Every five years, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) releases updated dietary guidelines that are designed to shape the way Americans look at food and nutrition. The purpose of these recommendations is to promote health, prevent chronic disease, and help people maintain a healthy weight. National nutrition policies and dietary programs for schools and the elderly are formed based on these guidelines. If you’ve followed these updates, you’re probably aware that only a few minor changes have been made each revision. And each time, these dietary guidelines appear to miss the point when it comes to proper nutrition. While some of the guidelines are helpful, the USDA is still giving outdated nutrition advice that is unfortunately affecting the health and wellbeing of the country.
2015 USDA Dietary Guidelines: Summary
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is a national guideline updated every 5 years by the USDA in an effort to communicate the latest scientific understanding of food and nutrition. The guide receives its fair share of criticism, however, especially from independent parties who have very little to no conflict of interest. For example, the USDA continues to put in its guidelines that Americans should reduce their intake of saturated fats, even though numerous studies have shown that plant-based saturated fat (like lauric acid from coconut oil) may actually exert a protective effect on health. Just like most advice the government tends to give in regards to nutrition, it tends to be somewhat behind the times.
Are There Issues with the Guidelines?
Nina Teicholz, an investigative journalist, writes in The BMJ that, “...the guideline process has suffered from a lack of rigorous methods for reviewing the science on nutrition and disease…” and, “...it relied on systematic reviews...almost exclusively the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC)...” It’s well known that the AHA is heavily funded by the drug companies, so we have to ask ourselves, is this swaying dietary opinion? While their statements about consuming a higher proportion of fruit and vegetables are sound, the report fails to mention current evidence regarding plant-based saturated fats.
The examination of saturated fat was somewhat glossed over in the new dietary guidelines, despite numerous studies in the last five years questioning its negative health impact. Despite this, the committee composing the guidelines decided to extend its past advice (going back to 1980) to restrict saturated fat at less than 10% of total calories. But, when you examine certain types of saturated fatty acids, like the kind found predominantly in coconut oil, you’ll begin to see that not all fats were created equal. The good news is that the report did mention it may need to further evaluate tropical oils in the near future to see if their fatty acid profile offers more benefits than to those of meat.
Where Are You Getting Nutrition Advice?
Many may call the new dietary guidelines outdated in regards to the research used for its development. Some go as far to say we shouldn’t be listening to the USDA for nutrition advice, particularly when they are using research published by organizations that have deep ties to drug companies and various lobbying groups. This is why it’s important for you, as your own personal health advocate, to take control and dig a little deeper into the research yourself. When you take a balanced look at the advice given by governmental health officials, you’ll be better able to make wiser health decisions for you and your family.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.