I went to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Report oral comments session and all I got was this lousy video clip

I had the pleasure of sharing the condensed version of my summary of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report with the folks in Washington earlier this week.

If your idea of fun is watching paint dry, you can catch the full series of comments here.  I’m at 46.24 minutes (at the end, you can play “spot the dietitian” who doesn’t think my comments are one bit amusing).

If you sit through it all, you’ll notice that it’s pretty much an industry vs. vegans cage-match.  Which, unfortunately, leads the folks in the D.C. bubble to think that all “regular folks” (i.e. non-industry) are vegans.

Do me a favor.  Head on over to HHS.gov and provide some written comments of your own.  They can be short, sweet, to the point, but add something! Oral comments (like mine) do not have any more “weight” than written ones.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking.  Why bother? It’s not going to change anything.  You’re probably right.  It isn’t.  But do it anyway.  The vegatarian community has been vocal, active, present, and heavily invested in this process since the Dietary Guidelines began.  How do you think a vegan diet went from being a “dangerous fad” back in the 1970s to being part of national nutrition policy in 2010?  It’s not like it somehow got “healthier.”

If I try to make the case to policymakers that the rest of America kinda likes eating dead animals, the response is, well, why didn’t we hear from them?  Like attending a funeral “to pay respects to the dead,” it seems (and is) pretty pointless in some regards.  But it does matter.  If not for these specific Guidelines, then for the next ones.

Healthy Nation Coalition has a preliminary analysis of the DGAC Report here that you can use for inspiration.  Or take a few tips from our coalition letter here.

Better yet, tell the folks writing the Guidelines your own story about food and health.  Let them know their Guidelines don’t work for everyone.  And get any friends, neighbors, and co-workers who would rather not have a “culture of health” enforcing their right to eat lentil burgers to pitch in too.

Hey, if I can wear pantyhose for 6 hours straight in order to look presentable at this meeting, the least you can do is go fill out a form.  You can do that in your pajamas.

Written comments accepted through end of day on May 8.

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41 thoughts on “I went to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Report oral comments session and all I got was this lousy video clip

    1. I’m swimming in grad school work right now, but I have a guest post lined up from Jennifer Calihan at eatthebutter.org. She’s really smart & even funnier than me–and I’m the funniest person I know. Not sure when it will be ready to go, but it will be sooner than any blog post I manage to get together …

  1. haha that was a fun lecture, people there must have been shocked ! I agree with most of what you have written in your blog. However, some things still give me pause when considering a Low Carb diet. Primarily, the work of Ray Peat who emphasizes the importance of Calcium-Phosphate ratio (usually forgotten in LC diets) and avoidance of PUFA in this Fish Oil crazy world. His only ‘extreme’ position is his love for sugars – not starches but sugars with a balance of fructose/glucose. I have noticed that Chris masterjohn and many others are repeating Ray Peat’s ideas on thyroid and metabolism. His views do make sense but alas milk doesn’t agree with me. What do you think of his views ?

    1. Hi Ed, I’m glad you enjoyed the lecture 🙂 There were a few stunned faces in the audience, dietitians and vegans mostly.

      Believe it or not, I’m not an advocate of a “low-carb” diet (whatever that means)–or a high-carb diet, or a high-fat diet, or a low-fat diet, or Paleo vegetarian or DASH or Mediterranean diet. Neither am I opposed to any of these diets. All of these diets can be nourishing, provide adequate essential nutrition, and keep a human happy and healthy. None–not one–has the science behind it to show that it prevents chronic disease.

      I appreciate Ray Peat’s views (and I just love his name!) but I’m leery of extrapolations from biochemical interactions/pathways to real live complex human beings. Although I think good nutrition is important, once you get past essential nutrients (and even those are not as well understood as they could be) and into the relationships between food and chronic disease, you are firmly in the realm of speculation and theorizing. In fact, I think we’ve placed entirely too much focus on the minutiae of nutrition as way of preventing chronic disease because this perspective puts the onus on the individual to be “nutritionally literate” and to follow the “rules” of good food (whatever those might be at the time or for that person). Then, if you get sick–no matter what your genetic, epigenetic, socio-economic, or environmental exposures might be–it’s your own damn fault. That way, government and business is off the hook for systemic factors that may play a much larger role in long term health than food choices.

      I suggest that each of us find a way of eating that allows us to feel good today, gives us the energy to do all we would like to do, keeps us from being distracted by hunger or hindered by fatigue. Then I suggest we all shut up about it and go do something else.

  2. I’ve been thinking about your video and that the DGAC thinks we are stupid. I’ve run across that mentality elsewhere.

    The first was when Dr. Bernstein, who advocates low carb for diabetics, was debating a doctor representing the American Diabetes Association on dLife. The ADA doctor said he understood that diabetics could improve their blood sugar control with a low carb diet. But it is hard to follow that diet so he would never advise someone to follow it so that they do not get….wait for it…. depressed. OMG! Blind is ok, lose a foot is no problem but depression, hey that’s bad. I wrote some tirade about him thinking he was God and we are just mire mortals and could not think for ourselves.

    Then Marion Nestle published her book ‘Why Calories Count’. Does she really think that people don’t understand the term ‘calorie’? As I commented on her blog, that title is basically calling people stupid and is so insulting. Though I did temper that comment some what because I do like a lot of what she writes about.

    1. My nephew, who is about to graduate from medical school, was told that low-carb diets are the best diets for people with diabetes, but that since people can’t/won’t follow a low-carb diet, there is no point in learning about them or recommending them. It’s nice to know that our experts apparently have magic telepathic insight into everyone’s brain & can thus predict what we all will or will not do.

      Frustratingly, the nutrition world is full of this sort of condescending nonsense (see Walter Willett for example). I wonder how they would explain the fact that we somehow managed without all this expertise, even just back in the 60s and 70s.

  3. LOL!! You made my day. Thanks.

    I have to admit though, I was one of those stupid people. Actually, i was one of the really stupid people. I was so stupid I lost sight in my left eye. Dumb me….

    1. I was one of them too. I stubbornly refused to believe that my low-fat, low-calorie vegetarian diet could possibly be the reason for weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, and general bitchiness–for way too long.

      While at this point I’ve come to think that the Dietary Guidelines are a sad anachronism of failed policy that just need to disappear altogether, if we have to have elitist, condescending, patronizing nonsense shoved at us, can’t we at least have elitist, condescending, patronizing nonsense based on science?

    1. 🙂

      How I really feel is pretty depressed about the whole thing. But my foray into communication, rhetoric, and digital media has given me some different ways of thinking about how to address those feelings of powerlessness.

  4. I also cannot fathom how “the vegan diet went from being a ‘dangerous fad’ back in the 1970s to being part of national nutrition policy in 2010.” (It was even earlier than 2010, though, right? Wasn’t it back in the 1960s that the government published their first “guidelines”?)

    I was mentioning to a friend of mine yesterday–whom I consider to be rather intelligent and to have loads of common sense–that my new (now ex-) doctor wanted me to become vegetarian for health reasons. My friend knows my opinions on food and just laughed at the folly of the doc suggesting this to me. But then he said, ominously, “Well, you’ve read ‘Forks Over Knives,’ right?” He fell for that book hook, line, and sinker.

    How did this happen? Whatever the vegetarians did to convince/hoodwink the general public so completely was brilliant. Even people who don’t follow their advice readily admit their belief that the plant-based diet with no animal products is the best way to eat to stay healthy.

    How is it people believe such nonsense now without second thought, and look at Paleo/Primal/low-carb/high-fat/moderate-protein eating as the dangerous fad diet when it’s actually the other way around?

    1. I’m making a distinction between vegetarian diets (which can be quite healthy) and vegan diets. Both were considered fads back in the 60s and 70s, but only a vegan diet was considered distinctly dangerous or unhealthy. However, the 2010 DGA have now indicated that a vegan diet is “healthy.”

      How did it happen? A lot of lobbying. People think industry groups are the only ones who do that, but special interest ideological groups are just as active.

      1. It seems that the vegans have won–for now. How did they go from fad to mainstream? and what can we learn from their tactics and strategies?

        But how can cutting out a whole food group, especially the most nutrient dense food group–meats–be healthy? And what about a balanced diet with a variety of foods? How balanced is a vegan diet?

        My own recent experience with eating a MyPlate style diet a few days a week has taught me a lot. I’m recovering from some health problems and well-wishers have given me free food, all of which (unfortunately) fits the MyPlate model: low fat, fruits, veggies, lean meats, low fat milk, grains, cereals.

        By eating the high-carb MyPlate way for just one day or every other day, I get bloated, gas, tired, foggy-brained, thirsty, and poor sleep. And the next day, I poop like crazy from all the fiber. How do vegans live with producing so much human waste (poop and gaseous emissions) every day? Do they put it all on their organic gardens? or compost it? or just flush it all?

        And all this poop from eating all those fruits and veggies with fiber really wants to come out urgently, unlike my normal LCHF diet which produces much less waste and calmer pooping. This is my body telling me two things: 1) I ate a bunch of stuff of such low nutrient density that most of it comes out the other end, and, 2) my body really wants to expel the waste as soon as possible, as if letting it sit in my colon is not an option–sort of like vomiting out the other end in a way (sorry if too gross). So how can making all this poop and my body really wanting urgently to get rid of all this stuff that was useless to me nutrient-wise be good for me? I don’t get it….

        I could go on but I have probably already shared too much about poop 🙂

        1. Dietitians, as a rule, love to talk about poop. So thanks for sharing all that.

          The fact that a vegan diet has achieve the ranks of a USDA/DHHS accepted way to eat, while reduced-carbohydrate diets are studiously avoided tells us something about the convenient intersection between the ideology of vegan/vegetarianism and food manufacturing interests. More here.

  5. That’s amazing. It was worth it to go outside the rules of engagement they expected and show them what their process looks like to outsiders.
    If it’s become, probably has long been, a cagefight between industry and the vegans, that explains a lot – the tendency will be to find a compromise between those 2 demands.
    A junk food vegetarian diet ruffles no feathers.
    Probably the worst outcome we could have ended up with.
    So it is incredibly important to take back the middle ground, and, above all, to speak for the working classes – I doubt the consumers of the DGA have ever had much of a voice in proceedings before, and certainly not one as strong as yours.

    1. “A junk food vegetarian diet ruffles no feathers.” – You nailed it George. This is absolutely where we are headed; we are half-way there now.

  6. Oops…need to add that I would love to add comments to HHS.gov…but I see March 8 as a deadline? Am I too late? …In any case…thank you for the brilliance and the wry smile I am currently wearing.

    1. Double “oops”…I must face the fact that I DO need reading glasses….I will be adding my input…Thanks for the heads-up!

  7. +1 for Mr. Leech’s “Bravo”…and would like to raise it to the tenth power. Brilliant observation skills on the current “Guideline” situation. Even France is becoming affected by all of these guideline/dogma/policing “efforts”. Captions are rife under food advertisements (written and television) “reminding” people to eat in uniquely healthy ways whilst giving visuals of the uber-thin populace enjoying Lindt chocolate, Napoleons and large wedges of Roquefort.. The campaign here is “mangerbouger.fr”…Is it working?…No siree…being enticingly shown what not to eat…yet what we WANT you to buy (the visuals) while simultaneously providing written “warnings” concerning eating to “guidelines” has seen the French populace augment their adiposity! Mixed messages are wreaking their havoc on BOTH sides of the pond..it appears!

    1. Indeed. I’m just so puzzled by all of the claims that NO ONE LISTENS TO DIETARY GUIDANCE and yet the flood of it continues unabated. Apparently they think this time will do the trick (see Einstein’s definition of crazy).

      1. Who makes those claims? My wife and I know several families with children similar in ages to our children;s ages. One family (doctor, lawyer) eats very low fat, high carb and was shocked to see full fat milk in our fridge, since children over 2 are not supposed to have full fat milk and need low or non fat instead. In another family, the father refuses to eat pork or duck or anything with much fat in it because, well, it has fat in it. I could go on and on…

        Also, these guidelines permeate everything. At my daughter’s school, she cannot get full fat milk, but she can get non-fat, high-sugar chocolate milk. Why? The guidelines prevent her from getting full fat milk but allow high-sugar chocolate milk. Makes sense, right?

        And, my oldest is in second grade and already having homework on “my plate”. (Both my wife and I have told her in no uncertain terms we believe “my plate” is completely wrong, but she has to answer as if it’s correct.)

        It’s ludicrous to believe people do not follow the guidelines.

        1. Well, I would agree with you that it is ludicrous to believe people do not follow the guidelines. Indeed, they frequently have no choice. My daughter called me this weekend to complain about being unable to purchase any full-fat yogurt–none, nada–in her local grocery store. She didn’t make the “decision” to avoid fat; the grocery store made it for her.

          Nevertheless, my Twitter feed is full of comments from folks who say we don’t “follow” the recommendations to reduce fat. I would argue there’s a difference between whether or not we–consciously or inadvertently–go along with this guidance, and whether or not it effectively results in a lowering of our overall fat consumption.

      2. Based on my living in many different areas of the US, I can say that it likely depends on where you live as to whether you follow or don’t follow the guidelines, particularly for fat. If you’re in BFE Pennsylvania, you’re lucky to get enough food let alone be concerned about the fat content of that food. You’re more concerned with whether you can survive. If you’re in relatively wealthy CT or CA, you’re likely following the guidelines.

        In my office (wealthy CT), the staff went apoplectic when they saw me putting butter and coconut oil in a coffee. They couldn’t understand why I would do that, as everyone “knows” that “saturated fat is bad”. On the other hand, they’re more than willing to have gigantic bagels or muffins, because they’re low in fat.

        I find it hard to believe that people aren’t following the guidelines (assuming they can, of course), as we’ve been inculcated with the guidelines since before we can remember. I have been on a low carb diet for quite some time, and I still look at meat and become concerned because of the amount of fat in it. Then the other part of my brain kicks in and I realize that fat is good. It’s taken me years to get to this point.

        1. I think the important thing to remember (and your comment really helped me think about this), is that “following the guidelines” and “achieving the stated macronutrient goals of the guidelines” are two different things. You might choose a low-fat bagel, but over the course of the day, because you haven’t had sufficient protein or fat, you keep eating & accumulate just as much dietary fat as if you’d had eggs & bacon for breakfast in the first place–only you’ve had to consume a lot more calories to get there.

          I lost a lot of weight on a low-carb diet, but (I am embarrassed to even admit this now) I still avoided saturated fats. It wasn’t until I worked with Eric Westman at the Duke Lifestyle Clinic & saw all these patients improving cardiovascular risk factors all over the place–while eating saturated fat. I actually woke Dr. Westman up from an in-flight nap once (he didn’t get mad at me, but answered me patiently–bless him), why saturated fat was not going to kill me after all. What I remember from that moment (and what Richard Feinman reiterates frequently) is that none of the data we have on the evils of sat fat describe situations where carbohydrate intake is low.

          I know some public health experts would say, that may be the case, but it still doesn’t prove that sat fat is safe or beneficial. I agree. But, I am also very aware of the arbitrariness of the selection of sat fat as “guilty until proven innocent.” If we had taken up John Yudkin’s advice instead of Ancel Keyes, then sugar would be in that position, not fat. It is only a turn of history that it isn’t. And the fact that many folks in nutrition are arguing that sugar is innocent until proven guilty makes my point. I simply suggest that sat fat is also innocent until proven guilty, and that the conditions of its proof of guilt cannot be the assumed “healthy” dietary patterns shelled out by the DGA.

          So, yeah, until we learn otherwise: sat fat is just fine, thank you.

          1. i agree with you. My problem is that I went on the Atkins diet and — about a month into it — got up feeling fantastic. I felt great, had tons of energy, and no longer had horrible mood swings. I ate because I was hungry, not because I was famished (which I was all the time on low fat). At the same time, I couldn’t believe the experts were wrong. Being a scientifically-minded person, I began doing research. Since then, I’ve read so many books in this area that I’ve forgotten some of them.

            One day, I realized that what the “experts” are telling us to do is not scientifically sound. Not only is it not scientifically sound, but the experts keep telling us to do things simply because they BELIEVE them to be true, even in the face of the best kinds of evidence indicating they aren’t true.

            Eating cholesterol causes high cholesterol in the blood? Even Ancel Keys knew this wasn’t true, yet the guidelines recommended eating a low cholesterol diet for the last 50 years. That’s 50 years of being wrong, yet they did nothing.

            Eating fat causes you to become fat? There is and never was any evidence (in terms of randomized controlled trials) this was true, but people simply believed it was true.

            Saturated fat causes heart disease? This was a sequence of events: saturated fat causes LDL to rise, and “high” LDL causes heart disease. But so many studies have “proven” (to the extent these studies can “prove” anything) this to be wrong: MRFIT and the Women’s Health Initiative trial just to name two. Heck the WHI was a randomized controlled trial that ran 8 years and cost almost half a billion dollars and was the best anyone could do. Yet it was a failure in terms of proving saturated fat caused heart disease or cancer (or that more vegetables are good, for that matter). What’s happened to the official recommendations for saturated fat? They’ve — incredibly — lowered the recommended saturate fat!! Does that make sense to anyone?

            Fruit and vegetables are good for you? The primary “evidence” for this is epidemiological, which we know is fraught with errors. For me, I tried to eat grapefruit and similar fruit because they had to be “good” for me. It turns out they’re not good for someone who is as insulin resistant as I am. I have to have a low carbohydrate diet, so I eat only berries (infrequently) and low carb vegetables. (Plus, have you ever compared the nutrient content of liver versus any fruit or vegetable? Liver wins by a huge amount.)

            The real problem is I no longer believe anything the government says. They’ve lost my trust. I no longer trust them. That’s bad.

            I no longer believe statins are worthwhile for those of us without heart disease. I no longer believe that blood pressure medication has been proven to reduce heart disease (there are very few studies on blood pressure medication — doctors simply believe it works — and those few studies indicate there are more heart attacks — though fewer strokes — in the people who take the drugs rather than in the control group). I no longer believe the flu vaccine works (search for “cochrane collaboration flu vaccine study”). I’m unsure any vaccination works. I no longer believe anything the CDC says. I no longer believe anything the Gov’t says about food.

            Instead of basing their recommendations on scientific principles, even to the extent of — gasp! — saying they don’t know what the recommendations should be, they tell us to do things that are not based on scientific evidence. If they would base their recommendations on scientific evidence, at least then I could believe what they said and I could trust them. But they did not and I do not.

            1. By the way, when I want to introduce people to these concepts (saturated fat, salt, etc.), I send them to your posts first. I like the humor and I think that makes this complex area a bit easier to swallow. Then, I send them to Malcolm Kendrick’s and Gary Taubes’s and Nina Teicholz’s websites.

            2. And thanks for this as well. Aside from the fact that I’m the funniest person I know, I believe we’ve entered into Swiftian (if not Orwellian) territory with these Guidelines. As my friend Andrew Dickson has taught me, when the powerless speak to power, they don’t have a lot of actual leverage, but they have the opportunity to use tactics that the powerful cannot. Humor & parody & mock seriousness expose and emphasize the performance aspect of the whole charade.

            3. Thanks for sharing your story! I read a lot of complaints about how Americans seem to be ignoring public health messages (the vaccine issue is pointed to often), but like the statistics that shows that Americans just “spontaneously” started to eat more carbs/calories around 1980, no one seems to have any explanation for why Americans seem to have “spontaneously” started questioning public health guidance. Looks like we just got hungry and dumb all on our own. Sometimes the blame is laid at the feet of people like Gary Taubes (or even other researchers–Katherine Flegal at the CDC comes to mind) for “confusing” the public with messages that contradict the dominant paradigm. Or more generally, it’s “digital media”–with so many sources of information, the public doesn’t know who to believe! But as you’ve shown, we might not know who we should believe, but anybody with a search engine can pretty quickly figure out it shouldn’t be the folks who make dietary guidelines. The fact that the DGAC is now recommending that limits on fat and cholesterol should just simply be dropped–without a “whoops, our bad” or any sort of recognition that they’ve spent the past 35 years arguing FOR the flippin limits–will do little to change this situation.

              Al Harper (one of the most vocal opponents to the Dietary Goals and from what I can tell, an incredibly prescient thinker) predicted back in 1978 that issuing federal dietary guidance that was not supported by science “has the great potential for undermining both the science of nutrition and nutrition education. It raises false hopes among consumers on inadequate grounds. It is a promise to deliver a panacea that cannot be delivered.” And it seems to have undermined more than nutrition guidance, maybe public health guidance in particular–perhaps rightly so.

    1. 1) They need to hear it, even if they don’t change their minds. 2) Sometimes “combative satire” is the only way to speak truth to power (thankfully, we live in a society where they usually don’t lock you up for that). 3) The audience for this message is larger than the people in the room. Thus the video clip.

    2. Right. Cause the whole time the panel is just sitting there waiting for someone to say just the thing that will change their minds. The conclusion is foregone. If you don’t think so, I’ve got 35 years of dietary guidelines that say otherwise.

      1. Your presentation will stand out like a sore thumb! It will be humorously discussed and probably remembered by many, whether or not they agreed with it.

  8. Yesssssss great job Adele! I recognize two unhappy people in the audience at the end of your talk (I think. It’s hard to tell with the video quality.)

    One is Michael Gregor, the notoriously pro vegan doctor and author of http://nutritionfacts.org

    The other person I believe is Nancy Chapman, who is (per her Twitter profile) a “Registered Dietitian & Executive Director of Soyfoods Association, providing research on the health benefits and nutritional advantages of soy foods.”

    I don’t blame them for looking so irritated. Looks like you ruffled their faux feathers. Great work! ❤

    1. Yes & yes. I feel like Michael Gregor was not sure what to think, seeing as he probably agreed with much of what I was saying, just not the way I was saying it. Nancy Chapman just looks completely disoriented 🙂

    2. Adele thinks that Michael Gregor was in complete agreement with her message, in the “I thought Spinal Tap was a real band” kinda way.

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