Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dietary Guidelines or Executive Overreach?

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has submitted their 572 page report to the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture.  This report provides recommendations for the final dietary guidelines which are issued by these two departments every five years.

There are two proposed changes in this report that caught my eye.  First, dietary cholesterol will no longer be a big concern.  Well. Considering for how long cholesterol has been consistently pronounced the heart disease bad guy, this is really earth shattering and very good news to those of us who have long enjoyed eggs! If there is evidence to support this change, as I assume there is, when are doctors going to stop prescribing statin drugs

Incredibly, the committee has also included "sustainability" in their guidelines.  As Tennille Tracy wrote in a Wall Street Journal article on 2/20/2015, "The committee recommended that Americans eat less red and processed meat, and excluded lean meat from a list of foods that make up a healthy diet.  While lean meat is firmly endorsed in the current guidelines, the panel explained that researchers don't yet have a standard definition for what qualifies as lean meat.  It did acknowledge in a footnote that lean meat could have a role in a good diet."

Well, if lean meat can have a role in a good diet then why is it not listed under healthy food?  It is not listed because the committee has decided that eating red meat is not a sustainable dietary option.  this is about environmentalism, not health.  They also recommend that only seafood that is not threatened be eaten as part of a healthy diet.

What bothers me is what seems like dishonesty here.  The dietary guidelines are supposed to reflect the latest research on what constitutes healthy eating.  Environmental sustainability is an entirely different subject and should not be included.  To tell us what is healthy to eat by applying criteria that have nothing to do with what food is good for us, the committee is expanding their focus and not truly giving us what they say they are giving us.

Dietary guidelines are one thing.  Sustaining our environment is another.  I would prefer that they not pretend that the latter is a factor in the former.  Seems as though the committee is trying to expand its power to make recommendations.  Dietary guidelines should refer only to diet and how it effects an individual's health.  Anything else is an overreach.

But setting the honesty and overreach question aside, there are some who would argue that what the committee is calling for in the name of sustainability is not even very good science.

Agricultural economist Jayson Lusk has argued that the committee has not considered everything they might on the question of sustainability.  You can view the entire discussion here.

Have an opinion on this subject?

The public is encouraged to provide written comments through April 8.

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