In the late 1970’s the low fat diet traveled to the halls of Congress in Washington DC. The Senate Select Committee on Nutrition, led by Senator George McGovern, held two days of hearings entitled “Diet Related to Killer Diseases”. After the hearings, committee staff member Nick Mottern orchestrated the political crusade for the (low fat) diet-heart hypothesis despite the fact that he had no background in nutrition or health. His personal negative bias toward red meat further tainted the narrative and his report, called Dietary Goals, secured the U.S. Government’s support with Congressional adoption in 1977. At this point, the diet-heart hypothesis became politically protected as truth despite the fact that virtually no clinical trial scientific proof existed.
“The United States had embarked upon a giant nutritional experiment to cut out meat, dairy and dietary fat altogether, shifting calorie-consumption over to grains, fruits and vegetables. Saturated animal fats would be replaced by polyunsaturated vegetable oils. It was a new, untested diet – just an idea, presented to Americans as the truth. Many years later, science started to show that this diet was not very healthy at all, but it was too late by then, since it had been national policy for decades already.”(Teicholz-102)
In February of 1980, the Dietary Goals transitioned into the first Dietary Guidelines for Americans eventually providing the basis for the USDA Food Pyramid, and the subsequent “My Plate” dietary teachings known to every school aged child in the country. Revisited every five years, the dietary guidelines provide a one size fits all approach, equating the nutritional needs of every American over the age of 2.
While USDA reports that these guidelines over the past 30 years were not well followed, they most certainly shifted the culture of the American diet. In response to their advice, Americans moved away from red meat, eggs, and dairy and towards carbohydrates and vegetable oils. Many replaced nutrient dense protein with sugar and polyunsaturated oils – a combination which arguably played a role in causing obesity and other metabolic diseases like diabetes to explode across the population. The dietary guidelines became officially destined for political battle when they became law in 1995.
According to Adele Hite MPH, RD, MAT of the Healthy Nation Coalition, the policy changes associated with the dietary guidelines altered the food environment in our country by affecting:
- What’s available for purchase on grocery store shelves.
- What’s available for purchase through the WIC and other government programs.
- What’s being fed to our military members on active duty.
- What’s being fed to our kids through school lunch programs.
- What’s being taught in school to our kids in Nutrition and Health classes.
- Narrowing the focus for future nutritional studies and limited scientific debate on the topic.
In addition to equating the dietary needs of a two year old child with a fifty year old man, this government sponsored nutrition dogma portrays unproved science as the truth.
The proposed 2015 Dietary Guidelines limit animal protein even more than the previous guidelines, despite the fact that the 2010 report states that the food patterns recommended in the Dietary Guidelines “have not been specifically tested for health benefits”. The continued increase in the growing percentage of obese and metabolically challenged Americans should cause our leaders in Washington DC to take pause and reexamine their advice — but the high carbohydrate narrative lives on.
It is time for the American people to let their voices be heard. The comment period for the proposed 2015 Dietary Guidelines is open until May 8, 2015. I will be sharing my comment letter next week both on this website and also with the USDA/HHS. You can share your thoughts by going to the government website. If you would like to view other sample comments you can go to either the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Website or be a signer on the letter written by the Healthy Nation Coalition.
Together we can reinforce the notion that policy does not equal science and take back our right to chose healthy foods for our families.