"The researches of so many eminent scientific men have thrown so much darkness upon the subject that if they continue their researches we shall soon know nothing."

- Artemus Ward

“If you aren’t confused about health and nutrition, then you haven’t studied it long enough or deeply enough.”

- Matt Stone

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New USDA dietary guidelines

Everyone is buzzing about the new USDA dietary guidelines. Thank goodness they are just guidelines, and not mandates. :-) Some of what they have to say is not bad, but I can't really agree with a lot of it. Some of the suggestions I support:

• Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals – and choose the foods with lower numbers. (I add: best yes, avoid commercial soup, bread and frozen meals altogether. It's not the sodium I worry about, it's all the other garbage that goes into prepared foods).
• Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
• Keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible by limiting foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils, and by limiting other solid fats. (I add: Grrr about that last few words, however).

But there is still a lot of the same-old, same-old which I don't support at all:

• Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
• Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids by replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids
• Use oils to replace solid fats where possible (Grrr again! You mean those high Omega-6 oils? No way)

The entire document can be found here. One of the surprising recommendations to me was this one, which I totally concur with:
• Monitor intake of 100% fruit juice for children and adolescents, especially those who are overweight or obese: For most children and adolescents, intake of 100% fruit juice is not associated with body weight. However, limited evidence suggests that increased intake of 100% juice has been associated with higher body weight in children and adolescents who are overweight or obese.

Yeah, I believe it. Great to see it documented here. When my son was young the "authorities" were pushing fruit juice like mad. You were made to feel like a good mother if you gave your kids fruit juice, which I now feel is little better than Coke. It's great to see the monitoring of fruit juice referenced in this document.

But they still keeping lumping saturated fats (good) with trans-fats (bad):
As noted previously, fats contain a mixture of different fatty acids, and much research has been conducted on the association between the intake of saturated and trans fatty acids and the risk of chronic disease, especially cardiovascular disease.
Even though there is a lot of current evidence that saturated fat intake has absolutely *no* correlation with cardiovascular disease. And yet they recommend:

s. For example, when preparing foods at home, solid fats (e.g., butter and lard) (e.g. good fats) can be replaced with vegetable oils (eeek! High PUFA bad fats!)

There is an entire section titled: "calories from solid fats and added sugars".

What an odd grouping that is. Of course a lot of foods commonly eaten in the US diet do contain large amounts of both fats and sugars. Think doughnuts, for example.

Solid fats and added sugars are consumed in excessive amounts, and their intake should be limited. Together, they contribute a substantial portion of the calories consumed by Americans—35 percent on average, or nearly 800 calories per day—without contributing importantly to overall nutrient adequacy of the diet.

And later on they stress one should limit the intake of SoFAS, which they define as: "*SoFAS = solid fats and added sugars"

Just such an odd combining. I agree that sugar is an empty calorie, and probably even far worse than an empty calorie as it's actively disease-promoting. But good fats help promote the body's health. So why lump them in a single category?

There are some good recommendations, like focusing on nutrient-dense food. I just have some differences of opinion over what constitutes "nutrient-dense". LOL. They also still stress that everyone should be drinking fluoridated water to prevent cavities! But if you truly eat properly, avoid sugars, avoid processed foods, eat real whole foods, you are unlikely to get cavities anyway, without exposing your body to the effects of all that fluoride.

I guess in the end I feel it has some good advice but plenty of bad as well, and I'm happy I am not required to follow the guidelines! For far more incredible detail please see the fantastic Denise Minger's blog.


  1. The data is very good.Thanks for the post and I’ll bookmark your site to read again.

  2. So happy you don't have to follow the guidelines! I don't either.

    But do you realize that the SCHOOLS where my grandchildren attend (and yours, if you have any) will be required to follow these guidelines?

    Makes them a little less benign, I'm thinking.

  3. To gharkness - you're so right about the schools, alas. My grandson is still too young for school, but I suppose a nursery school could be in his near future. I just hope when he (and any other future grandkids) get to school age it will still be okay for parents to send lunches to school as I did for my son!