The Dietary Guidelines for Americans have evolved over time. In my opinion, this evolution has been for the worse.
In the 1960s, the USDA released “A Guide To Good Eating,” which recommended that adults drink 2+ glasses of milk daily and children 3-4 or more glasses per day. Additionally, Americans were encouraged to eat one egg per day and one or more servings of meat, cheese, fish and poultry daily. To round out these recommendations, the guide called for 2+ tablespoons of butter daily.
In the 1970s, fat was declared public enemy number one, and we saw a dramatic shift to increasing our consumption of grains, fruits and vegetables while limiting animal fats and proteins.
Per the latest Dietary Guidelines, it’s suggested that Americans consume 5.5 ounces of protein foods, including lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nut or dry beans—but teen boys and men should eat less meat, poultry and eggs.
We are told to consume less than 10% of our calories from saturated fats and replace with mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids. We should limit butter and other dairy foods. We should “eat as little as possible” of cholesterol-rich foods like eggs. And we should avoid bacon, cold cuts and other processed meats and limit our consumption of red meat and cheese.
You’re probably thinking — “Well, who follows the Dietary Guidelines anyway? I certainly don’t.” However, these guidelines dictate the requirements for meals served at schools, daycares, nursing homes, hospitals, military and more.
Now, in just a few short weeks (if the government re-opens), experts will be selected to serve on the next Dietary Guidelines committee. These experts are chosen with consultation from the USDA and U.S. Health and Human Services.
It is critical that the right folks get selected to serve on this committee as these new recommendations will become the cornerstone for nutrition in the upcoming years.
Science journalist and author of “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong In The Diet,” Nina Teicholz says, “We have worked to get some people nominated—scientists like Sarah Hallberg who have a strong understanding of the latest science on low-carbohydrate diets and saturated fats. Also, we have worked to support the nominations of evidence-based specialists who know that when evaluating data, clinical trials on humans should be prioritized over epidemiological data.
“To our huge disappointment, we’ve learned that the bureaucrats at USDA have passed over our candidates and even ‘lost’ at least one particularly strong application, of a Stanford evidence-based medicine expert and critic of nutritional epidemiology. We are trying to revive this application.”
Should the committee be comprised of biased nutritional experts who base their recommendations on their perceptions of cow belches or animal rights (and not on human health) as we have seen previously, the resulting guidelines could cause even more damage to our overall health in this nation.
Teicholz adds, “The guidelines are super powerful: They drive choices for school lunches, feeding programs for the elderly, hospital food and military rations, as well as influencing the advice dispensed by doctors, nurses, dieticians and nutritionists. If the guidelines are off or downright wrong, the potential impact on our epidemics of obesity, diabetes and neurological diseases is devastating.”
So what can we do?
First, read this letter from The Nutrition Coalition titled, “Secretary Perdue: Your leadership urgently needed on Advisory Committee for Next Dietary Guidelines.”
Here is an excerpt: “The last committee in 2015 did not include a balanced set of opinions; in fact, (11 out of 14, or nearly 80%) had consistently published work in favor of plant-based, low-animal-fat, vegetarian diets.
“The current Guidelines require 6-10 servings of grains per day (or 50-55% of calories as carbohydrates) for all Americans. They fail to reach nutritional sufficiency goals on key nutrients, and they recommend only low-fat dairy and lean meat.
“Change will not happen without a committee that is genuinely balanced in viewpoints, with experts who won’t simply rubber-stamp the status quo. We know that high-quality, non-mainstream experts have been nominated, and we fear that vested interests will keep them off the committee.”
Second, please consider writing to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, who has expressed interest in revamping and revising the current Dietary Guidelines. Perdue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. An example letter can be viewed at the link posted above.
Third, take to social media to express your viewpoints. Here are a few example tweet and Facebook posts:
Join me! Write a letter to Sec. of USDA who's about to choose all-important committee to decide next Dietary Guidelines. We need alternative viewpoints, evidence-based science. No more 1-size-fits-all, nutritionally deficient diets. We need leadership! https://bit.ly/2RDZQSA
@SecretarySonny, at USDA. Be the American hero who reverses the nation's obesity and diabetes epidemic! Choose evidence-based scientists for next Dietary Guidelines committee. https://bit.ly/2RDZQSA
Sure, I’m a beef producer who would love to see more servings of red meat on the next Dietary Guidelines for Americans. However, I’m also a consumer who knows she feels best when she has plenty of animal fats and proteins in her diet.
Secretary Perdue, if you’re reading this, please help change the course of human health in the United States and help create an updated and more nutritionally-powerful Dietary Guidelines for Americans that today’s consumers deserve!
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.