Squandering the exceptional wisdom of George McGovern

An error that has caused more deaths than all of our nation’s wars

During a press conference in 1977, Sen. George McGovern, chairman of the Senate Nutrition Committee, displayed cans of sodas, sugar and fat that he said represented a person’s average intake for a year.

During a press conference in 1977, Sen. George McGovern, chairman of the Senate Nutrition Committee, displayed cans of sodas, sugar and fat that he said represented a person’s average intake for a year.

As Dr. T. Colin Campbell told us in The China Study in 2005, the nutritional work of Senator George McGovern was ahead of its time—and could have had profound beneficial effects on our nation’s chronic diseases in the three + decades since his original ideas were rejected and even labeled “fraudulent” by subsequent meat & dairy-controlled nutritional information committees. Here’s the heading from Wikipedia on this visionary leader:

George Stanley McGovern (July 19, 1922 – October 21, 2012) was an American historian, author and U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, and the Democratic Party presidential nominee in the 1972 presidential election.

A little background from The China Study:

In 1976, Senator George McGovern had convened a committee that drafted dietary goals recommending decreased consumption of fatty animal foods and increased consumption of fruits and vegetables because of their effects on heart disease. The first draft of this report, linking heart disease and food, caused such an uproar that a major revision was required before it was released for publication.

In a personal conversation McGovern told me that he and five other powerful senators from agricultural states lost their respective elections in 1980 in part because they had dared to take on the animal foods industry.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of "The China Study"

Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of “The China Study”

A few years later, in a meeting of the new Public Nutrition Information Committee, McGovern’s earlier work was labeled as fraudulent. From The China Study, Dr. Campbell writes:

As I scanned the list of so-called frauds, I was stunned to see the 1977 McGovern dietary goals on the list. First drafted in 1976, these relatively modest goals suggested that less meat and fat consumption and more fruit and vegetable consumption might prevent heart disease. In this proposed news release, they were described as nothing more than simple quackery, just like the widely condemned Laetrile and pangamic acid preparations. In essence, the recommendation to shift our eating habits to more fruits and vegetables and whole grains was a fraud. This was the committee’s attempt to demonstrate their ability to be the supreme arbiter of reliable scientific information!

Mark Bittman, New York Times

Mark Bittman, New York Times

It’s been just over a year since Mark Bittman visited with the ailing Senator (ten months before his death) and then published a revealing article in the New York Times on 12-6-11. It was entitled “The Wisdom of George McGovern” and touched on many of the unfortunate nutritional errors of our federal government. From the article (See link below), these two paragraphs tell the incredible story of how Mr. McGovern had the knowledge forty years ago to head off our emerging obesity crisis.

By the ‘70s, the food industry found a more profitable way to use “excess” corn, converting it to high fructose corn syrup — the cheap sweetener that is in large part responsible for the subsequent obesity crisis. McGovern was early in seeing that problem too: he was chairman of  the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, which initially advised Americans in 1977 to eat less meat and fewer dairy products for the sake of health. To the chagrin of agribusiness, sales of meat, dairy and eggs dropped.

Intense lobbying followed, and the dietary goals were soon revised to say that consumers should “Choose meats, poultry, and fish which will reduce saturated fat intake.” (This was not the only battle McGovern lost, of course.) Note the shift of emphasis from food (“eat less meat”) to nutrients (“eat less saturated fat”), an unnecessary muddling of the issues that has benefited industry at the expense of health and the environment.

Presidents Obama and Clinton at the 2012 Democratic Convention

Presidents Obama and Clinton at the 2012 Democratic Convention

The Bottom Line. Just imagine the lives that could have been saved if we had only listened to George McGovern’s “wisdom” back in the 70’s. Just as the obesity epidemic began, he was the lone voice in the wilderness who understood why it was about to happen and what we could do about it.

But we didn’t listen, and that obesity has resulted in a nation with an obese and sick populace—with no apparent end in sight. But there are a few glimmers of hope on the horizon:

  • Bill Clinton. We now have a former President who knows that George McGovern was right—and our former president is living proof that it works.
  • Barack Obama. We now have a sitting president that truly “gets it” about food and is about to begin his all-important second term—the one when he doesn’t have to worry about getting elected again. In this earlier blog, there is a 4-minute video illustrating our president’s knowledge about food and links to a few other blogs devoted to what he might do during his second term: Did you know that Obama really “gets it” about food?

Maybe Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama can team up and change how the world looks at food during the next four years. Their former elder statesman from South Dakota would be so proud if they did. In yesterday’s blog, read about the need for some Lincoln-esque type of vision, leadership and determination.  Lincoln. A special man. A special leader. A special time.

Please see Dr. Colin Campbell’s comment below; he ends with this statement, “McGovern at about that same time told me that of all the things he did during his career, he was most proud of his organizing those committee hearings on diet and health in 1975-1977.”

675Today is my 675th consecutive daily blog, a streak will end in 55 days—after two full years of daily blogging. But don’t worry; all of my previous work will remain here for your convenience and I will continue to post blogs several times a month.

But my primary focus will be a full-time effort to help selected corporate clients implement food-focused wellness initiatives aimed at promoting health and slashing the cost of health care in businesses

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to jmorrishicks@me.com

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at jmorrishicks@me.com. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

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Blogging daily at hpjmh.com…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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5 Responses to Squandering the exceptional wisdom of George McGovern

  1. Joanne Irwin says:

    Insanity is defined as repeating the same behaviors and expecting a different result. The country elected Nixon; need I repeat the result? Years later the country scandalized a true hero, Senator John Kerry, and instead elected a charlatan, George Bush – not once, but twice! Need I repeat the devastation resulting from his 8 years in office? Professor Colin Campbell, a man of science, truth and integrity, armed with solid academic research, has his class cancelled without notification. His masterful research findings struck fear in those who continually dupe and mislead the public. Some years ago a brilliant Dominican priest, Fr. Matthew Fox, courageously wrote the Vatican and named the abuses in the Church. Additionally, he offered a prescription for healing, change and renewal. What happened to him? He was silenced, and eventually left the Church to enter the Episcopal priesthood.
    Do you get it? Our nation is suffering from a form of insanity!
    Too often the voices of truth and integrity, those with a genuine concern for the greater good of mankind, are silenced and maligned by the forces of darkness…..individuals and industries focused on the profit margin, power, ego and greed. And, sadly, the populace bows its head, and follows like sheep being led to slaughter. The insanity has to stop!

    • Points by Joanne Irwin are well worth considering. LEST WE FORGET. After finishing a first read of George McGovern’s Autobiography, my respect for him increases even more. It was a great service for Jim Hicks and Colin Campbell to remind us of the history behind Senator McGovern’s work with the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs – Published by MIT Press, the full report is in public domain. New copies are listed on Amazon at $18.99. I suggest that others obtain above document in PDF format AND some other SEARCHABLE format (such as WordPerfect or Microsoft Word) and forward to others as an E-Mail attachment. Also, Staples or any copy shop can make a nice spiral bound hard copy which lies flat on any opened page.

      Even with the Orwellian PR behind the The American War (Viet Nam) and the Iraq disaster I was reluctant to believe the below paragraph. Are there no limits on governmental dishonesty?

      “In 1977, the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs published dietary goals for the U.S., recommending reduced meat consumption. The meat industry forced the committee to destroy all copies fo the report and to remove the offending recommendation from a new version. It then abolished the committee, voted Chairman George McGovern out of office, and taught government bureaucrats never to challenge meat consumption again.”

      Can the effect of 1977 be overcome in USA? On 10 May 1933 in Berlin’s Opera Square, 40,000 enjoyed 20,000 books being burned.Today Germans are better democrats than their teachers.

      A democracy works only when citizens are provided with HONEST TIMELY information.

  2. T. Colin Campbell says:


    McGovern originally became interested in the fruit and vegetable hypothesis from Nathan Pritikin when he (McG) went to his spa after his presidential run in 1972. Pritikin suggested to McGovern that he go back to Washington to organize an effort to explore the diet-disease connection (both McGovern and Pritikin’s son, Robert, independently told me the same thing).

    George McGovern, by his own admission, did not know much, if anything, about diet but became impressed with what happened to him and others when they went to the Pritikin Center. After organizing his Senate committee, he then retained the services of Professor of Nutrition Mark Hegsted of Harvard as the committee’s chief science advisor, thus it was Mark (a long time friend of mine) who pretty much designed the hearings. As you may know, that report, the first of its kind on diet and health, was patterned to some extent after a previous report by the Swedish government. It also was focused on heart disease and, more particularly, on the role of dietary fat in that association. No consideration was given to protein. Later, I asked Mark why not protein, especially given some excellent earlier research by Hegsted on dietary protein and osteoporosis, and he replied, “You think I’m crazy?”

    It was then that I learned from Mark and his wife, Maxine, some harrowing tales about the hostility thrown his way by some nutrition researchers, most of whom had substantial ties to the meat, egg and dairy industries. I owe the late Mark Hegsted a considerable amount of gratitude for his making me aware of the politics of diet and disease/health at a time when my research group was getting some really damning evidence on casein. He warned me (about 1978-9) that my bringing up evidence on protein was a potential career-ending risk that I should take only with a great deal of caution.

    McGovern at about that same time told me that of all the things he did during his career, he was most proud of his organizing those committee hearings on diet and health in 1975-1977.


      McGovern’s awareness did not develop automatically.
      Dr. Campbell has performed a PARAMOUNT service.
      His experience with political reality is disconcerting.


    Abraham Lincoln must have rolled over in his grave at what has happened in modern US politics. Jim’s new George McGovern’s feature reminds one of what happened to a throughly decent man who tells the truth. Student of the 1972 Nixon-McGovern campaign remained saddened and shocked how a this war hero, holding a Distinguished Flying Cross, was SMEARED by one of the most corrupt and evil American political figures ever: Richard Milhous Nixon. Beyond Tricky Dick’s domestic travesties, his sustained Viet Nam policies effected in deaths, injury and birth defects for countless humans. Not prosecuting Nixon while taking impeachment “off the table” set a very bad precedent. Should not high crimes have consequences? What message does this send to our children?

    Contrast war records of Nixon and McGovern. Nixon supervised loading and unloading of cargo aircraft and held various desk jobs.

    As pilot or co-pilot of American bombers in 1944-45, George McGovern flew 35 missions over enemy territory. At that time, the average life span of our pilots was seven weeks! McGovern nearly died several times in his missions. On 15 November 1944 over Linz (Austria) , as pilot, shrapnel from flak came through windshield and missed fatally wounding him by inches. A miracle of survival. On 20 December 1944 in a mission against the Škoda Works at Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, McGovern’s plane had one engine out and another in flames after being hit by flak. Again, beating the odds, Unable to return to his Italian base, McGovern made an emergency landing on a very short air field off the Yugoslav coast. Previous attempts by others had failed as the crews perished. All of McGovern’s crew were saved.

    I remember “Coming in on a wing and a prayer” from childhood. Only seconds away, Google title for many thousands of music/ lyric hits.

    Related “One Bright Shining Moment” DVD is required viewing.

    McGovern’s 1976-77 Dietary Goals and USDA 2000 Great Nutrition Debate need renewal.

    Beyond more “preaching to the choir” specific practical plan is needed. More on this later.

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