Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Bad Joke that is "My Food Guide"

Tony Clement told Mike Duffy last night that the My Food Guide component of Health Canada's website would be highly customizable,

"If you go to healthCanada.gc.ca and go through the site to the food guide, you can plug in your age, plug in your gender, plug in some information about your exercise regimen, and it will give you very specific dietary information, and that's a really good interactive tool that can be used for anyone."
Virtually all media outlets include some accolades for the My Food Guide component. Here's a smattering:
"Adds a new interactive component called My Food Guide that allows Internet users to personalize their nutritional information based on their age, sex, food preferences and activity choices."
- Gloria Galloway, The Globe and Mail

"Users can simply go to www.hc-sc.gc.ca, click on Create My Food Guide, and by following simple, straightforward instructions, are able to build a food guide tailored to their age and sex as well as their food and exercise preferences. Within minutes, parents can create individual guides for each member of the family that includes that person's input."
- Rebecca Field Jager, The Hamilton Spectator

"Some of the other key revisions to the Food Guide include more detailed information according to age and gender, the inclusion of recommendations for preschoolers, linking mandatory food labels with the Guide and the new interactive Web component called My Food Guide."
- Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada News Release.
Did these people even bother to click on it?

My Food Guide is completely useless.

It cares about your age and sex. It doesn't care about anything else. Not your height, your weight, your co-existing medical conditions, your level of physical fitness and the extent that you exercise. Nothing.

Let's take for example two hypothetical individuals:

Meet Samantha. She's a 21 year old, 5ft 10inch, Varsity Volleyball player with hopes of making it to the Olympics in 2008. She loves exercise and between her Volleyball, her workouts and simply leading an active lifestyle she averages 14 hours of vigorous exercise weekly. She currently weighs 145lbs with a BMI of 21.

Here is her, "My Food Guide" (for the sake of ease, I simply clicked the 3 first items on the left and 3 first items on the right for all of my choices).

Now let's take our other hypothetical.

Meet Margaret. She's 72 years old, has type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, is a widower, had a stroke last year, is almost completely sedentary and enjoys listening to the CBC. She is 5ft 2inches tall and weighs 225lbs with a BMI of 41.

Here is her "My Food Guide"

So let me get this straight.

The only difference between the two My Food Guides is that Samantha's being told to eat one more fruit or vegetable, one more grain and one less dairy product?

Other than that they're identical?

Those are really the only differences?


[unintelligible, irritated mutterings]

You know, it's one thing to create a customizable and useful My Food Guide that would have taken into account activity levels, age, weight, height and sex. It's quite another to create something completely useless and then promote it as wonderful.

Wanna know why they couldn't make something useful?

Because they ignored Calories and frankly that's the only way to make tailored, useful, customizable dietary recommendations that take all those factors into account.