Science and public health could finally prevail in federal dietary advice
Every five years the federal government updates the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The idea is to help Americans eat right, while informing nutrition standards for food assistance programs such as school meals. The "Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee" (DGAC) has spent the past two years reviewing research and holding public hearings. The process is rigorous and the committee is not exactly radical.
But when the DGAC's final report was issued at the end of February, the meat lobby went ballistic. That's because the committee made the not-so-surprising finding that eating too much red meat and processed meat can be bad for you. How bad? Numerous scientific studies have shown that red meat and processed meat increases the risk for colorectal cancer and other cancers, as well as for heart disease and diabetes.
That's why the advisory committee recommends a diet "lower in red and processed meats". This would replace the current confusing (but meat lobby-friendly) message to "choose lean meats." Americans deserve straight talk about how to eat right and this change, as minor as it seems, would represent a significant step forward by the federal government.
Also, and for the first time, the DGAC considered the environmental impacts of our food choices, and came to the not-very-surprising conclusion that eating less meat and more plant-based foods is not only good for our health, but also supports a more sustainable food supply.
No wonder the meat lobby got their friends in Congress to write letters to the government agencies in charge of the guidelines, calling for "sound science." That's the meat lobby's euphemism for placing profits above public health.
Don't let them win.
You can submit your own comments supporting the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee's recommendations to "lower red meat and processed meats" in the final guidelines, as well as a shift to more plant-based foods in general. Your message can be brief. Here are a few suggested talking points:
- I support the DGAC Report's conclusion that the Dietary Guidelines for American should include a recommendation to "lower red and processed meats." This has great potential to improve the country's health.
- I also urge the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to not include the message to "choose lean meats," as to do so would only undermine the important health-promoting message to lower intake of red meat and processed meats.
- The Dietary Guidelines for Americans should reflect the committee's specific conclusion that:
"A diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet."
You can submit your comments here.
View a short instructional video explaining how to submit comments here.
We don't often get the opportunity to tell the federal government what we think. The meat industry is being heard loud and clear. Let's make sure our voices are even louder. The deadline for submission is Friday, May 8.