Le Désespéré

Enough Kvetching about the Dietary Guidelines?

Alice Lichtenstein has heard enough kvetching about the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. That’s the clear impression from her excellent presentation at the annual symposium yesterday of  Weight Management DPG in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Lichtenstein, who directs the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts, spent two years chairing the expert committee that reviewed the science for guidelines. So you can understand why she’s ready for everyone to stop complaining. She described how reporting on the guidelines has sown confusion by trying to inflame controversy about them.

“It’s a disservice to the public understanding of nutrition,” she said.

Much of the fuss about the guidelines has centered on four subjects: red meat, dietary cholesterol, low fat, breakfast. Debates about the role of saturated fats in health outcomes appear to be setting the stage for the controversy about red meat. But on the subject of dietary cholesterol, low fat, and breakfast, Lichtenstein found some of the sensational reporting to be just plain silly. She summed up her view:

What would benefit the American public? Embrace the general tenor of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans rather than pull the rug out from under federal food and nutrition policy.

Not everyone wants to know what goes into the sausage-making of public policy. But for those who do, Lichtenstein offered an excellent view of the process for making nutrition policy on Friday.

And if you’re still hungry for more on the guidelines, you can read yet another view here.

Le Désespéré, self-portrait by Gustave Courbet / WikiArt

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April 16, 2016

2 Responses to “Enough Kvetching about the Dietary Guidelines?”

  1. April 16, 2016 at 9:55 am, Al Lewis said:

    Kvetching is part of democracy — she needs to get used to it. I understand her viewpoint too, and she of course is allowed to kvetch back, and I don’t mean to denigrate her viewpoint by saying this.

    My own “takes” on the whole thing would be:

    (1) with the exception of sugar, there probably isn’t a single right answer for everyone. People vary along many dimensions. for example, some ethnic groups are more suspectible than others to salt causing hypertension.

    (2) Our mothers were generally right — eat a balanced diet. Likewise, the immortal philosopher WC Fields: “Everything should be taken in moderation, including moderation.”

    (3) Whatever the impact of most dietary components is, it’s likely pretty subtle. Otherwise it would have screamed at us by now. It took about 100 patients for doctors to conclude smoking caused lung cancer and about 180 patients to conclude that very high blood pressure caused strokes. We now have millions of generally inconclusive studies on most dietary components. Epidemiology 101: Significant impacts require only small sample sizes to discern.

    (4) Exercise.

  2. April 16, 2016 at 10:29 am, Ted said:

    Good points, Al. Thanks! My own view is that we have a very poor diet of nutrition information. Way too much junk and way too little nourishment. Hundreds of pages on how to eat is not very helpful.