“Eat this.” “No, eat that.” “Now eat this instead.”
How many times have you heard that a food or ingredient is “bad” for you? And how often have you heard years later that the advice was wrong? Probably more than you may realize.
This week was a perfect example of that back-and-forth when we learned that nutrition experts got it wrong yet again when they warned decades ago that Americans should avoid cholesterol and stick to low-fat diets. It’s nice that they finally got it right (40 years later), but it shows how experts can call for warnings about what to eat without the evidence to back it up.
As The Washington Post reported this week, the nation’s top nutrition panel has decided to drop its caution about eating foods high in cholesterol. Turns out doctors and dietary experts were wrong when they jumped to the conclusion that eating foods like eggs increases the risk of heart disease.
“Looking back at the literature, we just couldn’t see the kind of science that would support dietary restrictions,” said Robert Eckel, medical professor at the University of Colorado and co-chair of a task force on cholesterol studies arranged by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.
Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, was blunt in comments to USA TODAY about the expected change from the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: "We got the dietary guidelines wrong. They've been wrong for decades.
"We told people not to eat eggs. It was never based on good science."
Too bad the experts didn’t consider all the evidence before telling people not to eat a food rich in protein and essential B vitamins. Now it looks like the war on fat is yet another example of food activists shooting first and asking questions later.
As Time magazine and others report, the basis for old government warnings against foods with saturated fats – such as butter, cheese and rib-eye steaks – stemmed from a single study promoted by a Minnesota pathologist. But what was overlooked? The quality of that science. In fact, the findings were criticized by fellow researchers as well as by the National Academy of Sciences for relying too heavily on dubious assumptions and skewed data.
“For decades, it has been the most vilified nutrient in the American diet,” Time stated in its cover story. “But new science reveals fat isn’t what’s hurting our health.”
We at Sip & Savor believe in science-based nutrition advice – and that means based on the body of science, not one study. We see the same rush to judgment at work against sugar-sweetened beverages.
Activists and some nutritionists allege that the sugar in soda, juice drinks and sports drinks are driving an epidemic of obesity and diabetes. But consider this data point from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shows that the daily calories the average American gets from added sugars from sweetened beverages such as those made by our member companies is down 37 percent since 2000. But guess what? At the same time, rates of obesity and diabetes have gone up.
This verified factual data should be a warning to us all that the experts are once again going down the same road they did with cholesterol and fat. They should not be allowed to ignore facts, evidence and research that contradict their allegations, then years later say “Oops.”
The fact is, obesity and diabetes rates have gone up even though calories from sugar overall have gone down – and most of that decrease had been from beverages. It just doesn’t add up that sugar-sweetened beverages are a unique driver of these public health challenges.
Like the war on eggs and fat, the war on beverages is one in which activists ignore inconvenient truths to further a campaign against refreshing and safe beverages that Americans have enjoyed for years. When will they learn that dietary advice should be based on solid science that avoids misleading the American public about its diet?