Dr. Greger’s Testimony before the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Committee

Since 1985, the HHS (Health & Human Services) and USDA have appointed a Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) consisting of nationally recognized experts in the field of nutrition and health. The charge to the Committee is to review the scientific and medical knowledge current at the time. The Committee then prepares a report for the Secretaries that provides recommendations for the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines based on their review of current literature.
 
This year, Dr. Greger (nutritionfacts.org)  was invited to testify before the 2015 guidelines committee. You can read his article about this conference with links to videos and other information at:
 
http://nutritionfacts.us5.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c1bae6687e1e6ab175fb56913&id=eaf8a71b0e&e=3f83646875
 
or just go to nutritionfacts.org and search for the article.
 
I’ve included the entire transcript of his presentation in this post because it states the case for a whole foods, plant-based diet clearly. It also provides a perspective on the history of the USDA dietary guidelines, as they have transitioned from  from being heavily influenced by the meat and dairy industries to a whole foods, plant-based diet. See my post Plant-Based Diets for Multiple Sclerosis for a slideshow of the USDA nutrition recommendations from the 1940s to the  present.

“In the Permanente Journal last year, the official peer-reviewed publication of our nations largest managed care organization, a “Nutrition Update for Physicians” was published, which concluded that “Healthy eating maybe best achieved with a plant-based diet,” which they defined as a diet that encourages whole plant-based foods and discourages meat, dairy products, and eggs as well as empty calorie junk. To quote their conclusion: “Research shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, low-risk interventions that may lower body mass index, blood pressure, HbA1C, and cholesterol levels. They may also reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower ischemic heart disease mortality rates. Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity,” which of course describes a bulk of our population.

This sentiment was echoed last summer by the American Institute for Cancer Research—probably the most preeminent institution on diet and cancer risk—when they explicitly endorsed a diet revolving around whole plant foods: vegetables, whole grains, fruits and beans.

I’ve personally been eating a plant-rich diet since 1990, when Dr. Dean Ornish published his Lifestyle Heart Trial in The Lancet, angiographically proving that heart disease could be reversed with the help of a plant-based diet, opening up arteries without drugs, without surgery. If that’s all a plant-based diet could do, reverse our number one killer of men and women, then shouldn’t that be our default dietary recommendation until proven otherwise? And the fact that plant-based diets can also be effective in preventing, treating, and arresting other leading killers, such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension, would seem to make the case for plant-based eating overwhelming.

Now to the last Guideline Committee’s great credit, the 2010 guidelines were a leap in the right direction, recognizing food as a package deal. Yes there’s calcium in dairy, protein in pork, iron in beef, but because of the baggage that comes along (like the saturated fat and cholesterol), plant sources are preferable, because then the “baggage’ we get is the fiber, the folate, the phytonutrients, etc.

I would like to see the committee be more explicit, though. When “eat-more” recommendations are issued, the messaging is clear—for example, “Increase vegetable and fruit intake.” But when there’s a conflict between USDA’s dual role to protect the public while at the same time promoting agricultural products, recommendations often resort to speaking in cryptic biochemical components, such as “Reduce intake of solid fats (major sources of saturated and trans fatty acids).” How about instead, eat less cheese. Or messages like drink less soda.  Eat less meat, particularly processed meat. The American Institute for Cancer Research just comes out and says it: “Processed meat like bacon, sausage, and cold cuts should be avoided.” Period. They don’t need to sell food; they just want to prevent cancer.

I am not here today on behalf of the broccoli lobby (though I’d be honored to represent big broccoli). I am not here representing any financial interest. I am here as a physician, representing the interests of the hundreds of thousands of Americans that continue to suffer and die every year from chronic disease. And you can help them by recommending a more plant-based diet.

For those interested in my thoughts about the last round of federal dietary guidelines I’ve compiled them into a 14 part video series:”

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