In February, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee sent to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and to U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services Sylvia Burwell a nearly 600-page scientific report, which serves as a recommendation to the agencies as they develop the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
There’s a lot at stake. The guidelines influence individual choices, and drive food and nutrition policies that affect everything from school lunch to the SNAP program.
After the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 kicked into high gear, First Lady Michelle Obama and Ag Secretary Vilsack said school meals would have less sodium, and would include more whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Crunchy Munchy Chili, a popular item on the Great Bend High School menu, became less crunchy with the corn chips omitted. (However, by 2014 the rules had eased off a bit and the chips returned.)
You would have thought that Big Government was scanning our personal grocery lists, and fining people who spent too much on doughnuts and not enough on kale. At the very least, it was starving our kids, who could no longer get an 880-calorie cinnamon roll at lunch.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said our kids’ heath should take priority over politics. “The First Lady and this administration believe that every decision we make should be guided by sound science and hard evidence, not politics or special interests, particularly when it comes to the health of our children,” he said.
This week, U.S. Senators Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., sounded a lot like Mrs. Obama.
On Tuesday, they sent a letter urging the Secretaries to limit “agenda-driven” recommendations to nutrition and diet as they finalize the new Dietary Guidelines.
“We encourage you to consider recommendations that are based on a preponderance of current scientific and medical knowledge, promote healthy diets, and reduce chronic disease risk for Americans. It is critical that Congress and the American people have confidence in the integrity of the final product, and that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines are not agenda-driven, but are based in strong, consistent science and current medical knowledge that will effectively result in healthy dietary patterns.”
They “have significant concerns” about the Scientific Report’s recommendations.
What might those concerns be?
Nutrition experts with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine praised the report, “for acknowledging the power of plant-based diets to fight obesity and reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and other common health problems.”
Will the next Crunchy Munchy Chili be meatless? We can only hope that the science agrees with common sense, and the motto, “Everything in moderation.”