By Jackie Rainford Corcoran EBS Health Columnist
The long awaited and hotly debated 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans have finally been released. Published by the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, these guidelines impact our children’s school breakfasts and lunches as well as their health curriculum from kindergarten through high school graduation.
I wish I could tell you that rising rates of obesity, as well as diabetes and other lifestyle related diseases including many cancers, autoimmune diseases and heart disease, have caused our government to make radical shifts from the DGAs first publishing in 1977. But unfortunately I cannot.
Here are a few of the problems with the new DGAs:
They state that we are not consuming enough dairy like milk and cheese, while 30-50 million Americans are lactose intolerant and our factory-raised cows are injected with hormones and antibiotics that are harmful to our health.
When they recommend eating more of something, they use simple language, including “fruits and vegetables.” However, when they recommend eating less of something, they shift to unclear terms, including “fat,” “sugar” and “salt.”
These terms are euphemisms for processed meats, soft drinks and convenience foods, according to Marion Nestle’s blog foodpolitics.com. Nestle is the Paulette Goddard professor in the department of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University.
Behind these products are lobbying groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producer’s Council, and National Restaurant Association, among others – which collectively spent millions of dollars making sure their interests were protected by the DGAs.
They fail to mention that the World Health Organization conducted scientific research and reported in October 2015 that consuming processed meats – which include bacon, sausage, hot dogs, salami, beef jerky and ham – is potentially carcinogenic, or cancer causing, when eaten on a regular basis.
With this directive, the 2015 DGA advisory committee, consisting of 14 independent experts advising HHS and USDA, responded with this conclusion: “Current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and energy use,” when compared to “a diet higher in plant-based foods.”
Unfortunately, those with the final say, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and HHS Secretary Sylvia Matthew Burwell concluded in a joint blog, “ … we do not believe that the 2015 DGAs are the appropriate vehicle for this important policy conversation about sustainability.”
While the new DGAs advise eating 10 percent less sugar than the previous guidelines, they don’t make clear that we need to drink water instead of sweetened drinks such as juice, soda, iced tea, and lemonade. Sweetened drinks are the leading source of sugar in the American diet, and overconsumption of sugar has contributed to a 28 percent obesity rate in the U.S., while half of American adults suffer from type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
Along the same lines, research in the last decade has proven the fat-free craze, heavily promoted by the DGAs since 1977, is having a severe negative impact on the nutritional value of our food and our health. Yet the DGAs still recommend low-fat and fat-free products. When fat is removed from products, sugar is added in order to maintain flavor, and nutrition experts are proving that our vilification of fat has been misguided and fats from whole foods are actually beneficial to our bodies.
I hope this information encourages you to do your own research and use your voting and spending power to thwart the efforts of lobby groups and the politicians who continue to choose money over our health.
Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach, a public speaker and health activist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.