Vegan Sushi Burritos

2020 Guidelines: A Plant-Based, Low-Carb Ruckus

The USDA opened up the process for developing the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for inspection and input this week. It was the second of five public meetings. Also, it was the first of two chances for the public to deliver live comments to the committee. The committee seems to be taking its task for the 2020 Guidelines seriously. The public, though, is more interested in a plant-based, low-carb ruckus.

Dairy Is Racist?

Seriously. Advocates for the plant-based side of this scuffle advanced the notion that recommendations for consuming dairy products are racist. Washington physician Milton Mills used dairy to make a point about diversity lacking on the committee:

The vast majority of people of color in this country are intolerant of lactose and yet, because they think they have to eat this stuff, they go out and eat it and get sick. It is outrageous to have a committee that does not reflect the American population.

What? You expected scholarly dialogue about nutrition science? As David Ludwig suggested to us recently, an end to “perpetual diet wars” is nowhere in sight. However, gratuitous rabble rousing does not seem to have infected the expert committee itself. They’re pretty focused on a huge task.

A Proxy Fight for Sustainability

One of the disappointments of the 2015 Guidelines was that the USDA and HHS removed considerations of sustainability from them. The expert advisory committee included sustainability in its report, but the government said those factors are outside the scope of the guidelines.

None of that will happen this time around. Prior committees could develop their own questions. However, for the 2020 guidelines, the government set the questions for the committee before appointing its members. So – no surprise – sustainability is off the table.

Thus, we’ll have to settle for a proxy fight. Passionate advocates for low-carb diets are pushing hard for their cause. Vegan warriors for sustainability are pushing back. Plant based diets are the surrogates for sustainability. Note, however, that not all plant-based foods have a low environmental impact. Almond milk and, in some cases, your salad are two examples.

We predict a lot of heat and very little light will come from this. But apart from all that, don’t be surprised if this hard-working committee comes up with some insights worth reading.

Click here and here for additional perspective on this week’s hearings.

Vegan Sushi Burritos, photograph © Ella Olsson / flickr

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July 13, 2019

2 Responses to “2020 Guidelines: A Plant-Based, Low-Carb Ruckus”

  1. July 13, 2019 at 1:02 pm, Angela Meadows said:

    While all guideline reviews now almost inevitably deteriorate into a bun fight, the point about dairy is a valid one. As we all well know, lack of representation leads to a distortion of top-down processes to reflect a dominant majority, with little understanding or consideration of the needs of people outside this group.

    • July 14, 2019 at 3:48 am, Ted said:

      Thanks, Angela. You speak to a core issue for guidelines. One size will never fit all for nutritional guidance.