Should We Eat Low Fat? How The Government’s Upcoming Guidelines Will Affect You

Flickr creative commons, pj_vanf

Flickr creative commons, pj_vanf

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recently released their advisory report to the Secretaries of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This is not the official guideline for Americans, but suggestions made to help influence the policy, which will be published this year.

While most consumers might not pay close attention to the guidelines, this advisory report and guideline decisions impacts you, alongside with the nutrition of tens of millions of people. How?

  • It will influence how food is manufactured and marketed to the masses
  • This is what school lunch programs will be guided by, to feed more than 30 million children each school day, which will impact how they perform in school and beyond
  • These guidelines are also incorporated into national food assistance programs like WIC and SNAP

The advisory report states it was guided by two fundamental realities:

  1. The preventable disease volume – about half of all American adults—117 million individuals—have one or more preventable, chronic diseases
  2. Obese or overweight statistics – about two-thirds of U.S. adults—nearly 155 million individuals—are overweight or obese

“These conditions have been highly prevalent for more than two decades. Poor dietary patterns, overconsumption of calories, and physical inactivity directly contribute to these disorders. Second, individual nutrition and physical activity behaviors and other health-related lifestyle behaviors are strongly influenced by personal, social, organizational, and environmental contexts and systems. Positive changes in individual diet and physical activity behaviors, and in the environmental contexts and systems that affect them, could substantially improve health outcomes.” –  Executive Summary from the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

The full report – all 500+ pages of it –  is here at health.gov.

The advisory, among many issues, addresses that:

  1. Eating cholesterol is not bad: A radical change from the previous guidelines, the advisory labels that cholesterol is not a “Nutrient of Concern”
  2. We have under-consumed: Micronutrients, i.e. vitamins and minerals that play an important role in keeping your body healthy and functioning. Consumption of food today has largely been composed of processed foods and additives.
  3. We have over-consumed: Sodium and saturated fat, refined grains, solid fats, and added sugars.

How the Government Got Cholesterol Wrong

Most notable in the advisory report is the challenging of long-standing nutritional guidelines. In this case, we’re addressing the previous warnings that advised Americans to limit their cholesterol intake. The new advisory report recommends to lift the warnings against dietary cholesterol, saying there was “no appreciable relationship” between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol, and that “cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

From the Federal government down to the nightly news, there was continued advocacy for everyone to put down the eggs, liver, and butter, despite “decades of research” that proved otherwise. It turns out the government’s studies were not as conclusive as they could’ve been to make the warnings they did. As detailed in this op-ed piece in the NY Times:

“The primary problem is that nutrition policy long relied on a very weak kind of science: epidemiological, or “observational,” studies in which researchers follow large groups of people over many years. But even the most rigorous epidemiological studies suffer from a fundamental limitation. At best they can show only association, not causation. Epidemiological data can be used to suggest hypotheses but not to prove them.”

If you are just getting used to understanding the difference between correlation and causation, the National Institute of Statistical Sciences did a study where they analyzed Harvard’s findings and found that the results could not be reproduced in clinical trials.

Why Low-Fat & Sugar is Out

Look back to the 1980’s when the low-fat and workout craze was at its highest. The nation was so gung-ho, yet we’re now the most obese we’ve ever been as a nation, with 1-3 adults being obese, and children at an all-time high when it comes to being at risk for diabetes.

As it turns out, when food manufacturers removed fat from food, there were consequences. Sugar – all different types, from table sugar, to cane sugar, and high fructose corn syrup – replaced what was lost in fat to maintain taste/shelf stability/texture. The effects of sugar on our bodies doesn’t just make us gain weight – it aids food addiction, impacts inflammation markers and chronic disease risk, alters our immunity and ability to protect against illness, and even messes with your gut flora and balance of the bacteria residing in your intestines.

To dig in further, more and more research is showing that it wasn’t the fat that was the problem, but the processed carbs which really took off in the 1980’s, by way of cereal bars, crackers, muffins, and other processed carbohydrate-heavy, convenience foods.

Need to learn more about carbs? Check out “6 Important Truths About Carbs and Which Ones You Should Eat.”

What Happens Next

The Federal government will be the one to determine how it will use the information in the Advisory Report as the government develops the next Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Then, HHS and USDA will jointly release the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 later this year. This will impact manufacturers regarding how they make their food and what they choose to include/reduce, so even if it’s simply a marketing tactic, a reduction in sugar is a step in the healthier direction.

If you’d like to weigh in, there is a public comment period – you have a little over a month to speak up as a concerned consumer and citizen. The public is encouraged to view the Committee’s Advisory Report and provide written comments through midnight E.D.T. on May 8, 2015. (you can read some of the comments already made by going here)

How WellnessFX Can Help

You can get an understanding of where you overall health is by using our Baseline diagnostic package – it includes a basic overview of metabolic health, as well as important cardiovascular health indicators such as HDL, LDL, Triglycerides. (If you want to dig deeper and test the particle size and number, we created an Advanced Heart Health WellnessFX panel)

Get a Blood Test

By testing now, you can do this for yourself, without waiting for a doctor to order and schedule the labs, or – worse – waiting to see physical symptoms of chronic disease. If you have questions after, you can consult with a WellnessFX practitioner over the phone for recommendations that are tailored to you.

For more about fat and carbs, check out these popular blog posts:

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.