For those hoping the 2020 Dietary Goals Advisory Committee (DGAC) was more balanced and might finally recognize recent research indicating the benefits of animal foods and saturated fats, it’s not looking likely.
Consider this language: “…evidence indicates that dietary patterns emphasizing vegetables, fruits and whole grains; seafood and legumes; …lower in meats (including red meat and processed meats), and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages…” provide better health outcomes.”
This language or similar phraseology is contained in the draft version of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for every major disease category. Dairy products, unless low-fat variations, are very often included in the “lower” list. Red meat and processed meat only beat out sugared beverages and foods.
This DGAC was certainly not inclined to break any new ground. Time after time, the conclusion paragraphs begin with the statement, “The 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee conducted a systematic evidence scan and determined that the conclusion drawn by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee generally reflects the current state of science.”
Really now. That statement ignores a lot of recent research that indicates the emphasis in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines on more carbs and less red meat is wrong.
The phraseology in the first paragraph was repeated nearly verbatim for all recommendations: body weight, cardiovascular disease (CHD), type 2 diabetes, cancer and all-cause mortality. The only variation on the theme is to whether the evidence against red meat and sugar is “moderate,” “strong” or “limited.”
And, of course, especially regarding body weight and type 2 diabetes, we know how well the dietary guidelines have worked for most Americans. All the evidence shows the public at large (sorry) is going in the wrong direction. Like so often in government bureaucracies or government advisory groups, the theory is, if it’s not working, double down.
There are also some contradictions that certainly don’t fit into the concept of the Dietary Guidelines: i.e. recommendations that ordinary, healthy Americans can understand, apply and get positive results.
Immediately, we noticed that the 2020 DGAC is struggling with the conclusion of its vice-chairwoman after the 2015 Dietary Guideliness, who told the New York Times that the DGAC had discarded the notion that there was any connection between dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol. So-called “experts” had been recommending against animal products for years on dietary cholesterol grounds.
Of course, research has shown that serum cholesterol had no real bearing on CHD anyway.
Yet, these draft guidelines regarding body weight recommend “lower intakes of saturated fats, cholesterol…”
For cardiovascular disease, the draft claims that “healthy” eating patterns, i.e. patterns with less red and processed meat, “exert clinically meaningful impact on cardiovascular risk factors, including blood lipids…” and lower consumption of “saturated fat, cholesterol…”
A related topic: “What is the relationship between types of dietary fat consumed and risk of cardiovascular disease?”
The conclusion for intermediate outcomes: “Strong and consistent evidence from randomized controlled trials shows that replacing saturated fatty acids with unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fatty acids, significantly reduces total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.” The draft goes on with roughly the same language for endpoint health outcomes regarding coronary and cardiovascular disease mortality.
The draft also makes six other notes along the same vein labeled as “insufficient evidence” or “limited evidence.” Nothing like clarity for non-expert citizens.
The last one is really contradictory.
“Insufficient evidence is available from randomized controlled trials to quantify an independent relationship between dietary cholesterol intake in adults and overall risk of cardiovascular disease. Grade: Grade not assignable.”
Wait a minute. For over 50 years they’ve been proclaiming that dietary cholesterol was connected to coronary heart disease and, therefore, any food containing cholesterol, especially red meat, was bad. Now they claim that there is insufficient evidence after 50 years of “research?”
Many of you “know” Nina Teicholz, a distinguished science journalist and now executive director of the Nutrition Coalition, a group advocating a rigorous scientific process in dealing with nutrition and health.
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Teicholz focused on the DGAC’s refusal to publicly consider the evidence regarding low carbohydrate diets. It took the use of the Freedom of Information Act to discover that the 2015 committee conducted a formal review on them but did not publish the findings (“A Low-Carb Strategy for Fighting the Pandemic’s Toll, ” 5/30-31).
The 2020 DGAC claimed it could not find any research on low (below 25%) carbohydrate diets. A group called the Low-Carb Action Network found 52 of them. But the committee excluded any study that involved weight loss, effectively eliminating any help for the two-thirds of overweight Americans.
That reveals a major flaw in the DGs. They are limited to advice for healthy people, as opposed to Americans who have any health problems, like weight or diabetes.
As for comments, there are tons from obvious animal rights or vegetarian groups pushing for less meat consumption and those opposing dairy.
The draft report says “Not considered final” until the full committee has deliberated and issued a final report.
It is interesting that the comment period was mostly before the draft language, with some sections not completed and comments closing quickly after posted draft language. The committee’s final report meeting is scheduled one week after comments close. Members will not have read the tens of thousands of comments.
Dittmer is a longtime beef industry commentator and EVP of the Agribusiness Freedom Foundation. The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.