2010 Dietary Guidelines: Same Old $#@%

I started reading the USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines this week.  For those of you who hoped the federal government would finally wise up and dump the high-carb/low-fat nonsense … come on, you didn’t really expect that, did you? 

Did you honestly believe the government would put together a panel of so-called experts who would announce that the government has been wrong for the past 40 years?  That the food pyramid was a disaster?  That billions of taxpayer dollars are subsidizing the same foods that are making us fat and diabetic?

Of course not.  The new guidelines are, if anything, a perfect example of something I’ve said in previous posts (which I believe I may have borrowed from Milton Friedman):  when a government program produces disastrous results, those results are offered as proof that we need to do the same thing again … only bigger!

That’s mostly what the new guidelines are:  the same old $#@%, only bigger.  Bigger reductions in saturated fat, bigger reductions in salt, bigger reductions in cholesterol, and of course (this is a government committee, after all) lots of “calls to action” … otherwise known as BIG federal programs to convince us poor fools in the public to finally start heeding their advice.

Yup, these folks know who’s spreading the polyunsaturated margarine on their whole-wheat bread.  Nothing pleases the high-ups in government quite like being told that the only way we’ll stop runaway diabetes and obesity is to expand the role of government.  It would never occur to these doofuses to wonder how our grandparents and great-grandparents managed to stay lean and (mostly) free of diabetes without a bunch of federal programs guiding their dietary choices.  I’m not sure how I would track this, but I’d be curious to see how many of the committee members, after telling the government exactly what it wanted to hear, end up with juicy government grants for their future research.

There are hundreds of pages (this is a government committee, after all), and I probably won’t read them all for fear of putting a fist through my monitor.  But so far, I’ve read the summary and several key sections … including the “methodology” section that explained how rigorously they collected, examined, and considered all the relevant science before writing their recommendations. 

That’s hogwash.  They cherry-picked the research.  I’ve already seen a dozen or  sentences that begin with “Studies show a moderate association between …” and end with a recommendation based on those moderate associations.  If you read this blog regularly, you know what I think of association studies. 

These people had their minds made up before they began.  I knew that would happen when the committee was populated with nothing but the same old anti-fat, anti-salt hysterics, even though some top-notch researchers who’ve studied the benefits of carbohydrate restriction were nominated. 

In a nutshell, here are the key conclusions:

  • We’re getting fatter because we eat too much and don’t exercise enough, so we need to eat less and exercise more.
  • Heart disease and Type II diabetes are caused by saturated fat, so the recommended intake of saturated fat should be reduced from 10% of total calories to 7%.
  • Cholesterol also causes heart disease, so the daily limit should be lowered from 300 mg to 200 mg for people at risk for heart disease or diabetes. 
  • Salt also causes heart disease by raising blood pressure, so we need to severely restrict our salt intake.
  • Carbohydrates are fabulous as long as they come from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and they’re essential for energy, so they should make up 45-65% of our diets.
  • We consume too much sugar and need to cut way back.  (Hey, they got one right!)

See anything new there?  Any shift in thinking?  Any recognition that our obesity and diabetes rates began going up around the same time we were told to go on lowfat diets?  Any indication that the committee, in their efforts to examine all the relevant science, read anything by Gary Taubes or Richard Feinman?  Any indication that they even examined the diets of Americans 100 years ago, when diabetes and heart disease were rare?

Nope. 

There’s far more nonsense in the official report than I can or should try to tackle in a single post, so I’ll keep reading and start writing posts on the topic next week.

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76 thoughts on “2010 Dietary Guidelines: Same Old $#@%

  1. hans keer

    The name U.S. Department of Agriculture says it all. They want to promote agriculture. Their trick is to keep people just sick enough that food-, pharma- and medical industry can profit from it. These guidelines serve this goal. Another approach goold be this one: http://bit.ly/9Ld7jC . VBR Hans

    I don’t think it’s quite that intentionally evil, but when you’re in the business of selling grains, it’s easy to believe grains are health food.

    Reply
  2. JanineC

    Everybody’s body is different. What works for my sister does NOT work for me (and vice versa). I don’t think the government has any business telling us anything about what we should or should not eat. We need to shrink the size of this ever intrusive, CORRUPT, nanny-state government we have allowed to evolve before it is too late. They can’t even cut through the red tape to get the Gulf cleaned up…you trust them with your healthcare??

    I don’t trust them with much of anything.

    Reply
  3. k_the_c

    Blaming the govt is rather redundant. The most effective thing to do is just show people the results. Everybody knows someone that’s overweight or has high blood pressure problems. Have them watch the movie and point them to this site. Bad info will eventually be ignored.

    Reply
  4. hans keer

    The name U.S. Department of Agriculture says it all. They want to promote agriculture. Their trick is to keep people just sick enough that food-, pharma- and medical industry can profit from it. These guidelines serve this goal. Another approach goold be this one: http://bit.ly/9Ld7jC . VBR Hans

    I don’t think it’s quite that intentionally evil, but when you’re in the business of selling grains, it’s easy to believe grains are health food.

    Reply
  5. Dan

    That is very disappointing. I felt that the time was near when they would start easing off on the high carb/low fat idea. But they got stricter. As a scientist (not in nutrition), and having been a expert scientist in similar committees, I can see how this potential bias can occur. If all the politicians running these committees already believe they are right that fat is bad then they will only ‘invite’ scientists that agree with them. They should be forced to accept credible scientists that don’t agree. But I guess they just think of these guys as quacks. Unfortunately there are a lot of quacks out there and so its easy to glance over people with valid complaints.

    It was clear they put together the committee with an agenda already in mind.

    Reply
  6. Jeanne

    Some months ago, I heard from a NYTimes writer who was looking into the connection between subsidies and the recommended guidelines. He contacted me because I’d expressed concern about this, in the comments.

    Thanks. I don’t want to expose his email address online, but I wrote it down.

    Reply
  7. Brian Mallard

    I dunno, Tom, information provided by the USDA that causes most people to choose carbs, no salt and no meat means there’s more for the rest of us smart people. I have essentially given up discussing my paleo food regimen with my carboholic friends and relatives. They do not eat enough saturated fat to have sufficient cognitive function to understand.

    If only the effects of carb-laden diets took effect before breeding age, this problem would eventually solve itself.

    Reply
  8. Dan

    That is very disappointing. I felt that the time was near when they would start easing off on the high carb/low fat idea. But they got stricter. As a scientist (not in nutrition), and having been a expert scientist in similar committees, I can see how this potential bias can occur. If all the politicians running these committees already believe they are right that fat is bad then they will only ‘invite’ scientists that agree with them. They should be forced to accept credible scientists that don’t agree. But I guess they just think of these guys as quacks. Unfortunately there are a lot of quacks out there and so its easy to glance over people with valid complaints.

    It was clear they put together the committee with an agenda already in mind.

    Reply
  9. Jeanne

    Some months ago, I heard from a NYTimes writer who was looking into the connection between subsidies and the recommended guidelines. He contacted me because I’d expressed concern about this, in the comments.

    Thanks. I don’t want to expose his email address online, but I wrote it down.

    Reply
  10. Brian Mallard

    I dunno, Tom, information provided by the USDA that causes most people to choose carbs, no salt and no meat means there’s more for the rest of us smart people. I have essentially given up discussing my paleo food regimen with my carboholic friends and relatives. They do not eat enough saturated fat to have sufficient cognitive function to understand.

    If only the effects of carb-laden diets took effect before breeding age, this problem would eventually solve itself.

    Reply
  11. Rachel

    Whenever I go on vacation and have to shop at a supermarket, I cannot believe how difficult it is to find full fat anything. Seriously, how are people supposedly eating too much saturated fat? Nearly everything I come upon in supermarkets today is low-fat, and at a store in Long Island, there was no full fat yogurt to be found. Even the beef is trimmed lean! Not to mention that companies have done their best to replace every gram of saturated fat with poly- or monounsaturated, so my bread can contain “good, wholesome canola oil!” Great. Plus, if you happen to be eating at a steakhouse or fast food joint, your “butter” is probably margarine, and the deadly-choke-on-your-own-fat-a$$ french fries are more than likely fried in “healthy-alternative” vegetable oil.

    I live in Vermont, and we have access to all kinds of delicious fat-filled foods like local beef, cut however you like, raw milk, great cheese, and lots of butter, but most of the country doesn’t have this luxury. If the average American is eating too much saturated fat, I have no idea where they’re finding it.

    They’ve made it tough, but we’re still above that 10% of calories the government recommends.

    Reply
  12. Rachel

    Whenever I go on vacation and have to shop at a supermarket, I cannot believe how difficult it is to find full fat anything. Seriously, how are people supposedly eating too much saturated fat? Nearly everything I come upon in supermarkets today is low-fat, and at a store in Long Island, there was no full fat yogurt to be found. Even the beef is trimmed lean! Not to mention that companies have done their best to replace every gram of saturated fat with poly- or monounsaturated, so my bread can contain “good, wholesome canola oil!” Great. Plus, if you happen to be eating at a steakhouse or fast food joint, your “butter” is probably margarine, and the deadly-choke-on-your-own-fat-a$$ french fries are more than likely fried in “healthy-alternative” vegetable oil.

    I live in Vermont, and we have access to all kinds of delicious fat-filled foods like local beef, cut however you like, raw milk, great cheese, and lots of butter, but most of the country doesn’t have this luxury. If the average American is eating too much saturated fat, I have no idea where they’re finding it.

    They’ve made it tough, but we’re still above that 10% of calories the government recommends.

    Reply
  13. John Hunter

    Diabetes, or if you are William Brimley, “Di-uh-Beet-us” When i was growing up i always heard it called “sugar diabetes”. Does this mean they are going to start calling it “saturated fat diabetes”? Funny how we used to know more about it then, then we do now.

    That’s right, they called it sugar diabetes when I was a kid, too.

    Reply
  14. John Hunter

    Diabetes, or if you are William Brimley, “Di-uh-Beet-us” When i was growing up i always heard it called “sugar diabetes”. Does this mean they are going to start calling it “saturated fat diabetes”? Funny how we used to know more about it then, then we do now.

    That’s right, they called it sugar diabetes when I was a kid, too.

    Reply
  15. ethyl d

    Hmm…people are still eating too much saturated fat, so let’s go from 10% to 7%. And when people are still getting heart disease, let’s keep going until people are told to eat 0% saturated fat. And while we’re at it, let’s keep revising the salt guidelines ever downward as people continue to get all the terrible diseases that salt supposedly causes until we are advising people to eliminate all salt from their diet. But wait, they’re still getting sicker and fatter, and dying in alarming numbers, so it must mean everyone should eat even less calories and get even more exercise, so let’s keep going until people care enough about their health to eat 0 calories while exercising 24/7/365. Isn’t this the logical conclusion of guidelines that keep going down, down, down as fat, lazy Americans refuse to listen and do what’s best for themselves?

    Are you sure you’re not gearing up to be a trainer on The Biggest Loser?

    Reply
  16. gallier2

    Yes, in German diabetes was even called Zuckerkrankheit (sugar illness) or short Zucker (sugar). In expressions like: Tante Else hat Zucker (aunty Else has sugar). Everybody understood that she has diabetes and not a drawer full of sugar.
    Funnily in French it was not the case, it’s always been diabète, and there was no (obvious) association with sugar.

    From what I’ve seen in the data I looked up online, the French have a very low rate of diabetes, so they’re forgiven for leaving “sugar” out of the word.

    Reply
  17. ethyl d

    Hmm…people are still eating too much saturated fat, so let’s go from 10% to 7%. And when people are still getting heart disease, let’s keep going until people are told to eat 0% saturated fat. And while we’re at it, let’s keep revising the salt guidelines ever downward as people continue to get all the terrible diseases that salt supposedly causes until we are advising people to eliminate all salt from their diet. But wait, they’re still getting sicker and fatter, and dying in alarming numbers, so it must mean everyone should eat even less calories and get even more exercise, so let’s keep going until people care enough about their health to eat 0 calories while exercising 24/7/365. Isn’t this the logical conclusion of guidelines that keep going down, down, down as fat, lazy Americans refuse to listen and do what’s best for themselves?

    Are you sure you’re not gearing up to be a trainer on The Biggest Loser?

    Reply
  18. gallier2

    Yes, in German diabetes was even called Zuckerkrankheit (sugar illness) or short Zucker (sugar). In expressions like: Tante Else hat Zucker (aunty Else has sugar). Everybody understood that she has diabetes and not a drawer full of sugar.
    Funnily in French it was not the case, it’s always been diabète, and there was no (obvious) association with sugar.

    From what I’ve seen in the data I looked up online, the French have a very low rate of diabetes, so they’re forgiven for leaving “sugar” out of the word.

    Reply
  19. Paul

    Sorry I didn’t read anyone else’s comments but I agree with Tom in that the food pyramid was developed to keep the government fat with cash, and also to reduce our surplus. Look, all this country had to offer to the world are grains, and we don’t even have that now because no country wants our GM cr@p, so who’s left to sell to? Americans, of course. So they develop this food pyramid and brainwash us because we’re so gullible to make us believe that grains should make up the bulk of our daily caloric intake. All the while knowing that this proposed diet is causing a huge health epidemic, they slowly but surly take over our health care. Can they say “cha-ching”?

    A side note: the idea of using ethanol in place of oil was just another scheme to put a dent in our enormous surplus of grains (the stuff they’re trying to stuff down our throats)… but that just ended up being a huge FAIL.

    And grains are about as good for cars as they are for people.

    Reply
  20. Paul

    Sorry I didn’t read anyone else’s comments but I agree with Tom in that the food pyramid was developed to keep the government fat with cash, and also to reduce our surplus. Look, all this country had to offer to the world are grains, and we don’t even have that now because no country wants our GM cr@p, so who’s left to sell to? Americans, of course. So they develop this food pyramid and brainwash us because we’re so gullible to make us believe that grains should make up the bulk of our daily caloric intake. All the while knowing that this proposed diet is causing a huge health epidemic, they slowly but surly take over our health care. Can they say “cha-ching”?

    A side note: the idea of using ethanol in place of oil was just another scheme to put a dent in our enormous surplus of grains (the stuff they’re trying to stuff down our throats)… but that just ended up being a huge FAIL.

    And grains are about as good for cars as they are for people.

    Reply
  21. Raphael

    At least they got something else right…

    Unsaturated Fatty Acids
    The AHA is currently in the process of publishing a science advisory on omega-6 fatty acids and the risk for cardiovascular disease. We believe this paper may be of interest to the Committee.
    The paper will be available online after January 26th at
    http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/reprint/CIRCULATIONAHA.108.191627.

    They’re still pushing replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat:

    This advisory was undertaken to summarize the current
    evidence on the consumption of omega-6 PUFAs, particularly
    LA, and CHD risk. Aggregate data from randomized
    trials, case-control and cohort studies, and long-term
    animal feeding experiments indicate that the consumption
    of at least 5% to 10% of energy from omega-6 PUFAs
    reduces the risk of CHD relative to lower intakes. The data
    also suggest that higher intakes appear to be safe and may
    be even more beneficial (as part of a low–saturated-fat,
    low-cholesterol diet). In summary, the AHA supports an
    omega-6 PUFA intake of at least 5% to 10% of energy in
    the context of other AHA lifestyle and dietary recommendations.
    To reduce omega-6 PUFA intakes from their
    current levels would be more likely to increase than to
    decrease risk for CHD.

    Reply
  22. Raphael

    At least they got something else right…

    Unsaturated Fatty Acids
    The AHA is currently in the process of publishing a science advisory on omega-6 fatty acids and the risk for cardiovascular disease. We believe this paper may be of interest to the Committee.
    The paper will be available online after January 26th at
    http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/reprint/CIRCULATIONAHA.108.191627.

    They’re still pushing replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat:

    This advisory was undertaken to summarize the current
    evidence on the consumption of omega-6 PUFAs, particularly
    LA, and CHD risk. Aggregate data from randomized
    trials, case-control and cohort studies, and long-term
    animal feeding experiments indicate that the consumption
    of at least 5% to 10% of energy from omega-6 PUFAs
    reduces the risk of CHD relative to lower intakes. The data
    also suggest that higher intakes appear to be safe and may
    be even more beneficial (as part of a low–saturated-fat,
    low-cholesterol diet). In summary, the AHA supports an
    omega-6 PUFA intake of at least 5% to 10% of energy in
    the context of other AHA lifestyle and dietary recommendations.
    To reduce omega-6 PUFA intakes from their
    current levels would be more likely to increase than to
    decrease risk for CHD.

    Reply
  23. Shelly

    Aside from the Tim McVeigh-flavored Tea-Party-esque anti-government rants, I agree – the USDA is corrupt and in cahoots with the AMA and Big Pharma to keep people fat and sick.

    With the right-leaning SCOTUS ruling that corporations are people and can pay to put their politicians in government positions, the “Mr. Smiths” don’t stand much of a chance. We need people in government with balls who will stand up to corporations, corporate welfare, and corporate lobbyists. Wish we could educate Al Franken about this and then clone him. He ain’t afraid of nobody!

    I don’t think the USDA is intentionally making people sick; I think they just want to sell grains. As Milton Friedman said, people have an endless capacity to believe that whatever is good for them personally is also good for society. So the USDA folks probably have themselves convinced grains are health food.

    Much of the supposed power of corporations depends on forming a crony-capitalism relationship with government. Take away government’s power, and the corruption goes with it. Nobody bribes an official who doesn’t have the power to rig the game. As long as a handful of people in government have the power to make decisions worth billions of dollars, the corporations would be fools not to throw a few million around to ensure those decisions go their way.

    Reply
  24. Shelly

    Aside from the Tim McVeigh-flavored Tea-Party-esque anti-government rants, I agree – the USDA is corrupt and in cahoots with the AMA and Big Pharma to keep people fat and sick.

    With the right-leaning SCOTUS ruling that corporations are people and can pay to put their politicians in government positions, the “Mr. Smiths” don’t stand much of a chance. We need people in government with balls who will stand up to corporations, corporate welfare, and corporate lobbyists. Wish we could educate Al Franken about this and then clone him. He ain’t afraid of nobody!

    I don’t think the USDA is intentionally making people sick; I think they just want to sell grains. As Milton Friedman said, people have an endless capacity to believe that whatever is good for them personally is also good for society. So the USDA folks probably have themselves convinced grains are health food.

    Much of the supposed power of corporations depends on forming a crony-capitalism relationship with government. Take away government’s power, and the corruption goes with it. Nobody bribes an official who doesn’t have the power to rig the game. As long as a handful of people in government have the power to make decisions worth billions of dollars, the corporations would be fools not to throw a few million around to ensure those decisions go their way.

    Reply
  25. Marilyn

    It gets into higher math. The difference between the “old” 10% saturated fat and the “new” 7% saturated fat, based on a “perfect” 2000-calorie diet, is 60 calories. Sixty calories is equivalent to 6/10 of a tablespoon of butter or 1/2 a tablespoon of coconut oil. But, according to Mary Enig, butter is only about 65% saturated, so only 65% of that 6/10 of that tablespoon of butter is saturated. And what about that tablespoon of fat you couldn’t trim from your pork chop. Enig says that’s really only about 40% saturated. . .

    What a joke! Nobody’s going to fiddle with that shift from 10% to 7% saturated fat. They’ll either just throw up their hands at the whole thing (probably wise) or go out and buy packaged stuff which has all the math done for them.

    Of they’re really smart, just eat the butter and stop worrying about it.

    Reply
  26. Marilyn

    It gets into higher math. The difference between the “old” 10% saturated fat and the “new” 7% saturated fat, based on a “perfect” 2000-calorie diet, is 60 calories. Sixty calories is equivalent to 6/10 of a tablespoon of butter or 1/2 a tablespoon of coconut oil. But, according to Mary Enig, butter is only about 65% saturated, so only 65% of that 6/10 of that tablespoon of butter is saturated. And what about that tablespoon of fat you couldn’t trim from your pork chop. Enig says that’s really only about 40% saturated. . .

    What a joke! Nobody’s going to fiddle with that shift from 10% to 7% saturated fat. They’ll either just throw up their hands at the whole thing (probably wise) or go out and buy packaged stuff which has all the math done for them.

    Of they’re really smart, just eat the butter and stop worrying about it.

    Reply

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