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.