As we’ve seen, the FDA has a history of letting dangerous additives into our food. To make matters worse, the FDA and other federal agencies offer routinely bad advice concerning the good things that are in our food—like vitamin D, sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat.
Published every five years for public health professionals, the government’s Dietary Guidelines is supposed to reflect the current body of nutrition science, to help Americans make healthy food and beverage choices and serve as the foundation for vital nutrition policies and programs across the United States.
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is run jointly by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the USDA, but the FDA was well-represented on the committee: the agency had one of its experts on the Dietary Guidelines Management Team, and three experts on the Data Analysis Team. And they would appear to have given the committee incredibly bad nutrition advice.
The committee’s advice is woefully out of date
One glaring example is vitamin D. DGAC bases its estimates on the amount of essential vitamins we need on the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) recommended levels, which we’ve shown before to be grossly inadequate. As a point of reference, the IOM now recommends 600 IU (international units) of vitamin D for people between the ages of 1 and 70. Note that the recommendation is identical for people of all ages and weight, which is absurd. The previous recommendation was a mere 200 IU—whereas Harvard and the Vitamin D Council recommends up to 5,000 IU a day. Vitamin D supports every organ in the body, not just bones, and many Americans are woefully deficient in it.
Also of concern is the report’s caution against dietary supplements as a means to achieve their recommended levels, despite supplements’ well-established safety record. In the formal comments that ANH-USA submitted, we noted that the status of the American food supply is such that food, even if eaten properly, cannot supply all of the nutrients needed for healthy living. Vitamins D and K are examples: there just isn’t enough in food, even if you have the best diet and find the best food grown on great soil.
The report also advises Americans to reduce their consumption of saturated fat, presumably because of an alleged link to heart disease. Yet more up-to-date evidence shows that saturated fat does not cause heart disease and actually has a number of health benefits.
Other concerns with the committee’s advice
- Sodium—The report recommends a reduction in sodium intake, which is also outdated advice. There is currently a controversy surrounding salt intake. Salt plays an essential role in the human body. There has been evidence showing that reducing sodium consumption in fact can pose health hazards. It is worth noting that most of the salt people consume comes from processed foods. Consequently, the recommendation should be revised to suggest reducing intake of processed foods rather than sodium.
- Red meat—The committee suggests that American men and boys should consume less meat—which is misleading due to the significant difference in nutritional content between corn-fed beef raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and grass-fed, pasture-raised beef. Everyone needs iron, although not too much, and beef is one of the best sources.
- Cholesterol—Past reports have told Americans to avoid eating food with more than 300 mg of cholesterol a day (about the amount in two eggs). This took quite a hit on egg, butter, whole milk, and shellfish producers—all of their products can be part of a healthy diet. The new report deleted the completely spurious limit but still recommended that we “eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible” to protect our hearts. The best research today says that this is nonsense. Dietary cholesterol is not what determines our cholesterol level since the body makes its own. And many people today have too little cholesterol rather than too much, especially since so many are on statin drugs and both “good” and “bad” cholesterol are essential for our health.
The American public simply cannot trust the government when it comes to dietary advice. Because the government’s recommendations both influence and reflect the consensus of conventional medicine, it follows that we cannot trust many conventional doctors, either. Nor can we trust the mainstream media, which often seems bought and paid for by Big Pharma and junk food company advertising.
Millions of Americans will likely be influenced by the bad advice given by the FDA, USDA, and the other government officials who created the Dietary Guidelines. It is impossible to calculate the overall, long-term harm to public health this outdated advice will cause.