Is 2020 the year for real change in the dietary guidelines?

Atkins diet

A new charter for the development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) in 2020 will mean more diversity and fresh eyes on the committee that advises the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services on the contents of the dietary guidelines.

The Nutrition Coalition, a non-profit dedicated to ensuring that U.S. nutrition policy is based on rigorous scientific evidence, is cautiously optimistic that this might bring meaningful change to the new guidelines, slated for release in about two years.

The Nutrition Coalition: USDA to bring more diversity, fresh views to Guidelines committee

According to an analysis by The Nutrition Coalition, the 2015 advisory committee that helped write the most recent version of the guidelines was dominated (11 out of 14) by members who had each published work indicating that they favor plant-based, low-animal-fat, vegetarian diets; many had even built their careers promoting these types of diets. Selecting a more varied advisory panel would minimize the risk of bias in the guidelines.

The Nutrition Coalition notes that America’s obesity epidemic started in 1980 when the Dietary Guidelines for Americans were first issued. Hence, its concerns about guidelines based on weak science is grounded in the poor health outcomes experienced over the ensuing decades:

New approaches are needed, to understand why our guidelines have for 40 years failed to combat nutrition-related diseases. As Fiona Godlee, Editor-in-Chief of one of the world’s oldest medical journals, The BMJ, put it in 2016: ‘Given the ever increasing toll of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and the failure of existing strategies to make inroads in fighting these diseases, there is an urgent need to provide nutritional advice based on sound science.’

Or, as Albert Einstein said: ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’

Colette Heimowitz, vice president of nutrition and education at Atkins Nutritionals, is also hopeful about meaningful change in the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Atkins has even nominated some experts for consideration for a seat on the advisory committee.

Food Navigator: Atkins pushes regulators to reconsider the potential benefits of a low-carb diet for some Americans

Heimowitz noted that there has already been progress in terms of mainstream acceptance of a place for low-carb eating:

They soft-pedaled it a little bit, but the fact that [the American Diabetes Association] said that [a low-carb diet] was a viable option for a therapeutic approach, I think is huge. It is a big step…

I am not asking the Dietary [Guidelines Advisory Committee] to send the food pyramid on its head — that is asking too much. I just want them to recognize it is a viable option. That is what I am hoping for.”

We at Diet Doctor are hoping for mainstream acknowledgement of the power of low carb, too. So many people could be empowered to revolutionize their health!


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