Tag Archives: Dietary Guidelines

2015 Dietary Guidelines: Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peas

Earlier this year, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released its recommendations. These recommendations are currently under federal review, with a modified version passing into law later in the year. The comment period—in which medical professionals, food industry representatives, and concerned citizens submit their feedback regarding the recommendations—ends this Friday. This is our last chance to make our voices heard!

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In a previous blog, I broke down the basic good and bad points made in the report. But let’s take a look at some of the broader cultural implications:

Lean Meat

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has officially removed its recommendation for Americans to eat lean meat, and solid scientific evidence shows that people who avoid meat are healthier than those who consume it. There is a mounting body of research showing the ill-effects of meat consumption.

Saturated Fat

Saturated fat also took a big hit. At the Physicians Committee, we agree with the Committee’s recommendation to reduce saturated fat consumption, due to the harmful impact on heart health and other diseases. Nearly 90 percent of Americans consume more than the recommended daily limit of saturated fat and added sugar.

Cholesterol

Unfortunately, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee erred in reversing the prior recommendation to limit dietary cholesterol. Physicians Committee doctors have been making a strong case for adjusting the 2015 guidelines to limit cholesterol—and why cholesterol is still a nutrient of concern.

Decades of scientific study have linked dietary cholesterol to cardiovascular disease, our country’s number-one cause of death, killing nearly 2,200 Americans daily.Telling Americans that “cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption” is likely to encourage consumption of meat, dairy products, and eggs—foods high in dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. Meat and dairy products are strongly linked to our country’s deadliest epidemics: obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Not only are chronic disease rates rising, but they’re being seen in younger and younger patients.

Let your voice be heard and help keep cholesterol warnings in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines! Submit your comments by Friday, May 8.

Updating the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

A Chance for Physicians to Comment in Favor of Sustainable, Science-Backed Solutions

As a nation, we’ve never been more confused about which food choices lead to optimal health. With the recent controversy surrounding cholesterol, it’s easy to see why. This is one reason I presented today at the Public Meeting for Oral Testimony on the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Committee at the National Institutes of Health.

The final 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans will come out later this year, but the public now has an opportunity to weigh in on the Dietary Guidelines Committee’s recommendations. The Dietary Guidelines have an extraordinary impact on food choices consumers will make and dietary habits our next generation will form. The guidelines manifest into meals purchased for our nation’s schools, senior centers, and hospitals, not to mention choices you’ll see readily available at the local corner market and grocery store.

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We should be supporting sustainable, healthful foods that fall into these four food groups.

Unfortunately, these menus often fall short on painting the picture of perfect health. Instead, they still serve a surplus of fat, sodium, and cholesterol, which, despite recent headlines, is still a nutrient of concern. If we want to combat metabolic syndrome—the perfect storm of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess weight, and elevated cholesterol—we have to act now. Nearly 70 percent of Americans struggle with weight, a risk factor for many forms of chronic disease, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. And half of Americans who maintain a healthy weight are still at risk for at least one metabolic risk factor.

While the expert report for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is heading in the right direction with a focus on plant-based dietary patterns, it still needs some work. Especially when it comes to educating the public about the dangers of dietary cholesterol, the “necessity” of dairy products, and explaining the leading sources of saturated fat, in plain language: high-fat cheeses, meats, oils, and dairy products.

Click here to read my testimony, and make your voice heard by submitting a public comment. The deadline is extended until May 8, 2015.

Dr. Barnard presenting his testimony on the Dietary Guidelines.

Dr. Barnard presenting his testimony on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

Follow the conversation on Twitter by searching for #DGAC2015 and #PlantBasedRx.

New Dietary Guidelines: The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Confusing

Today, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released its report on what Americans should eat. When finalized, the Guidelines will be the basis for all federal programs, including school lunches. And the report is a huge step forward in several ways:

  1. The report singled out vegetarian diets as one of three healthful diet patterns. The other two healthy patterns were the Mediterranean diet and the “Healthy U.S.-style Pattern.” Vegetarian diets reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, and other health problems and have gained greater prominence in each new edition of the Guidelines.
  2. The report was a rebuke for those who have suggested that saturated (“bad”) fat, common in meat and dairy products, is somehow not a danger. The report emphasized saturated fat’s risks and maintained the previous limit that no more than 10% of calories should come from saturated fat.
  3. The report deleted “lean meat” from its list of favored foods. Its authors were convinced by evidence showing that increased consumption of “lean meat” confers no health benefits.
  4. The report breaks new ground in reporting on food’s relationship to environmental health, which in turn affects human health.

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But for all its good points, the new report has trouble spots:

  1. The report suggested that cholesterol in foods is not a major danger, contrasting with the Institute of Medicine, which found that cholesterol in foods does indeed raise blood cholesterol levels, especially in people whose diets are modest in cholesterol to start with. On this topic, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee did no original research and instead deferred to a 2014 report by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology. However, the American Heart Association receives substantial cash payments for certifying food products, including cholesterol-containing food products as “heart healthy,” creating a financial incentive for discounting the relationship between dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol.

    The Physicians Committee is concerned that exonerating dietary cholesterol will only confuse an already bewildered public. Most people do 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.

    Accordingly, the Physicians Committee has petitioned the USDA and DHHS to disregard the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s findings on dietary cholesterol. The reliance on the American Heart Association document does not comply with the spirit of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which sets standards for bias among federal advisory committees.

  1. The Committee report recommends fish, despite frequent contamination with mercury and PCBs, and despite evidence that vegetarians who avoid fish and shellfish are slimmer and have less risk of diabetes, compared with people who eat fish.
  2. The report continued to recommend dairy products, despite recent evidence that they do not “build strong bones” or protect against fractures.

Even with its flaws, the new Dietary Guidelines report is a major advance.

The Physician Committee’s own recommendations, represented graphically in The Power Plate (www.ThePowerPlate.org), focus on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes as dietary staples. The Power Plate rests on hundreds of scientific studies showing that plant-based eating habits are associated with lower obesity rates and a reduced risk of heart disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.

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