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DGAC Continues To Make Past Mistakes

We here at Sip & Savor came across this piece by New York Times columnist and food writer Mark Bittman on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) report, which made news when the committee announced that a decades-long warning on foods with cholesterol would be dropped because there was no solid evidence to back it up.

Bittman points out that the recent history of government recommendations on diet is “not pretty” and that previous advisory committees ”tracked reigning wisdom that was arguably based more on strong personalities than science.”

“The whole less fat/more carbohydrates mess — disaster is not too strong a word, since it likely contributed to the obesity and chronic disease crisis — can be attributed in large part to similarly official dietary recommendations, which in turn are the fault of agency weakness in the face of industry intransigence,” he writes.

We commend Bittman for acknowledging that some of the past recommendations issued by DGAC were not based on strong science, and the poor advice may have made public health worse rather than better. But his claim that food producers are to blame has it backwards.

It was the food industry – farrmers, growers, ranchers and food companies – that tried to shine a light on the lack of evidence that existed for issuing a warning against cholesterol and a push for discredited low-fat diets. It was the public health activists and the types of “strong personalities” Bittman derided that were the ones who lobbied for diet claims that were not borne from sound science.

Nina Teicholz, author of ““The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet,” confirmed in a recent column of her own in the New York Times that the culprit was bad science:

“For two generations, Americans ate fewer eggs and other animal products because policy makers told them that fat and cholesterol were bad for their health. Now both dogmas have been debunked in quick succession.”

How?

“Instead of accepting that this evidence was inadequate to give sound advice, strong-willed scientists overstated the significance of their studies,” she wrote.

Food producers presented studies and scientists who argued that the evidence for the dietary advice was not there. But they were ignored. Now we see that the 2015 DGAC is advising Americans to reduce their consumption of red meat despite increasing evidence that saturated fat is not a public health threat. Bittman himself pointed this out in a March 2014 column when he wrote of a recent analysis showing  “that there’s just no evidence to support the notion that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease.”

Which brings us to sugar-sweetened beverages. Bittman has said often that soft drinks with sugar are causing disease. Yet he is making the same mistake he condemns the DGAC for making on cholesterol and low-fat diets. There is no scientific proof that sugar-sweetened beverages are a unique driver of obesity or obesity-related health issues. Is it too much to ask to look at the totality of the science before condemning one nutrient or product?

If the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee doesn’t want to repeat their past mistakes, they need to look at the science and leave their personal agendas at the door.


Let’s Move! Turns Five

We here at Sip & Savor are celebrating five years of Let’s Move! and answering First Lady Michelle Obama’s challenge to #GimmeFive things the beverage industry has done since the start of the anti-obesity campaign to help children lead a healthier life.

1 – In 2010, in an effort to combat childhood obesity our member companies announced the Clear on Calories Initiative. With this voluntary commitment we have empowered consumers to make the choices that are right for them and their families by placing clear calorie information on the front of every bottle, can and pack we produce.

2 – The Calories Count™ Beverage Vending Program, which launched in 2013 in municipal buildings in the cities of Chicago and San Antonio, offers consumers clear calorie information, encourages lower-calorie beverage choices and reminds them that calories count in all the choices they make. On the front of vending machines, Calories Count™ signs include one of the following messages: “Check Then Choose” or “Try A Low–Calorie Beverage.” The selection buttons also include calorie labels that show calorie counts per beverage container.

3 – For not only five, but 10 years, we have worked to reduce calories from beverages for children through our School Beverage Guidelines.  In this time we have removed full-calorie soft drinks from schools and cut overall calories from beverages in schools by 90 percent.

4 – Just last year, in partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the Clinton Global Initiative, we launched our Balance Calories Initiative. Through this initiative our member companies will leverage their marketing, innovation and distribution strengths to increase interest in and access to smaller portion sizes, water and no- and lower-calorie beverages. We are also expanding our labeling initiatives by providing calorie counts on more than 3 million beverage company-controlled point-of-sale equipment nationwide.

5 – Along with the Balance Calories Initiative, The Coca-Cola Company, Dr Pepper Snapple Group and PepsiCo came together to launch a first-of-its kind national consumer awareness and engagement program - Mixify™ – encouraging teens and their families to balance their calories by moderating what they eat, drink and do.

While a lot has happened in five years, we know that there is still a lot of work to be done and we look forward to continuing to be a part of Let’s Move! for years to come. Now it’s your turn, #GimmeFive and let us know what you have done to achieve a balanced lifestyle.


Carroll: Correlation Is Not The Same As Causation

We here at Sip & Savor have shared our view on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report that was released late last week.  And while we blogged a couple of times about the broken system,  we thought our readers might be interested in another opinion – that of Aaron Carroll, professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine.  Professor Carroll recently wrote of the Committee’s findings in The New York Times:

“It is frustrating enough when we over-read the results of epidemiologic studies and make the mistake of believing that correlation is the same as causation. It’s maddening, however, when we ignore the results of randomized controlled trials, which can prove causation, to continue down the wrong path. In reviewing the literature, it’s hard to come away with a sense that anyone knows for sure what diet should be recommended to all Americans.

I understand people’s frustration at the continuing shifts in nutrition recommendations. For decades, they’ve been told what to eat because ‘science says so.’ Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be true. That’s disappointing not only because it reduces people’s faith in science as a whole, but also because it may have cost some people better health, or potentially even their lives.”

To read the full column, click here.  And let us know what you think about it by checking in with us on Facebook and Twitter.


Misleading Warning Labels Won’t Improve Public Health

Warning labels are one of the latest misguided attempts by the public health community to target sugar-sweetened beverages as a way to address the challenges of obesity and diabetes.  However, placing warnings on sugar-sweetened beverages and not on other foods and beverages that contain greater calories will only mislead people and won’t improve public health.

What’s needed is clear and accurate information about how to maintain a balanced lifestyle – through total diet and exercise. Demonizing a single food or ingredient that is a small part of our average daily calories is not the solution, nor will it have any meaningful impact.

Bob Acherman, executive director of CalBev, a group that represents the beverage industry in California, explains in a recent piece in California Weekly that a proposed warning label in his state is “riddled with confusing exemptions. For instance, milk-based products like Frappuccinos® and lattes would be exempt from warning labels, even though some of these products contain as much sugar and more calories than a soda.”

“Over the past decade, added sugar intake from sugar-sweetened beverages decreased by 37 percent. Meanwhile, diabetes has spiked meteorically,” he writes. “It is counterproductive and misleading to suggest that focusing solely on soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages is the silver bullet solution to this complex issue.”

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows added sugar from soda is down 39 percent since year 2000, yet obesity rates have increased.

How can this be? Because diseases like Type 2 diabetes and obesity have multiple risk factors.  No one single food, beverage or ingredient is uniquely to blame, yet that is what a warning label on sugar-sweetened beverages implies.

The beverage industry has stepped up to be part of meaningful solutions. We provide clear and accurate information about calories on the front of all of our products so people can make informed choices. We took things a step further in the fall with our Balance Calories Initiative, which will result in calorie information on more than 3 million company-controlled vending machines, self-serve fountain equipment and retail coolers in convenience stores, restaurants and other locations.

Science has shown that the key to maintaining a healthy weight is balancing calories consumed with calories burned, and sugar-sweetened beverages account for only 6 percent of calories in the average American’s diet. So why ignore the other 94 percent of calories?  It simply doesn’t make sense.

“Now is the time for a holistic approach to fighting obesity and diabetes – one that involves every Californian not just one industry,” says Acherman.

Check out YourCartYourChoice.com to learn more about warning labels and other ways to keep the government out of your grocery cart.


Is History Repeating Itself with Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report?

Five years ago, Americans were told by a panel of experts that cholesterol in foods was bad for you. This week, that panel said, “Never mind.”

The reversal on cholesterol by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), the group that provides the basis for our recommended daily diet, was not a shock to medical experts who say the evidence for a warning on cholesterol was “weak, at best,” according to The Washington Post.

“Looking back at the literature, we just couldn’t see the kind of science that would support dietary restrictions,” Robert Eckel, the co-chair of the task force and a medical professor at the University of Colorado, told the Post.

How could the DGAC target a nutrient for warnings when the evidence did not exist to do so? Because the system is broke, say medical experts.

Dr. Joanne Slavin, a professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota and a former member of the 2010 DGAC, says the problem is that the DGAC too often pronounces opinions rather than advice based on a rigorous unbiased review of the best available science.

“We don’t have to travel very far back in time to witness examples of dietary guidance recommendations that were made prematurely and are now challenged as more research is introduced, wrote Slavin in a review published in Nutrition Journal just this month.

Dr. Steve Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at Cleveland Clinic, told USA TODAY that the advice not to eat eggs and other foods containing cholesterol was “never based on good science.”

“We got the dietary guidelines wrong,” he says. “They’ve been wrong for decades.”

As Slavin points out, DGAC recommended in the past that Americans avoid foods high in fat content. The advice led Americans to binge unhealthily on low-fat foods that were high in carbohydrates. Now the DGAC emphasizes healthy consumption of fats, such as those found in olive oil and salmon.

Just five years ago the DGAC said half of the U.S. population needed to reduce dramatically its sodium intake. But now, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), one of the country’s premier scientific bodies, along with the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, is casting doubt on the recommendation, says Slavin.

“The 2010 DGAC recommendations are now inconsistent with our most recent scientific understanding of sodium and health,” Slavin points out in her review.

Which brings us to the DGAC’s latest recommendations. The panel this week recommended eating less red meat, processed meat, pork and cheese in part because these foods have “a larger environmental impact.” It also recommends raising taxes on beverages based on “moderate” evidence that they are “associated” with health problems.

Is this yet another example of the DGAC demonizing nutrients without the scientific evidence to back them up? Slavin, who is the author of more than 250 scientific publications and numerous book chapters and review articles on topics including dietary fiber, carbohydrates, whole grains, protein, and the role of diet in disease prevention, looks at the facts:

“Added sugars have become the current nutrition ‘watch out,’ believed by some to uniquely contribute to obesity and other adverse health outcomes,” she wrote. “However, the majority of scientific evidence shows that all sugars (added or intrinsic) … are no more likely to cause weight gain or negative health outcomes than other calorie sources.”

So why is it that the DGAC keeps making recommendations that fail to be based on “strong” science?

“Simply stated, the committee made a conscious decision to turn the (Dietary Guideline for Americans) into an advocacy and public relations exercise driven by emotion, assumptions and bias rather than fact,” states Sean McBride, founder of DSM Strategic Communications.

Slavin says the country has a vital interest in making sure “only the strongest, best available evidence” serves as the basis for helping consumers make healthy dietary choices. To do that, she recommends several changes be made to our dietary advice system, including:

-          Improve the way we grade the “quality” of nutritional evidence reviewed;

-          Ensure committees have a balanced and well-rounded set of perspectives and expertise;

-          Assess all relevant science, including research funded by the food industry

“It is imperative that food and nutrition policies reflect, and do not get ahead of, the strongest available scientific evidence,” Slavin says.


New Guidelines Hijacked by Advocacy?

Every five years, a U.S. government panel meets to review the latest science on nutrition to update the advice Washington gives Americans about a healthy diet. But this year the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee failed to weigh the body of scientific evidence on many aspects of nutrition. Instead, the panel promoted a predetermined agenda about foods, beverages and environmentalism.

The recommendations published by the Committee today calls for a “dietary pattern” higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods because it is “more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact than is the current average U.S. diet.” In other words, panel members believe the country should switch to a diet that is more vegetarian and, in their view, better for the environment.

This is activism, not advice. If these recommendations are approved it would alter dramatically the kinds of meals served in public schools, hospitals, government facilities and eventually throughout society.

As the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association points out, there is no sound nutritional reason to tell Americans to reduce meat as a source of protein, especially lean beef. “Unfortunately, we think this is an area where not all the facts were adequately utilized and the environmental agenda trumped sound science,” association spokesman Colin Woodall said.

The same lack of science is displayed in the panel’s claims about sugar-sweetened beverages. Its recommendation voices support for using the Nutrition Facts label found on foods and beverages to list added sugar separately from intrinsic sugar, even though both are identical to the body. The notion that sugar as an ingredient is different from sugar already in something has been promoted for years by anti-food industry activists trying to raise unfounded fear about beverages.

“Activists and non-governmental groups use the dietary guidelines process as a platform for social engineering,” says Sean McBride, founder of DSM Strategic Communications.

The panel also recommends that America needs a more “sustainable diet,” which apparently means that ranchers need to raise fewer cattle to lower the environmental impact of our dinners.

“We need to make sure our diets are in alignment with our natural resources and the need to reduce climate change,” said Kari Hamerschlag of the group Friends of the Earth, which has advocated that environmental sustainability be part of the nutrition guidelines.

What this all means is that our system for dietary advice – once based on the preponderance of sound science and a dose of common sense – is broken. We at Sip & Savor believe that clear and accurate information is vital to help Americans balance what they eat and drink with physical activity.  But the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee seeks to advance an agenda rather than inform with facts. That’s not going to make anyone healthier.


Hawaii Knows The Right Approach

Legislators in Hawaii are moving on from proposals to add warning labels on certain beverages.  These misguided warning labels would display messages concerning obesity and diabetes on beverages with as few as five calories – the same amount of calories as a stick of sugar-free chewing gum.

The truth is, misguided warning labels on certain sugar-sweetened beverages – but not on other more caloric foods and beverages – confuse consumers about the causes of diabetes and obesity.  Government data shows that consumption of sugars in soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages has been on the decline for more than a decade, while diabetes and obesity rates continue to increase.  Something isn’t adding up.

These regulations unfairly single out one industry and do nothing to combat health issues in Hawaii or anywhere else in the nation.  If we want to get serious about obesity, it starts with meaningful education – not misleading warning labels.

Hawaii knows that there are better ways to help make people healthy – and we agree.  Our member companies are empowering consumers to make the choices that are right for them, and encouraging them to adopt an active and balanced lifestyle.

For more information, visit YourCartYourChoice.com and DeliveringChoices.org.


Taxes Don’t Make People Healthy

Soda taxes have become perennial proposals in some states and cities.  And while the trend in introductions of these taxes is on a sharp decline over the past few years, supporters of these taxes would have you believe that taxing sugar-sweetened beverages will make people healthier.

Since when do taxes improve health?  Diet and exercise do that!  There is real world evidence that proves that taxes don’t work for making people healthy.  Just look at the only two states with longstanding soda taxes in place – Arkansas and West Virginia.  Both rank among the top five states with the highest rates of obesity in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We continue to stand with health professionals who believe – based on science and real world experience – that the only way to maintain a healthy weight is to balance calories consumed from all foods and beverages with those burned through physical activity and exercise.

To learn more about how you can help keep the government out of your grocery cart, please visit YourCartYourChoice.com.


Happy Presidents’ Day!

We here at Sip & Savor hope you are enjoying this holiday weekend!  Hopefully you are spending your time off with family and friends.  If you are still looking for some great outdoor activity, here is some good news:  In observance of Presidents’ Day, 405 national parks across the United States will be waiving entrance fees throughout the three-day weekend.

Check out the National Park Service website for more information on which parks to visit near you.


More Myths About Low-Calorie Sweeteners

When it comes to low-calorie sweeteners there are a lot of confusing and contradictory stories out there about their safety. Here at Sip & Savor we understand that it can be difficult to know what to believe.  The fact is that low-calorie sweeteners have repeatedly been deemed safe by the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and have not been shown to cause cancer or any other disease in people.

Even the National Cancer Institute acknowledges that based on decades of scientific research, low-calorie sweeteners are safe ingredients to include in your diet. “There is no clear evidence that the artificial sweeteners available commercially in the United States are associated with cancer risk in humans.”

So why are there so many stories out there that claim that low-calorie sweeteners cause illness? Once again, food activists are portraying association as causation.  This is an issue we’ve written about before but continues to mislead consumers. Instead of sticking to the science that has proven for decades that these ingredients are safe, reporters quickly jump to conclusions whenever a new “study” is released showing an association without checking the facts.

Time and time again the FDA and EFSA have declared that aspartame, one of the most often critiqued sweeteners, is safe. In a letter from last year rejecting a petition to ban aspartame, the FDA stated “The safety of aspartame has been reviewed repeatedly, not only by FDA, but by other regulatory authorities, including those of Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Europe and Japan. All these authorities agree that aspartame is safe for the general population.”

Food activists would rather push their own agenda at the expense of instilling fear in consumers instead of reporting on the science. While this may make for a catchier story it cannot be taken at face value.  If you want to learn more about the facts on low-calorie sweeteners visit LetsClearItUp.org.