Ideas and Elbow Grease, The President's Column

Remember when margarine was the latest greatest thing and it was so much healthier than butter?  Remember when salt was bad for you, and everyone, including your wife and Mayor Bloomberg, wanted to eliminate it from your diet?  While Michelle Obama removed all salt shakers from the school cafeteria and let’s not even get started on the dangers of red meat. 

Now we know that the field of nutrition, much like climate change, is always changing and what was out of your diet last year should be in this year.  Coffee, eggs, fats, the list goes on and on.

In fact the science is so fluid that recently the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the group that helps shape USDA’s dietary recommendations, recently concluded that "available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and [blood] cholesterol." So although the dietary guidelines have cautioned against cholesterol heavy foods for 40 years, they have now removed any warning about their consumption.  This must be a relief to egg farmers since per capita egg consumption has dropped about 30 percent from 1961 when the American Heart Association first issued the warning.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is also revising their recommendations having recently stated that “There is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease.”  This after a researcher discovered that people who consumed more milk fat had lower incidence of heart disease.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, is also getting in on the act, issuing a statement expressing their concern about the science behind government’s salt advice.  “The current [salt] guidelines are based on almost nothing,” said Suzanne Oparil, a former president of the American Heart Association and a distinguished professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Some people really want to hang onto this belief system on salt. But they are ignoring the evidence.”

This all comes on the heels of the decision by U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Sylvia Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services to not include the issue of sustainability in the 2015 dietary guidelines. "We will remain within the scope of our mandate ... which is to provide nutritional and dietary information," they wrote in a joint statement. "We do not believe that the 2015 DGAs [Dietary Guidelines for Americans] are the appropriate vehicle for this important policy conversation about sustainability."

There had been an effort by the environmentalist movement to include in the guidelines a recommendation against red meat consumption because of its “negative effect on the environment.” This would be a blatant disregard of the nutritional aspects of beef in favor of an agenda.  In fact, did you know that the American Heart Association's "Heart-Smart" label now is displayed on 8 cuts of lean beef? So why would the government want to eliminate it from your diet?  Because the National Resources Defense Council claims that cattle flatulence is causing global warming.

Fortunately, government agencies declined to yield to environmental activist, this time.  But the guidelines are revised every five years so this will continue to be a perennial food fight.  We need to stay vigilant and participate in the process by reminding our neighbors that like the science of nutrition, like the science of global warming, there are changes that occur every day and government recommendations should not be based on a science that cannot be substantiated.