The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), are both responsible for publishing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (Dietary Guidelines) every 5 years. Yes the USDA, a department of the government with a conflict of interest in promoting balanced nutritional information because the USDA umbrella includes promoting food sales as well having its hand in writing the DG.
The DG committee meets this month and it has been criticized for cherry picking the research it uses to make nutrition recommendations. Why is this so important?
Well we the public feel we can trust the government (not the food companies) to provide us, Americans years of age and older, with truthful information. Especially because the DG committee claims to provide evidence-based food and beverage recommendations. They are not, in fact over 29,000 consumers have submitted comments with their concerns.
The reach of the DG goes deeper than just the public, these guides set forth by the government are used as a basis for federal nutrition policy and programs; helping guide local, state, and national health promotion and disease prevention initiatives; and influencing the food industry. Public health agencies, health care providers, and educational institutions use the DG and its message for educational purposes as well.
The British Medical Journal (BMJ) published its concerns in September, citing failure by the committee ” to reflect much relevant scientific literature in its reviews of crucial topics and therefore risks of giving a misleading picture. The omissions seem to suggest a reluctance by the committee behind the report to consider any evidence that contradicts the last 35 years of nutritional advice,” http://www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h4962.
The N.Y. Times back in February, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/21/opinion/when-the-government-tells-you-what-to-eat.html?_r=0, says that, “Uncertain science should no longer guide our nutrition policy.” I agree. Nina Tiecholz author of the BMJ piece (above) and Dr. Edward H. Ahrens Jr. (a top specialist at Rockefeller University and prominent critic of the DG) were both interviewed and provide The Times with real information that makes sense. Here are a few highlights from the article but I encourage you to read this so that you understand that in the end, no matter what, you must be an educated consumer for your own health.
- “It’s not that health authorities weren’t warned. They are not acting on the basis of scientific evidence, but on the basis of a plausible but untested idea.”
- “Since the very first nutritional guidelines to restrict saturated fat and cholesterol were released by the American Heart Association in 1961, Americans have been the subjects of a vast, uncontrolled diet experiment with disastrous consequences.”
- “We have to start looking more skeptically at epidemiological studies and rethinking nutrition policy from the ground up. Until then, we would be wise to return to what worked better for previous generations: a diet that included fewer grains, less sugar and more animal foods like meat, full-fat dairy and eggs. That would be a decent start.”
According to, ” Saving U.S. dietary advice from conflicts of interest” written by J Herman and published in Food Drug Law J. 2010;65(2):285-316, ii., http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24475543, there are two suggestions for congress that are reasonable and would help improve the integrity of the DG .
- Authority to create dietary advice should not be given to the USDA but solely to an appropriate health agency,
- Prohibit individuals with ties to the food and drug industries from serving on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, as current ethical standards ignore the influence of past ties, and they are far too specific to address different forms of conflicts.
This month Congress will review the DG and make a final decision for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAC) to be released by the end of the year. I am not optimistic that there will be unprecedented changes. If you want to get involved and let the government know you want unbiased DG, you can sign this petition, https://www.change.org/p/mike-conaway-collin-peterson-randy-neugebauer-bob-goodlatte-frank-lucas-steve-king-mike-rogers-glenn-thompson-austin-scott-bob-gibbs-rick-crawford-scott-desjarlair-vicky-hartzler-dan-b-demand-that-quality-science-determines-the-2015-u?recruiter=false&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=share_email_responsive.
Changes to the DG or not, do not be blinded with inaccurate science or old news. You know how certain foods make you feel, you now know more about the dietary guidelines and how they are derived. Be smart. Don’t be blind sided. Use good information, be an educated health advocate for yourself and find a supportive health care team that works for you.