Jericho Rally

A Political Campaign for Dietary Guidelines

A band of low-carb enthusiasts is making it official. They are coming at the process for developing the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a matter of politics. Why worry about the nuances of science when you can rally a base of devoted advocates?

The Low-Carb Action Network

This coalition formed in December with a concise mission. In short, the coalition wants a true low-carb diet added to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. So they’re recruiting true believers to come forward with their success stories. They have everything they need for a 21st century political campaign. For example, they have a slick website and all the social media accounts that it takes to fuel a political campaign today. They’re ready to rally the troops:

LCAN plans to launch a grassroots campaign in the coming months to urge leaders at USDA and HHS to ensure that a properly defined low-carb diet is included in the DGA to provide a dietary option for the majority of Americans who suffer from diet-related, chronic diseases. The next meeting of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will be held next month in Houston.

Nutrition, Politics, and Religion

Politics and religion have long been subjects to avoid in polite company. Mark Twain offered a cynical reason:

I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.

So do we need to add nutrition to the list of touchy subjects best avoided? Can the scientific advisory committee for the guidelines expect to witness pep rallies outside their meetings?

Maybe now the fans of every diet – mainstream and fringe – should organize. Instead of dietary guidelines, perhaps we can call them dieting guidelines. Why worry about fine distinctions?

But seriously, we do need a bright line between science and policy. It’s good to have policy informed by science. It’s even OK to call it science-based policy if you must. But we should be careful lest we get it backwards and deliver policy-based science.

A steady stream of testimonials is no substitute for scientific rigor.

Click here and here for more on the Low Carb Action Network.

Jericho Rally, photograph © Elvert Barnes / flickr

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December 31, 2019

2 Responses to “A Political Campaign for Dietary Guidelines”

  1. December 31, 2019 at 7:54 am, Mary-Jo said:

    The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Commitee really needs to put its foot down on this and stand for science. When the LCAN produces rigorous scientific data to support the dietary guidelines they want to present, then they deserve a place at the table. Otherwise, it can be confusing and incorrect to proffer a low-carb diet option, endorsed by the USDA and HHS. There are too many iterations of low-carb diets that ‘work’ for people under various circumstances coming from widely differing baselines, all based mostly on anecdotal information.

  2. January 07, 2020 at 10:27 am, David Brown said:

    The low-carb approach treats symptoms. It does not address the cause. Same holds true for the plant-based approach.
    For either approach, any actual improvement in health status is inadvertent and may be attributed to decreases in linoleic acid and/or arachidonic acid intake. For example, the Mediterranean style dietary approach swaps linoleic acid (seed oils) for oleic acid (olive oil) and reduces arachidonic acid (meat) intake. Researchers studying markers of metabolic health associated with aging concluded that in a Mediterranean style diet “An increasing proportion of arachidonic acid in red blood cells is associated with shorter telomeres.” They also said, “Further research is needed to investigate the role of this fatty acid and its derived lipid mediators in the aging process.”

    In an intervention study comparing olive oil to mixed nuts, at the end of the study, the nuts group had shorter telomeres than the olive oil group. (Note that mixed nuts have a high linoleic acid content.) Researchers also reported that telomere length in the olive oil intervention group did not differ from telomere length in the low-fat control group. This is likely due to the fact that reducing total fat intake and replacing seed oils with olive oil can accomplish the same thing; a reduction in linoleic acid intake.

    In the final analysis, this sort of research produces a consistent pattern that researchers have failed to take note of.That is to say, a reduction in the intake of the omega-6 family of fatty acids produces favorable results.