Editorial: Government dietary guidelines were wrong

Published on Thursday, 31 August 2017 13:54 - Written by

This should come as no surprise to anyone, but the government’s dietary advice - which changes in substance, though never in volume or self-assurance - is wrong.

“An international nutrition study spanning more than a decade has turned up unexpected findings that researchers say should cause health experts to reconsider global dietary guidelines,” reports Reason magazine. “The ongoing Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) project has found both saturated and unsaturated fat intake linked to better heart health, that a high-carb diet is a better predictor of health risks than fat consumption, and that the health benefits of fruit, vegetables, and legumes like beans and chickpeas may plateau at three to four servings per day.”

It was an extensive study of 135,000 people over more than a decade.

“Overall, carbohydrate intake in the highest versus lowest consumption groups was associated with 28 percent higher risk of death,” Reason notes.

That’s not what we’ve been told to expect; for years, Americans have been told to cut their fat intake and instead eat more whole grains, along with more fruits and vegetables.

“Our findings do not support the current recommendation to limit total fat intake to less than 30 percent of energy and saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of energy,” said Mahshid Dehghan, author of one of several papers on the latest PURE-study findings.

Fat isn’t the killer we’ve been taught.

“Each type of fat was associated with significantly reduced mortality risk: 14 percent lower for saturated fat, 19 percent for mono-unsaturated fat, and 20 percent for polyunsaturated fat,” according to the study.

Nor is there a clear link between fats and heart disease.

“The same group of researchers also looked at the effect of fats and carbohydrates on blood lipids like cholesterol, triglycerides, and apolipoprotein,” Reason explains. “They found that LDL cholesterol, a measure that informs many government dietary guidelines, ‘is not reliable in predicting effects of saturated fat on future cardiovascular events.’ A better predictor, they found, is apolipoproteins A and B levels - something no one is talking about.”

Fruits and veggies are good for us, the study says - but within limits.

“Fruit intake was linked to lower risk of death from heart disease and from other causes; frequent consumers of legumes had lower rates of death from all causes and from non-cardiovascular causes; and raw vegetable intake ‘was strongly associated with a lower risk of total mortality,’ while ‘cooked vegetable intake showed a modest benefit against mortality,’ Mente and his team found,” the magazine adds.

The point here is that Americans have been getting bad advice from the federal government.

“For decades, dietary guidelines have focused on reducing total fat and saturated fatty acid intake based on the presumption that replacing [saturated fats] with carbohydrate and unsaturated fats will lower LDL [cholesterol] and should therefore reduce” heart and other health problems, said Dehghan.

Now we know those guidelines were misguided. The government scolds who pushed them relentlessly need a big helping of humility.