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Our military needs more meat

Today’s blog explores how the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are providing a disservice to the men and women in uniform serving our country.

Go plant-based for your health. Skip meat for the planet. Eat a colorful rainbow of fruits and vegetables, but avoid red meat, dairy and eggs, if you want to ensure a long-healthy life and save the animals.

This rhetoric is everywhere right now, and while it’s being packaged as a new, trendy solution to solve all of our world’s problems, the fact of the matter is it’s just a regurgitation of 40-year old advice that has failed our population and our planet terribly.

Since the introduction of the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), we have seen a rapid decline in our health as a nation. Obesity-related diseases have swept the country, and the impacts are devastating.

It’s a sad and scary reality that points to one main culprit — following the government’s advice to limit animal fats and proteins and fill our plates with whole grains, fruits and vegetables instead has only made us sicker, fatter and more depressed.

Meat, eggs and dairy fuel our brains, build muscles and give us energy to tackle our busy days. Forget the old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” I much prefer the advice, “A day without meat makes one weak.”

Of course, I’m just a biased cattle rancher who makes a living off raising beef. Yet, I’m also an individual who has benefited greatly in my own health journey, by steering clear of the government’s advice and embracing a diet rich in animal fats and proteins.

But I realize my n=1 anecdotal testimony isn’t worth much. But how about entire healthy civilizations in our world’s history who have proven a meat-centered diet promotes health and happiness?

For generations, before the introduction of white flour and sugars, the Inuit of Alaska lived off whale blubber and seal meat. In my home state of South Dakota, the Sioux Indians roamed the plains consuming the nose-to-tail of the bison they hunted. These people were lean, strong, hardy and happy.

Yet, what happens when we ignore this history and try to implement an unproven human experiment that places greater emphasis on ruminant forages like lettuce, broccoli, almonds, tofu and cashew milk? And because people don’t typically enjoy these “health” foods, they instead look at plant-based junk foods — chips, candies, processed cereals, etc. to sustain themselves?

Look no further than what’s happening in our military today. According to a recent press release from The Nutrition Coalition (TNC), “The U.S. military has a crisis on its hands as obesity rates continue to rise, both among current troops and potential recruits who weigh too much to serve. The TNC, a broad and diverse coalition of scientists, health care practitioners, researchers, policy makers and concerned citizens, which aims to combat diet-driven chronic disease, is urging Congress to examine the impact of our federally funded nutrition policy on military health in a House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel hearing on ‘Military Health System Reform: A Cure for Efficiency and Readiness?’

“‘The United States military is facing an urgent health crisis, in large part due to overweight and obesity rates among active duty service members, which has risen 73% between 2011 and 2015. This is costing our nation and our taxpayers billions of dollars with the Department of Defense now spending almost $1.5 billion annually on obesity-related health care costs for current and former service members and their families,” said Nina Teicholz, Executive Director of The Nutrition Coalition. “With 71% of young people between the ages of 17 and 24 failing to qualify for military service, we are urging Congress to examine the impacts of our nation’s nutrition policy on military obesity and readiness to ensure these policies are not contributing to, but instead addressing this critical issue of national security.’

“The meals provided to our armed forces in military dining facilities are determined by the DGA, a nutrition policy developed by the USDA and Health and Human Services (HHS). The guidelines are the single-most powerful influence on the American diet.

“Since the implementation of the DGA in 1980, however, the incidence of chronic, diet-related diseases in America have dramatically increased. Adult obesity rates have doubled; childhood obesity rates have nearly tripled; and two-thirds of American adults are now overweight or have obesity. According to a 2015 report from the Rand Corporation, some two-thirds of our nation’s active military personnel are overweight or have obesity as well.

“During a recent House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Ranking Member Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) noted that since 1980, the Dietary Guidelines have not kept Americans healthy. He asserted that ‘the beginning of the Dietary Guidelines pretty much coincides with the start of the obesity epidemic.’

“Teicholz concluded, ‘With the rates of chronic diseases, particularly obesity and type 2 diabetes at all-time highs, it is time for Congress to consider the impact of our nation’s nutrition policy on the health of our service members. Our national security depends on it.’

For more information, please visit www.nutritioncoalition.us.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

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