We have a real opportunity to reform the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Last week, the US Department of Agriculture, which oversees the guidelines, announced that, for the first time, the departments will seek public comments on the proposed priority topics and supporting scientific questions for the 2020 Dietary Guidelines. This means that we can have input at this very beginning stage that will shape the entire discussion!
In more good news, the agency’s draft list of priority topics includes looking at both the low-carbohydrate diet and saturated fats. Yes, the USDA is suggesting that its recommendations on these issues may need re-consideration, although the specific questions it poses are still rather unduly limited.
- The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) have clearly failed to improve the rates of nutrition-related diseases since their launch in 1980.
- The DGAs have a big influence on not only the American diet, but other Western nations have adopted similar guidelines.
- The centerpiece of the government’s nutritional guidelines is a one-size-fits-all approach. They provide no variation for gender, age, or health and fitness levels even though there is ample evidence that nutritional needs vary markedly depending on someone’s age, gender or other factors. For the first time, the 2020 DGAs are supposed to provide guidance for women who are pregnant, as well as infants and toddlers from birth to 24 months – which provides an opportunity to focus on the importance of saturated fats and fat-soluble vitamins for these important groups!
- The DGAs determine what every MD, RD, dietician, and nutritionist in the country recommends to patients, the content of USDA feeding programs, including school lunches, feeding programs for the elderly, feeding programs for women and infant children, military rations, and hospital and prison foods.
- The DGAs determine what the FDA allows to label as “healthy” on packaged foods.
- The DGAs influence animal production; since the Guidelines began, most meat has been bred to be lean in an effort to make more animal protein compliant with the DGAs.
ACTION TO TAKE – Before March 30, 2018
Go to https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=USDA_FRDOC_0001-1803 and submit a comment that supports and expands the agency’s consideration of the low-carb diet and a removal of strictures on saturated fat consumption.
SAMPLE COMMENT: Add your personal views to these sample comments. Do you have specific studies or facts you want to share on these topics? Have the current DGAs negatively impacted you? Your comment can be as short or long as you want to make it.
I applaud the agencies for including the proposed question on “What is the relationship between saturated fats consumption (types and amounts) during adulthood and risk of cardiovascular disease?
I also applaud the agencies for including low-carbohydrate diets in the list of dietary patterns to be compared at every life-stage.
There is important new data on both of these topics, with numerous studies and meta-analyses showing that the current recommendations (which oppose both a low-carbohydrate diet and reasonable consumption of saturated fats) are not in the best interests of Americans in general.
I urge the agencies to expand their inquiries into these topics, however. The guidelines’ new focus on different life stages, with questions specifically addressing pregnant women, infants, and toddlers children, and teenagers, means that the agencies should look at the topic saturated fats not only for adults, but for all life stages. Saturated fats are particularly critical during pregnancy and early childhood, for proper neural and brain development.
Similarly, the questions posed for each life stage in which the agency compares different dietary patterns with respect to their health outcomes should include a Weston A Price-style diet as one of the dietary patterns. This diet emphasizes high-quality animal fats and overlaps partly, but not necessarily entirely, with low-carbohydrate diets. The potential impact of these topics on federal food and nutrition policies and programs is very significant, particularly for WIC, school lunches and similar programs.
- Under existing USDA guideline recommendation, the low-carbohydrate diet is not recommended. But low-carbohydrate diets have now been tested in at least 70 clinical trials on nearly 7,000 people, including a wide variety of sick and well populations. In virtually every case, the lower-carb, higher-fat diets did as well or better than competing regimens.
- The cumulative evidence shows that low-carb diets are safe and effective for combating obesity, highly promising for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, and for improving most cardiac risk factors.
- The existing USDA guideline recommendation for saturated fats advise limiting saturated fats to 10% of calories and instead to eat 27 grams (almost three tablespoons) of polyunsaturated vegetable oil per day. The data do not support these recommendations.
- At least 8 major review papers in recent years have concluded that saturated fats do not have an effect on cardiovascular mortality or total mortality. While saturated fats can be shown to raise the “bad” LDL-cholesterol, this elevated risk factor does not result in higher mortality rates.
- Meta-analyses of observational studies consistently find no association between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease. Moreover, there is a substantial observational finding that low consumption of saturated fats is associated with higher mortality and higher rates of stroke.
- The strictures on saturated fats have led to widespread deficiencies in critical vitamins such as A, D and K2, found largely in animal fats. These vitamins are particularly important for growth and development.
The priority topics, along with supporting scientific questions and a link to submit public comments, are available at https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/dietary-guidelines