National Nutrition Policy – just a little out of touch?

My good friend, Laura Schoenfeld, must have just returned from the UNC-Chapel Hill MPH/RD program’s annual field trip to Washington, DC, because she just wrote a terrific blog post about her experiences. It reminded me of my own field trip a few years back, as she reports hearing “statements like “the tenets of nutrition are stable,” that “the science of what we should eat is almost irrelevant,” and that “we know what people should be eating, but we don’t know how to get them to eat that way.” Yup–the science of what we should eat is almost irrelevant. Read the whole post. It’s gem.

Nutrition Policy

One of the major themes I heard come up over and over during our three days in Washington D.C. was the emphasis on “science-based” nutrition policy. From the Dietary Guidelines themselves, to the policies created to enact the guidelines, to the food manufacturers’ efforts to create product based on those guidelines, it would seem that taking an evidence-based approach is the gold standard for nutrition in our country. After all, why would we want to enact national nutrition policies that cost billions of dollars but don’t actually work?

The major issue I saw over the three days was that most of the speakers were under the impression that their understanding of nutrition science was infallible and completely up-to-date. I heard statements like “the tenets of nutrition are stable,” that “the science of what we should eat is almost irrelevant,” and that “we know what people should be eating, but we…

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8 thoughts on “National Nutrition Policy – just a little out of touch?

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this Adele. Really amazing how much “head in the sand” goes on with those who prescribe our national food goals…

    1. One of the things I’m trying to figure out is why there seems to be such resistance to even acknowledging that the current system is not working–which it profoundly is not. Everyone in public health nutrition wants to complain about Americans getting fatter and sicker and the only thing they want to change is–Americans. Ack, I feel a rant coming on . . .

  2. Thanks so much for bringing this report to your blog readers!

    I’ve been looking for a reader-friendly article—specifically about dairy fat—that includes science and policy while advancing rational arguments. My grandchild turned two, you see, and thus was promptly switched from whole milk to skim (as per official recommendations, which my daughter-in-law follows diligently, both in her role as mother and in her profession role as supervisor of a state-wide—government-funded—food program for under-served—aka poor—children.)

    Obviously, as the still-fairly-new-to-the-job mother-in-law, I have struggled to come up with a way to respectfully discuss this switch—from whole to skim. (Yes, as the MIL, it’s none of my business.)

    Since reading this article, however, I have managed to rationalize some small wiggle room for myself when it comes to my role as mother to my grown son. I can ask him (in a caring and respectful way, I believe) if he might be interested in reading an alternative perspective on the merits of whole milk.

    Wow. I still find it distasteful to swallow the extent to which contrasting viewpoints on nutrition have come to represent ideological differences.

    1. Laura did a great job with that post. Thank goodness there’s young people like her ready to take up the fight. And it’s that ideology part that gets to me too. Right now, I’m reading “Weighing In” by Julie Guthman. Great book. She discusses some of the roots of “healthism” and of course, our DGs reinforced this tremendously. It’s very disheartening to read the quotes from her students about how they feel about obesity–as if they will somehow never get fat.

        1. I hope you enjoy it. It is a challenging read, in that it is both information-dense and full of ideas that smack down a lot of assumptions that we make in the nutrition community. In some ways, it has depressed me more than anything else I’ve read about our food-health system. I’m not sure how we will reconcile the notion of “co-production” (simplistically put, the idea that talking about things causes them to exist) with the idea of “better” information about food and health. For example, does talking about food/health relationships, even if we are moving towards a more “accurate” view of these things, cause people to think more about how food and health are related than is actually “healthy” for them?

    2. You might find this article of interest, posted on Today’s Dietitian web page: “Milk Fat Does a Body Good” by Karen Giles-Smith, MS, RD at

      I can empathize on how hard it is to watch your grandchild be switched to skim milk. I see children weekly whose well-,meaning parents (and pediatritians) make sure they don’t eat too much dairy fat, red meat, or egg yolks. However, a bit of butter (pastured) and some real cheese each day should help make up the difference until the parents come around. Give them a gift of some really good cheese if you can.

      Glad to see that my daughter Laura’s article has shone a bit of light on a national problem – really a tragedy for the children dependent on government sponsored nutrition programs.. Thanks for reposting Laura’s blog, Adele!

  3. Thank you for alerting us to this. There are too many bloggers that I don’t have time to visit all of them or subscribe to everyone. This is very interesting and meaningful.

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