Gerry's Violated Eggs

Coffee and Eggs Are In, Sugar and Meats Are Out

Is it a coincidence that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee issued their report during Fashion Week? Probably so, though it’s hard not to think about the changing fashions in nutrition advice. Coffee and eggs are definitely back in after years of being unfashionable. Added sugars and meats are decidedly out. The committee even went so far as to suggest a tax on sugary foods.

The enduring stalwarts of dietary fashion are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

U.S. Per Capita Food Consumption IndicesAre people listening? Maybe or maybe not. USDA statistics tell us that veggie consumption has dropped since 1996. Fresh fruit is trending up. Red meat consumption has dropped considerably since 1971 and poultry seems to have peaked in 2006 after some impressive growth. Consumption of eggs declined until 1991 and hasn’t really recovered since. Coffee has followed a similar pattern after bottoming out in 1995. Added sugars have been dropping since 1999, following a trend that’s oddly similar to veggies.

Whole grain is a bit more complicated to figure out. USDA statistics tell us that total grain consumption (including refined grains we should be consuming less) grew considerably and then peaked in 2000. Lots of marketing data point to a growing preference for whole grains and growing sales for whole grain products, but aggregate statistics for consumption of whole grains are tough to come by. The only clue is NHANES data that says people report eating more whole grains. (Caveat: self-reports of people eating recommended foods are unreliable.) Regardless, it seems clear enough that people are eating too many refined grains and not enough whole grains.

On balance, these recommendations seem pretty sensible. We’ve finally ditched unsupported concerns about dietary cholesterol and opened the door for sensibly enjoying eggs again. Coffee in moderation gets a clean bill of health.

No doubt you’ll hear some fussing from people with strong views about added sugars and saturated fats. Nobody thinks these are health foods, but a few people think their vilification has been a bit overdone — especially in the case of saturated fats. Industries that have a stake in these guidelines will surely speak up. The “sugar lobby” can be counted upon to weigh in. And meat producers might be a little ticked about the whole let’s-go-vegetarian thing. It’s in their job descriptions.

The final 2015 Guidelines will be issued later this year, after everybody has one more chance to vent their spleens.

Click here to read more in The Atlantic, here for more from the AP, here for more from Politico, and here to read the recommended guidelines themselves.

Gerry’s Violated Eggs, photograph © abridgeover / flickr

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