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The American Dietary Guidelines…outdated?

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Is balanced nutritional information reaching the American public? Do the country’s Dietary Guidelines need to be reviewed? These are some of the questions the US Congress has been asking.

Congress is calling for a comprehensive review of the way the influential Dietary Guidelines for Americans is compiled. The review, which is part of a massive budget bill to be passed by the House and Senate, sets aside $1 million for the National Academy of Medicine to conduct the study.

In a recent article on the topic the ranking member of one of the committees overseeing the Dietary Guidelines, Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.) said:

“Questions have been raised about the scientific integrity of the process in developing the dietary guidelines and whether balanced nutritional information is reaching the public…The entire process used to formulate and establish the guidelines needs to be reviewed before future guidelines are issued… I hope this will make sure that the Dietary Guidelines are science-based.”

Here are some other points from the article:

  • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, updated every five years by the federal government, have far reaching effects on what Americans eat, shaping the contents of school meals and military rations and serving as the scientific basis for reams of diet claims published in newspapers, magazines, and advice books.
  • Nutrition science has been in turmoil in recent years. The Washington Post has been examining the scientific disagreements over the positions the Dietary Guidelines have taken on salt, whole milk, saturated fat, cholesterol as well as the health implications of skipping breakfast.
  • The bill calls for the Department of Agriculture, within 30 days, to hire the National Academy of Medicine to conduct a comprehensive study that includes an analysis of how the Dietary Guidelines can better prevent chronic disease, how evidence is assembled and evaluated, and whether a full range of scientific viewpoints are considered.
  • American families, as well as health experts in the USA, have looked to the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture for science-based dietary guidelines to serve as a framework for nutritious eating for many years.
  • The next set of Dietary Guidelines for Americans is scheduled for release in January.
  • Under the legislation, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell are required to ensure that any revisions to the guidelines are “based on significant scientific agreement.”
  • The Dietary Guidelines are largely the work of the federal bureaucracy and the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a 15-member panel of experts. Updating the guidelines every five years is a daunting task that falls to a relatively small group of people. Nutrition science evolves rapidly, and over the course of a year of meetings, the advisory committee is called upon to review hundreds of dense – and sometimes conflicting – scientific papers. Extracting sound diet recommendations from all the research information is both arduous and, arguably, confusing. Along the way, the Dietary Guidelines have grown more intricate, expanding from a pamphlet into a 112-page book.
  • Critics of the guidelines say that during the existence of the Dietary Guidelines, rates of obesity have risen. They want the guidelines to reflect the most recent research and evidence.

This is the first time Congress has noted that there’s a problem with how the guidelines are put together…which is good news for the American people!

We’ll let David McCarron, research associate at the Department of Nutrition at the University of California-Davis, have the last word here:

“There’s a lot of stuff in the guidelines that was right forty years ago but that science has disproved. Unfortunately, sometimes, the scientific community doesn’t like to backtrack.”

Follow the link to read the full article.

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