OK folks, it’s that time again. The Scientific Report for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) is out, and it’s time for all nutritionists and foodie/activitists to dive in and weigh in. You have until early April to submit your comments.

Better process

While there is always the plus – minus of what each of us thinks the panel got right and wrong, I want to give a plug for the improvements in the process that have happened over the past decade. It’s much easier now to look behind the curtain of the recommendations and read and review the data upon which they are based. I like it! Every five years, this exercise helps me do an overview review of what the mainstream science says about food and nutrition. I encourage you, if you are interested, to check it out – at the very least, you will learn more about what the mainstream research actually says.

Evaluating evidence

One of the issues in diet debates today is that many of those with an opinion don’t actually know how to evaluate evidence or don’t take the time to. There is a whole lot of junk science, tiny studies and early data out there being used as consensus and the basis for diets. That’s part of the outrage over the DGA every time they come out – a misunderstanding of what the data actually says (and what the data actually is). The committee really does need to rely on the current state of high quality literature as the basis of their recommendations, and there have been some disasters in the past when they made recommendations that seemed to be true that were later proved false or incomplete. The betacarotene story is an example (the Institute of Medicine of the NIH set the recs high, then that level was found to increase cancer risk in smokers – oops).
The problem is that well-designed studies in major scientific centers are often funded by the food industries that benefit. And we all see that the whole truth of nutrition (and life) is that the fewer packages you buy, the better off you’ll be. So, the only science taking a good look at whole nutrition available to integrative dietitian nutritionists and other foodies is often in smaller studies sometimes not as well designed. Eventually, the whole truth will come out. Unfortunately, it will come out much more slowly than if we had a free unbiased system of scientific inquiry around food and nutrition. The full true story of human nutrition is not yet told by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In an imperfect world, it’s a start.

Weaving science & wisdom

Here’s how the DGA process influences my own food and eating philosophy.
I begin by knowing what the DGAs say and understanding the research basis for them.  From there, I draw from scientific integrative models like functional nutrition, traditional wisdom systems like Western herbalism and Ayurveda, a healthy respect for human intuition (mine and my client’s) and an understanding that how and what we each eat has implications not only for our own bodies but for everything around us and the earth itself.
In the end, plants are the healers, eating clean whole high quality food made with love that honors who we are and the lives we lead will take most of us through our nutritional lives in balance. If you’re not in nutritional balance, a skilled integrative dietitian nutritionist can help you get there.
So much to talk about with the DGAs. Have you reviewed the data and recommendations? What do you think?