US Government and Dietary Policies

The Federal Government, namely the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture, recently released their new dietary guidelines that we, as Americans, are supposed to follow.  These guidelines are put together by something called the “Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee,” and they put out new guidelines every five years.

I’d like to break down why ignoring the US Government in regards to these latest health guidelines may be a prudent thing to do.

For forty years, the “Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee” has told us that eating cholesterol is bad, very bad.  Eggs – particularly egg yokes were the devil, and if you ate one you would die within 10 minutes of a heart attack.  I may exaggerate a little bit here.  But apparently Eggs are no longer the devil.

The group’s finding that cholesterol in the diet need no longer be considered a “nutrient of concern” stands in contrast to the committee’s findings five years ago, the last time it convened. During those proceedings, as in previous years, the panel deemed the issue of excess cholesterol in the American diet a public health concern.

Great, we get to eat eggs again without worry that our arteries will spontaneously seize up as a result. But look at what such advice appears to have done to the average US citizen’s egg consumption:

Egg Consumption in the US

Shouldn’t somebody answer for that? Forty years of misinformed and incorrect guidelines put out for the “public good”, and all it did was damage one particular industry, and do nothing in regards to heart and artery health for Americans as a whole. I think egg producers may have cause to sue the government here. How about at least an “I’m sorry” from the US Government?

According to the government, salt is terrible for you. It causes hypertension, and increased blood pressure, and ups your risk for heart disease and stroke according to the CDC and other government agencies.  They say we should eat less than 2.3 grams per day to avoid these risks.  Unfortunately for them, study after study over the last several years are contradicting them, some saying up to as much as 6 grams per day has zero impact on health, and even benefits us.  There was even a study actually commissioned by the CDC that contradicted their caution against salt.  Despite these studies, they still included this erroneous caution against salt in their 2015 guidelines, and on the CDC’s website.

I love fat.  I love red meat.  Both are cautioned against by current and past government guidelines.  You see, Fat in and of itself increases risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, etc.  Except that it doesn’t.  A 2010 study in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at 22 different studies, and showed that significant evidence doesn’t exist in regards to dietary saturated fat intake and increased risk of heart disease, stroke, or cardiovascular disease.  A 2014 analysis of 72 different studies on cardiovascular disease and fat intake found nothing that backs up the current guidelines put out by the Government.  Yet still they tell us that consuming fat is the enemy.

And Red Meat?  A 2013 European study followed 450,000 people since the 1990’s, and found no increase in mortality rate tied to red meat consumption – interestingly they did notice a correlation between increased mortality, and processed meats.  But still we are told we shouldn’t eat red meat.

I see two primary problems as to why the Government appears to get it wrong so much of the time:

1) The Government gets much of their data and come up with many of their policies based on studies completed by the Harvard school of public health.  The problem there is that much of the epidemiological data from these studies is not reproducible in real life or in clinical trials.

2) Lobbyists in Washington.  When in doubt, follow the money.  But that can be tied to pretty much anything Washington funds, or regulates.

Does this mean you can go out and eat whatever you want?  Of course not.  There are plenty of studies out there pointing to moderation in our diets being the key.  Lots of Sugar by and large appears to be bad, no matter who you are. Eat too much of anything, and chances are you are going to get fat.  Just take the government’s guidelines with a large grain of salt.

If you are so inclined, you can submit comments to the “Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee” until April 8th, and let them know what you think about their new guidelines.

On a personal note – I did Cross Fit for about a year, and loved it.  The pain, the sweat, the blood, it was awesome.  The best part about it was the community and friends I gained from the gym I went to.  Unfortunately I never managed to get my eating fully under control, and that is 80% of getting healthy (at least according to me).  I try to steer clear of processed foods.  The owner of my gym told me once that if it looks like it did when it came off the tree/bush or out of the ground, or it had a mother, then you can eat it.  Seems pretty straightforward to me, and I most definitely feel better, and notice my body responding well when I eat this way consistently.

So – What do you do to get healthy, or maintain health?  What dietary guideline do you follow?  What type of exercises do you like to do?  Any particular exercise regiment you stick to?  Share in the comments.

Comments are closed.

  1. repmom

    First off I will admit to only skimming through your post, I am a lazy reader. As far as what foods we should or should not eat, according to the government — yeah, how do you keep up? Coffee is good for you. No wait, it’s not. Oh…wait. It is. And on and on. I just think the best rule is moderation, of everything. I don’t have a strict diet. Just the word diet makes me suddenly starving to death. I don’t count calories. We do eat a lot of red meat, but also a lot of salad. Very little bread, although I love it. Love sweets, but try to limit those as well. My weaknesses are my morning coffee, and my evening wine. For exercise, I jog, although not as much as in previous years. After thirty years of jogging, my knees have started complaining. I am 62 and healthy. While I am not as thin as I would like, I am far from being considered overweight.

    Thumb up 3

  2. richtaylor365

    Both you and repmom nailed it, everything in moderation, a simple rule that has served me well.

    Weight has never been an issue for me because I play tennis almost every day, that, or stairmaster while reading a book.

    My dietary habits are fairly routine, don’t eat red meat (like fish and chicken) avoid processed anything and eat mostly fresh, fruit and nuts, minimal dairy (eggs and cheese) and salads. I will not give up my coffee, have alcohol occasionally, and will eat birthday cake on birthdays. I used to be able to eat a half gallon of ice cream (my one weakness) in one sitting, I don’t do that anymore.

    Thumb up 3

  3. RonK

    the key is moderation, another words don’t live on the majority of one substance, don’t eat a doz eggs a day, a lb of meat morning noon and night. pretty much follow the old food pyramid. excess combined with bad genes will make you ill

    Thumb up 1

  4. Hal_10000

    Agree with above about moderation. I’m overweight, mainly because I fail to moderate my diet.  When I get my head out of my butt, I do a lot better.

    I always think activity is more important.  Someone who is genetically thin but sits on their butt is less healthy than someone who’s carrying some extra weight but active. I’ve been swimming a few times a week for the last two years and that’s taken off some weight (and moved some from my belly to my arms and legs). But the exercise has made me feel a lot better than I used to, regardless of what it’s doing to my weight.  Really, the focus on weight is misguided.  Weight is a result.  They need to be focused on the process.

    Thumb up 2

  5. Santino

    I’m fortunate enough to live in the city and  can bike to work (~120 km  a week).  The problem is I can’t do it year round, so I tend to add on weight in the winter (but I’m back on the saddle this week!).  If I’m obsessive enough I’ll do some high intensity training as well.  You can really burn a lot of calories in 12 minutes.

    My problem is moderating my eating habits.  I’m good at work and drink lots of water and eat lots of fruit during the day.  The issue is when I get home after a 12 km ride I’m ravenous and if I find it hard to control myself, so more than occasionally I overeat.  And with 2 young kids and 2 working parents, sometimes we go for the easiest meals to prepare which equals unhealthy.

    Overall I’m in pretty good shape for my age, but I’m above playing weight for sure.  I need to take a cue from my wife, who’s lost 30 lbs over the last 3-4 months, all based on a moderated diet.

    Thumb up 1

  6. Santino

    Thanks repmom.  The best part is she didn’t cut anything out of her diet.  She can indulge in wine and the occasional sweets.  As you’ve all mentioned, moderation is key.

    Thumb up 1

  7. ilovecress

     

    Now our kids have got to an age where we get to choose a little more when and where we eat and exercise, my wife and I made the conscious choice to take care of ourselves a bit more. She managed to lose 45 pounds just through portion control and exercise. It was quite eye opening to realise we were both literally eating twice the amount we needed (or even wanted) to – just through habit.

     

     

     

    For me weight is just an indicator. It’s more about feeling like my engine is running clean. So rather than dieting, I just care more about what I’m eating. If you’re cooking every night (as I tend to do) then it’s easier to eat a plate full of ingredients, than anything stuffed with way more sugars and fats than they need. I’d rather have a steak than a cheeseburger anyway – so that’s what I cook. Heaps of veggies on the side of something meaty/fishy. I try and go to the gym at least three times a week. Basically my yardstick is how easy it is for me to run 5k. If it’s getting tougher than I want it to be, I’ll watch what I eat more. If it’s fine, I can relax a bit more.

     

    Thumb up 2

  8. repmom

    Congrats to your wife, as well, cress. I’m so impressed by both women, and pleased that neither starved to lose their weight, instead chose the sensible, healthy route.

    Thumb up 0

  9. Balthazar

    I ignore totally pretty much anything the government says if they cant put me in jail for it, I think thats a pretty good way to go about it.

     

    As for exercise etc, ive found that basic lifts, (not crossfit) like deadlifting, benching, squats and cleans with some farmers walks does the trick for me.

    While Ive alwasy beed active, I was up to about 270 last febuary when i started, for the first time in my life, to weightlift. Over the course of the last year ive dropped from 270 with a 42 inch waist to 230 with a 36 inch waist.  I cant say enough how just basic lifts help your whole lifestyle.

    And for those that “do cardio” please try some basic lifting, youll be amazed at the how the pain goes away from that savaging your knees and back take from all that jogging. :)

    Thumb up 0

  10. Balthazar

    Oh and as an aside, Crossfit as a rule I try and stay away from, the daily Metcons are really a drain on your CNS, if they would cut them dow to 2 a week and work on peoples from alot more it would be much more benificial.

    More than 1 or 2 metcon a week can really hurt your workouts that ARNT metcons.

    I tend to do finishers instead, which last 3-6 min and get your heart rate up very well for conditioning. The studies are out there, but basically if unless you are looking to run a marathon, theres no need to do long duration aerobic activity, your cardiovascualt system gets pretty much the same workout from HIIT as it does from methodical running.

    For example one of my favorite finishers is farmers walks.

    I load about 270 lbs on a trap bar and walk for 20 yards, put it down and do 5 burpees. repeat that 4 times take a 30 sec rest and repeat 2-3 times. heartrate gets up pretty quick and sweat is streaming off of you for the 4 min pluss another 20-30 min after you are done.

    Thumb up 1

  11. Santino

    I load about 270 lbs on a trap bar and walk for 20 yards, put it down and do 5 burpees. repeat that 4 times take a 30 sec rest and repeat 2-3 times. heartrate gets up pretty quick and sweat is streaming off of you for the 4 min pluss another 20-30 min after you are done.

    That’s impressive!

    I tried this (www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCqWeAL2xb4) a couple of summers ago (10 sets).  I did it on top of riding my bike and I had abs-ish for the first time in my life.  Of course they were gone in a matter of days after I hit the cottage.

     

    Thumb up 0