Monday, May 25, 2015

Dietary Guidelines Finally Admit They've Been Wrong

To some degree.  I read it as a massive attempt to save face, but The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics issued a statement about the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans saying that they applaud the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) for "drafting a strong, evidence-based" report:
"Despite some criticism suggesting that changed recommendations illustrate concerns about the validity of the nutrition science upon which the Dietary Guidelines are based, the DGAC should change its recommendations to be consistent with the best available science and to abide by its statutory mandate," Connor said.
What exactly are they talking about?

You may have read that the new Dietary Guidelines (My Plate or Food Pyramid or the Dietary Icosahedron - whatever they're using this time) have finally admitted for the first time that the evidence for the Diet-Heart Hypothesis just hasn't turned up, despite searching for it for almost 60 years.  Not to mention carrying out medical experiments to find this link on unsuspecting Americans (and to a lesser extent, the rest of the world).
In comments recently submitted to USDA and HHS, the Academy supports the DGAC in its decision to drop dietary cholesterol from the nutrients of concern list and recommends it deemphasize saturated fat from nutrients of concern, given the lack of evidence connecting it with cardiovascular disease.  [Emphasis added - SiG]
The (Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture) have finally admitted that having your morning bacon, with a couple of eggs instead of a bowl of cereal isn't going to harm your health. 

Wait - it gets better.  Or worse depending on your point of view.
The Academy also expresses concern over blanket sodium restriction recommendations in light of recent evidence of potential harm to the overall population. "There is a distinct and growing lack of scientific consensus on making a single sodium consumption recommendation for all Americans, owing to a growing body of research suggesting that the low sodium intake levels recommended by the DGAC are actually associated with increased mortality for healthy individuals," Connor said.  [emphasis added again - SiG] ["Connor" is Academy President Sonja L. Connor]
Got that?  The salt intake levels that Michael Bloomberg, Michelle Obama, the FDA, and the previous versions of the Dietary Guidelines have been shown to harm people, not help!  "Sorry if we killed you, buddy.  We thought we knew what we were doing. "  Sodium is one of the most essential minerals to the body.  We all have heard the saying that someone is "worth their salt"; that's because soldiers (and others) used to get paid in salt.  It's where the word "salary" comes from!  So while it has been empirically observed that there can be a 10-fold difference in vitamin absorption between people, there's one number for the sodium every person needs?

Without going too deep into the rabbit hole, it's generally recognized that by the 1930s, obesity research was focusing on carbohydrates.  Most of this work was in Europe.  World War II wiped out those universities, and the studies were all in other languages, so that when American researchers started on diet/health issues, they simply made the wrong choice.  They could have gone after fat or sugars and they chose the wrong one.  The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics seems to address that, too:
The Academy supports an increased focus on reduction of added sugars as a key public health concern. "Among the identified cross-cutting issues, the evidence is strongest that a reduction in the intake of added sugars will improve the health of the American public. The identification and recognition of the specific health risks posed by added sugars represents an important step forward for public health," Connor said.
While it's encouraging to see the science being updated as the data changes, it's very, very overdue.  In a way, this is bad news.  It's a simplifying thing in life to have one nutritional bad guy to avoid, be it dietary fat or salt.  In reality, life is too complex for that.  Salt does effect some people's blood pressure, but that appears genetic; for the rest of us, it has no effect.  There is some correlation between various ratios of the blood lipids and heart disease, but the situation is much more complicated than "high cholesterol will kill you", an idea that's pushing 60 years old, and even more complicated than "too high a ratio of LDL to HDL will kill you", or that LDL is "bad cholesterol" and HDL "good" are ideas that are about 25 years old.  The idea that dietary cholesterol doesn't affect circulating cholesterol (much) so everyone needs to restrict saturated fat to reduce blood cholesterol goes back about 40 years.  Today, it's recognized that there are many different types of LDL that are differing degrees of "bad"; some seem to be fairly benign.  There have even been studies that showed elevated cholesterol to be associated with longer life for women and elderly people.  Not something to be avoided, it's something that's good for you.  As we've learned more, the situation has increased in complexity, and the previous dietary guidelines were too simplistic. 

There have literally been hundreds of studies on these subjects, and at least a dozen books written for the non-scientist.  If you're interested, I heartily recommend, "The Big, Fat Surprise" by Nina Teicholz; "Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It" by Gary Taubes; or "Good Calories, Bad Calories", also by Gary Taubes.  "Good Calories, Bad Calories" is the earlier book, and is mostly the science with painstaking references.  "Why We Get Fat" is a more practical book.  "The Big, Fat Surprise" is equal parts history and biographies, with major emphasis on the personalities.  The most recent of the three, she summarizes Taubes' work and extends them with interesting new data. 
Of course this means that the Heart Attack Grill can't use this advertising meme.  There's no association between cheeseburgers and heart disease.  Never has been.  They're just another cheeseburger in a world full of them.  


  1. It has been my understanding, for many years now, that very few people are what could be called "cholesterol responders", people whose dietary intake of cholesterol has an effect on their cholesterol levels.

    Back in 1990, I had 37 Rhode Island Red chickens, and in addition to selling eggs, I ate quite a few. I was tested by my doctor while eating eggs frequently and also while not eating them for several months, and my coronary risk numbers (total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, etc.) were almost identical.

    Same deal with butter, and nicely marbled steaks (which are harder to find now, if you don't raise and butcher your own). Salt also, since sodium is required for cellular function, and low sodium levels (called hyponatremia, which has some symptoms that appear similar to dementia) are dangerous.

    I'm not radical about avoiding sugars, though I try to avoid much intake of high fructose sugar, but it would seem possible that sugars could be an issue, given that I don't know of any naturally occurring food that is high in sugar - certainly not high fructose. Yes, fructose is a natural sugar found in fruit and honey, but not in the "high fructose" concentrated form, IIRC.

    Just as we cannot live without fat in our diet, we also can't live without sugar - although our bodies can produce glucose from carbohydrates without taking sugars in directly, if I remember my college physiology courses correctly.

    Given all the errors - some intentional, I think, based on liberal agendas - in what constitutes a healthy diet, I find myself automatically doubting the claims that dietary sugar is harmful (in reasonable quantities).

    Anything that comes to us from the FDA or other governmental agencies is "guilty until proven innocent", as far as I'm concerned.

  2. A good diet is to eat everything and only exclude a food because yu do not like it. Avoid fad diets and especially avoid books on diets. Sugars, carbs, fats, proteins, it's all just food. Obesity is genetic, you get it from your parents not your food.

    HFCS is just sugar. It won't hurt you and the HFCS that is marketed in the U.S. is almost identical to common table sugar from sugar beet or sugar cane. When they first created HFCS fruit was considered healthy so the marketers thought claiming it was "high fructose" would be a positive thing. But it's just sugar and suprisingly far less "fructose" than is found in fruit.

  3. Glad I pretty much ignored it all these years and always ate whatever I wanted to.
    I'm as skinny as a rail at 55 years old and have no cholesterol issues, my most recent tests showed slightly elevated "Bad" cholesterol levels but my DR. said my "Good" cholesterol was high and he wasn't worried about it.
    Neither am I.
    The one thing missing from this conversation so far that I see here is the absolute omnipresence of Corn syrup in damn near everything anymore.
    They put this natural sugar product into things you wouldn't even dream of until you read the label.
    This would seem to coincide with the rising rates of Diabetes in this country.
    I wonder why.

    The argument over whether or not eggs were bad for you that flip flopped back and forth over the last forty years is also a good reminder to take what these idiots have to say with that grain of salt they kept telling you was giving you high blood pressure.

    1. The same process used to concentrate sugars from corn concentrate the residue of glyphosate. Glyphosate kills the non photosynthetic plants (yeast!) normally resident in your gut just as well as it killed the weeds in the corn field. You then get to metabolize those sugars, instead of your natural intestinal flora...

  4. RegT - given your background, you'd especially like Nina Teicholz' or either of Gary Taubes' books. Gary's have more more links to research papers. He's a science writer, with a background in physics. IIRC, she was a food writer for some magazines and investigative journalist.

    The liver is capable of making all the glucose the body needs from protein. Carbohydrate is unique in being the only macronutrient there is no need for in the diet. If you've got some time online, there's a couple of excellent videos by Steven Phinney, who's an MD and "recovering academic researcher" as he puts it. Goes into the biology and biochem in some depth.

    Anon is right about HFCS. Sucrose is 50/50 glucose and fructose. HFCS is 55% fructose, 45% glucose. Hardly worth mentioning. There are some very vocal opponents of it out there, but I just don't see why.

    Like Phil says, though, it's in just about everything. That phenomenon
    only makes sense from one viewpoint: the (Food pyramid, etc.) has been pushing lowfat so hard for so long that if you ask the average person to describe eating healthy they'll say lowfat. The idea is completely accepted. That means food processors can't make their products with fat, and pure protein with no fat is hard to find, so there's nothing left but carbohydrates to make their foods out of. Flours and sugars. Enter the cheap HFCS that can be made to have other textures, and they use it by the railroad tank car full.

    I suppose my main interest here is government overreach, as usual. The very things Mooch is torturing school kids over with her lunch program are what the new dietary guidelines says doesn't matter. Add in that fascist prick former mayor and a ton of other "we're so much better than you" nanny state tyrants, and millions of people have led a lower quality life thanks to these stupid dietary guidelines. They get pounded down millions of people's throats in corporate wellness program. I'm absolutely sure people have died needlessly due to these guidelines. Gee, thanks.

    That's what I hate.

  5. "This would seem to coincide with the rising rates of Diabetes in this country."

    There isn't a rising rate of diabetes. Diabetes is genetic, you either have it or you do not. What most of us think is diabetes is actually the symptoms of diabetes. That is part of the reason why it appears the rate of diabetes is increasing. About half the people who have diabetes (type II) are unaware of it. But diabetes is a disease that benefits from treatment. That is if you know you have it and treat it with diet and or medicine you can live a long and normal life. If you fail to treat diabetes you will probably die from it or one of the other diseases that has an increased risk level for diabetics. So a few years back the health community undertook a effort to identify people with diabetes earlier before they had symptoms. It was a modest success and perhaps 2 million people were identified over and above the numbers who developed symptoms during this same period and were also identified. Statistically this health success was a "rising rate of diabetes". The exact same percentage of the population still had diabetes but a small percentage were identified through testing so the total number of known diabetics increased. So the short answer is there is no increase in the rate of diabetes. Sadly the same doctors and scientists who worked hard to do a good thing and identify diabetes earlier KNEW the rate of diabetes didn't increase but they choose to allow that myth to flourish. I assume because it calls more attention to the disease and no doubt more money as well. But it is just another case where science/medical professionals knew the public was being misinformed and choose to do nothing to correct that error (kind of like global warming).

    The second confusing factor is because diabetes is genetic and because the racial makeup of the U.S. is changing the percentage of diabetes is increasing (not the rate). This is because blacks, hispanics, Amerindians, etc. have a greater rate of diabetes than do people of Northern European descent. So the rate(s) have not changed but the numbers of races with higher rates has increased.

    It is interesting and informative that you (like many others) assumed the "increase" was due to some dietary factor and not a suprise you suspected the whipping boy of the fad diets i.e. corn syrup (or HFCS). Other people blame white rice or carbs in general or soda or whatever their favorite bias drives them to blame. Interesting how a non-problem that was alllowed to be presented as a problem caused many to blame other whipping boys for the non-problem thus satisfying MANY dietary biases...

  6. Ahhh! Glyphosate, the latest whipping boy of the chemophobes.
    No the process does not concentrate glyphosate which by the way is harmless to animals. So another scare mongering attack on HFCS is shot down.
    Interestingly sugar (sucrose) has some unique properties that allow it to be easily "cleaned up". Sucrose is two seperate sugars, glucose and fructose. Each molecule of glucose and fructose combines to create a single molecule of sucrose. When it does it is impossible for other molecules (chemicals) to combine with it because it is a stable molecule. To do this the two sugars, glucose and fructose, are placed in solution with water. The water temporarily combines with the molecule and again creates a stable molecule of sugar which cannot combine with other foriegn molecules (like glyphosate). Then the water is evaporated off which slowly releases individual molecules of glucose and fructose which seek each other out to combine into crystals of pure sucrose. It is a simple process because of the affinity of glucose to fructose.
    Could there be contaminants in the sugar that is produced? Of course and that is a possiblity of all products we consume and "organic" foods are not exempt. Are their contaminants in sugar from corn? No! Because the process is monitored to meet standards.

  7. Thanks, SiG, I'll check those two authors. In A&P (Anatomy and Physiology), we were taught that a diet without _any_ carbs was as deadly as a diet without any fats. I've read that the Amerinds knew this, making pemmican, with fat pounded into the jerky (along with whatever berries might be available) to make a good survival food. Those that were not nomadic grew grains (maize), as a staple of their diet.

    These days it is difficult for us to determine what is true, given that so many "scientists", researchers, have an agenda they feel is more important than whatever might prove to be the truth. All I go by is trying to eat unprocessed, or minimally processed (much of it grown or raised myself) foods that please my palate.
    I will gladly own up to having over a hundred pounds of butter in one of my freezers, bought when it is on sale (made my own in years past). I'm not sure I would care to live if I could no longer have access to butter :-)