In today’s world of crazy politics and policies shaped by corporate (not citizen’s) interest, it is easy to feel powerless. Yet, there is so much you can do in just a few minutes to change that.
Keep reading and I’ll explain how.
There are over 600 lobbyists that spend half a billion dollars to shape the $1 trillion farm bill. This bill controls all our agriculture policies and all our food programs including food stamps, WIC (Women’s Infants and Children’s Food and Nutrition Service), school lunches, our Dietary Guidelines, and more.
Our Dietary Guidelines also influence what doctors, nutritionists, hospitals, and frontline workers in health care recommend. They determine nutrition education, medical education, and the research priorities of the National Institutes of Health. These guidelines are supposed to support the health and well-being of our citizens.
While they have improved since 1980 when they were first developed, they still fall short of guidelines that truly promote health and well-being, and more importantly, they do not represent current nutrition science.
This really should be called the “food bill” because just a small part of it goes to agriculture.
Here’s the problem. The policies represent corporate interests, not science.
But there is good news. You can collectively make a massive impact to change our corrupt, industry influenced, scientifically flawed Dietary Guidelines by making your voices heard.
In my online community, there are almost 2 million people. If we all speak out (and invite our communities too as well), the government will listen. The USDA has asked for comments on the new Dietary Guidelines process by March 30, 2018.
Simply click here to learn how to post your comments (with suggestions of what to Tweet or post on Facebook making it super easy for you).
The Problem with Our Dietary Guidelines
Now a little background on the flawed Dietary Guidelines.
The first guidelines were created in 1977. Senator George McGovern led a committee to determine the best dietary recommendations to combat chronic disease. I have written about this extensively in my book Eat Fat, Get Thin.
The scientific head of these initial guidelines was Mark Hegsted of Harvard, who was one of the leading advocates for a low-fat and low-saturated fat diet. The first guidelines told us to cut the fat and increase carbs. Dr. Hegsted was paid the equivalent of $50,000 in today’s dollars by the sugar lobby to publish an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that exonerated sugar and vilified fat as the cause of heart disease. This led to almost 50 years of advice to eat a low-fat diet and increase carbs by the government.
Despite the lack of any randomized controlled trials tying fat or saturated fat to heart disease or obesity, we went down a deadly road of flawed advice using the food pyramid, which told us to eat 6-11 servings of bread, rice, cereal, and pasta a day and eat fats and oils only sparingly.
It shouldn’t have been called the food pyramid. It should have been called the food tombstone!
This led to the biggest obesity and diabetes pandemic in the history of humanity. Now 70% of Americans are overweight and almost 40% are obese. In my view, these recommendations have killed millions of people.
Now we know we can reverse type 2 diabetes with a very high-fat or ketogenic diet, which is also very low in carbohydrates. Yet all the “dietary patterns” recommended in the Dietary Guidelines all contain about 60% carbs.
We also know that high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets work far better for weight loss than low-fat, calorie restricted diets. In the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, any restriction on total fat was removed from the recommendations and we were told not to worry about eating dietary cholesterol because it is “no longer a nutrient of concern”.
Much of the recommendations come not from independent systematic reviews of the science by the committee, but on biased outside reviews by the American Heart Association (which receives 20% of its revenue from the food industry) and the American College of Cardiology (which receives 38% of its revenue from the food industry).
Yet there is no inclusion of all the evidence that low-carbohydrate (higher fat) diets outperform low-fat diets for treatment of type 2 diabetes, weight loss, and even cardiovascular risk factors.
The guidelines also still recommend restricting saturated fat despite overwhelming evidence that saturated fat does not cause heart disease.
There is also a general consensus that we should eat less meat because it causes cancer and heart disease. This is based on weak evidence and has not been subjected to a systematic review by the guidelines committee.
Sadly, the last guidelines were moving in the direction of sustainability, but that language was removed from the final guidelines.
Factory farming of animals (and the way we grow food for them) and our food system in general is the number one cause of climate change. The answer isn’t necessarily to eat less meat but to build a regenerative agriculture movement supported by government policies that can restore soils that sequester carbon, store water, and help reverse climate change.
A Critical Review of the Dietary Guidelines by the National Academy of Sciences
In 2017, Congress mandated the National Academy of Sciences, the nation’s most independent scientific advisory group, to review the process by which the Dietary Guidelines are developed. Their report found major flaws with the process including undue industry influence and conflicts of interest on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee members.
They said, “The adoption and widespread translation of the DGA [Dietary Guidelines] requires that they be universally viewed as valid, evidence-based, and free of bias and conflicts of interest to the extent possible. This has not routinely been the case.” [S-1]
They also found the committee ignored large areas of data including that on saturated fat and low-carbohydrate diets. And they found that many committee members were supported by industry, including Pepsico and vegetable oil manufacturers.
Take Action Now to Change This
We must make science into policy. Our health and the health of the country depend on it.
Please join me in answering the request by the USDA (Department of Agriculture) for comments on key issues concerning the Dietary Guidelines.
Two of the main issues they’re asking for comment on are dietary levels of carbohydrates and saturated fats. Now is the time we can have a big impact on making the guidelines represent science and citizens, not corporations.
So please read this page from the Nutrition Coalition, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to bringing good science into nutritional policy. I am on the board of directors. Please submit your comments and help me change our outdated and harmful nutritional policies today.
To learn more about how to submit your comments click here. The deadline for comments is March 30, 2018. This is the first time the government has invited public comments. This is a rare opportunity to change our food policy. There are also Facebook posts and Tweets you can share with your communities to help create the change we need.
In just five minutes you have the power to create real change.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD