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Who Will Give Us Trustworthy Diet Advice?

Not the government. Not most doctors. This is why we need to protect health coaches. Action Alert!

The government’s advice is completely tainted by special interest influence, politics, and a refusal to admit mistakes. This was illustrated again by last week’s report from the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA), “Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020.” The report contains a number of recommendations to “improve” Americans’ eating habits, and is largely based on the findings of a “scientific” report the agencies released early last year.

ANH-USA submitted formal comments outlining five major concerns with the scientific report and also commented on the ongoing debate in subsequent Pulse articles.

Unfortunately, the final document contains most of the failings we noted in our comment to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) last year:
◾Vitamin D—The vitamin D recommendation in the report is absurdly low and out of date. DGAC’s estimates are based on the Institute of Medicine’s recommended levels, with an Estimated Average Requirement of 400 IU and a Recommended Dietary Allowance of 600 IU for individuals between the ages of one and 70. In comparison, the Vitamin D Council recommends 5,000 IU per day based on more recent studies. Vitamin D supports every organ in the body, not just bones, and many Americans are woefully deficient in it.

◾Dietary supplements—The final report, like the initial drafts, fails to recognize dietary supplements as a viable means for most individuals to achieve recommended nutrient levels. In our comment, we noted that the status of the American food supply is such that food, even if eaten properly, cannot supply all of the nutrients needed for healthy living. Vitamins D and K are examples: there just isn’t enough in food, even if you have the best diet and find the best food grown on great soil.

◾Saturated fat—The report recommends a reduction in consumption of saturated fat, which is based on outdated and largely disproven research. Historically the claim has been an alleged link to heart disease. However, more recent evidence shows that saturated fat is not, in fact, linked to heart disease. Rather saturated fat has been proven to have a number of health benefits, including improved cardiovascular risk factors and liver health, stronger bones, healthy lungs and brain, proper nerve signaling, and a strong immune system. Some saturated fats, such as coconut oil, are considered superfoods.

◾Sodium—The report also recommends a reduction in sodium intake, which is also outdated advice. There is currently a controversy surrounding salt intake. Salt plays an essential role in the human body. There has been evidence showing that reducing sodium consumption in fact can pose health hazards. It is worth noting that most of the salt people consume comes from processed foods. Consequently, the recommendation should be revised to suggest reducing intake of processed foods rather than sodium.

◾Red meat—The committee’s scientific report released last year included recommendations to reduce consumption of red meat—which we had noted was misleading due to the significant difference in nutritional content between corn-fed beef raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and grass-fed, pasture-raised beef. Everyone needs iron, although not too much, and beef is one of the best sources. In the final report most criticisms of meat have been removed because of beef industry pressure, although it still suggests that American men and boys should consume less meat.

◾Cholesterol—Past reports have told Americans to avoid eating food with more than 300 mg of cholesterol a day (about the amount in two eggs). This took quite a hit on egg, butter, whole milk, and shellfish producers—all of their products can be part of a healthy diet. The new report deleted the completely spurious limit but still recommended that we “eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible” to protect our hearts. The best research today says that this is nonsense. Dietary cholesterol is not what determines our cholesterol level since the body makes its own. And many people today have too little cholesterol rather than too much, especially since so many are on statin drugs and both “good” and “bad” cholesterol are essential for our health. The problem with “bad” cholesterol is when it becomes oxidized. Fortunately, there is a blood test to measure it—the OX-LDL test, but very few doctors are telling their patients about this important test.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that a vegan group is suing the government to reinstate the 300 mg dietary cholesterol limit. This shows that it isn’t just industry interests that muddy these recommendations. It is special interests of all sorts.

The American public simply cannot trust the government when it comes to dietary advice. Because the government’s recommendations both influence and reflect the consensus of conventional medicine, it follows that we cannot trust many conventional doctors, either. Nor can we trust the mainstream media, which often seems bought and paid for by Big Pharma and junk food company advertising.

Who, then, can we turn to for dietary advice?

You can trust integrative doctors, but they are few–as are another group of trained professionals, certified nutrition specialists. Many of the top nutritional experts (such as members of the American College of Nutrition) are teachers and researchers who don’t advise clients. Naturopathic physicians (ND or NP) with four years of rigorous training are also few, in particular because so few states license them in the face of American Medical Association opposition. So where can we turn? To health coaches.

Health coaches work with clients to create individualized programs involving diet and lifestyle changes to maximize their clients’ health and wellness. Health coaches aid us in breaking the cycle of poor diet, poor health outcomes, and expensive, invasive medical procedures, and instead assist us in becoming responsible, proactive agents of our own health.

As a recent op-ed puts it, “Our nation’s health and wellness is not suffering because we don’t know what to do; it’s that we need allies and advocates in the form of health coaches to assist and hold us accountable along the way.”

With few other sources of information and expertise to turn to, it is as important as ever to protect and defend health coaches.

Action Alert! This is National Health and Wellness Coach Week. Help us raise the profile and recognize the essential contributions of health and wellness coaches by writing to your member of Congress and asking them to cosponsor the Health and Wellness Coach Resolution (H.Res.552). Please send your message immediately.

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