Avoid This Diet Myth for a Healthy New Year

In Diet and Nutrition, Featured Article, General Health

With the New Year just around the corner, most folks are thinking about their health… and looking for ways to improve it.

But if you follow the government guidelines on healthy eating, you could be doing yourself more harm than good.

When we first published this story a few months ago, many readers let us know that they were shocked that the government guidelines could stray so far from what’s really healthy.

Because this is the time of year when people are making changes in their lifestyle, I wanted to make sure you know why these recommendations are flawed… and what you should be doing to make the New Year a healthier one…

New Diet Myth in the Making

The government recently released the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It’s the official word on how we should eat. In time, it’ll form the basis of the next Food Pyramid. And doctors will use it to advise their patients on diet and health.

It’s been 20 years since the first Food Pyramid was “built” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That pyramid used carbs as its wide base and cut fats to a minimum.

But a lot has changed since then: 20 years of scientific studies and research says that carbs promote obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. And there’s plenty of evidence to suggest healthy protein and fats are the key to wellness.

So do the new guidelines reflect this research? We’ll find out in a moment.

Rise of Low-Fat Diets

Since the late 1970s we’ve been following a government-promoted low-fat plan… One that cuts protein and fat and replaces them with grains.

While we’ve followed this plan, obesity levels have skyrocketed. We’ve also seen massive increases in diabetes and heart disease.

Pioneers like Dr. Robert Atkins linked high-carb diets to obesity. They championed weight-loss through low-carb diets.

This was initially dismissed as “quack” therapy. But over the next 20 years, study after study backed up the science behind the theory. Notably, that lean protein and healthy fats are vital to good health. And grains are the quickest route to obesity and disease.

In 2005, the Institute of Medicine Macronutrient Report concluded:

“High-carb diets modify the metabolic profile [causing] heart disease (CHD) and diabetes.”

A second study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It compared four different diets for health and weight-loss benefits. After 12 months, researchers found that low-carb diets yielded better weight loss results. They also lowered blood triglycerides.

A third study was conducted by Harvard researchers. It followed the dietary habits of 80,000 women over 20 years. The study looked at how grains affect the heart. It revealed that low-carb diets cut heart disease risk by 30 percent.

These are just three out of dozens of studies that show low-carb diets control weight and improve health.

And yet the new Guidelines completely ignore these and many other studies. Instead, the report says that “adults should consume 45-65 percent of their total calories from carbs.”

It also says we should eat a “plant-based” diet. And consume “only moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry, and eggs.”

Which means the official word on health remains largely the same: eat plenty of grains and keep your protein and fat intake low.

Response to New Guidelines

The Guidelines have been reviewed by the scientific community. Many scientists note that we’ve tried this low-fat, high-carb experiment before… and it’s failed.

This way of eating is responsible for “an unanticipated epidemic of obesity and diabetes,” says Dr. Michael Alderman, a distinguished professor with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, NY.

Plenty of experts agree with him. One of these experts is Professor Richard Feinman, a professor of Biochemistry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. He is also the president of the prestigious Nutrition and Metabolism Society.

Prof. Feinman teamed up with five other notable researchers and scientists to review the Guidelines. Their review is in the October 2010 edition of Nutrition.

In a nutshell, the review says the Guidelines were produced “in the face of contradictory evidence.”

“Concerns that were raised with the first dietary recommendations have yet to be addressed,” says Prof. Feinman. “The initial Dietary Goals proposed increases in carb intake and decreases in saturated fat.”

He notes that these goals “are carried further in the 2010 Guidelines. These remain unproven. Yet a dietary shift in this direction has already taken place. Even as obesity and diabetes have increased.”

The review goes on to call the Guidelines “critically weak,” offering “an incomplete body of relevant science.”

Prof. Feinman points to dozens of celebrated studies showing the dangers of carbs. Which the Guidelines omitted. In other areas, the Guidelines ignore the results of referenced studies.

For example, the Guidelines reference reviewing 36 studies published since 2004. It states that 20 of those studies show no clear benefits in weight loss between low-carb or low-fat diets. But it ignores the fact that the other 16 studies clearly showed that low-carb diets gained better weight loss results than low-fat ones.

Prof. Feinman’s review concludes that the Guidelines employ “incomplete science” and “inaccurately represent” scientific studies. Further, it states that the Guidelines “draw conclusions” and “make recommendations” that “do not reflect the science.”

How You Can Stay Healthy

“It is time to reexamine how US dietary guidelines are created,” says Prof. Feinman.

But that won’t happen anytime soon. These Guidelines represent the government’s recommendation on diet and health. Newspapers and magazines will promote the advice. And they will be taken as gospel. In time the Guidelines will serve as basis for the new Food Pyramid.

But that doesn’t mean you have to turn your back on your own health. Long time readers will know we’ve been promoting low-carb, high-protein diets – rich in healthy fats – for many years.

We’re putting the finishing touches to an extensive report that looks at the relationship between carbs and protein… and how they affect your biology. That report will include specific healthy eating advice… complete with meal plan recommendations… and a complete guide to the best exercises for optimum health. Look for that report coming early in the New Year.

To your health,
Ian's signature
Ian Robinson,
Managing Editor,
NHD “Health Watch”