The U.S. federal dietary guidelines have been challenged by the salt, sugar, dairy, egg, and meat industries since the release of the first recommendations in 1977. These fights continue today with the recent sugar industry attack on the WHO’s recommendation to limit the intake of added sugars, the egg industry fight against the American Heart Association’s recommendation to consume less eggs for heart health, and the meat industry prevention of any discussion on the scientific research for the health consequences of eating meat during the creation of the 2010 dietary guidelines. Food industries have even funded an analysis of misleadng studies in an attempt to prove that there is no significant evidence of health risk from saturated fat.
Some findings have been widely adopted by the guidelines committee such as the fact that dry peas, lentils, chickpeas, and beans are excellent for optimizing diabetes control. In general, the latest U.S. guidelines are more consistent with an increasing body of research supporting the benefits of a plant-based diet in the prevention of chronic disease.
For other foods, consensus is still emerging in the research, preventing the guidelines committee from making a decision on them. For example, further studies are needed to determine the daily serving size of soy, protein, and magnesium. Even though most dietary guidelines are conservative, they still highlight the shortcomings of the standard American diet. For example, the guidelines point out that less than 2% of Americans get the recommended daily intake of potassium.
Some countries actually take action based on dietary guidelines: Finland carried out multiple initiatives to decrease meat consumption and experienced an 80% drop in cardiac mortality. In other cases, governments have refused to advocate for what science shows is best, like lowering the level of LDL blood cholesterol.
Topic summary contributed by Linda.