WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Agriculture should make MyPlate dairy-free to help protect Americans from cancer, heart disease, lactose intolerance, and other dairy-related health conditions, says the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit with more than 12,000 doctor members. The group is urging Americans to tell the USDA to make MyPlate dairy-free.
MyPlate, which was introduced on June 2, 2011, is an illustration that divides a serving plate into three common food groups—vegetables, fruits, and grains—and one nutrient category—protein. The serving plate is accompanied by a smaller adjacent circle representing a dairy group. Promoted by grocery retailers, health professional associations, restaurant chains, and food manufacturers, MyPlate is meant to provide nutrition guidance but may actually increase health risks.
In 2017, the Physicians Committee petitioned the USDA to remove the dairy group because scientific evidence shows that dairy products offer little if any protection for bone health and increase the risk of asthma, breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers, cognitive decline, heart disease, and early death.
Dairy products also harm the millions of Americans with lactose intolerance, which causes bloating, diarrhea, and gas. In July 2018, the American Medical Association passed a resolution calling on the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services to recognize that lactose intolerance is common among many Americans, especially African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans, and to clearly indicate in federal nutrition guidelines that dairy products are optional.
The Physicians Committee is also urging the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which meets on June 17 and is expected to release its scientific report around July 15, to say that dairy should not be recommended in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Canada’s latest food guide recommends that Canadians make water their “drink of choice.”
Calcium is plentiful in beans, leafy green vegetables, tofu, breads, and cereals. Oranges, bananas, potatoes, and other fruits, vegetables, and beans are rich sources of potassium. Legumes and green leafy vegetables are excellent sources of magnesium. The natural source of vitamin D is sunlight, and fortified cereals, grains, bread, orange juice, and plant milks are dietary options.
In 2010, the Physicians Committee presented its Power Plate to the USDA, encouraging the USDA to use it as a healthful alternative to the food pyramid. In January 2011, the Physicians Committee brought the Power Plate to the White House. That June, the USDA unveiled its new MyPlate, which is strikingly similar to the Physicians Committee’s Power Plate.
“MyPlate is clearly inspired by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s Power Plate, which features fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes—but no dairy,” says Susan Levin, MS, RD, CSSD, director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “It’s time for MyPlate to ditch the dairy, too.”
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.