Profit over public health — again
Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC
With a lot of controversy, the 2016 Dietary Guidelines have just been published. Why controversy? They constitute a quagmire of confusion and hypocrisy, as well as a slap in the face to the brilliant and hardworking 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC).
The DGAC is made up of nutrition scientists who spent years on research before submitting their scientific report, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (Advisory Report), to the leaders of the U.S. departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA).
Yes, kids, once again special interest and profits take precedence over public health.
Let's face it: If the actual science got out, the people who line your congressman's pockets would be upset. So better the new dietary guidelines be vague, confusing and non-factual and leave out all the guidance the scientists put in, than to have your politician lose their financial support!
The advisors' scientific report itself had actionable clarity: Specific advice on what to eat and what not to eat, as well as very detailed advice on the nutrients we need AND how to get them. The report recommended specific foods to eat to get the nutrients we need.
However, while the guidelines that were ultimately published recommend foods when they recommend one should “eat more” of something, they switched to the word nutrients whenever they suggest to “eat less” of something.
This is important because it doesn't name (food) names or the types to avoid. In other words, it keeps lobbyists who work for junk food makers happy.
For example, the report focused on what nutrients people typically short themselves on — such as vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin C. Report authors talk in detail of what specific foods we need to eat to get these, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and dairy. So far, so good.
But the guidelines discuss just “nutrients” for what should be avoided or not eaten. The report states we should limit sugars to 10% of our diets, for example. In reality, we should limit or remove sugar-sweetened beverages. But the guidelines just discuss the amount of sugar, avoiding specifics.
In addition, “saturated fat” is a euphemism for meat; “added sugars” is a euphemism for sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages; and “sodium” is a euphemism for processed foods and junk foods. The average American doesn't have a clue what these euphemisms really are talking about.
“Big Food” lobbyists would prefer the new dietary guidelines be vague, confusing and non-factual — and leave out all the guidance the scientists put in. Politicians would also rather not lose the financial support from companies making or supporting foods we should be eating less!
As a result, the American public is left with no real idea of what they should or should not eat. They're told just that they need some nutrients. They're not told that they can't get those nutrients in processed foods, fun-sized candy bars, or whatever.
I'm not the only one going bonkers; you should see the Fortune article “Why the new, proposed U.S. dietary guidelines are provoking controversy and ire.” This article clearly states, “Big Food has lobbied hard to make sure that the guidelines characterize its various products as positively as possible, or at least not too negatively. Trust me, they were successful!"
We are a nation plagued by avoidable and preventable chronic diseases caused by poor nutritional intake, and we are literally eating ourselves to death.
The new guidelines abandoned the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Report's recommendations for things such as eating less meat for our sake. And recommendations that would help the planet's sustainability (so we can continue to raise and offer real food to generations to come).
So Americans will continue to eat their processed lunch meats and wash them down with their favorite carbonated beverages. Good luck trying to find out if you're getting the right amount of nutrients.
Meanwhile, we in healthcare will keep dealing with the growing masses of chronically, preventable ill people.
But why try and steer the public in the right direction? I mean, where's the profit in that?
Just keeping it real,
The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, a 2012 APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real life long-term care nurse. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. She has not starred in her own national television series — yet. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.