The Great American Diet Experiment (Short Version)
Shaping the U.S. Food Supply.
“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” — Yogi Berra
Note: This is the first section of a longer article (14 minutes). The Longread.
The U.S. dietary guidelines shape America’s food supply in three ways:
- They establish standards of care for medical guidance.
- They influence consumer demand.
- They encourage manipulation of food products.
Regardless of how many people actively follow the guidelines, the guidelines shape food production for the American population.
The food produced is the food available and the food available plays a significant role in determining the health of the nation.
Observations on the Guidelines
There are two documents which provided the foundation for the 2015 U.S. dietary guidelines:
- The 2013 Report from the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) Lifestyle Work Group.
- The 2015 Report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC).
The 2015 dietary guidelines continue to support two food supply shaping goals which have been in place for the past thirty-five years:
- Increase the amount of grain consumed by the American population.
- Change the fat profile consumed by the American population by encouraging the replacement of saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat.
The primary driver behind both goals is an attempt to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in the United States. Ironically, the dietary guidelines have had the opposite effect.
Both shaping goals increase the amount of linoleic acid, an omega-6 polyunsaturated fat, in the food supply.
Food shaping efforts have been effective. Quality saturated fat is hard to find, omega-6 polyunsaturated fat is hard to avoid.
The unintended consequences of additional consumption of linoleic acid has been increased rates of cardiovascular disease, liver disease and obesity.
The dietary guidelines were reverse engineered by specialists in the study of disease.
Three factors caused the 2013 ACC/AHA Lifestyle Work Group and the 2015 DGAC to overestimate the benefits of their recommendations and significantly underestimate the risk:
- An outdated model of cardiovascular disease.
- Terminology which has lost it’s meaning.
- Tools which are being stretched beyond their capabilities.
The Nutrition Scientists in both the 2013 ACC / AHA Lifestyle Work Group and the 2015 DGAC are intelligent people from some of our most prestigious institutions. Given their positions and backgrounds, a review of the two reports provides two surprising observations:
- The U.S. Government Dietary Guidelines are based on a remarkably narrow viewpoint.
- The U.S. Government Dietary Guidelines are based on a remarkably thin slice of evidence.
The narrow viewpoint and thin slice of evidence are used to justify a dietary intervention for the U.S. population (increased grain consumption and an alternative fat profile).
The intervention is being prescribed based on a predicted rather than measured benefit.
The risk associated with the intervention is not reported.
Additional details and references can be found in the full article on Medium.