veganism. Based on the advice on these seemingly scientific websites, she radically revamped her diet and began to experience boundless energy and the disappearance of many chronic problems, including severe acne.

She remained a dedicated convert for many months, until a dental visit revealed the lack of fat in her diet had caused major damage to her teeth. As she underwent major reconstructive
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
While I'm not so patiently waiting to read my library's copy of Eat Fat, Get Thin, I decided to read Denise Minger's Death by Food Pyramid. It was quite refreshing after reading Hank Cardello's Stuffed.

Here are a few things I loved about Death by Food Pyramid.

That the goal of the book was to educate you on how to read, understand, and interpret books (and articles) about health, food, and how the body works on your own. That the goal was NOT take my word for it, trust me, I'm an expert, I know
Sarah Clement
Jun 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
I feel conflicted about this book. Denise Minger is a brilliant writer, and in my view her work is better suited to book form than the long blog entries she posts a few times per year. The beginning of this book does a great job of laying out how we got where we are today, and though this has been done before in many books (e.g. Food Politics by Marion Nestle), Minger puts her own spin on it. I thought she was far more balanced than I expected. As a revered figure in the ancestral health/paleo c ...more
Nov 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you do even a moderate amount of reading on the topic of food and health, you can quickly become exasperated with the preponderance of belief-systems, each with its own quiver of scientific proofs. As a statistician by trade, I have always been skeptical of many of the studies used in defense of various beliefs, which leaves you wondering what, if anything, you can believe about food. In "Death by Food Pyramid," Denise Minger brings a whole lot of common sense to the conversation - both from ...more
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book. It isn't your typical diet book or even really a nutrition book.

Denise takes you through the history of the creation of the USDA's Food Pyramid. Those recommendations have become the underpinnings of most of the western world's governmental advice on what to eat. How it was created is fascinating. And upsetting. In most countries this is still the orthodoxy and it is leading to more disease, not less (Sweden and Denmark are two countries only just starting to move in a
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: diet
This was a comprehensive and relatively non-biased approach to diet that agreed with much of what I've read. It's lack of bias and detail were commendable though not perfect. My main complaint is that the book could have been more granular and had discussions regarding things like TMAO and mTOR. That being said, this is better than 95% of diet books (although I have read better) and well worthy of a read.
Apr 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
As I'm on a mission to figure out my food plate, this book is one I was advised to read by food coach. And I would advise anyone who is concerned/ interested about the nutrition to check it out.
For me sometimes it strayed from the main point, but managed to get back to food in time for it to still get the point across. I received a lot of useful information and explanation about several diets that are trending, about some studies done (and their backgrounds and shortcomings) which put things nic
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: health, 2014
An excellent book! Ms Minger has dredged through countless studies (derailed many of their conclusions) and found that there is no one answer. Our bodies, lives and environments are a complicated, intertwined set of variables giving each of our dietary choices a personal impact. Despite the heavy technical material, the writing is superb and engaging; the history is fascinating.

Here are my favorite parts of the book.

"If nothing else, each leg of the adventure has affirmed for me--again and again
Aug 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: food-and-drink
This book was a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. On one hand, the brief history of the Food Pyramid was well-written and interesting, and the overview look of "successful" diets was thought provoking. On the other, the book sometimes took on a patronizing tone.

Maybe I was the wrong audience for this book, or perhaps this book failed to nail down the correct one, but I felt condescended to in the chapters about reading scientific papers and determining who is an authority (the latter of wh
Kassie Saenz

Denise Minger’s “Death by Food Pyramid” was assigned as the first book to read in my Chemistry of Food course. The purpose of Minger’s book was to essentially debunk the validity that was accepted in the food pyramid for so long. Minger uses her book to share her findings on how the relationship between the government and the food industry was built upon the premise of getting Americans to buy into the idea of these recommended food groups and their servings as means to be “healthy”. Although I
Derek Pankaew
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: health
A well written guide on evidence-based health. The book walks the reader through the basics of a scientific study, common ways studies can be misrepresented, and finally walks the reader through the current state of knowledge around health.
Conrad Mason
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating look through the history of research on food and health and how ideas have been shaped and changed by new science. I really liked the chapter about how to critically analyse research about food.

Highly recommended for anyone interested to know about food and health from a subjective and scientific point of view.
May 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris Bartos
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I thought this book was the best, least biased book on nutrition I've ever read.

First, it shows you what a sound scientific study looks like. Denise explains what some of the "science-ese" looks like and how to interpret what it means. This chapter alone was enough to give this book a 5 star rating.

Second, Denise takes you on a tour of the history of the USDA Food Pyramid. She explains how the USDA was essentially bought by some of the country's biggest food industries.

Third, Denise gives a syn
Mike Angelillo
Dec 26, 2013 rated it liked it
With the title "Death By Food Pyramid" and a statement such as "Warning: Shock and Outrage Will Grip You As You Dive Into This One-Of-A-Kind Expose" (back cover) I was not expecting the book to unfold as it did.

The main strengths of this book are the details on the scientific method and types of studies (Chap 5), tips on how to evaluate your source (Chap 4) the history/politics behinds George McGovern and the Federal Governments intervention into the duets of Americans (Chap 3 titled, with the r
Samantha Davis
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is a bird's-eye view of nutrition as a whole, and presents the history that has led to the current state of nutrition, including the missteps and blunders. It ends with a breakdown of the three most popular diets, and tackles how they can each see many success stories, even though they are so different. What I appreciate is her level-headed presentation of the facts and her frequent admonition to think for yourself - and question everything. And she teaches you how to question everythi ...more
Jun 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Of all of the diet books I have read so far (which is a lot compared to most people, but very little compared to those who take the subject of nutrition very seriously), this has been my favorite. Denise Minger's writing is witty without being scathing, and she does a good job of avoiding bias while analyzing various studies.

While drawing out some general conclusions about the best foods to eat or avoid, and how the modern diet has contributed to the increasing rates of disease and decay, Minge
Ricky Gladney
Mar 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bravo!!! Smart, revealing, unbiased and logical.

I have been doing a lot of soul searching lately and this book has brought the vital issues to light, in an increasingly dark nutritional word. We all know what foods are good for us, we just get caught up in what is convenient and sadly cheap. Through the course of reading this book I have really found a new vitality and energy that I haven't had since I was a teenager. For me gluten was a killer. Without the advice to try to remove certain foods
Nov 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: health
Contains an interesting history of the development of US government nutrition guidelines and recommendations, showing the economic, political and other biases that have had a stronger influence on their content than citizen health. The author also analyses a number of influential scientific studies on diet. She compares three of the currently popular diets - paleo, Mediterranean and whole food/plant strong - and finds that they all eliminate processed vegetable oils, refined sugar and processed ...more
Mar 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: diet-exercise
I've been reading Denise Minger's blog for a little while. I had been eating a la China Study for a few months, and she about had me convinced. I read most of my way through this book, and think her analysis of the China Study and a few other things are very persuasive. But after criticizing numerous studies, she suddenly winged off into a Weston A Price Foundation paean, fulminating with praise for his "excellent" studies. Um???? She couldn't find anything to criticize there? Are you kidding me ...more
Warren Benton
Apr 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Rating: 3.25

Death by food pyramid is an energetic exploration on what went wrong with the food pyramid. Minger starts out talking discussing her own trials with raw veganism as a teenager and how it ruined her teeth. One thing she tries to do throughout the book is help explain and simplify lots of the ideas on foods. This must have been an exhausting undertaking compiling modern and historic ideas on foods and trying to eloquently explain. Parts of the book was over my head scientifically. The
Nov 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
Interesting, but not what I expected. Jostling for placement in the food pyramid was in there, but not the entirety of the book. The problems with developing the food pyramid were there, but I hoped it would move on to the newer issues with the newer my plate recommendations.

The breakdown of common eating habits was interesting, but more so for someone in the field. I am not shopping around.
Apr 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
Some decent info, but I don't think the author does what she says she sets out to do in this book. She discusses tons of studies but claims in the end she will give the reader a clear eating plan going forward. I was left more confused as to what her stance is in the end.

Also, the author's husband narrates the audio book. He's the worst narrator I've ever heard. If you're planning on listening to the audiobook, do yourself a favor and don't.
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Not a diet book, but a book ABOUT diet, including how we got here and broad suggestions for how to proceed. Unsurprisingly, there is a small handful of things that clearly everyone should NOT eat, but it's up to the individual to figure out what to eat. The history of Western diets and nutrition is also fascinating and gives some insight into why conventional wisdom doesn't seem to be working. I wish she'd done MORE, delved a bit deeper, but what she provided was solid and interesting.
Jan 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: health
Thoroughly researched and beautifully written explanation how and why diet has changed in this country and the world over the last fifty years or so. Amazing.
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
It was really heavy on some science bits.....very USA based....some parts were really quite interesting but I have read better. I think it is just a reference paper with some historical bits.
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