by Marion Nestle
Jun 6 2024

Dietary guidelines III. They haven’t changed since the late 1950s

Despite all the fuss about the guidelines every five years, they say the same things every time: eat more fruits and vegetables (plant foods), balance calories (good luck with that), and reduce intake of saturated fat, sugars, and salt (euphemisms for ultra-processed foods).

You don’t believe me?  Take a look:

Ancel and Margaret Keys’ 1959 dietary guidelines for prevention of coronary heart disease.*

  1. Do not get fat, if you are fat, reduce.
  2. Restrict saturated fats, the fats in beef, pork, lamb, sausages, margarine, solid shortenings, fats in dairy products.
  3. Prefer vegetable oils to solid fats, but keep total fats under 30% of your diet calories.
  4. Favor fresh vegetables, fruits, and non-fat milk products.
  5. Avoid heavy use of salt and refined sugar.
  6. Good diets do not depend on drugs and fancy preparations.
  7. Get plenty of exercise and outdoor recreation.
  8. Be sensible about cigarettes, alcohol, excitement, business strain.
  9. See your doctor regularly, and do not worry.

*Keys A, Keys M.  Eat Well and Stay Well.  New York: Doubleday & Co, 1959.

The concept of ultra-processed foods encompasses much of this.  We would be better off eating less of them.

It shouldn’t take all this work every five years to come to this conclusion.

So why all the fuss?  I’d call it food politics.

If people ate healthfully, chronic disease prevalence would decline and lots of industries would be out of business: junk food, diet foods, diet drugs, and those profiting from health care.