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My Testimony Before the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Committee

January 16, 2014 by Michael Greger M.D. in News with 75 Comments

My Testimony Before the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Committee

This week I had the honor of speaking before the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which is responsible for making evidence-based recommendations on the next round of federal nutrition advice. Normally such meetings devolve into a platform for moneyed interests to lobby on behalf of their corporate clients, but if you watch the video (password: DGAC011414), I think you’ll be as surprised as I at the number of presenters pushing sane, healthy choices. For example, four out of the first five speakers promoted a plant-based diet.

Kathy Freston closed out the morning session (min. 1:55:52) and actress Marilu Henner shares a heartfelt appeal at 2:23:10.

The entire video is worth watching if just for the political education value. Big Sugar and Big Meat were on hand. You (almost) feel bad for the representative from the National Confectioner’s (candy) Association. I took the industry defensiveness as a  good sign, encapsulated in press releases such as “Keep Dairy in the American Diet, National Milk Producers Federation Urges.”

The morning’s highlight can be seen at 1:31:05. Dr. Mona Sigal had just gotten through condemning the USDA for their cheese-pushing scandal at the behest of the dairy lobby, decrying the inordinate role Big Dairy has played in manipulating the dietary guidelines. The audience broke out into laughter as the next speaker was introduced: Jill Nicholls from the National Dairy Council.

Here’s a transcript of my comments (min. 17:18):

In the Permanente Journal last year, the official peer-reviewed publication of our nations largest managed care organization, a “Nutrition Update for Physicians” was published, which concluded that “Healthy eating maybe best achieved with a plant-based diet,” which they defined as a diet that encourages whole plant-based foods and discourages meat, dairy products, and eggs as well as empty calorie junk. To quote their conclusion: “Research shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, low-risk interventions that may lower body mass index, blood pressure, HbA1C, and cholesterol levels. They may also reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower ischemic heart disease mortality rates. Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity,” which of course describes a bulk of our population.

This sentiment was echoed last summer by the American Institute for Cancer Research—probably the most preeminent institution on diet and cancer risk—when they explicitly endorsed a diet revolving around whole plant foods: vegetables, whole grains, fruits and beans.

I’ve personally been eating a plant-rich diet since 1990, when Dr. Dean Ornish published his Lifestyle Heart Trial in The Lancet, angiographically proving that heart disease could be reversed with the help of a plant-based diet, opening up arteries without drugs, without surgery. If that’s all a plant-based diet could do, reverse our number one killer of men and women, then shouldn’t that be our default dietary recommendation until proven otherwise? And the fact that plant-based diets can also be effective in preventing, treating, and arresting other leading killers, such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension, would seem to make the case for plant-based eating overwhelming.

Now to the last Guideline Committee’s great credit, the 2010 guidelines were a leap in the right direction, recognizing food as a package deal. Yes there’s calcium in dairy, protein in pork, iron in beef, but because of the baggage that comes along (like the saturated fat and cholesterol), plant sources are preferable, because then the “baggage’ we get is the fiber, the folate, the phytonutrients, etc.

I would like to see the committee be more explicit, though. When “eat-more” recommendations are issued, the messaging is clear—for example, “Increase vegetable and fruit intake.” But when there’s a conflict between USDA’s dual role to protect the public while at the same time promoting agricultural products, recommendations often resort to speaking in cryptic biochemical components, such as “Reduce intake of solid fats (major sources of saturated and trans fatty acids).” How about instead, eat less cheese. Or messages like drink less soda.  Eat less meat, particularly processed meat. The American Institute for Cancer Research just comes out and says it: “Processed meat like bacon, sausage, and cold cuts should be avoided.” Period. They don’t need to sell food; they just want to prevent cancer.

I am not here today on behalf of the broccoli lobby (though I’d be honored to represent big broccoli). I am not here representing any financial interest. I am here as a physician, representing the interests of the hundreds of thousands of Americans that continue to suffer and die every year from chronic disease. And you can help them by recommending a more plant-based diet.

For those interested in my thoughts about the last round of federal dietary guidelines I’ve compiled them into a 14 part video series:

  1. Nation’s Diet in Crisis
  2. Dietary Guidelines: Corporate Guidance
  3. Dietary Guidelines: With a Grain of Big Salt
  4. Dietary Guidelines: USDA Conflicts of Interest
  5. Dietary Guidelines: Just Say No
  6. Dietary Guidelines: The First 25 Years
  7. Dietary Guidelines: From Dairies to Berries
  8. Dietary Guidelines: It’s All Greek to the USDA
  9. Plant Protein Preferable
  10. Dietary Guidelines: Science Versus Corporate Interests
  11. Dietary Guidelines: Advisory Committee Conflicts of Interest
  12. New Dietary Guidelines for Americans
  13. Dietary Guidelines: Progressing From Pyramid to Plate
  14. Dietary Guidelines: Pushback From the Sugar, Salt, and Meat Industries

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.

Image credit: USDA

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Dr. Michael Greger

About Michael Greger M.D.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

View all videos by Michael Greger M.D.

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  • BeetsbBansButts

    Thanks for posting this! So interesting to see how people can appeal to the Dietary Guidelines Council.

  • SJS

    well spoken!! you are a gifted public speaker…

  • Jon Fisher

    Thanks for continuing to be a great advocate for good science and good nutrition!

  • Eric O’Grey

    Wow, great info, thank you for your leadership!

  • Thea

    I know in your last post you expressed some doubt about going into politics. I love it. It helps put our current situation into perspective. I wouldn’t want all the topics to have a political bent. The amount/balance you have chosen to date has been perfect in my opinion.

    The comments you made to the committee are powerful. I sure hope they listen. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • pppeace

    Way to go Dr Greger! Plant-based diet is the future.

  • Neil

    I thought it was notable that at about 34:35 Connie Dickman appeared – not on behalf of The Dairy Industry, as she has for years, including in the film, “Forks Over Knives” – but on behalf of Big Walnut! One has to wonder if her appearance in FOK had an impact internally or externally in this change.

  • Mel Mason

    Thank you, Dr. Greger, for being a tireless advocate for public health. You’ve convinced me to get in the game, and I’ll be keeping your work in mind as I apply to nursing school. You are an inspiration. I appreciate you providing so much momentum to the plant-based movement. Bravo!

  • Brenda

    You did great except you need to settle down – I had to look away due to all your bouncing. :)

    • Mike Quinoa

      There’s no problem with Dr. Greger. The videographer has zoomed in too tightly—he or she is cutting off heads, and needs to back off. As well, Dr. Greger is used to presenting to larger audiences. This requires a bit of animation to involve and maintain audience interest.
      As always, Doc, you’re amazing—thanks!

  • Thomas Feiller

    You’re a hero in my book. Keep up the good work! !!!

  • sherri

    It would be nice if the USDA would stop polluting our veggies and fruits and get rid of the GMO crap! Even the veggies and fruits are polluted with pesticides and herbicides. And stop feeding the cows the stupid grain!

  • justme

    Thank you for this link. I’ll spend the 2 or 3 hours watching it at the earliest possible time. Thanks for you intelligent voice in the midst of all the lies. Thanks for making this subject funny.

  • Southlander

    Dr. Greger has given and continues to give me an entirely new and extremely positive outlook on life, health and food. “Thank you”. Don and WE CAN! :-))

  • JustinTyme2011911

    wow! amazing job Dr. Greger!! Loved many of the other speakers as well :)

  • http://www.rawmazing.com Rawmazing

    Fascinating watching the people from the industries that we know are harmful stand up and defend their product. Seems almost crazy considering the scientific data. Your presentation was great. Thanks!

  • Helyns Healthy Kitchen

    Bravo! Bravo! Love it. You’re such an inspiration. May I share this on my blog?

  • Gross Bro

    Keep kicking ass, Dr. Greger!

  • Devin

    Ohh I hope they listen…

    Very compelling arguments for a plant-based diet made throughout, and great job Dr. Greger.

    If nothing else, lets get dairy off the MyPlate and out of the recommendations, love the appeal by Ted Barnett right after Dr. Greger to make the politically shocking – but correct – decision to remove dairy from the DGAs.

    • val

      I also enjoyed Ted Barnett’s talk! Doc Greger was OUT of SIGHT awesome as always!!!!

  • Ann Blanchard

    I wish I could express how much I love you and what you do. I’ve been a vegetarian since 1966 and as most of my friends in my age group (and younger) are having major medical issues (some dying), I’m sailing along and singing a song. :) My friends are sick of me forwarding your videos because they don’t want to give up their meat and fish and lousy diets. My diet isn’t the best (I still eat dairy and an occasional egg and way too much sugar), but I’m miles ahead of most people I know. Your videos have helped me hone in on eating even healthier. Thank you a thousand times!

  • Dianne Moore

    Oh, Doc, you outdid yourself this time!! Thank you for this fantastic video and resources, esp your 14 part take on the dietary guidelines. I would ask how do you maintain all your energy, but the answer is so obvious: a whole plant-based diet!

  • Jocelyn

    AMAZING! You rocked it, yet again. Thanks for doing what you do.

  • LSC

    Well done!

  • CPearl

    Wow! So much plant-based testimony! And way to liven up the monotony of government hearings, Marilu Henner!!!
    Question/confusion: Around 3:52:00ish and on the heels of the discussion to include RCTs as contributors to the “family” of dietary patterns creating good health, Miriam Nelson asks whether consideration will be given to the changing evidence regarding cholesterol “policy.” I’m not sure if her question was related to the prior comments or just her random opportunity to toss in an opinion that current cholesterol guidelines are outdated. Either way, what exactly is she alluding to? RCTs and studies suggesting different cholesterol guidelines? What is this all about? The only contrary opinions to current cholesterol guidelines I’ve heard have come from the Paleo/Atkins camp, defending their high cholesterol consumption. I tend to toss their assertions into the pseudo-science junk pile, so I honestly haven’t paid attention to the possibility real evidence exists that would change what Nelson amusingly refers to as “cholesterol policy.” I’m hoping someone knows whether a credible study exists.

  • kmik

    Great Job Dr. Greger, and I just have to say I find it quite humorous when Marilu Henner happens to step in during a speaker from National Milk Producer’s Federation, and proceeds to show her feelings in response to the speakers comments. (1:20)

  • Nelson

    impressive! Thank you Dr. G., you were the only speaker that had more information and rolled it with a paintbrush made of kindness.

  • HealthyMe

    It would be very helpful if you could also post this via youtube, or provide a method for downloading the video. (I have a very awkward internet connection here in the boonies). – Thanks for your presentation!

  • HealthyMe

    Having slogged through the first part of the video, I’d like to say that you should post a video that has been edited to focus on nutritional ideas, rather than administrative procedure. I will keep the introductory comments for nights where I can’t fall asleep…

  • guest

    This was amazing! You spoke so much more concisely and precisely about what needs to be done and why. Although I am as happy as you are about how much the vegan life has made itself known to the powers that be. Be aware that though you may tire of doing this, don’t ever give up. You are truly saving lives. Lives you will never know, but who thank you none the less.

    • guest

      I meant relative to many of the other pro-veg speakers. Although all of them did great!

  • Jo

    Thank you for representing all of us there! This video is not only educational but very entertaining. Love how the dairy industry got laughed at and the candy girl got herself embarrassed in front of a nation – whole food plant based diet ruled the room ! We are winning Dr Greger!

  • Anna, Australia

    Why is it that we need a degree to work out what we should be eating?! I race and train through mountain bike trails and see hundreds of kangaroos,wallabies etc in perfect health. How is it that they know what to eat to bring about perfect health but we oh so smart humans don’t?! If they can get it right can’t we?! I am a big believer in plant based diets and that we all deserve a life and have the right to live it no matter whether we are an animal or human. We have so much to choose from yet people still have the same meals, meet and maybe veg! People believe what is being advertised to them over science based results. I’m happy,healthy,fit and strong,100 percent due to what I put in my mouth simple!

    • fruitbat

      Humans are the only animals that cook their food to make it edible. We’re designed to eat fruit and leaves! That’s why we have trichromatic vision (rainbow sighted) and are strongly attracted to rainbow colours. A bit of vegan cooked won’t hurt but always get your fruit and leaves!

      Also, slightly unrelated but, humans are the only mammals who think their mammaries don’t work!

  • Angie Bedson

    Dr Greger, I hope you realise how much you and your tireless work to promote health is appreciated – even from across the Pond here in the UK! You are making a positive difference not only to individuals but also, on a cultural level, to western society’s views on their choice of foods. Slowly, the message is spreading and you are a major force in communicating the truth to people. A big thank you from a British Vegan who uses your excellent research to help people see the light about diet and disease.

  • Adrien

    Where is John McDougall ? :(

    • Mike Quinoa

      Should have been there. Along with Dr. Greger (and others), one of the heroes of the plant-based world.

      • Adrien

        Sure they are. History will remember of those great dedicated men.

        • John Galt

          AMEN!

  • BB

    I read the link about the USDA’s cheese-pushing scandal. If more people were aware of this relationship between the USDA, their creation Dairy Management and the money involved, (especially in big salaries for the Dairy Management executives) it would lead to more critical thinking about the value/risk of dairy in our diet.

  • joe

    Keep up the good work!

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    You have an amazing ability to present!!!! I watched almost all the presenter’s and you are the most well spoken and engaging speaker present! We are very lucky to have you representing us and our health in our society.
    As always keep up the great work!!

  • Laur5000

    Well done! Thank you for doing this. I count you among my heroes, Dr. Greger!

  • Lynn

    Bravo. Thank you for being a voice of truth.

  • justme

    Watched it! Wow! Better than great! Thanks!

  • http://www.worldclasslasik.com/manhattan-lasik-center-must-ask-questions More About Lasik

    Awesome, thanks!

  • lexmelinda

    Fantastic job, Dr. Greger! Your testimony was concise yet information filled just like your videos. I also enjoyed the doctor who spoke right after you and the doctor who spoke right before Marilu Henner. Wonderful witnesses to the benefits of a WFPB diet. Did anyone notice the dietitian who spoke on behalf of the dairy council in Forks Over Knives? (around 35:00) She now speaks on behalf of the California walnut growers. Perhaps she has seen the light after watching FOK several times? ;-)

  • Chris

    Well that was an education! Some of these registered dieticians and healthcare providers need to do a bit of introspection…but I understand the need to have employment too. Sigh…

  • Truth

    They should make it a requirement of anyone serving on the committee and presenting to be tested for health themselves, if your not healthy then you should not be giving health advice or recommendations or voting on such.
    And if anyone has any monetary interests should not also.

  • Em Crone

    Yaaayyyyy!!!

  • Richard Frazee

    As someone about to go under the knife to have my Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm repaired, all I can say is, “At lease you and a lot of other educated people are finally bringing great info to light and trying to save the not so educated a longer life of stupid choices.” Although your presentation was as stellar as always, the lady in the Red Jacket really seemed to pound the dairy industry into the ground, with an extremely motivated and strong passion!

    Thank you for doing all the hard work that You Are So Passionate About Doing!

    • Coacervate

      Best of luck Richard. Were pulling for you.

  • Charlie Ross

    The tipping point for plant based whole food is getting closer due to your efforts….thanks so much for all you do Dr. Greger.

  • Josh A.

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for posting this! It brings so much joy to me to know that you and others are fighting the good fight. I just hope they hear you out!

  • lexmelinda

    The meat council testimony: “Cooking can be an obstacle to good nutrition.” (48:05) Hahahaha! How did she say that with a straight face?

  • Roger Moore

    Thank you Dr. Greger for your continued excellent health leadership. I frequently refer my readers and clients to your videos and posts.

  • v152

    Dr. G.-How about increased chemical sens. on a veg. Diet.?I did a study,closely monitered on meal1-Carb as opposed to Meal 1-animal protein-then measured B.P. in a high smell mall–found elevated B.P. when on veg. and normal B.P. when on animal protein.Everyone has his own unique genetic profile-which should be considered–J.L.

  • rome

    Did you know that Novus international is producing (ALIMET) it is METHIONINE an additive to chicken feed

  • Jennifer Neily

    Thanks for posting Dr. Greger. I actually listened to the telecast the other day while out walking my dog. Hearing only the audio, I missed your introduction but recognized your very distinguishable voice immediately. Well done! Your mention of how a plant-based diet should be the ‘default’ diet was spot on.

  • MK

    Wow, hearing so many plant-based diet supporters gave me hope for our country’s health! Thank you for speaking and I hope the committee takes your advice and not those of the meat/dairy/sugar industries.

  • Thomas

    Excellent information, Dr. Michael Greger, MD. Quite the Stand Up Holistic Doctor.
    A gifted Natural Healer of the Human Condition I am. Ferment veggies…many I grow in two Organic Gardens.

    VA Psychiatrists drugged me to my thank God failed suicide 4 years ago…military PTSD. Year later I fired them all and went straight outside the Santa Rosa VA Clinic and built a raised bed organic veggie garden. I teach Veteran’s how to grow their own.
    Ferment many veggies in glass jars with fermentation locks…ANAEROBIC FERMENTATION.
    I frequent only Farmers Markets and source EVERYTHING I enter into my system. Buy local pasteur raised beef. Have only a few small ounces at a time. Local RAW Milk and local raw cheese…very small quantities. Supremely healthy at 67. Juice regularly with 3 state of the art juicers. Ferment Kombucha…culture my own raw KEFIR. Do it all in moderation as everything I consume serves me well. Never would I be a vegan. If it works all for you…GREAT.
    Have no sugar or cholesterol problems. No sodas for decades. Key is SOURCING and small meals/juicing, wheat grass growing, sprouting millions of organic seeds etc.
    Followed you for years. Real Crap Pot comedian Doctor are you Dr. Greger. Keep up the great work.

    • John Galt

      Thomas:
      I am a vet at the Charleston, SC VA Medical Center. Have declared war on these meat and dairy pimps and prostitutes but it is like pissing against the wind. Please email me: robert1776robert@yahoo.com

  • John Galt

    Dear Dr. G:
    Don’t you think it is time you gave serious thought to running for congress????
    Doctors have served this country much better than prostitute ambulance chasers.

  • Gerard

    Dr Greger, you have a big fan in Malaysia. I will keep forwarding your videos to my friends though they don’t always like the message. Keep up the great work.

  • david

    ASK THE DOCTOR QUESTION; I became a vegan in March of last year as a committed act of improving my health. Over the course of last summer into the fall my hair started to turn grey fast and noticeably to the point that my barber asked me what was happening???. i had noticed it myself and searched your website for clues. I saw that i was not taking the supplements B12 as well as D and started doing it -however- that said, I had been taking a multivitamin which i know you are not in favor of. I always think of hair as being a representative of the fitness of the body so i am questioning if i am getting the nutritional fortitude needed. I use to eat chicken and fish and was mindful of their organic sources but am now questioning what i am doing? I try to keep the carbohydrates low and have the variety of foods you suggest but something seems amiss. I was thinking of getting a hair analysis but the truth is it is visible. Can you give me any clues here that i might be missing???

    • Veganrunner

      Hi David,
      This may help. http://cronometer.com

      Enter your food into this (it’s free) and it will let you know if you are missing out on nutrients, calories etc.

      Also keeping carbs low means you are increasing your fat and protein? Or do you mean you are not eating junk anymore? People use that term in confusing ways. I eat a lot of complex carbs.

      • david

        I mean that i am not a lot of pasta and bread vegan. I have seen some people lean heavily on that and carbohydrate load in place of vegetables. i still have oatmeal, quinoa and brown rice but I go after the vegetables, fruits, legumes and nuts. I have a juicer, make my own almond milk now with a vitamix but, as i said, my barber looked at me one day and said “What is going on with you??? in response to seeing my rapid graying. I did not want to tell him the good news that i was a vegan now

        • fruitbat

          If you’re doing the low carb business you’re probably simply lacking in calories.

  • BYOL

    Thanks for everything you do Dr. Greger!

  • Jessica

    Your comments are great, and so well delivered. I’ve read the 2010 dietary guidelines, and you’re absolutely right: they say more vegetables, more fruits, more whole grains – but when it comes to the things that harm us, the recommendations are all about nutrients (saturated fat, added sugars), not food. That advice is easy for people to ignore, especially given the “everything in moderation” myth. People need to hear that they need to cut out the soda, meat, dairy, and eggs. Thank you for saying so.

  • Byron G.

    It amazes me that they cant see whats right in front of them. i wonder if some of the meat/milk reps go home and become vegan with the info they get from that meeting. That would be funny.

  • magicoyote

    Dr G you are a rock star! thank you for enlightening – and extending the lives of – so many people with your work. rock on!

  • Alexandre Amirizian

    Quite depressing when you watch the whole set of presentations!

  • chelsea

    this is why its so easy to watch you/ listen to you. when other people speak it gets boring and you become drowned in their words. your speaking is so exciting and it makes me excited for the movement!!! youre an excellent public speaker!!!! keep going!!!!

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