Remember when Healthy Eating was as Simple as 'An Apple a Day'?
One of my favorite undergrad classes at the University of Miami was Medical Ethics. The logical banter was exhilarating and our professor was brilliant. Classmates would duke it out over controversial healthcare cases related to abortion, HIV and mental health hoping to 'win' an argument. Now, decades later, I can't tell you who won which debate. Those details have faded with the years. What I do remember is our professor's Day 1 challenge, "If you get nothing from this class, learn to be a better educated consumer of information." Shame on me, I'm so bad with names I can't remember his - oopsy.
I was reminded of that class during a recent lecture here in Santa Monica facilitated by Dr. Barbara Millen. In case you're unfamiliar with the name, Dr. Millen chaired the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. In laywoman's terms you might say she's the bigwig influencing our country's eating habits through 2020. Or is she?
During the lecture, Dr. Millen presented the committee's process and findings for the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines. The Dietary Guidelines are published jointly every five years by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and of Agriculture (USDA) to provide nutritional and dietary information for the general public, healthcare professionals and policymakers.
As I sat in the lecture hall, I found myself listening intently to what she said and what she didn't. Her candor impressed me, patting herself on the back for standing firm against political ties to keep the health risk regarding processed meat in the committee's report. Unfortunately, it seems with a little abra-cadabra magic that risk got lost in the editing process. In the official guidelines to professionals including "policymakers, public health professionals, and other experts working to improve the health of individuals, families, and communities across the nation" it was left out and replaced by a picture of lunch meat. So was it really a win? Am I being too all or nothing about it?
I feel compelled to backup a minute. I'm not a soapbox stomping kind of gal. What I am is big time when it comes to things like transparency and integrity. Two components often left off the table when purse strings, politics and media step in. For example, it was with equal enthusiasm Dr. Millen lauded her risk on processed meat as she denied any potential health risk related to aspartame. Things that make you go hmmm.
So Ms. Educated Consumer, in the spirit of that Medical Ethics class, I'd like to mix things up in this post. Let's keep it short so you have time to read, debate and ask questions of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans on your own:
- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines: Recommendations at a Glance for Professionals (4 page read)
- 2015-2020 Full Report of Dietary Guidelines (at least skim table of contents for the 144 page report)
As you read through the guidelines, ask yourself questions like:
- What's been included or perhaps left out?
- Do you relate to these guidelines?
- Does it now make sense why healthcare providers, including nutritionists, may be missing the mark?
- How do the latest diet trends and food science headlines compare with the report?
Within the next week, comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts. In the next blog post I'll answer your questions and add some commentary including my closing question to Dr. Millen. I promise, nothing that got me escorted out of the room.