Cheers for Diverse Thinking on Dietary Guidance

PeopleUSDA yesterday appointed 20 nationally recognized nutrition and public health experts to serve on the 2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. We find good reason for cheers about these appointments – not just because these are some brilliant people – but also because we see them bringing diverse thinking on dietary guidance to this process.

Diverse thinking is sorely needed because there are many ways to eat healthfully and the history of dietary guidance is littered with unintended consequences that nobody anticipated. This is what happens when we shut out diverging perspectives.

Bringing in diverse perspectives does not guarantee a good result. But it can help to protect us from the kind of mistakes that can emerge from narrow thinking about such a complex subject.

Keep Your Politics
Out of My Salad

Food policy quite easily becomes polarizing and sometimes falsely aligned with political values. Pamela Paul pleas for keeping politics out of her arugula:

“There’s more than enough two-dimensional thinking in our hyperpolarized landscape without turning tofu patties into a partisan issue. Certain segments of consumer culture have already become divided along party lines. Applebee’s is apparently a red chain, while Chipotle runs Democratic; jeans are also effectively labeled red or blue.

“But according to Pew Research, ‘divides over food do not fall along familiar political fault lines.’ Instead, ‘they tie to individual concerns and philosophies about the relationship between food and well-being.’ Most food issues, like genetically modified and organic foods, split Republicans and Democrats fairly evenly.

We fully agree with her sentiment. Quite simply, questions about nutrition are complex and the answers don’t fit neatly with litmus-testing hyper-partisan thinking. Often, there are far more than just one or two right answers. Ask anyone who has labored to study the nature of healthy eating patterns.

Distinguished and Diverse

So let’s be grateful for the long list of distinguished and diverse people who are willing to give their time to the thankless task of helping to update dietary guidelines. They will surely be bombarded (even we are) with people who have strong views about any number of contentious issues for which there is honestly no single “right” answer. The people serving on this committee don’t even get to make the final decisions – only recommendations.

So be it. Humans can adapt and live well with a wide variety of healthy patterns for eating. We hope and believe that this committee will bring that perspective to the formulations of new Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2025.

Click here for the full list of these committee members and here for more reporting on them. And if you know any of these people, be sure to tell them thanks for serving.

People, painting by Pavel Filonov / WikiArt

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January 20, 2023