The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Agriculture (USDA) just released the 8th edition of its Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Overall, I noticed some slow, but real advancement of science over dogma and political correctness. I also sensed some increasing awareness of basic human biology, diet and nutrition, and a pinch of common sense. They also seem to realize the importance of overall dietary patterns rather than individual fad foods — good or bad. And that’s a sensible approach I always recommend.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the USDA’s specific recommendations…
USDA launches five “new” dietary guidelines
First, the USDA backed off from warning about the supposed dangers of dietary cholesterol. Finally! Of course, more than 30 years ago, Harvard scientists clearly showed eating high-cholesterol foods — such as meat, seafood, eggs, and butter — didn’t lead to higher cholesterol levels in the blood. (In any case, we now know high blood levels of cholesterol aren’t even the real problem.)
Second, since the government backed off on dietary cholesterol, the USDA said you can stop worrying about cutting eggs from your diet. But they still don’t get it. Eggs are among the healthiest foods on the planet. So they should really be talking about how many eggs Americans should add to their diet.
Third, they added strict, new advice about cutting sugars. Ironically, government entities such as the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institutes of Health gave sugar a free pass for the past 30 years.
But now — the USDA recommends you keep added sugars to 10 percent of your daily calories. That’s about 200 calories per day, roughly the amount in one of those sickly sweet sports drinks. The USDA’s recommendation also distinguishes the difference between toxic added sugars and the natural sugars found normally in fruit and dairy products, as it should.
Healthy fruits (with fructose sugar) and dairy are just fine (if you are not lactose intolerant). But there’s no reason to allow even 10 percent of your daily calories from added sugars. In fact, there’s no reason to add sugar to anything — unless you want to subsidize the sugar industry. Learn to take your beverages and foods without sugar “added.” Your weight and health will improve. And eventually your taste buds will grow to like it too.
Fourth, the USDA now recommends Americans keep their daily sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day. But there’s no real evidence to restrict salt to levels that low. People need to get enough salt and other electrolytes just like they need to get enough water every day. If you follow a healthy diet, don’t worry about salt (as long as you are not diagnosed as having kidney disease).
Back in 2010, lowering salt was still the major push of the government guidelines. That guideline recommended people lower their sodium intake to 1,500 mg of sodium per day. Of course, that goal turned out to be impossible to achieve. In fact, one study showed only 0.1 percent of people could achieve it even when they tried. But that failure turned out to be fortunate — because other subsequent studies showed people on a low-sodium diet had up to double the risk of heart disease and heart failure.
Last, the USDA says eating meat is alright. But that new stance almost didn’t happen.
Anti-meat agenda is politically correct — but scientifically wrong
In our crony capitalist society, food manufacturers have always intensely lobbied the government to make dietary recommendations that favor their industry. And this time around, environmentalists got into the act by pressuring the Obama administration to make recommendations about reducing meat consumption to supposedly “benefit the environment.”
The number of faulty ideas built into that flawed environmental theory are too numerous to mention here. But these anti-meat lobbyists basically tried to hijack the dietary guidelines (which are troubled enough already) in order to serve some other politically correct but scientifically wrong purpose.
Plus, they based this recommendation on zero real evidence and without regard to actual human nutritional requirements — ignoring the entire supposed purpose of these guidelines!
In a way, the environmentalists tried to “pollute” the science for their own purposes. It reminds me of those who would ban all alcohol consumption for everyone because of some problem drinkers — despite the undeniable evidence that moderate alcohol consumption benefits responsible drinkers.
Fortunately, Congress finally took action and made the Obama administration drop politically correct environmental myths from the science for the guidelines.
So, all in all, there is some good news from the government when it comes to dietary guidelines. But as the old saying goes, anyone who only counts on government dietary guidelines for their good health has “a fool for a doctor, and a fool for a patient.”
You’re much better off following your OWN dietary guidelines. And I will certainly continue to bring you science-based dietary advice without bowing to the interests of government bureaucrats, big food lobbyists, or crony career environmentalists.