Our Dietary Guidelines are broken and below are a few reasons why. After you finish reading this and realize that you were also duped into believing a crock, you can help us change things by spreading the word (see the right hand column for graphics and links) and signing the White House petitions here and here.
1.) The Guidelines Are Not Working
The guidelines were introduced in 1980 and since then rates of obesity and other related illnesses like Type 2 Diabetes have skyrocketed. We are told that one of the major reasons we are getting so fat is because we exercise too little and eat too much. Aside from the fact that exercise alone will not lead to much weight loss (link), the statement itself cannot explain the worldwide pandemic affecting us and the biochemistry of human metabolism.
We have been told that a reduction in fat and cholesterol is required to prevent us from getting fat and or getting heart disease. This is also not supported by clinical studies.
Bottom Line: We are exercising more than ever and eating less fat, yet we are getting sicker and more obese. Is it us or is it the advice?
2.) USDA Conflict of Interest
The USDA currently promotes agriculture, subsidizes crops and jointly (with the HHS) issues our Dietary Guidelines every 5 years. This is problematic because the very same companies that utilize the subsidized crops to make heavily processed “unhealthy” foods are also successful at influencing the USDA to weaken the language or change the guidelines so they do not single out any particular “bad” food. An example of this is the lack of a “recommendation” for added sugar consumption. The food industry currently gets a free pass which is required with the promotion of low-fat foods. Without sugar, the current marketplace would taste like cardboard. The USDA has a vested interest in the food industry being profitable and successful using its subsidized agricultural crops. The food industry has found novel ways to produce cheap food additives from the subsidized crops. Examples include HCFS, hydrogenated oil, vegetable seed oils, MSG, Caramel color, etc.
Bottom Line: The USDA cannot have it both ways. It allows those with deep pockets to influence what we are supposed to eat to be healthy and recommends what it helps to subsidize. See this article for another example.
3.) Not Based On Science
The first Dietary Guidelines had their roots in a Senate Committee hearing led by George McGovern in 1977. McGovern, a politician, believed that saturated fat and cholesterol caused heart disease and the “findings” and subsequent recommendations of the committee just so happened to support those beliefs (Increase in carbohydrate intake, reduction in fat intake, cholesterol, sugar and salt).
The problem with the recommendations and the Dietary Guidelines that followed in 1980 is that they were based on politics, observational studies and personal beliefs, not hard science.
A paper titled “A call for higher standards of evidence for dietary guidelines” available on nih.gov goes on to say “… National dietary guidelines have been promulgated based on scientific reasoning and indirect evidence. In general, weak evidentiary support has been accepted as adequate justification for these guidelines. This low standard of evidence is based on several misconceptions, most importantly the belief that such guidelines could not cause harm…”
Bottom Line: Our Dietary Guidelines are not based on science that is honest and current. The science is cherry-picked and chosen to support ideas that were perpetuated in the late 1970’s.
4.) The Food Industry Has Too Much Influence
With the wave of some moola and a few well place campaign contributions, our dietary guidelines have become vague and ambiguous. The rules of ethics and conflict of interest appear to be a little lax where it comes to government and the food industry. Even organizations that American’s look to for honest advice based on science are influenced by the Food Industry. Americans do not expect organizations like the ADA or AHA to partner with companies that promote products whose food is unhealthy and has exacerbated our issues. Coco Puffs used to have a “Heart Healthy” logo on them. Really? Food companies help train Registered Dieticians (RDs) and organizations like the ADA partner with corporate sponsors to provide continuing education to them. These sponsors include Coca-Cola, ConAgra, General Mills, Kraft, Nestle, and Pepsi. They are all considered “accredited providers” of continuing professional education for dietitians.
Bottom Line: The organizations we look to for trustworthy and informed information are influenced heavily by the food companies. All continue to pass on the same message that is not based on science and has been causing us harm for 30 years.
5.) USDA Nutritional Evidence Library?
The Nutritional Evidence Library (NEL) was established by the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion to support “systematic review of the current science on nutrition and health. The NEL specializes in conducting systematic reviews to inform Federal nutrition policies and programs”. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) uses the NEL to review current evidence in support of its recommendations.
Bottom Line: The USDA also controls the “evidence” used by the committee to provide our dietary recommendations.