by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Dietary-Guidelines

Nov 7 2008

Dietary guidelines committee: conflicts of interest

Oh no, not again!  Merrill Goozner of the Integrity in Science project at Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) writes that six of the 13 members of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines committee, including the chair, get research support  or consulting fees from food or drug companies with vested interests in what the guidelines say.  CSPI had to dig up this information, as the sponsoring agencies did not disclose these potential conflicts of interest. 

Nov 1 2008

Dietary Guidelines: the process begins

According to Food Chemical News, November 3 (which, alas, only subscribers can read online), the first meeting of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines committee began with speeches from the agency sponsors.  FCN quotes Penelope Slade Royall, deputy assistant secretary of health in HHS’s Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (an office in which I worked from 1986-88):

“even when the new guidelines are approved and released in 2010, there’s nothing the committee can do to change people’s behavior…There are very dedicated people across the country working on these [guidelines] and I don’t understand why we’re not more successful.”

Really?  I can make some guesses.  Why not start by making the guidelines clear, direct, and unambiguous?  How about “eat less sugar,” “eliminate sugary drinks,” “eat less fast food,” “eat less often,” and “eat smaller portions.”   Or just the mantra of What to Eat: “Eat less, move more, eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and don’t eat too much junk food.”

Oct 25 2008

Announcing the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Committee

The government must have announced the members of the committee that will develop the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, because the American Society of Nutrition (I am a member) has issued a press release congratulating the nine (of 13) appointees who are ASN members.  Who are the other four?  We will find out next week when the committee starts meeting.  Stephen Clapp interviewed me about the Guidelines for Food Chemical News (October 27).  Here’s my part of his article, subtitled, “Keep it simple, stupid!” 

“Not everyone is happy with the 2005 guidelines. Marion Nestle, a high-profile nutritionist who teaches at New York University, favors scrapping the current advice in favor of something much simpler. She served on the 1995 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, an experience she described in her book Food Politics. She hasn’t been invited back.

“I would hope for an enormous reversal of the last set of guidelines,” she told FCN. “They’re unteachable and incomprehensible. Buried in the 41 recommendations is the basic advice: eat less, move more, eat more fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and don’t eat too much junk food.

“The idea that this document is for policymakers is ridiculous,” she continued. “You could boil it down to a single recommendation: ‘Drink fewer sodas and juice drinks.'”

Nestle said in 1995 the advisory committee was told to interpret nutrition science for the public. In 2005 the panel was told to make “science-based” recommendations, she said, which she interprets as code for “We won’t let you say anything unless the science is incontrovertible.”

Basing the guidelines on Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) is a “huge mistake,” Nestle says, because the DRIs are “incomprehensible” and set too high for calcium and potassium, resulting in a recommendation to eat two or three servings of dairy products daily. “If the Dietary Guidelines have to be based on the DRIs, it’s too much food,” she says.

Nestle says nutrition science is unusually subject to interpretation and bias because it’s difficult to link specific nutrients to chronic diseases. “My biases are open,” she says. “Everyone else has biases, too, but they may not want to disclose them. The public is deeply confused — you should just give the best advice you can. Just take into consideration all the research available and don’t worry about the impact on one industry or another.”

Now wouldn’t it be useful if they took my advice?  I will be following this story with great interest.

Update 10/28: Here’s the USDA’s announcement of the full list of committee members.

Jun 12 2008

Canada’s Industry food guide!

I can’t resist passing along this anonymously sourced spoof of Canada’s “Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide.” Try the “Eating not-so-well with the [Canadian] Industry’s Food Guide.” And thanks for Jennifer Falbe for sending and Yoni Freedhoff for posting.

Jun 5 2008

European Commission dietary recommendations: Fox guarding chickens?

I’d been hearing rumors about how the the European Commission is spending $20 million  to develop dietary recommendations and food standards that will apply to all EU member states.  I now have some confirmation of them through the British magazine, Private Eye (May 30, 2008).   The project, called EURRECA, will be conducted by a bunch of universities but the overall management is going to be through the European branch of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), “a front for the food and bioscience industry.” ILSI is funded by Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Bayer CropScience, and Monsanto, among other such entities.  So $20 million in taxpayer dollars will be  laundered through a food and agbiotech front group.  Private Eye says that it eagerly awaits “EURRECA’s no doubt scientifically rigorous and untirely unbiased conclusions.”

I could do this for a lot less than $20 million, but nobody asked me, alas.

Apr 15 2008

Want to work on the new Dietary Guidelines?

The USDA and Department of Health and Human Services are requesting nominations for the committee that will prepare the version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to be published in 2010. points out that the committee’s first task is to decide whether the current guidelines need revision. That, of course, is a joke. What’s the point of appointing a committee if it doesn’t do anything. And in this case, the Dietary Guidelines badly need revision. What started out as a simple pamphlet with advice about healthy eating is now a 70-page textbook. The new committee will have some serious pruning to do. How to nominate someone to the committee? Both links explain.

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.