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Dietary Guidelines: A Triumph for Lobbying, Virtue, or Science?

In the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans unveiled yesterday, there’s a little something for everyone. From different perspectives, people are seeing a triumph for lobbying, virtue, or science.

  1. Lobbying. Some public health observers see a big win in these guidelines for the meat and soda industries. Harvard’s Walter Willet commented that “there are clear benefits of replacing red meat with almost any other protein sources — but the meat lobby is very powerful in Congress. The Dietary Guidelines Committee was also quite explicit in their recommendation to limit sugar-sweetened beverages, and that’s not talked about in the guidelines at all.”
  2. Virtue. The new guidelines include a recommendation to limit added sugar consumption to ten percent of total daily calories for the first time. For true believers in the concept that added sugar is a toxic element of America’s food supply, this recommendation marks “a major step forward.” Activists like Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Robert Lustig of UCSF are fairly thrilled.
  3. Science.The good news about the new dietary guidelines is their emphasis on the way people actually eat — foods, diets, and dietary patterns. That works well for encouraging people to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains,” says NYU’s Marion Nestle. The now discredited admonitions against dietary cholesterol and total fat are gone. While these guidelines don’t erase all problems with focusing on individual foods and nutrients — demonizing or venerating them — the movement is in the right direction.

Love ’em or hate ’em, these guidelines will be dominating conversations about nutrition for the foreseeable future.

Click here for the scoop from the Washington Post, here for more from Politico, and here for a cynical view from the Verge.

Banana Split! Photograph © Ali Mir / flickr

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January 8, 2016

2 Responses to “Dietary Guidelines: A Triumph for Lobbying, Virtue, or Science?”

  1. January 08, 2016 at 8:05 am, Mary-Jo said:

    ‘dominating conversations about nutrition’ for whom, Ted? Of course, those of us who are interested in the Dietary Guidelines and all the issues surrounding food, nutrition, eating patterns, food lobbies, etc, but, sadly, the very audience that these guidelines are intended for — the general public — a) don’t know the Dietary Guidelines or b) don’t really care because they seem so confused and tired of all the conflicting messages from experts. At least, that’s what I experience whenever I ask my clients about the Dietary Guidelines and what they mean to and for them. I try to defend the Guidelines and inform folks, but recommendations from ‘experts’ seems to resonate as a charade for many people. I’m not saying all research, efforts, and activity to generate guidelines and recommendations, should stop, but how can we, somehow, generate less confusion, perhaps even all the ‘sniping’ that seems to get more press and leave greater impressions than the actual helpful information that folks need to hear and implement. I have no answers. I’m just putting this out there! 🙂

    • January 08, 2016 at 2:31 pm, Ted said:

      Excellent food for thought, Mary-Jo.