New Year Fires Up Food Myths
A brand new study – just released online this week – offers timely support to the heavily criticized USDA Dietary Guidelines of 2010. Those proposed guidelines continue to promote a grain-rich, low-protein diet.
But when those proposed guidelines were released last summer, they were met with furious opposition by dozens of medical experts.
Why? Because they still offer the same government advice as previous guidelines. Guidelines that have been tried without success. Guidelines that pay little heed to dozens of emerging studies that show high-grain diets cause weight gain and disease. Guidelines that many experts say are the true culprit behind modern disease and obesity.
As if in answer to this heavy criticism, this new 2011 study says grains are good for health. It also maintains that protein and fat are bad for you. The authors even say their study confirms the dietary guidelines as the best advice for good health.
But a careful review of that new study shows that its conclusions are nowhere near so cut-and-dried. It makes for good headlines for the popular press to pick up on. But the scientific small print paints a clouded picture.
For example, the study breaks down several diets to see which ones yield the best health benefits. A diet rich in grains and legumes comes out much healthier than a diet rich in red meat. But that’s no surprise when the small print “clusters” red meat with fried foods and alcohol.
We review the small print behind the headlines. That way we can give you the best possible recommendations about what you really need to do to stay healthy in 2011.
Reviewing the Small Print
The new study has just been published in the January edition of The Journal of the American Dietetic Association. It’s been headed up by Amy Anderson – a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Maryland.
The study compares several types of eating “clusters.” They include diets that are: rich in grains and legumes; rich in low-fat dairy products; rich in sweets and desserts; and rich in red meats, fried foods, high energy drinks, and alcohol.
The study looks at the dietary habits of 2,500 people. It records their health status 10 years ago. And follows up a decade later to review how those people have endured.
The study finds that those in the “healthy eating cluster” have fared better than the rest. The healthy eating cluster is the diet rich in grains and legumes.
But contained within the small print are lots of convoluted points.
The “healthy eating cluster” also contained poultry, fish, and fruit. Yet the study focuses on grains and legumes. And the red meat cluster doesn’t just lump in alcohol, high energy drinks, and fried food. The “red meat” is also processed.
So it comes as little surprise that the “healthy eating cluster” fares so well.
But it allows the researchers to conclude with this news-friendly sound bite…
“Results of this study suggest that adults who follow a diet consistent with current guidelines to consume high amounts of whole grains [and] low-fat dairy products, may have a lower risk of mortality.”
But the study fails to compare a diet rich in healthy fats and protein against grain-based diets. Or mix grain-based diets with alcohol or sugary drinks.
Equally surprising are some of the notes in the study.
One note shows:
“Participants may have changed their dietary patterns over the 10-year follow-up period…”
In other words, these results were based on what people were eating 10 years earlier. But not necessarily in the decade since.
Another note states the authors weren’t able to “fully separate effects of diet from effects of physical activity and other lifestyle characteristics.”
So in addition to basing results on information that was established – but not updated – 10 years earlier… the study also doesn’t look at lifestyle choices such as exercise or smoking.
The authors gloss over these flaws as “limitations of this study.”
Unfortunately, the only headlines the papers are likely to print are… “new study shows carbs are good for health…”
Great timing for those proposed 2010 guidelines which come into effect in 2011.
What’s wrong with the USDA’s advice to eat more whole grains?
Over the last 20 years, dozens of studies show that lean protein and healthy fats are vital to good health. And that grains are a fast-track to obesity and disease.
This truth was spelled out five years ago when the Institute of Medicine Macronutrient Report found:
“High-carb diets modify the metabolic profile [causing] heart disease (CHD) and diabetes.”
Plenty of other prestigious studies have shown that cutting grains improves health.
One Harvard study looked at the eating habits of 80,000 women over 20 years. It was the most in-depth study done on the subject. And it reviewed how grains affect the heart. After 20 years of research, Harvard scientists concluded that low-carb diets cut heart disease risk by 30 percent.
Then there’s the study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It looked at four different diets, comparing their effect on health and weight-loss. Researchers monitored participants for 12 months. At the end of one year, they found that low-carb diets yield better weight loss results. And lower blood triglycerides.
Despite these high-profile studies – and dozens of others – the new Guidelines completely ignore them. Instead, they recommend:
“Adults should consume 45-65 percent of their total calories from carbs.”
Worse, they advise you eat “only moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry, and eggs.”
Response to Guidelines
When the Guidelines were released last summer, nutritionists and doctors alike widely criticized them.
Professor Richard Feinman took action against the guidance. He’s the head of Biochemistry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. He’s also the president of the prestigious Nutrition and Metabolism Society.
He teamed up with other leading researchers and scientists to review the guidelines. That review appeared in the October edition of Nutrition.
His team says the guidelines were produced “in the face of contradictory evidence.”
“The initial Dietary Goals proposed increases in carb intake and decreases in saturated fat,” says Prof. Feinman.
And he notes that these recommendations “are carried further in the 2010 Guidelines.”
He notes that the benefits of such diets “remain unproven.”
And his review points out that “a dietary shift in this direction has already taken place. Even as obesity and diabetes have increased.”
Take Control of Your Health
So what can you do to improve your health? Dozens of studies show that a diet high in healthy protein and fats – and low in grains and carbs – is vital to better health.
The Journal of Arteriosclerosis recently published studies on the benefits of protein. They found that a high-protein diet increased PAI-1 in the blood. And PAI-1 cuts the production of fat.
Another recent study shows that lean meat reduces cholesterol levels. The study showed that healthy protein lowers (bad) LDL cholesterol and raises (good) HDL cholesterol.
And German researchers found that high-protein diets boost antioxidant levels. The more protein that participants ate, the higher their antioxidant levels became. They also found that low protein intake increases oxidative damage from free radicals.
Likewise, healthy fat is essential to health.
Saturated fats are loaded with healthy nutrients. They boost your immune system. But we tend to eat too much of the bad fats – namely omega 6 and hydrogenated fats. Many modern meats and foods are rich in omega 6 fats. And while they offer some benefits, you should only eat them in small amounts.
These “bad” fats promote inflammation, which studies link to arthritis, cancer, and heart disease.
But you can find great sources of protein and healthy fats in grass-fed beef, raw milk, cage-free eggs, cold water, wild-caught fish, and raw butter.
And there are plenty of other ways to improve your diet and your health. We’re putting the finishing touches on a brand-new report that’s filled with expert advice and the most recent research on diet. It includes specific guidance on how to develop a diet plan, meal plans and even recipes… all designed to help you lose weight and strengthen your health. We’ll let you know as soon as this report is available.