Guest Blogger David Brown – Thoughts on dietary advice issued by Government Agencies

During the 2010 hunting season there was an incident in Columbia Falls, Montana where it was announced that a random search of student vehicles by school authorities was about to take place. A female student immediately told her history teacher that she had forgotten to remove a hunting rifle from the trunk of her car after a weekend hunt. Since the federal government has a zero tolerance policy regarding guns on campus, the student was immediately expelled but allowed to return after a school board hearing on the matter.

The federal government needs to initiate a zero tolerance policy regarding it own nutrition advice. In certain respects, dietary advice is like a road map through hazardous terrain. There may be numerous safe routes but each has many forks wherein the consequence of choosing wrongly is injury and, all too often, a slow, painful death.

Prior to the industrial revolution, traditional food culture and circumstances were the determinants of health throughout life. In these modern times, however, due to the dramatic increase in obesity and chronic disease, lawmakers decided to use science to map a safe nutritional route for all to follow. So now we have the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA).(1)

Every five years, by law, the DGA are reviewed and updated to ensure that government dietary advice is based on the best analysis of the scientific evidence. Unfortunately, there is evidence that important scientific findings are being ignored. For example, a few months after the June 15 release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report, a group of scientists submitted a critical review to the journal Nutrition. The article was entitled “In the face of contradictory evidence: Report of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee.”(2)  Here’s the Abstract:

“Concerns that were raised with the first dietary recommendations 30 y ago have yet to be adequately addressed. The initial Dietary Goals for Americans (1977) proposed increases in carbohydrate intake and decreases in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and salt consumption that are carried further in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) Report. Important aspects of these recommendations remain unproven, yet a dietary shift in this direction has already taken place even as overweight/obesity and diabetes have increased. Although appealing to an evidence-based methodology, the DGAC Report demonstrates several critical weaknesses, including use of an incomplete body of relevant science; inaccurately representing, interpreting, or summarizing the literature; and drawing conclusions and/or making recommendations that do not reflect the limitations or controversies in the science. An objective assessment of evidence in the DGAC Report does not suggest a conclusive proscription against low-carbohydrate diets. The DGAC Report does not provide sufficient evidence to conclude that increases in whole grain and fiber and decreases in dietary saturated fat, salt, and animal protein will lead to positive health outcomes. Lack of supporting evidence limits the value of the proposed recommendations as guidance for consumers or as the basis for public health policy. It is time to reexamine how US dietary guidelines are created and ask whether the current process is still appropriate for our needs.”

When I began studying nutritional controversies more than three decades ago, I soon realized that the government’s dietary advice to limit fat intake to control weight and reduce saturated fat intake to prevent clogged arteries was not supported by biochemical research findings.(3) Biochemists such as John Yudkin, and Roger J. Williams concluded that excessive added sugars intake in conjunction with lack of supportive nutrition was more likely the cause of clogged arteries. More recently, biochemist William Lands has shown that excessive omega-6 seed oils intake induces the inflammation associated with obesity and a broad spectrum of chronic inflammatory diseases.(4)

One wonders, then, how the framers of the DGA can continue to ignore the science. I think I have the answer. When lawmakers enacted legislation authorizing the US Department of Agriculture to create the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), they didn’t specify how it would be staffed. Nor did they anticipate that the CNPP would immediately develop close ties with a food industry-funded organization called the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFICF).(5) It’s evident from their websites that both the CNPP and the IFICF consist of dietitians, food scientists, and nutritionists with close ties to industrial food interests. The fact that the CNPP and IFICF also have close ties to academia and are extensively involved in the ongoing education of dietitians suggests that the industrial food system has a strong influence on every aspect of the Dietary Guidelines revision process.(6)

But the Guidelines contain mistakes, fatal mistakes that affect the quality of the food environment and the choices people make. To allow such a system to continue is to condone its effects; the rise in obesity and the decline in the public health. A zero tolerance policy for mistakes in government dietary advice might eventually force the industrial food interests to relinquish control over the education of dietitians. That being accomplished, the CNPP could finally be free to warn Americans about the added sugars (7) and omega-6 seed oils (8) hazards.



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