A few weeks ago while working on the newsletter about the FDA Guidelines, I came across this article from the Wall Street Journal co-authored by Dr. Stephen Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at Cleveland Clinic. I’d like to share a quote from the article with you. “Congress, concerned about the continued toll taken by nutrition-related diseases, recently mandated the first-ever outside review of the evidence underlying the dietary guidelines and the process that produces them. The National Academy of Medicine will conduct the review this year. Yet this effort could do more harm than good if the academy endorses the weak science that has shaped the guidelines for decades.”
This excellent article goes on to explain that many of the recommendations which were first issued in 1980 were not based on clinical trials – one of the most reliable ways to show a cause-and-effect relationship. A major issue with clinical trials is human nature itself. We humans don’t like to follow rules.
In a laboratory setting with mice, foods can be administered regularly and changes in weight and various other parameters can be tracked accurately. However, imagine being a part of a study and being required to eat a certain way for weeks, months or even years. I’m sure you’re saying – “no way!” or “they’d have to pay me a fortune to do that!” And there you see the issues. To monitor the subjects as closely as would be required (think cameras in the house and car – and what about work?), or to provide all the food a subject should eat would cost a fortune! We’re not lab mice, after all.
Of course the results would also need to be recorded. Anyone who has ever attempted to maintain a diet diary can attest to how difficult following a specific eating plan can be! I would greatly encourage you to read the WSJ article.
So how were those guidelines assembled in the first place? It’s called prospective epidemiology. That’s a fancy way of describing the process of sending out lots and lots of questionnaires to large groups of people, asking questions about diet and lifestyle, and then following up with more questionnaires over years. If you’ve ever answered questionnaires, you know how variable your answers can be depending on your mood, or even the time of day. At best, the results of this type of study are sketchy.
Its no wonder dietary advice has vacillated so wildly over the last decades. Avoid eggs, eat eggs. Eat a low-fat diet, eat a high-fat diet. Eat more carbs, eat less carbs. The contradictions can make you crazy. And in our country the result has been a population of overweight people with cardiovascular disease and blood sugar issues.
According to this article, way back in 1980 the scientists should have realized that the recommendation to cut fat was unsound, based on already conducted contrary studies. Which of course brings us to the ever-present big money interests in agriculture and marketing. Sadly, money seems to trump health once again
So I have a question for you. Why are we waiting on the government to tell us what to eat anyway? There are certain basic concepts that aren’t rocket science that can guide the food decisions we make. In Skinny Gut Diet, besides offering a sensible healthy eating plan I’ve focused on a very basic concept – don’t eat lots of sugar! It makes you sick and fat! Simple. Doesn’t take Dietary Guidelines for that one!
Bottom line – we are each unique and wonderful individuals. There is no one eating plan that is a perfect fit for everyone. Each person who offers dietary guidance, be it Dr. Nissen or me, organizes their own research and life experience in order to make healthful suggestions. Now it’s time for the American public to do the same. Do your own research and listen to your gut – and I mean that literally.