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Nina Teicholz: 5 things you need to know about the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

October 5, 2015

4 Min Read
Nina Teicholz: 5 things you need to know about the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

October is here, and as producers cut silage, harvest crops, move hay home, wean calves, preg-check cows and winterize, it’s likely the last thing on your mind is the pending decision of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAC).

However, in October, Congress will be reviewing the DGAC committee’s recommendations, and if you recall from previous blog posts I’ve written on this subject, the committee ignores science and is using personal bias to make health recommendations to the millions of Americans who will follow this advice. More than likely, you’ll continue to eat as you wish, despite what the guidelines recommend; however, for the folks who rely on food stamps, the children who eat school lunches, and the food producers whose livelihoods could be impacted based on the committee’s decision, what happens this month is critical to the future of this nation and certainly worth paying attention to.

Nina Teicholz, author of “Big Fat Surprise,” was recently published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), questioning the integrity of the committee’s decisions and arguing that the recommendations to eat more plant-based foods while avoiding animal proteins and fats is a huge mistake.

According to the North American Meat Institute, “In the BMJ, Teicholz stated the DGAC failed to use the Nutrition Evidence Library (NEL) for more than 70% of topics, and was reluctant to consider new evidence that contradicts the past 35 years of nutrition advice. NEL is a resource that helps conduct systematic reviews using a standardized process for identifying, selecting and evaluating relevant studies. Instead, the DGAC relied heavily on ad hoc examinations and reviews by outside professional organizations, such as the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology, which may be subject to bias and do not adhere to consistent scientific standards.

"Teicholz also cites numerous research findings and studies that were excluded from consideration to underscore the lack of strength and scientific backing of many of the DGAC’s recommendations. Specifically, the report targets the DGAC’s recommendation to extend current caps on saturated fats, despite the lack of scientific evidence supporting this conclusion, and takes issue with the Committee’s decision to combine saturated fats and sugar in a category called “empty calories.” Teicholz stresses the important nutritional value of foods containing saturated fats, like eggs, meat and dairy, which contain critical vitamins and other nutrients necessary for good health. The report questions the DGAC’s efforts to delete meat from the list of recommended foods despite the lack of systematic studies reviewing meat’s impact on health. Meanwhile, the three diets recommended by the DGAC, which emphasize plant-based foods over animal products, contradict current, relevant science and are not supported by the preponderance of research.”

In her article with BMJ, Teicholz lists five things folks need to know about the upcoming changes to the DGAC, including:

1. The latest DGAC are imminent and will affect the diets of tens of millions of citizens, as well as food labeling, education and research priorities. In the past, most Western nations have adopted similar dietary advice. 

2. The scientific committee advising the U.S. government has not used standard methods for most of its analyses and instead relies heavily on systematic reviews from professional bodies such as the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, which are heavily supported by food and drug companies. The committee members, who are not required to list their potential conflicts of interest, also conducted ad hoc reviews of the literature, without defining criteria for identifying or evaluating studies.

3. This year in its report to government, the committee largely sticks to the same advice it has given for decades—to eat less fat and fewer animal products and eat more plant foods for good health. But this decision to keep with the status quo fails to reflect much of the current, relevant science. Exceptions include a proposal for a cap on sugar intake.

4. The committee recommends three diets to promote better health, again without the accompanying rigorous evidence.

5. The U.S. Congress has stepped in, with a hearing scheduled in October. 

Are you worried about beef’s share of the dinner plate if the DGAC committee pushes a more plant-based diet in its 2015 recommendations? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.


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