New Dietary Guidelines: Big Ag Lobby Overpowers Science

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The new U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans are officially out — and health experts aren’t happy.

Despite overwhelming evidence that heavy meat consumption contributes to heart disease, premature death, and cancer, the guidelines are conspicuously quiet about cutting back consumption.

Sadly, these rules impact school meal programs, public nutrition efforts, and even food labels — so they influence the health of millions of Americans.

Many leading nutrition experts have pointed out that the guidelines (created by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)) — were heavily influenced by lobbyists from the meat, dairy, and egg industries.

As Dr. Walter Willett, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, told TIME magazine: “The current system opens the guidelines up to lobbying and manipulation of data. The USDA’s primary stakeholders are major food producers and manufacturers.”

Theoretically, the guidelines are “grounded in the most current scientific evidence.” In truth, however, the guidelines chose to ignore the findings of its own advisory committee — a group of health and nutrition experts tasked with reviewing the latest research. The committee released a report early in 2015 stating that a diet higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods was “more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact than is the current average US diet.” Predictably, the meat industry wasn’t happy. 

And, considering that the World Health Organization (WHO) recently confirmed that processed meats are a “group one” cancer risk, overlooking this data in the new guidelines is a glaring error.

The only thing the guidelines did say about meat involved a vague suggestion that men and boys try to cut back consumption. They recommend males “reduce overall intake of protein foods by decreasing intakes of meats, poultry, and eggs and increasing amounts of vegetables or other under-consumed food groups.”

The guidelines won’t be revised again until 2020, but given how quickly the world is changing, it’s likely our food system will look significantly different by then. In the meantime, taking meat off your plate is a wise choice, regardless of what the government has to say. Check out for plant-powered recipes and all the tips you need to make the transition!

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