Transcript: Dietary Guidelines: The First 25 Years
The first official Dietary Guidelines for Americans were issued in 1980 and have been updated every five years since. Let’s see how they’ve evolved. Originally they recommended to “Maintain an ideal weight.” They soon realized that was a bit of an overreach, so they switched it to, OK, at least. “Maintain a desirable weight.” As Americans got fatter and fatter, that became fine, how about just “Maintain a healthy weight.” By the 90s they just apparently gave up and advised Americans to at least improve their weight, or at least aim for healthy weight. And by 2005, apparently the best we can do is just try to manage it.
Let's go back… Avoid too much sugar. Good for them. Started out strong. But that's avoidance language. Can’t have that. So instead, use sugar. Don't avoid sugar, use sugar, but only in moderation. But only in moderation? Anti-american. So that became choose a diet moderate in sugar, as if we should go out of our way to make sure our diet has at least a moderate amount of sugar in it—who doesn’t want to appear moderate? Then, they changed it into a verb: Choose beverages and foods to moderate your intake of sugars. That sounds a little negative, and by 2005, there wasn’t any sugar specific guideline at all. They went from Avoid sugar, to eh?
Basically the same thing for many of the others. “Avoid too much sodium” and ended up ““Choose and prepare foods with little salt.”
Choose especially whole grains to “Choose carbohydrates wisely for good health.” That’s a guideline? The whole point of the guidelines is to give guidance. That’s like asking your mechanic what's the best way to maintain your car and them saying, "wisely."
… Avoid too much fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol” started out pretty straight forward, but maybe a little too negative sounding to the meat, dairy, egg and junk food industries, and so they changed it from avoidance to affirmation: choose a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Of course even that was too bold and so again left with the cryptic “Choose fats wisely for food health.”
As the American public has gotten fatter, and sicker, you'd think the recommendations would get more stringent, more emphatic. Instead, there appeared to be more emphasis on the industry's bottomline, and on America's waistline, or lifeline.