New Dietary Guidelines Hazardous to Your Health?

Dietary Guidelines Critique: child hiding from MyPlate

2015 US Dietary Guidelines Critique

The new USDA Nutrition Guidelines are about to be unleashed on the American people.

American dietary policy (aka “MyPlate”, formerly known as the “Food Pyramid”) is undergoing its regular five-year checkup. This past February, the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), made up of 14 PhDs and MDs, reviewed the latest research and submitted its recommendations to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services. Their 571-page behemoth of a report is the bedrock upon which the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines will sit, (mis)informing nutrition policy nationwide.

I realize that many of you already know better than to trust conventional nutritional advice, which has historically been unsupported, or even outright contradicted, by science, not to mention common sense. Conflicts of interest, personal beliefs, grandiosity, wishful thinking, and intellectual laziness reign supreme in the halls of public health policy-making institutions. Unless you do your own homework, you are at the mercy of nutritional epidemiologists, who will continue to destroy your good health with bad information.

That’s what happened to me. Like so many of you, I ate the way they told me to for most of my adult life—whole grains, salads and steamed vegetables, fat-free yogurt, egg whites, tofu, fish, and skinless chicken breast. Meanwhile, my appetite grew, my weight crept up, and my health circled the drain. It wasn’t until I dug into the science myself that I discovered the US dietary guidelines were all smoke and mirrors, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

EN GUARDE! Nina Teicholz Throws Down the Gauntlet

Investigative journalist extraordinaire Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise, recently raked the DGAC’s report over the coals in a fresh and controversial editorial in the BMJ: The scientific report guiding the US dietary guidelines: is it scientific? In this excellent piece, she articulately questions the committee’s methods and motives, and makes it clear that the science upon which the report is based is the result of biased cherry-picking. She criticizes in particular the committee’s outdated position against saturated fat and its unwillingness to evaluate the latest evidence in support of the safety and efficacy of low-carbohydrate diets.

Inspired by her analysis, I held my nose and dove into the belly of the beast myself to see what all the fuss was about. What I discovered was an unnecessarily complicated and confusing document that led me along twisted paths of weak and contradictory arguments and yet somehow magically arrived at clear, confident one-size-fits-all dietary advice that is almost identical to the 2010 recommendations.

I’ll walk you through a glaring example of how shamefully unscientific the DGAC’s process is, but first, the big picture.

WHAT DOES THE DGAC THINK WE SHOULD EAT?

The DGAC emphasizes that its recommendations are not about the health risks and benefits of individual foods and food groups, but rather about the healthfulness of dietary patterns, and gives the following three patterns its seal of approval:

  • “Healthy US-style” pattern
  • “Healthy Mediterranean-style” pattern
  • “Healthy Vegetarian” pattern

By “healthy” they mean that all of these diets are good for you, so long as they are each:

  • Higher in vegetables
  • Higher in fruits
  • Higher in whole grains
  • Higher in seafood
  • Higher in legumes
  • Higher in nuts
  • Higher in low-fat/non-fat dairy products
  • Moderate in alcohol (for those who can safely drink)
  • Lower in red/processed meat*
  • Low in added sugars (maximum 10% of daily calories)
  • Low in saturated fat (maximum 10% of daily calories)
  • Low in sodium (maximum 2,300 mg/day)
  • Low in refined grains (3 oz per day)

*In a footnote at the bottom of the page: “As lean meats were not consistently defined or handled similarly between studies, they were not identified as a common characteristic across the reviews. However, as demonstrated in the food pattern modeling of the Healthy U.S.-style and Healthy Mediterranean-style patterns, lean meats can be a part of a healthy dietary pattern.” [Part B, Chapter 2, Page 2]

WHAT THE COMMITTEE GETS RIGHT

Cholesterol is OK. (Hallelujah!):

“Previously, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that cholesterol intake be limited to no more than 300 mg/day. The 2015 DGAC will not bring forward this recommendation because available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol…Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”[Part D, Chapter 1, Lines 642-646]

[To see how sugar, not cholesterol, causes high cholesterol, see my cholesterol page.]

Added sugars are BAD. (Can I get another Hallelujah?!)

“…intake of added sugars from food and/or sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with excess body weight in children and adults…increases the risk of type 2 diabetes…is consistently associated with increased risk of hypertension, stroke, and CHD [coronary heart disease]… higher blood pressure and serum triglycerides…and the development of dental caries.”[Part D, Chapter 6, Lines 704-724]

[To learn how sugar (and excess carbohydrate in general) contributes to these and other health problems ( including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and fatty liver), calculate your own risk, and learn what you can do about it, see my post How to Diagnose, Prevent, and Treat Insulin Resistance.]

WHAT THE COMMITTEE GETS WRONG

Almost everything else, as you’re about to see. Why are these guidelines untrustworthy? Too much of the research used to support these dietary patterns is epidemiological in nature, or uses wildly inaccurate methodologies such as the infamous “Food Frequency Questionnaires” to understand what people are eating. How many epidemiological studies should public health officials rely on to make nutrition recommendations to our people? ZERO.

Epidemiological studies are not experiments, so they are impotent when it comes to the ability to show cause and effect. The best they can do is generate educated guesses about how food affects our health—hypotheses that then must be tested in clinical studies to see whether they are true or not. This is the heart of the scientific method. If scientists in most other fields relied on epidemiological findings they would be laughed out of their professions. By basing so much of its recommendations on epidemiological studies, what the DGAC is doing (once again) is asking us to conduct a nationwide experiment—to test out its pet diets on ourselves and our loved ones to see what happens to our health. We essentially become laboratory rats. We’ve all seen what has happened to the health of our country—our friends and family members—over the past 35 years during which these guideline-generating groups have been experimenting on us.

death by committee

The DGAC explains that it recommends the three “healthy” patterns listed above because those diets are rich in the nutrients Americans don’t eat enough of:

  • Vitamins A, C, D and E
  • Folate, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium
  • Fiber

The problem with this approach is that they look at micronutrients as individual entities instead of as integral components of whole foods—they don’t take digestion, absorption, or bioavailability into consideration. Just because a food contains a particular nutrient doesn’t mean your body can absorb it or use it.

Let’s take a closer look at how the DGAC thinks about food. Below are some excerpts from the report for us to ponder.

Grains

“…half of all grain intake should come from whole grains…Refined grains, such as white flour and products made with white flour, white rice, and de-germed cornmeal, are part of the intake recommendation because they are commonly enriched with iron and several B vitamins, including thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin…Since 1998, enriched grains also have been fortified with folic acid and are thus an important source of folic acid for women of childbearing potential…The 2015 DGAC concluded that consumption of only whole grains with no replacement or substitution would result in nutrient shortfalls.” [Part D, chapter 1, lines 1088-1156]

Notice the committee finds itself in the strange position of recommending that half of all the grains we eat be refined, despite massive evidence that refined carbohydrates endanger our health. Why does the committee emphasize the importance of eating fortified grain products? Because these foods in their unprocessed state don’t naturally contain what we need.

The truth is that whole grains are not only poor sources of essential nutrients, but that they actually contain ANTI-nutrients such as phytic acid, a natural compound which interferes with our ability to absorb key minerals like calcium and iron. [For more information please see my Grains Page]. Interestingly, red meat contains plenty of B vitamins and iron, without need for fortification or consumption of risky refined carbohydrates. For that matter, animal foods in general are better sources of most essential nutrients than plant foods are:

Micronutrient Availability in Plant and Animal Foods

Vitamin A12 to 24 times more bioavailable in animal foods
Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6Animal foods are best sources
Vitamin B12Not found in plant foods
Vitamin CPlants are better sources
Vitamin DNot found in plant foods
Vitamin EVery low in animal foods
Vitamin K1Plant and animal sources
Vitamin K2Not found in plant foods (except in a few fermented products, most notably natto)
FolateInsoluble matrix of some plant foods impedes bioavailability
IronHeme (animal) iron is at least 3 times more bioavailable than non-heme (plant) iron;
Many plant compounds interfere with non-heme iron absorption
CalciumSome plants contain compounds that interfere with calcium absorption
IodineSome plants contain goitrogens which interfere with iodine utilization
ZincAnimal foods are best sources;
Some plants contain compounds that interfere with zinc absorption
ALAPlant and animal sources;
Approx 5% or less of ALA can be converted to EPA;
Conversion of ALA to DHA is even lower
EPA/DHANot found in plant foods (except for microalgae and indigestible grasses); best sources are wild-caught fish and pastured meats / eggs

Fiber

“The most important and well-recognized role for fiber is in colonic health and maintenance of proper laxation, but a growing body of evidence also suggests that fiber may play a role in preventing coronary heart disease, colorectal and other cancers, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.” (Part D, Chapter 1, Lines 585-595)

The DGAC apparently wasn’t aware that the FDA published a report announcing:

“…evidence is strong that there is not a relationship between dietary fiber and colorectal cancer.”1)http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm073181.htm

You can’t blame the DGAC for not having seen this report yet; after all it was only issued FIFTEEN YEARS AGO.2) http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/fiber-and-colon-cancer/

The committee also doesn’t mention the excellent studies conducted in recent years demonstrating that fiber is not helpful for digestive problems, and can even worsen digestive problems. A 2007 review of fiber and overall digestive health concluded:

“A strong case cannot be made for a protective effect of dietary fiber against colorectal polyp or cancer. Neither has fiber been found to be useful in chronic constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. It is also not useful in the treatment of perianal conditions. The fiber deficit-diverticulosis theory should also be challenged.” 3)Tan KY and Seow-Choen F 2007. Fiber and Colorectal Diseases: Separating Fact from Fiction. World J Gastroenterol 13(31):4161-7.

A clinical study conducted in 2012 found:

“Idiopathic constipation and its associated symptoms can be effectively reduced by stopping or even lowering the intake of dietary fiber.”4)Ho, Kok-Sun et al 2012. Stopping or Reducing Dietary Fiber Intake Reduces Constipation and Its Associated Symptoms.”World Journal of Gastroenterology 18.33: 4593–4596

A 2013 review stated:

“Even when used judiciously, fiber can exacerbate abdominal distension, flatulence, constipation, and diarrhea.” 5)Eswaran S et al 2013. Fiber and Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. Am J Gastroenterol 108(5):718-27

[To see how foods can cause digestive problems, please see my post Common Constipation Culprits. For more information about how fiber affects your digestive tract and why it is not even a necessary nutrient, please see my Fiber Page.]

Dairy

“Dairy foods are excellent sources of nutrients of public health concern, including vitamin D, calcium, and potassium. Consumption of dairy foods provides numerous health benefits including lower risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and obesity.” (Part D, chapter 1, Lines 1158-1219)

Yes, we need vitamin D, but milk contains zero units of vitamin D unless it’s fortified. Potassium is easy to obtain from a wide variety of plant and animal foods.6)http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/document/html/appendixb.htm The argument that milk is the best source of dietary calcium and that we must consume it because we require calcium to grow and maintain strong bones flies in the face of logic. How is it that other mammals all seem to have bones, including obligate carnivores such as cats, despite not drinking milk after weaning? Where do they get their calcium? Are they hiding behind trees, secretly downing TUMS?

The belief that milk consumption reduces risk for metabolic syndrome and related conditions comes from epidemiological studies.7)Kim Y and Je Y 2015 Dairy consumption and risk of metabolic syndrome: a meta-analysis. Diabet Med Oct 3 PMID264330098)Guo-Chong Chen et al 2015 Dairy products consumption and metabolic syndrome in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Sci Rep. 2015; 5: 14606. The CLINICAL studies, however, are all over the map. A 2015 review of ten intervention studies concluded:

“In adults, four of the dairy interventions showed a positive effect on insulin sensitivity…one was negative and five had no effect.”9)Turner KM et al 2015. Dairy consumption and insulin sensitivity: a systematic review of short- and long-term intervention studies. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis 25(1):3-8

Interestingly, the authors of that same review recently published a clinical study finding that replacing dairy products with red meat improved insulin sensitivity:

“In contrast to some epidemiologic findings, these results suggest that high consumption of dairy reduces insulin sensitivity compared with a diet high in lean red meat in overweight and obese subjects, some of whom had glucose intolerance.” 10)Turner KM et al 2015. Red meat, dairy, and insulin sensitivity: a randomized crossover intervention study. Am J Clin Nutr 101(6):1173-9.

That study was released after the DGAC’s review had been completed, so it couldn’t have been included in the report; I mention it here to make the point that eating dairy products may not be good for people with insulin resistance. It makes sense that dairy foods could increase risk for metabolic syndrome due to its natural ability to raise insulin levels. For more information, please see my Dairy Page.

Saturated Fats

I refer you to Nina Teicholz’s analysis for excellent coverage of this complicated topic.

Low-Carbohydrate Diets

“Overall, it appears that only limited evidence is available to address the relationship between low-carbohydrate diets and health, particularly evidence derived from U.S.-based populations.” (Part D, chapter 2, lines 224-253)

The committee concludes there’s not enough evidence to say that low-carbohydrate diets are better for weight loss than any other type of diet and that all diets that restrict calories work equally well.

It’s absolutely true that calorie restriction can lead to weight loss regardless of what kind of diet you eat. But it is very difficult for most people, especially those of us with insulin resistance, to stay on a low-calorie, high-carb diet for very long, because in a cruel double-play, carbs and insulin not only make us hungry (see this excellent Gary Taubes piece in the New York Times), but they also turn off our ability to burn fat.11)Rui L 2014 Energy Metabolism in the Liver. Compr Physiol 4(1):177–197

DGAC members chose not to include the latest research about low-carbohydrate diets, and instead decided to rely on the old 2010 guidelines, which state that diets containing less than 45% carbohydrate “may be less safe”, without explaining how or why. On what planet is a 45% carbohydrate diet a low-carb diet? Most low-carbohydrate diet experts recommend that carbohydrate be restricted to less than 15% of calories. [As a person with insulin resistance, if my diet consisted of 45% carbohydrate, I would be a tub.] Strange also that the committee implies that evidence from non-US-based populations would be less relevant, given that numerous studies on other topics included in the report were conducted outside of the United States.

The above examples give you a taste of why MyPlate looks the way it does. Lots of plant foods, no mention of meat or fat. The report repeatedly sounds the monotonous recurring theme that diets higher in plant foods and lower in red meat and saturated fat are best for our health. So how exactly did the committee arrive at these recommendations?  [Warning: the following content may cause intellectual vertigo and/or spontaneous combustion.]

CLEAR EVIDENCE OF ANTI-MEAT BIAS

Allow me first to confess my food biases (something each member of the DGAC should also be required to do). I used to eat a low-fat, high-plant diet until I discovered that eating a high-fat, mostly-meat diet just so happened to be the key to restoring my health. I therefore believe, based on my personal experience and years of reading and writing about nutrition research, that meat is good for people. I have never found any scientific proof that red meat causes any human health problem, nor have I ever come across any plausible physiological mechanism to explain how red meat could cause a human health problem. [For more information, please see my Meats Page.]
sausage under the microscope Microscope and sausage graphics designed by Freepik

RED MEAT AND DEPRESSION

Being a psychiatrist, I decided to focus on the portion of the report pertaining to depression risk (Part D, Chapter 2, Lines 1410-1439), and look specifically at the connection between depression and red meat. The DGAC based its recommendations about meat and depression on a total of 19 studies—17 epidemiological studies and 2 randomized controlled trials.

I read each and every one of those 19 studies to see what they showed about red meat and depression risk. I set aside the fact that epidemiological studies can only generate hypotheses that then need to be tested in randomized controlled trials (RCT’s). I also set aside the fact that it was easy to find high quality journal articles on the topic of dietary patterns and depression that were, for whatever reason, not included in the committee’s review. For the sake of this exercise, I simply took the evidence the DGAC presented at face value.

Briefly, here is what I discovered about these studies (DGAC study reference numbers are noted in parentheses):

  • 3 studies did not evaluate meat (175,182,197).
  • 7 epidemiological studies tied red meat to increased depression risk.(189,194,196,200,201 203,205). However, all of them except for one (205) lumped meat in with dietary patterns that include junk foods high in refined carbohydrate.
  • 7 epidemiological studies (190,191,192,193, 195,198,199), and 1 RCT (202), found no association between meat and depression risk. 2 of these studies (193, 198) lumped meat in with junk foods high in refined carbohydrates and still found no increase in depression risk.
  • 1 RCT (204) concluded that increased red meat consumption REDUCED risk for depression.

[For more details about these studies, including citations, please see my Summary of DGAC Depression and Diet Studies]

Study
Ref. No.
meat not studiedmeat increases depressionmeat lumped with refined carbohydratesmeat does not increase depressionmeat relieves depression
175
182
189
190
191
192
193
194
195
196
197
198
199
200
201
202 (RCT)
203
204 (RCT)
205

You Do The Math

For those of you keeping score at home, 16 studies looked at meat. One of them suggests meat increases risk for depression. Six of them suggest that meat lumped in with junk foods increases risk for depression. NINE studies specifically exonerate meat, including BOTH of the RCTs, and one of these RCTs found that eating MORE red meat was actually PROTECTIVE against depression.

What would YOU conclude, gentle reader, about meat and depression risk from these findings?

Now, what do you think the committee concluded?

“Patterns emphasizing red and processed meats and refined sugar were generally associated with increased risk of depression.”

Hmmm. How could the committee so confidently conclude that meat consumption increases depression risk, when more than half of the studies exonerate meat, including BOTH of the clinical trials? If this isn’t clear evidence of bias, intentional or not, then I don’t know what is. If a detailed examination of this small portion of the report is any indication of how the rest of the report was generated, then the DGAC has a lot of explaining to do. Why didn’t the report conclude that studies about meat and depression do not support the DGAC’s favorite dietary patterns, or at the very least admit that there is not enough evidence to come to a conclusion? These recommendations are clearly not grounded in science—not even in the science the committee hand-picked to support its favorite diets.

How did they decide which studies to include? Your guess is as good as mine:

“Searching, screening, and selecting scientific literature was an iterative process that sought to identify the most complete and relevant body of evidence to answer a SR (systematic review) question. This process was guided by inclusion and exclusion criteria determined a priori by the DGAC.” [Part C, Lines 258-260]

WHY LIE ABOUT MEAT?

Why did the DGAC lie (to themselves and/or to us) about studies demonstrating the health benefits of red meat? Why do they bury positive information about red meat in tiny footnotes? Do they think red meat is bad for us and that we shouldn’t eat it? Well, actually, no…strangely enough…

The committee repeatedly sounds the drumbeat of “a healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains”, despite the fact that one of the dietary patterns it recommends is actually higher in red meat than seafood, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, or soy. That’s right–surprisingly, buried in a single table within the 571-page report, is the recommendation that non-vegetarians should eat 12-1/2 oz of meat, 10-1/2 oz of poultry, and 8 oz of seafood per week! [The Mediterranean-style pattern recommended includes twice the amount of seafood but the same amounts of red meat and poultry.] Why not tout throughout the report that red meat can be the main source of protein in a healthy diet?

I’m a psychiatrist. Thinking about people’s motivations and unconscious desires is an occupational hazard. When people behave irrationally, there’s usually an emotion at work. Like it or not, we humans make our most important decisions based on feelings, not on logic. I have many theories about why their report is so full of contradictions, omissions, and misrepresentations. But as I have never met any of the DGAC members, I can only speculate:

Theory #1: They believe that eating red meat is bad for the environment.

If you read the sustainability section of the report (which has since been deemed irrelevant by Congress) it is clear that they have come to this conclusion. A legitimate concern, at least when it comes to industrially-raised, grain-fed animals.

Theory #2: They believe that eating red meat is cruel to animals

Perhaps they can’t bear the thought of our fellow mammals being used for food. A legitimate concern, but we have no way of knowing whether any of them feel this way.

Theory #3:  They value epidemiological findings over clinical trial outcomes.

The vast majority of studies claiming to conclude that meat is bad for human health are epidemiological studies, which cannot prove a cause and effect relationship. Of the 14 committee members, 9 are professional nutritional epidemiologists. Therefore, the majority of them, by virtue of their chosen professions, believe in the (nonexistent) power of epidemiology.

Theory #4: They have a vested professional interest in plant and/or fish-based diets which are low in saturated fat.

Of the 14 DGAC members, 9 have conducted studies focusing on the health benefits of plant ingredients and/or plant-based diets. Two have written books promoting plant-based diets. Therefore, most of these researchers have staked their careers at least in part on the theory that plant foods are superior to animal foods.

BIAS HAPPENS

It’s a human thing. I don’t begrudge DGAC members their beliefs. But their report is supposed to be based on science, not on ideology. So here’s an idea. If you’re going to spend all kinds of time and money trying to legislate what people eat, at least lay everyone’s biases out on the table, and then choose a committee that includes people from many different points of view—pro-vegan, pro-Paleo, pro-Mediterranean, pro-vegetarian…you get the idea. And why not include some scientists from outside the politically-charged world of nutrition who might be capable of more objectivity? Maybe toss in a veterinarian, a physicist, a microbiologist…scientists who don’t have a stake in being right or wrong about their favorite diets.
stacked deck

And for Pete’s sake, leave the epidemiologists out of it. Epidemiological methods are incapable of concluding anything meaningful about food and health.

WHERE’S THE BEEF?

And so, dear DGAC, I’ll thank you to please keep your beliefs off of my table.  See that plate full of anti-nutritious, poorly digestible grains and beans, metabolism-destroying refined carbohydrates, hormone-destabilizing dairy products, and refined seed oils loaded with pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids? That is not My Plate. That’s YOUR plate. Now please pass the meat 🙂

I’ve also posted a detailed critique of the World Health Organization’s October 2015 report claiming that red and processed meats cause cancer: WHO Says Meat Causes Cancer?

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  • charles grashow

    You mean Nina Teicholz’s article that was RETRACTED within 1 month??

    http://www.theverge.com/2015/10/26/9616122/bmj-nina-teicholz-dietary-guidelines-correction-investigation
    One month later, BMJ issues a correction for its bogus dietary guidelines investigation
    The correction fails to address most of the article’s errors

    http://www.theverge.com/2015/9/25/9397923/us-dietary-guidelines-2015-bmj-investigation-response
    US diet committee calls criticism ‘woefully inadequate and factually incorrect’
    The BMJ’s error-laden ‘investigation’ gets a swift response

    http://www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h5686
    Corrections
    The scientific report guiding the US dietary guidelines: is it scientific?

    • Dear Charles,

      Her article was not retracted. What was published was a single correction, as you can see in the BMJ link you posted above.

      • charles grashow

        http://www.politico.com/story/2015/10/the-money-behind-the-fight-over-healthy-eating-214517

        http://www.politico.com/story/2015/10/the-money-behind-the-fight-over-healthy-eating-214517

        “The efforts to keep Americans from lowering their meat intake include some important new allies. Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, and the Nutrition Coalition, backed by John and Laura Arnold, billionaires from Texas whose fortunes are tied back to Enron, have joined in as major power players in the fight, according to an in-depth report from Politico.

        Their key tactic: Attack the scientific methodology used by those recommending a drop in consumption.

        According to Politico, before the Nutrition Coalition was officially formed, Teicholz attended a meeting with representatives for ConAgra, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, among others, to talk about whether criticizing the guidelines from the scientific standpoint would “create new opportunities” for rewriting the recommendations. Since then, Politico reports, Teicholz also has met with USDA staff, House Agriculture Appropriations chairman Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), and Debra Eschmeyer, a senior nutrition policy adviser to Michelle Obama and the executive director of the first lady’s health initiative, Lets Move!. Teicholz, who describes herself as an investigative journalist, tells Quartz she has not taken money from the food industry for these activities.

        Following her op-eds in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal about why Americans need more meat, dairy, and eggs in their diets, Teicholz also recently published a feature report in BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal, directly questioning the scientific approach behind this year’s USDA/HHS advisory report. (She also argued that sustainability was irrelevant to the guidelines.) The BMJ story was underwritten by the Arnolds, who Politico reports “are spending an initial $200,000 to communicate [the scientific] critique” of the guidelines submitted by the government’s advisory panel.

        The article has been widely criticized by nutrition experts for its many inaccuracies, both large and small. (BMJ told Quartz that the article was fact-checked “in line with our usual procedures” but did not respond to inquiries as to whether any corrections would be forthcoming.)”

        • Dear Charles,

          While it is perfectly fair to question Ms.Teicholz’s biases and motives, I do not see any concrete information in the Politico article that makes me question her integrity, or the quality or validity of her work. I cannot speak for her, only for myself. If you have a substantive question or comment about the content of my article, I will be happy to respond.

        • tkent26

          Would these be the same “nutrition experts” who gave us decades of high carb, low fat orthodoxy, who told us that eggs would kill us, who tell diabetics to eat more carbohydrate, who told us to eat 6-11 servings _per day_ of bread, pasta, and cereal, and who have presided over unprecedented epidemics of obesity and diabetes? I’ll take a pass on their stunningly unsuccessful advice.

          The funny thing about trying Dr. Ede’s or Ms. Teicholz’s advice is that it _works_. Most of us who cut refined carbs while eating more naturally fatty animal foods _lose weight_, gain control of blood sugar, and become generally lean, healthy, and strong.

          • Stephen T

            Well said, tkent26. It is astonishing that people can defend the cobbled together nonsense that has done so much harm. Do diabetics do vastly better when they eat a low carbohydrate diet? Can anyone defend the current high-carb advice to this group? People who behave this stupidly in other fields would be held criminally responsible.
            Charles is a statin advocate who haunts Nina, Adele Hite, Tom Naughton and Dr Ede. His posts are tendentious, blinkered and with little or no attempt at fairness or respect. My only agenda is my health and that of my family and I’m enormously grateful to Nina Teicholz and everyone else I’ve named.
            A very well written and helpful posting by Dr Ede.

    • zbrak

      LOL — doesn’t know what “retracted” means and we’re supposed to believe anything he says? By the way, the definition doesn’t change when you capitalize it. Do something useful and wash some kale or something.

  • Actually, NOBODY who has a toe in the nutrition/health/whatever field should be involved in ANY of the guideline building process.

    Take the recent Credit Suisse document, these folk are in banking and just trying to determine where the money is heading, they went through hundreds of studies and examined the evidence, and ended up just like many of us in analytical fields not related to nutrition going “WTF is this? How did the guidelines end up completely against the evidence?”.

    • FromPA

      I believe that Credit Suisse document is 100% correct. They got everything right. And they did it because they’re not beholden to anyone but investors.

      A few quotes from this:

      “Saturated fat has not been a driver of obesity: fat does not make you fat. At current levels of consumption the most likely culprit behind growing obesity level of the world population is carbohydrates.”

      My favorite:

      “One of the biggest myths in nutrition is that saturated fat intake above a certain level—say 10% based on most dietary guidelines—significantly increases your risk of heart attack. This conclusion that has held for almost half a century is inconsistent with the wealth of epidemiological data or scientific evidence in the form of clinical randomized trials. Plenty of research funding has been earmarked to study and back this hypothesis, yet we cannot find a single research paper written in the last ten years that supports this conclusion. On the contrary, we can find at least 20 studies that dismiss this hypothesis.”

      Note particularly the last two sentences.

      For the guidelines, I say they give up. Say, “We honestly don’t know what’s good for you, therefore, we’re going to cease making recommendations.” Fire everyone — all of them. If you can’t base your evidence in science, you shouldn’t be giving recommendations. My belief is the recommendations they’re giving are doing much, much, much more harm than good.

    • Dear Ash and PA,

      Thank you for calling this wonderful report to my attention! For those who haven’t seen it, Credit Suisse issued a 76-page review of dietary fat in September: http://publications.credit-suisse.com/tasks/render/file/index.cfm?fileid=9163B920-CAEF-91FB-EE5769786A03D76E.

      There are many gems within this document, but a few of my favorites are:

      “The stance of most officials and influential orga?nizations such as WHO and AHA is now well behind research in two main areas: saturated fats and polyunsaturated omega-6 fats.”

      “Doctors and patients’ focus on “good” and “bad” cholesterol is superficial at best and most likely misleading.”

      “The main factor behind a high level of saturated fats [triglycerides] in our blood is actually carbohydrates, not the amount of saturated fat we eat.”

      • FromPA

        To me, on the one hand, it’s amazing that bankers — people with no previous experience in epidemiology — can learn it and get results that I believe are completely correct; on the other hand, they came to this with no preconceived idea of the end result, so they were able to look at things with a fresh perspective. I liken this to Gary Taubes and Nina Teicholz, both of which I think did the same. But you have to ask yourself: if these bankers can take a fresh look at evidence, why can’t the DGAC? Shouldn’t there be a complete overview and overhaul of the recommendations every so often? And, if you’re looking and looking for evidence that something is true (such as “saturated fat causes heart disease”) and cannot find the evidence in support of that theory, perhaps you might think that this theory could be incorrect? If bankers can find 20+ studies in the last 10 years that indicate saturated fat does not cause heart disease yet cannot find a single study indicating otherwise, what is the DGAC looking at and why is this theory still valid?

    • Malaena Medford

      The guidelines are written by people who are politicians, not nutritional experts. Even some nutritional experts have a biased agenda based on either money or their own personal opinion carved by the horrid vegetarian cult movement.

  • RIchard Feinman

    Even their hallelujahs are questionnable. Going after sugar is yet another way of not facing the effects of high carbohydrate. The real problem is now in the hands of the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The DGAC report should not be accepted and the USDA guidelines should be postponed indefinitely and replaced with open hearings in which all sides are represented.

    • Hear hear, Dr. Feinman! Can I get a third hallelujah?! For those who haven’t seen it yet, here’s a link to the video of the October 7th congressional hearings in which the secretaries of the USDA and the Dept of Health and Human Services were called to task by the House Agriculture Committee re the scientific shortcomings in their report:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6DNns4oFao

  • anniee

    Is a ketonic diet safe if you diabetes type 2, taking metformin, and invoka, cannot get sugars below 200… walking 30 min a day, 1 mile ???

  • Thank you for this excellent blog.
    Just yesterday I observed a maintenance meeting for participants coming off a medically supervised fast. Many of these patients were able to lose a significant amount of weight. At their first maintenance meeting, they were given the guidelines for how they should now eat to maintain their weight. They are to follow the “My Plate” guideline and 40 to 60% of their calories are to come from carbohydrates. No wonder two thirds of these people will end up regaining the weight they lost.
    The medically supervised fast was done with meal replacements, Nutrimed and Optiifast 800. Those using the Nutrimed shakes were getting about 40 gms of carbs per day and those using Optifast about 80 to 100 gms. Of course, people lost weight because they were on very low calorie diets, but they also significantly changed their metabolism. Diabetics on the Nutrimed fast were able to stop taking insulin and oral diabetes medications.
    I feel bad for these people. Eating according to “My Plate” guidelines will undo all the progress they made. The organization that offers this program will benefit, as many of these patients surely will return for another round of fasting and weight loss.

    • Dear Oya,

      I’m glad you like the blog and thank you for this excellent illustration of a critical point. There are lots and lots of diets that can cause weight loss, but how many diets can improve metabolism, improve overall health, and regulate appetite so that people have a fighting chance in sustaining that hard-earned weight loss? Only diets that reduce carbohydrate quantity and increase overall food quality can do that. There are some lucky people who can get away with eating a low-calorie version of MyPlate, but those of us with insulin resistance (which is more than 50% of us) won’t be successful with this route.

  • Tom Caruso

    What about the places that have been studied where people live long heathy lives such as Okinawa , Ikaria ,Costa Rica and such places they all seem to have s very low consumption of animal protein and eat a lot of beans veggies and fermented foods. ????

    • tkent26

      Those places are unique in many social and cultural ways. Studying those populations tells us that certain diets are compatible with longevity, but it can’t tell us that the diet _causes_ longevity. It also suffers from selection bias, where scientists want to do surveys, field work, and attend conferences in places that are generally nice to vacation.

      • Tom Caruso

        ok makes sense to me , so a good 50 year vacation in one of these places might make one healthy and mentally well. Not so bad

    • Hi Tom

      Good question! There are many traditional cultures in the world in which people eat lots of plant foods and appear healthier than people who eat a Western diet. The problem with concluding from these observations that people who eat more plants are healthier than people who eat decent amounts of animal foods as well as plants, is that there are several other major differences between “Blue Zone” diets and the modern American diet, these being that Blue Zone diets are typically very low in refined carbohydrate, processed foods, and refined seed oils.

      We don’t need much animal protein per day to be healthy–on average about 6-12 oz of meat, poultry, or fish per day, depending on our body weight, age, medical status, activity level and what else we’re eating. We don’t know if people in the Blue Zones would be even healthier if they were to remove beans and fermented foods and eat more meat (a diet more closely resembling a whole foods pre-agricultural diet such as a Paleo dietary pattern), or if they’d be less healthy without those special plant foods, because that experiment, to my knowledge, hasn’t been done. I’m fond of saying “Any diet beats the Western Diet.”

      • Tom Caruso

        Great answer. There is also stress and socialization that maybe these places have less of. So many variables. Balance of Mind must be at least as big as what you eat, twinkie diets aside.

      • rohit jain

        Hello dr,
        Your knowldge is such a blessing thanx for sharing!
        Over here in india, dairy rich diet is beleived and followed since the existance of humanity.although scientific researches are to be done first..to see the cause and effect relationship as u said.but there are lots of people who stayed lean,lived longer and healthy life by following the same meal routine of having two or even one meal a day along with decent milk intake through their entire life!with that being said we have a detailed history of ” naadi ayurveda” which diagnose everything inside a body by reading the pulse count…and in the practice of ayurveda milk is one of the main source that is given with the medicine for the treatment of various disease.

  • Rob Harrison

    They are ridiculous! Then I hear on the news this morning that fat babies are caused by cell phones! Yes it seems bottle fed babies mothers are not paying attention to how long?they are feeding because of their phone. REALLY! I agree they are not paying attention. Seems odd that breast fed babies don’t have this problem, do their mothers not get phones? Seriously? They are pumping the little darlins’ full of sugar, that’s why weight gain is so much faster! LOL! I find it so amazing that with the answer right in front of us that people REFUSE to look straight at it and look away every time! Since I began reading your blog, I quit sugar and white flour immediately and in the ensuinf 3 weeks have lost ten pounds! I have been trying to rid myself of that for years! Someone asked me whar was my “goal”, I told them I already reached it,I am now sugar free! God bless you doctor Ede!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Hello, Rob

      Congratulations on finally losing those pesky 10 pounds! Great example of a clinical experiment that worked. Nothing like hard evidence! That’s what it’s all about. There are lots of us thinking about and writing about nutrition these days; the only way to know for sure if any of the things we are saying are true is to try what we recommend to see if it works and how it feels. If a nutritional philosophy is wrong, as I’m convinced MyPlate is, you’ll find strange and confusing mixtures of outcomes–sometimes it works, but most of the time it doesn’t, or it can even make things worse. If a theory is true, you should see proof of it everywhere–all around you, consistently.

  • Rob Harrison

    Consistency, that is what I see no matter where I search about sugar! NO where is a positive study. EVERYWHERE is a terrible negative or one that seems to be sorta glossed over or ran by! I share the love with all my friends, but some just cannot or will not open their eyes. I encourage them to do their own research on this internet that we built, but the response is lackluster. One (very obese person) even told me,”well ya gotta die of something” Really? How painful is slow poisoning, I really have had enough myself! Thanks again Doc!

  • Mark Cucuzzella

    thanks Dr Ede for this detailed piece. as a psychiatrist you know the brain is the captain of the ship and the model for lifelong eating cannot be “brainless”. one must feel vital to be vital. Mark Cucuzzella MD

  • Interested Party

    Thanks for that blog, really. It was so well done. It is great to see so many professionals from the medical field who respond to this plague of misinfromation that is upon us.

    • Yaeko Won

      Hello, I acquired a template UT TC-123 copy here http://goo.gl/XGsDUk

  • Matt Walker

    This entire article is very unscientific, and reeks of having a paleo influence. Suggesting we ignore epidemiological data whilst advocating red meat, which not only epidemiological but also mechanistic research has shown is clearly implicated in cancer when consumed at the current average rate, is ridiculous to me. Yes 75% of our bodies cholesterol is synthesized by our bodies, but those who are on cholesterol synthesis inhibitors and the large number of people that are at genetic risk from atherosclerosis related cardiovascular disease should not be consuming meats full of a combination of saturated fat and cholesterol. Show me one mechanistic study that shows the current meat consumption rate is safe in these populations – oh what, those studies don’t exist at all? Hmmmmmm.