Spring 2015

A Smarter Diet

Proposed federal guidelines skewer Americans’ consumption of red meat

Every five years, the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services put out a report designed to educate the American public on how to eat better for the sake of their health, and also help guide the federal nutrition policy and programs, which include $16 billion earmarked for the nation’s school lunch program.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report, released in February, has kicked up more resistance than usual as it recommends a diet less reliant on red meat and sugar and more inclusive of plant-based foods. Panelists included Alice Lichtenstein, the Stanley N. Gershoff Professor of Nutrition Science and Policy at the Friedman School, as vice chair.

T-Bone steak“No matter which way you look at it, [the American diet] is so not healthy and really just unsustainable,” panel member Miriam Nelson, professor at the Friedman School and in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, declared at a meeting last summer and quoted in Politico. The committee consulted studies that found 65 percent of American women and 70 percent of men are overweight or obese. Sodium, saturated fats and added sugars consumed on a regular basis were among the main contributing factors.

“Higher intake of red and processed meats was identified as detrimental compared to lower intake,” the report went on, tying these foods directly to an increased risk of colon cancer and type 2 diabetes. The last report, in 2010, was more equivocal in tone, merely advising Americans to eat meat in moderation.

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