Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Shows Plant-Based Diets Beat Animal Products for Health Promotion, Disease Prevention, Sustainability

The Physicians Committee
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NEWS RELEASE February 19, 2015
Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Shows Plant-Based Diets Beat Animal Products for Health Promotion, Disease Prevention, Sustainability
But Doctors Say Cholesterol Must Remain a Nutrient of Concern in Petition Filed Today to USDA

WASHINGTON—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine praises some of the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), which highlights the value of plant-based diets for Americans – both for health and environmental impact. Vegetarian and vegan diets are clearly established through research as a powerful way to prevent obesity, diabetes, and chronic disease.

Doctors and dietitians with the Physicians Committee commend the report for stating: “The major findings regarding sustainable diets were that a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet.”

Previous advisory panels have noted the value of vegetarian diets, but these recommendations have been expanded to specifically demonstrate how a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of many types of chronic disease. The current language recommending vegetarian dietary patterns is the strongest to date.

But the report doesn’t have strong enough language warning against the consumption of meat products. “Lean meat, processed meat, red meat – all meat – causes disease,” says Neal Barnard, M.D., Physicians Committee president. “The same can be said for low-fat dairy products.”

The report has also reversed decades of warnings against cholesterol. Decades of science have conclusively linked dietary cholesterol to cardiovascular disease, which kills nearly 2,200 Americans daily. The Physicians Committee is urging the USDA and DHHS to exercise its authority to reiterate prior federal recommendations that Americans limit their cholesterol intake.

In a petition filed today to the USDA and DHHS, the doctors group asks that the DGAC’s findings stating that “[c]holesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption,” be disregarded because the DGAC deferred entirely to a 2013 report by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology and one meta-analysis of egg consumption. The reliance on the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology report does not comply with the spirit of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which sets standards for bias among federal advisory committees.

The petition states: “In appearing to exonerate dietary cholesterol, the DGAC further confuses an already bewildered general public, the very group the Dietary Guidelines are supposed to benefit. See 7 U.S.C. § 5341(a). The average American does not differentiate fat from cholesterol, or dietary cholesterol from blood cholesterol. To suggest that cholesterol in foods is not a problem will lead many to imagine that fatty foods or an elevated blood cholesterol level carry no risk—two potentially disastrous notions.”

To speak with Neal Barnard, M.D., please contact Carrie Clyne at 202-527-7339 or cclyne@pcrm.org.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.