Ever since the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) dropped its decades-long warning on fat consumption, there has been an ongoing debate in the science community over whether we should stop targeting a single nutrient as “bad.”
Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, points out in his blog on LinkedIn that some of the most nutritious foods (walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds, avocado and salmon) can be high in fat. So, too, can be what many deem to be “healthful” diets, such as Mediterranean diets.
“Focusing just on fat, or any other nutrient, does not lead reliably to a wholesome, health-promoting diet,” he says.
Exactly. Nutrients, whether fat, sugar or salt, are essential to our bodies. The erroneous advice given by a previous DGAC, whose recommendations are the basis for the federal government’s dietary advice, prompted millions of Americans to avoid foods that we now know were not harmful, such as eggs, and gorge on others that potentially were.
Katz warns readers of the danger that the DGAC may repeat history and get its dietary recommendations wrong once again.
“Having gone badly wrong when first cutting fat, we had an opportunity to focus instead on food choice and dietary pattern. Instead, counter-claims of debate invited a sequential focus on one nutrient at a time that prevails to this day,” says Katz. “These repeated trials and disappointments have led only to a relative distrust of, if not disgust with, dietary guidance.”
It is the responsibility of the DGAC to provide easy-to-understand, real-world dietary guidance that is achievable. Claiming that one nutrient is “bad” is not backed up by science, and that attitude has led to poor outcomes for all Americans in the past. If the DGAC wants to regain our trust, it needs to base its advice on the totality of evidence on diet - not the loudest voices in the room.