Every five years, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Council (DGAC) of the USDA meets in Washington to develop a series of recommendations on what Americans should eat to stay healthy. This stems from a concern that started in the Eisenhower administration about the increase in heart disease among Americans and our innate American desire to “do something about it now!”. This year, the DGAC is proposing to recommend completely eliminating saturated fat from the American diet, but drop their recommendation against cholesterol. If that last sentence made you go, “jiggahwat?”, you are probably like me and wondering if this proposal would pass a smell test.
The first problem with this proposal is it flies in the face of the newest, cutting edge research on fat in a healthy diet. The importance of fat, in particular saturated fat, as part of a balanced diet is explained in a book aptly titled “The Big Fat Surprise”. If you are like my wife and don’t like to read, the short version is the initial research into the association between the intake of fat and cholesterol, and health issues was inadequate. Instead of doing good science to get to the bottom of the issue, public health decision makers ran with the “Fat and Cholesterol are Bad” mantra. This including recommending against red meat and dairy. Now we have a country full of obesity, diabetes, and other health issues that these low-fat, low meat diets aren’t fixing.
Many people are now seeing the a more balanced diet is quite helpful. A recent study reported of the people who returned to eating meat after adopting a vegetarian lifestyle, 35% of them did it to improve their health. Now I’m not saying having six hamburgers at each sitting is going to give you the body of a supermodel (count your calories people), but some is necessary.
The DGAC must have taken note of half of this new work, because they are dropping the cholesterol ban, but why are they advocating to completely remove saturated fat? Current research said BOTH are not the problem, so why demonize one? Could it be because this distinction conveniently advocates fish and eggs while disparaging red meat and dairy?
When coming from Washington at a time when “Meatless Monday” and other hokey-balokey are being promoted because of an incorrect association between animal agriculture and climate change, the DGAC’s proposal to accept half the research as true and the other half as utterly false seems more agenda based than science based. Incidents like this undermine the public’s faith in scientific experts, which then leads to greater problems like the anti-vaccine movement. If we’re going to let policy determine science, not science determine policy, then we’re going to continue pushing the lay person away from us.
Over the past few decades the government has recommended diets low in saturated fat to save us from all our health issues. In that same time frame we’ve ballooned in weight to the point we look like the Michelin tire man. The folks on the DGAC should take the hint their anti-fat campaign stinks like the blubber from a obese, bloated whale on the beach. Maybe that whale should’ve cut back on a few carbs.