by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Dietary-Guidelines

Mar 1 2008

USDA asks for help with its science homework

The USDA is gearing up to appoint a committee to re-do the next round of Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2010. It looks like there will be a big push to make them “science-based” again (as if they weren’t always science-based). USDA is asking for help with the science and is recruiting volunteers to become “Nutrition Evidence Library Abstractors” who will read and write abstracts of scientific studies as the basis of the committee’s work.   Sound like fun?  Could be.

Jan 24 2008

USDA’s new WIC standards: a great improvement!

Daniel from Ithaca writes about the USDA’s new nutritional standards for the WIC food packages for low-income pregnant women and children. He says, “it’s like I am on another planet,” meaning that he can’t believe that such good things are coming out of USDA, among them “More produce! Less juice! Less dairy! No full-fat milk! Dairy substitutes allowed! Fewer eggs! Whole grains! A greater emphasis on breastfeeding! He asks: Do you think that these changes, along with USDA’s hiring of Brian Wansink, will make for more straightforward Dietary Guidelines in 2010?

Thanks to Daniel for passing along this information. The WIC guidelines come out of a different part of USDA than the one that Brian Wansink heads but let’s hope that these changes–and his appointment–signal a new era in that agency, one that puts consumer interests first. One of Wansink’s jobs will be to oversee the appointment of USDA’s nominees to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines committee (the others come from the Department of Health and Human Services). Keep fingers crossed.

Jan 23 2008

Do dietary guidelines do more harm than good?

I wouldn’t even ask such a silly question if the American Journal of Preventive Medicine wasn’t going to publish a paper arguing just this point. Along with one of the editors of that journal, I wrote an editorial commenting on the paper, to which its authors added a rebuttal to our editorial. The authors argue that the government has no business issuing advice based on weak evidence. I would agree except that evidence will never be as good as we wish it would be because research on human nutrition is really, really hard to do. And when it comes to diet, dietary guidelines are not exactly radical; the basic advice hasn’t changed in 50 years. I summarize it like this: “eat less, move more, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and don’t eat too much junk food.” Michael Pollan gets it down to 7 words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The Dietary Guidelines published in 2005 may take 70 pages, but in general, they say pretty much the same thing.