Teicholz op-ed: New dietary guidelines to leave out 60% of population

School lunch tray

Award-winning investigative journalist Nina Teicholz is getting more high-profile coverage of her ongoing advocacy for better, evidence-based dietary guidelines for the US population.

In a recent, hard-hitting commentary published in the influential paper, The Washington Post, she criticized the current approach of creating the new guidelines, due out in 2020, as having an overly narrow focus. The approach dismisses critical scientific evidence about the potential of dietary change, such as a low-carb diet, to improve health. She asks why policymakers would want to create nutrition advice “only appropriate for healthy people”.

The Washington Post: Diets are not one-size-fits-all. So why do we treat dietary guidelines that way?

Teicholz is the author of the international bestseller The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet,1 a frequent contributor to Diet Doctor, and the co-founder of The Nutrition Coalition, an organization dedicated to ensuring American dietary policy is based on rigorous science.

She notes in her commentary that the dietary guidelines have a powerful influence on America food choices, driving menus in schools, hospitals, the military, and more. Doctors hand out dietary advice based on the guidelines (to sick and well patients alike) as if it were the “gold standard” way to eat. Yet she details how US Government officials responsible for the process of creating the new guidelines openly admit they are deliberately leaving out research that supports ways of eating for those with common chronic conditions and metabolic or other diseases. Why? They are focusing only on how “healthy” people should eat.

The 60 percent of our population diagnosed with nutrition-related diseases — obesity, diabetes, dementia — is excluded. On this path, there’s little question that the government’s guidelines will do virtually nothing to reverse the epidemics of these diseases.

This very narrow focus, she writes, even surprised some members of the 20-person appointed expert committee who are reviewing the scientific evidence. The committee members were repeatedly told by staffers for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) that the “guidelines are for prevention only.”

Why is this “prevention” diet not appropriate for sick people? Recent science indicates that many people with nutrition-related diseases typically have a “broken” metabolism that makes them far less able to process starches and sugars. While some people can reverse obesity and diabetes with calorie restriction, others find more success reducing carbohydrates alone — for example, eating fewer grains and/or sugary foods. For these people, USDA and HHS should offer a nutritional option that is lower in carbohydrates than the existing guideline options, which all stipulate eating 50 to 55 percent of daily calories as carbohydrates.

Teicholz notes that nutrition-related diseases are currently killing about 4,300 people daily, the equivalent of 11 jumbo jets crashing and killing everyone on board. She asks, where is the “outrage devoted to this unparalled public health crisis”?

Watch more of Nina Teicholz’s presentations in these Diet Doctor videos, available on Diet Doctor Plus (for members).


Mainstream food columnist questions dietary guidelines

The search for “evidence-based” guidelines

Nina Teicholz in WSJ: “Carbs, good for you? Fat chance!”

Dietary guidelines

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