Tag Archives: diet

My Comment Letter To Secretary Burwell and Secretary Vilsack Regarding the 2015 Dietary Guideline Committee Recommendations…

Dear Secretary Burwell and Secretary Vilsack,

After researching the science of nutrition and the history of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, I write to you as a concerned American and a mother of three girls, as well as a cattle rancher. I have great misgivings with respect to the recommendations of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

While raising teenagers is inarguably a challenge, mentoring my own teenage girls through the “sea of dietary confusion” reminds me distinctly of an Iron Man Competition. The CDC reports that 9% of all girls age 12-19 are iron deficient. In particular, athletic girls require more animal protein which uniquely provides heme-iron to ensure good health. Yet, the recommended 2015 Dietary Guidelines reduce even further the recommended dietary intake of animal protein. The “one size fits all nature” of this approach to diet inaccurately provides for the American people, and the resulting dietary education as well as the lunch nutrition that my girls’ receive in the public school system thereby runs contrary to their needs.

The high carbohydrate/low fat diet that serves as the basis for the U.S. Dietary Guidelines stems from epidemiological work begun by Ancel Keys in the 1960’s. Repeatable clinical trial studies since Dr. Keys’ hypothesis was formed have not provided scientific validation to the proposed merits of the diet. A small number of clinical trials done on middle-aged men provide the only non-epidemiological scientific basis for this dietary recommendation. To date, there is virtually no scientific data supporting this hypothesis as healthy for women or children. Perhaps even more disturbing is the culture created in the nutritional community since the establishment of the first Dietary Goals in 1977. Actions include stymieing other diet hypotheses and scientific trial work that do not match the original Key hypothesis. For instance, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Committee refused to include the BOLD dietary research study in the reference section of their report thereby enabling them to “selectively choose their science” and further cut the recommendation for red meat.

Good science is both debatable and able to be replicated over time. Unfortunately, in addition to a biased approach to nutritional research, the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Committee Recommendations also include a further reach outside of documented science and into the realm of philosophy relative to the topic of sustainability. The science of sustainability is in its infancy. Much deeper analysis into topics like food waste and appropriate land use need to be completed before substantial information exists to promote one diet over another in the name of sustainability. Additionally, the topic of sustainability is clearly outside the scope of committee responsibilities.

In closing, I request that both of you do what is best for the American public and take a moment to read the research demonstrating that perhaps the high carbohydrate diet is part of the cause of the dietary ailments of Americans rather than the solution. In the lifetime of the Dietary Guidelines the culture of the American diet has shifted dramatically. According to USDA, the consumption of grains (41%), vegetables (23%) and fruits (13%) rose significantly from 1970-2005 while red meat (-22%), milk (-33%) and eggs (-17%) fell dramatically. Overall carbohydrate intake for Americans rose with low fat starches, and vegetable oil took the place of animal protein and fat in the diet. Animal protein lovers shifted from beef to chicken, and many traded whole fat dairy for skim milk and margarine thereby forsaking nutrition density for lower saturated fat options. All of this occurred during a time in the United States when obesity rates more than doubled (15-32%), the prevalence of heart failure, cancer and stroke all increased, and the rate of diabetes increased from less than 1% to 11%. Clearly, the dietary changes caused by dietary guidelines resulted in an “unhealthier America” as Americans traded protein for sugar.

I ask you to help put the science back in nutrition by:
1.Recognizing that the nutrient requirements of Americans vary according to age and sex thereby rendering a one size fits all approach to diet both ineffective and potentially harmful to women and children.
2.Including diverse animal protein options (including beef and whole fat dairy) as part of a balanced and healthy diet.
3.Encouraging a robust and healthy dietary science community where hypotheses are proven before they are sold as truth, and studies on all hypotheses are universally included in the discussion.
4.Removing all verbiage relative to sustainability from the dietary guidelines as that topic is both outside the realm of the committee as well as lacking the necessary scientific basis to be meaningful.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Anne Burkholder

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Policy Does Not Equal Science…

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.

It is ludicrous to suggest that her dietary needs equal that of a middle aged man…A nutrient rich diet that includes beef leads her both to victory and good health. 800M Champion last weekend in her first high school track meet!

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.

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Filed under Nutrition (cattle and human)

Perhaps It’s Time To Stop Apologizing For Fat…

How often do you eat a steak, an omelet, or cook with real butter? What kind of milk is in your refrigerator?

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While animal protein arguably tastes good and makes us feel satiated, the nutrition community has steadfastly steered Americans away from eating red meat and whole fat dairy for the past four decades. The diet-heart hypothesis (coined by a biologist named Ancel Keys in the early 1960’s) proclaimed that a low fat and high carbohydrate diet provided the basis for good health. Although not proved through clinical trials, the hypothesis gained support from the federal government and provided the basis for mainstream dietary advice during the ensuing decades.

In my lifetime, the culture of the American diet has shifted dramatically. According to USDA, the consumption of grains (41%), vegetables (23%) and fruits (13%) rose significantly from 1970-2005 while red meat (-22%), milk (-33%) and eggs (-17%) fell dramatically. Overall carbohydrate intake for Americans rose with low fat starches, and vegetable oil took the place of animal protein and fat in the diet. Animal protein lovers shifted from beef to chicken, and many traded whole fat dairy for skim milk and margarine thereby forsaking nutrition density for lower saturated fat options.

All of this occurred during a time in the United States when obesity rates more than doubled (15-32%), the prevalence of heart failure, cancer and stroke all increased, and the rate of diabetes increased from less than 1% to 11%.

An association hypothesis (mirroring the process used by Ancel Keys to develop the diet-heart low fat mindset) might suggest from these two sets of data that replacing animal protein with vegetable oil and carbohydrates actually reduced the quality of health of Americans – the direct opposite from the intended consequence of Keys’ hypothesis. Uncovering this discrepancy inspired Nina Teicholz, an investigative food reporter, to delve deep into the nutrition archives. After nine years of research covering thousands of studies and a wide array of interviews with nutrition scientists, Teicholz uncovered a laundry list of interesting findings in her New York Times Bestseller The Big Fat Surprise.

  • The current U.S Dietary Guidelines are based on Keys’ hypothesis and drawn from epidemiological studies primarily done on middle-aged men. Clinical trials have not confirmed the epidemiological data, and virtually no data exits supporting this hypothesis for women and children.
  • The causal associations seen between red meat consumption and heart disease are minimal.
  • The saturated fat found in animal protein increases HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) which appears to play a positive role in heart health. Additionally, fat plays an important role in providing energy as well as ensuring that a number of essential vitamins be fully absorbed by the body.
  • Total cholesterol is not a good predictor of heart disease for most people. In particular, LDL (bad) cholesterol does not consistently predict an increased risk of heart disease. The cholesterol argument is the primary basis for the advice to reduce red meat consumption.
  • No health studies exist to discern the effect on health of liquid vegetable oils; and studies have shown that the process of solidifying vegetable oils (to make butter imitations) creates trans-fat which are incredibly unhealthy. Vegetable oil use is up 8% since the diet-heart hypothesis began to drive dietary advice.
  • Carbohydrates are a primary cause of insulin secretion – the constant consumption of carbohydrates throughout the day creates elevated insulin levels in the bloodstream which renders the body unable to digest its fat stores. This leads to metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes. Eating fat and protein do not cause insulin secretion during digestion.  High fat, low carbohydrate diets like the Atkins diet are more effective for achieving lasting weight loss.
  • Multiple clinical trials demonstrate that a diet which trades carbohydrates for protein and fat can be healthy suggesting that a shift in thought process and nutrition study focus is prudent.

TheBigFatSurprise

I encourage each of you to read Teicholz’s book. It is an eye opening experience that inspires the reader to guiltlessly enjoy a steak while thinking that perhaps it’s time to stop apologizing for fat…

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Raising Teenage Girls Amidst a Sea Of Dietary Confusion…

Apart from my favorite farmer, my three girls are my greatest blessing. In less than two weeks, 2/3’s of them will be teenagers. Our house is a bevy of activity permeated by moments of drama, and decorated by athletic bras hanging to dry on nearly every doorknob.

While raising teenagers is unarguably an adventure, I believe that the journey of raising healthy and confident girls resembles a never ending Iron Man competition. Nagging concerns of being thin, pretty, and accepted butt up against dreams of athletic and intellectual prowess. An internal struggle capped off by an innate drive toward individualism that may conflict with mainstream culture as well as push the dogma perpetuated by parents and mentors.

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The life journey of a teenage girl proves that the road to excellence is never comfortable…

While many of these daily struggles simply come together to create the iconic journey toward maturity, some have become exacerbated by the complex dual between science and politics that make up the history of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. I was two years old in 1977 when the science of nutrition became diluted with the burden of politics. Fortunately my parents shielded me from the ramifications of the new age of political nutrition rhetoric, choosing to instead pass along to me a traditional culture of family meals and a balanced diet.

I grew up in a house where dinner was always a home cooked meal. Meat was the center of the plate accompanied by a vegetable, some sort of starch, and a glass of milk. While my mom was not a fancy cook, her meals were delicious and she taught me how to put diversified nutrients on the table. I learned to equate the basics of home cooking with healthiness, primarily due to my mom’s steadfast commitment to a pragmatic diet approach.

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I do not have childhood memories of other influences (outside of my family) on the topic of nutrition. I cannot say that same thing about my daughters. The web of political influence over nutrition has grown to where it touches their lives daily through school lunches and nutrition education in the classroom.

  • I serve my girls eggs, meat, and whole milk as a part of a balanced diet at home while they are told in school curriculum that these are unhealthy even when blended with fruits and vegetables on the home cooked dinner plate.
  • I preach about the importance of protein and fat as sources of energy and nutrients in the diet while the government mandated curriculum teaches them that eating healthy means a plant based high carbohydrate and low fat diet.

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The result is a conflicted and confused teenager trying to survive amidst a sea of dietary confusion.

The next few blog posts will take a look at both the science and the politics of nutrition. I will examine Nina Teicholz’s New York Times Bestseller The Big FAT Surprise, as well as the current nutrition debate that struggles to surface amidst a 30 year culture of food politics determined to create a one size fits all answer to the diet and health of Americans.

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Ninety Years and Counting…

The Blondes and I were able to take a quick trip to visit my family in Florida last weekend.  Although we (as a family) rarely employ the divide and conquer philosophy, this time a busy schedule necessitated it so Ashley Grace and Matt stayed in Nebraska to hold down the fort.  It had been more than a year since I had been back to visit, and at age 90 and 91 my grandparents no longer travel out to see us. So, we traded the Beef State for the Sunshine State for a few days.

My favorite blondes taking in some sunshine with my beloved Grannie and Dedaw...

I was blessed as a child to grow up within walking distance of my grandparents, and my Grannie and I have always been especially close.  When Matt and I made the decision to get married, one of the biggest reasons why we chose to move back to the farm in Nebraska was so that our children could grow up rural America and be near a set of grandparents. I know that my girls will cherish the relationships that they have (and will continue to develop) with all four of the grandparents that they are blessed with!

It is no easy task to attain the age of 90 and 91—so what is the secret to living such a long and full life?

Here are a few tips from two of the pros!

  1. Love—After more than 60 years of marriage, the strong partnership that they have attained has kept them moving forward and emotionally energetic. They, quite literally, live for each other and provide an example of dedication to one another that both fascinates and inspires me.
  2. Activity—As avid walkers and bird watchers, Grannie and Dedaw give new meaning to staying healthy and in shape.  They walked 109 miles around Lake Okeechobee to celebrate their 70th birthdays more than twenty years ago.  Quite befitting to their devotion, they ended the eight day trek with a celebration kiss… Up until the last two years, they have continued to stay incredibly physically active walking upwards of several miles a day.  As young children, my girls always looked forward to visiting with Grannie and Dedaw so that we could go for long walks looking for birds and alligators.
  3. A Balanced and Healthy Diet—I have no memories of my grandparents ever being on a diet, but I do remember always being served well balanced, healthy, and home cooked meals at their house…Simple, good food was always what Grannie put on the table.  As children of The Great Depression, Grannie and Dedaw were always thankful to be able to put meat on the table at dinner time and would tell us tales of eating macaroni and cheese for several days a week when no meat was available during their childhood.  As a beef farmer, it is hard for me to imagine not having access to meat, but I live in a very different world than they did upward of 80 years ago.

    My mom with my girls in front of the house that Grannie and Dedaw lived in for 60 years...

Being around Grannie and Dedaw always reminds me to be thankful that I have never been hungry and have many choices available to me as I cook dinner for my family.  I chose to cook beef most nights because I like the way that it tastes, and I know that it is a great basis for a healthy meal.  I love the fact that it is as nutrient rich as it is delicious…

While in Florida, my dad cooked us some great tasting steaks on the grill with the help of his girls and his dogs!

Did you know that one three ounce serving of beef provides the following…?

 48% of your daily Protein needs

 41% of your daily Selenium needs

 37% of your daily Vitamin B12 needs

 33% of your daily Zinc needs

 25% of your daily Niacin needs

 20% of your daily Vitamin B6 needs

 19% of your daily Phosphorus needs

 17% of your daily Choline needs

 12% of your daily Iron needs

 10% of your daily Riboflavin needs…

All of these great nutrients packed in one piece of great tasting and satisfying beef!  Beef provides a meal that I feel good about serving to my family…Hopefully, 50+ years from now, my girls will be reminiscing about my long life that was filled with love, good health, and great food!

Until then, I will continue to fuel the next generation of athletes with beef knowing that I am giving them the nutrients that they need to grow strong and be healthy!

 

 

 

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