Critics say USDA dietary guidelines persist in failures

Critics say USDA dietary guidelines persist in failures

Letter sent to U.S. Secretaries of Health and Human Services asserts that the recommendations contribute to worsening health outcomes and should be replaced with guidance focused on essential nutrition.

In an open letter to government officials, the Healthy Nation Coalition describes the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) as a failed policy. The letter from concerned scientists, nutrition professionals and consumers is addressed to the Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. The letter asserts that these recommendations contribute to worsening health outcomes for the nation and should be replaced with guidance focused on essential nutrition.

On Dec. 15, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which reviews the DGA, finishes deliberations. The committee is expected to issue guidelines perpetuating 35 years of advising consumers to reduce their intake of eggs, meat and full-fat dairy. While the consumption of these foods has decreased in past decades, rates of obesity have doubled and rates of diabetes have tripled. 

Critics maintain the DGA, which directs all federal nutrition activities, are not sufficiently grounded in science, not compatible with adequate essential nutrition, and do not respect the diversity of food traditions in America. The narrow focus on plant-based nutrition ignores unique dietary needs of growing children, older adults, athletes, and ethnic minorities. Furthermore, this focus has prevented federally-funded research into dietary approaches not in line with the DGA, including the use of low-carbohydrate diets to treat diabetes. 

More than 70 clinicians and academics have joined farmers and ranchers as part of the 600 signatories to the letter. These include several notable voices on nutrition: Robert Lustig, MD, of the University of California; Paul Jaminet, PhD, author of The Perfect Health Diet; Mark Sisson, blogger and author of numerous books on fitness and health; Richard Feinman, PhD, of SUNY Downstate Medical Center; Sean Lucan, MD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine and co-author of textbooks on nutrition and public health; and Sally Fallon Morell, founder of the nutrition education nonprofit, The Weston A. Price Foundation.

Spokesperson for the coalition is Adele Hite, a registered dietitian, PhD student at North Carolina State University, and former health educator at Duke Lifestyle Medicine Clinic. “Our way forward doesn’t have to emphasize dietary extremes,” she explains. “We propose recommendations that provide clear, concise, food-based guidance that helps Americans meet essential nutrition needs according to their own food traditions. We cannot justify guidelines that restrict nutritious whole foods like meat, eggs and butter, discriminate against farmers who produce them, and confound efforts of Americans who recognize their health benefits.”


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