Statement by Amy Joy Lanou, Ph.D PCRM Nutrition Director on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee 2005 Report
USDA Holds Final Public Hearing, Tuesday, September 21
“The final public hearing on the report by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee—the government-appointed panel charged with telling Americans how to eat and what to eat if we’re to remain healthy—ideally should be one more chance to get the Committee and the USDA to take its mandate seriously. Instead, it’s likely to be an exercise in public relations. The decisions—many influenced by the food industry—have been made already.
“The Committee has announced that it intends to up the daily fat recommendations from ‘less than 30 percent’ in the 2000 report to a range of 20-35 percent in the 2005 edition at a time when two-thirds of American adults and one in five children are overweight. The result will be increasing rates of coronary artery disease, diabetes, and other diet-related chronic diseases that take the lives of millions of Americans every year and contribute to spiraling costs that threaten to overwhelm our nation’s health care system.
“For the first time, the Committee has included dairy products in its guidelines, despite the fact that milk is the number one source of saturated fat and total fat in children’s diets. This is worrisome not only because of rising childhood obesity rates, but because of the increased incidence of Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes in children, linked in a number of studies to proteins in milk. Additionally, an estimated one in four Americans is lactose intolerant and is unable to digest milk sugars adequately. Lactose intolerance is the norm, not the exception, in African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.
“The Committee’s recommendation that Americans eat 8 to 9 ounces of fish per week is irresponsible. Mercury and other contaminants in fish make this a dangerous food, particularly for pregnant women and children. One in six women of childbearing age in the United States have mercury levels high enough to threaten the health of a developing fetus. The panel has recommended fish because it is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, but it ignores the fact that other, healthier foods like flax and nuts contain these essential nutrients. Vegetables, fruits, and beans provide a healthful balance of essential fatty acids, as well.
“What should the DGAC recommend? The panel should limit its fat intake recommendations to between 10-15 percent, building low-fat, plant-based diets based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Foods from animal sources and fats should not be recommended.
“Finally, the committee should err on the side of caution, offering Americans the best scientific information available—not a compromise between what we know is true, what consumers will tolerate, and what the Big Food lobby will permit.”
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.