On Nutrition: Dietary Guidelines

Happy Monday! If you haven’t read my On Nutrition column in yesterday’s Seattle Times, “New science on cholesterol, eggs and vegetarian diets,” check it out.
I wrote this column essentially because a few fellow registered dietitians begged me to, in light of some of the bad reporting that followed the release of the 2015 scientific report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. 
One of the most often cited offenders was Nina Teicholz in her op-ed, “The Government’s Bad Diet Advice,” for The New York Times. She’s been a NYT darling since publishing her book The Big Fat Surprise. I highly recommend reading the brilliant, meticulous rebuttal to her book’s cherry-picked data by my friend and former co-podcaster, Seth Yoder (Part 1 and Part 2).
If you believe Teicholz’s op-ed, the government told us to eat sugar and refined carbohydrates instead of saturated fat. Not true. Even if (when) the government doesn’t heed the science-based recommendations of the DGAC due to political and food industry pressures, the government never told the public to eat more sugar and refined carbohydrates (and scientists certainly didn’t). That was the work of the food industry. 
We heard “eat less fat.” The food industry delivered foods that said “low-fat” and “fat-free.” It never occurred to us to check if these foods were full of sugar and white flour…and in most cases it didn’t occur to use that this was something we should be concerned about. What we should have been eating was more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthier fats (preferably whole, intact fats like nuts, seeds, olives and avocados).
Now, I don’t think that saturated fat is the dietary devil that it’s long been made out to be (I do buy a quarter of a locally raised, grass-feed steer every year, after all), but I don’t think that drinking butter in our coffee is the way to go either, based on what the science says about the pro-inflammatory effects of excess saturated fat. As past columns testify, I am in favor of getting enough protein (from quality sources, ideally) but also eating tons of plant foods. Vegetables, fruits and other plant foods are the common denominator of any healthy diet and, as I said in the column, we are not eating enough of them.
I also wanted to provide a few links to back up the mention at the end of my column about Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack calling the DGAC a bunch of 3 year olds when he spoke at the Commodity Classic. I like how he asserted that he would stick to nutrition and diet when writing the guidelines. That’s right, because a lawyer should be dismissing the carefully researched recommendations of a bunch of people who have advanced degrees in nutrition, food science, medicine, public health and agriculture.

The DGAC report is very, very long and I only had space in my column to focus on a few small aspects of it. This Food Politics post from Marion Nestle gives an nice overview of areas I wasn’t able to touch on.