So to be honest, the last time I thought about the USDA’s dietary and nutritional guidance was thinking of the food pyramid from school. Which is to say that I have given them little to no thought sense. Apparently I am not alone.
Indeed, better-controlled research free from biased sources of funding are now telling us that humans can thrive on a variety of balanced diets, from low-carb, to low-fat, and a whole lot in between. Fascinating basic research has also informed us that bodies can react very differently to identical diets. There is no single best diet for everyone.
“The same general recommendations are not always helping people, and my biggest hope is that we can move this boat and steer it in a different direction,” said Eran Segal, a researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, in response to his study showing that subjects’ blood sugar responses vary wildly to the same foods.
Segal may suggest “steering” the boat, but another possible option is just sinking it altogether. Perhaps it’s time to significantly trim dietary guidelines, or even do away with them altogether?
But how will people know what to eat, you might ask? The simple fact is that most people know they should eat more vegetables and less ultra-processed, highly palatable food, they simply choose not to. Moreover, there is no shortage of respectable organizations to give diet advice.
Axing the guidelines might also minimize some lobbying. The millions spent by the dairy industry no doubt factored in to milk and cheese’s prominent and prolific position in the guidelines. After all, why recommend milk when one-quarter of Americans cannot properly digest it? Its advertised health benefits aren’t anything special. And considering that Americans consume far too many calories – we rank second in the world for calories consumed – why not recommend drinking water instead?
Lobbying also prevents good advice from getting into the guidelines. The advisory committee behind the most recent guidelines recommended including the simple suggestion that “intake of sugar-sweetened beverages should be reduced.” Any legitimate dietician, doctor, or nutrition researcher would echo that recommendation, but Congress axed it from the guidelines.
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