What’s the secret to healthy eating? Less carbs? More fat? Less sugar? Unfortunately, research doesn’t provide clear answers, so it’s wise to be wary of anyone claiming to have a silver bullet. Despite the best of intentions, even if the federal government wanted to improve health through better eating habits, they can’t because they start with bad information.

While they try to associate diets with diseases like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, they can’t because the dietary information comes from an unreliable source: the people consuming food. Stated simply, no one really knows what Americans are eating because the government’s method for collecting dietary information is to simply ask people what they remember eating in the past.

Memory and recall have long been considered woefully inadequate for scientific data collection. Yet this is what government relies on when providing advice on healthy eating. The government’s main dietary advice is the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), which was first released in 1980 and is now updated every five years.

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