“I’ll have an egg white omelet, please.”
That’s been my order for the past 20 years. And when I cook at home, my egg yolks go directly down the drain. I’ve been saying no to bacon, forgoing butter, and eating a diet low in fat and higher in carbs for most of my adult life, because for most of my life, I’ve been told that fat is to be avoided for heart health.
And now, it appears all that sacrifice was for nothing.
According to various news reports, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is going to reverse its recommendations on eating food high in cholesterol. According to the Washington Post, Harvard School of Public Health chair Walter Willett called it a “reasonable move” and said “There’s been a shift of thinking.”
Well that’s wonderful and I’m glad all the leading nutritionists in the room agree that this is a good and appropriate move but perhaps it’s time we all started to reassess the value of having the government involved in nutrition recommendations in the first place. After all, shouldn’t we be at least a little concerned that these WRONG recommendations stood for over 40 years; essentially providing Americans the incorrect, one-size-fits-all information about their diets?
And let’s not forget that these guidelines do have an impact—not only on people’s food choices, but on government programs and on specific industries. For instance, as Micheal Brendan Dougherty at The Week explains, these government-issued dietary guidelines have had a profound affect on the agriculture sector.
The fear of fat meant a dramatic turn away from pork. As pork consumption plummeted and poultry consumption skyrocketed, agribusiness bred skinnier pigs that it tried to market as "the other white meat." In other words, not the dangerous heart-attack red meat! But fewer people liked the taste of fatless pork chops, and pork production fell further.
The government's war on saturated fats also led the food industry to rely on trans fats. Decades into this experiment on human diet, the science on trans-fats started to look bad, and the FDA scrambled to adopt a policy mandating warning labels for foods containing trans-fats.
Did you get that? The government’s incorrect dietary guidelines (butter is bad) created a demand for a butter replacement (margarines made with transfats). Now the government says transfats are bad (oopsie!) and is now working to ban transfats in the marketplace (despite the fact that industry is already voluntarily removing them). So, what’s the common denominator here? The government! Government’s the problem. Not butter, and fat and transfats and carbs and eggs and red meat and the many other things that have been demonized over the years. It’s the government that makes these broad statements only to pull them back decades later.
In England, where these recommendations have been used since 1983, these now false health recommendations had a similar deleterious impact on the UK’s dairy industry. Janet Street Porter explains in the Daily Mail:
The dairy industry never recovered from the dietary warnings of 1983 — milk sales plummeted, along with those of butter, and supermarkets drastically increased the amount of shelf-space devoted to low-fat spreads, zero-fat yogurt and skimmed milk.
Unsurprisingly, the dairy industry is now in crisis, and in The Archers, poor Ed Grundy has had to flog off four of his cows because he can’t make a living from the herd, while Mike Tucker can’t find a buyer for his milk round.
It’s not surprising when on any given day you’ll hear yet another celebrity proudly announce that they’ve given up dairy as part of their healthy eating regime.
Dairy has become horribly, unfairly demonised — and all because of bogus medical advice.