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Since the early 1980's the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans have urged trusting Americans to eat a low-fat high-carbohydrate diet for their health and weight control. Since then, there has been an alarming increase in chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes. In addition, obesity rates have shot up to 30%, and more than 70% of Americans are overweight.
Can the dietary guidelines be to blame?
Many experts believe that the USDA and other government agencies have stubbornly disregarded the science and continued a 30-year long nutrition experiment on Americans that has had disastrous results.
Nutrition experts from The Healthy Nation Coalition, which includes the Weston A. Price Foundation, the Salt Institute, and the Nutrition and Metabolism Society, have voiced concerns about the current USDA Dietary Guidelines issued in 2010. They criticize the guidelines for perpetuating the wrong-headed advice to eat a low-fat diet, high in processed grains and cereals, which has contributed to the current obesity and health crisis.
What's wrong with the government's nutrition advice?
Dietary guidelines are a creation of politics and not science. Critics claim that the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee ignored scientific research that validates low-carbohydrate diets for weight loss and improved health. Low-carb diets generally recommend 60 to 120 grams of unprocessed carbohydrates per day, although some provide more, and some as little as 20 grams.
Besides encouraging people to eat processed carbohydrates such as cereal, rice, pasta and bread, the guidelines have made Americans fearful of eating real natural whole foods such as whole milk, cheese, red meat, eggs, salt, butter and full-fat yogurt. As a result, Americans have stocked their pantries with processed fake soy meats, vegetable oils, margarine and skimmed dairy products, all of which are depleted or completely devoid of key nutrients, such as vitamins D, A, K and choline.
The Campaign Against Saturated Fats
Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, faults the guidelines for continuing to demonize saturated fats based on unsound science. The most recent guidelines reduce the recommended intake of saturated fats from 10% of calories to less than 7%.
The proposed 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines perpetuate the mistakes of previous guidelines in demonizing saturated fats and animal foods rich in saturated fatty acids such as egg yolks, butter, whole milk, cheese, fatty meats like bacon and animal fats for cooking. The current obesity epidemic emerged as vegetable oils and refined carbohydrates replaced these healthy, nutrient-dense traditional fats. Animal fats supply many essential nutrients that are difficult to obtain from other sources," explained Ms. Morell in a press conference sponsored by the Healthy Nation Coalition.
Ms. Morell noted that for the past 60 or 70 years, saturated fats have been blamed for clogging arteries, and for causing heart disease, diabetes and even multiple sclerosis. None of these accusations is based on sound science she says.
Health Benefits of Saturated Fats
On the other hand, Ms. Morell points out the critical roles that saturated fats play in the body, including:
- Make up 50% of cell membranes
- Help the body put calcium in the bones
- Lower Lp(a), a marker for heart disease
- Protect the liver from alcohol and other poisons
- Are required for lung and kidney function
- Enhance the immune system
- Work together with essential fatty acids
- Support the body's detoxification mechanisms
The government's rationale for promoting a low-fat diet is the belief that fat makes us fat. Ms. Morell cites, however, the famous Framingham Heart Study which demonstrated that those eating more saturated fat, more cholesterol and more calories actually had lower blood serum cholesterol levels, weighed less and were more physically active.
In addition, a 1965 British heart study showed that heart attack survivors eating a saturated fat diet lived longer than those eating a diet of polyunsaturated or mono-unsaturated vegetable oils.
Finally, she cites a study of European countries which found that countries in which the population ate a diet high in saturated fats had lower rates of heart disease and those eating a low saturated fat diet had higher rates of heart disease.
The government and nutrition experts often lump saturated fats in with trans fats. Even worse, the fear of saturated fats has led many to replace the butter in their diets with trans fat laden margarines. Since 1926, Ms. Morell points out, use of butter in the U.S. has plummeted and at the same time rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease have skyrocketed.
Other "grave concerns" with the guidelines include
- Restriction of dietary cholesterol to 300 mg per day (less than 2 eggs);
- Restriction of sodium to 1,500 mg per day (2/3 of a teaspoon of salt);
- Promotion of low-fat milk and lean meats;
- Use of meat substitutes in federally funded school lunches; and
- Absence of any restrictions on refined carbohydrates and sweeteners in school meals.
Ms. Morell warned that the harm resulting from these misguided recommendations fall disproportionately on the nation's children who will be fed these nutrient poor, fat inducing diets every day at school. And that is a tragedy.