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 over time.
Originally, they recommended to “Maintain an ideal weight.” They soon realized this was a bit of an overreach, so they switched it to, okay, at least, “Maintain a desirable weight.” As Americans got fatter and fatter, that became fine; how about just: “Maintain a healthy weight.” By the 1990s, they just apparently gave up, and advised Americans to at least, fine, “improve their weight”, or at least “aim for a 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.” 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 with many of the others. “Avoid too much sodium”; 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 straightforward, 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 good 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 bottom line, and less on America’s waistline, or lifeline.
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