USDA 2015 Dietary Guidelines - Are They Right For You ?

Undoubtedly you are familiar with one or more of the USDA’s food pyramids guiding us to a supposed healthier lifestyle. Well, the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services have posted their new dietary guidelines for 2015 on their website health.gov. These, the very same fat phobic institutions that as far back as 1980 gave us carbohydrates as the base (largest portion) of their vaunted pyramid are now back with a new improved guideline.  This new guideline weighs in at 570+ pages and is waiting for a commentary period before becoming final.  The new guideline promises to be more evidence based from actual randomized controlled studies than previous ones that were predominantly epidemiological in nature from studying the sick and elderly.

New Diet Changes For 2015

 USDA 2015 Dietary Pyramid - Ultimate Health Personal Training Center - Los Angeles

USDA 2015 Dietary Pyramid - Ultimate Health Personal Training Center - Los Angeles

A big change is that eggs are no longer demonized as a major source of elevated blood cholesterol. I have visions in my head of an egg holding a press conference expounding on its joy of being exonerated from any wrong doing.  Yes, after all this time the aforementioned parties have now accepted evidence that eating eggs, even many eggs does not cause our cholesterol to rise. I believe the actual wording is “cholesterol is not a nutrient for concern for overconsumption.” Actually cholesterol numbers don’t really mean anything anyway, its cholesterol particle size that matters which is why I recommend a VAP cholesterol test to my clients, but that’s another story. So, the take away is if you want 2 or 3 whole eggs for breakfast go for it.

Another area of change is that fats are not all that bad for you after all. Glad they finally accepted the evidence from a myriad of studies many of us in the health and fitness world have been referencing for years. The fact that the carbohydrate based pyramid lead to epidemic levels of obesity, 166% increase in type 2 diabetes since 1980 and kept heart disease as the number 1 killer of Americans finally created a realization that change was needed. 

Reversing Past Dietary Errors

The phobia against fats was orchestrated by Dr Ancel Keys the father of military K rations. He used his highly flawed and biased landmark Seven Countries Study to flesh out his hypothesis. From there it was a matter of time before it became the last word.

In an effort to reverse some of the damage the new guidelines recommend cutting back on sugar and refined grains. They also call for so called healthy fats such as those found in salmon, nuts, avocado and olive oil to be more generously incorporated into the diet. In fact only trans fats and saturated fats need be avoided. The guideline calls for saturated fat to be kept to no more than 10% of total caloric intake.  This is definitely a change in the right direction. A healthy diet should also be higher in fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seafood, with adequate amounts of low and non-fat dairy and moderate alcohol consumption.

Further Research Needed

Clearly this is a path in the right direction as many of these recommendations have a lot of science behind them and should help reverse some of the problems with excess sugar in the diet. Still 2 meta studies one in 2010 and another in March 2014 and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that drew from 80 studies with over half a million subjects showed no evidence that saturated fat is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The main case against saturated fat is that it causes an increase in LDL cholesterol and while that is absolutely true, it’s not the end all be all. Firstly, there are two types of LDL big fluffy ones that are largely harmless and small dense sticky ones that cause plaque formation. Curiously, the levels of the large kind are raised by saturated fat intake while those pesky little sticky kind are increased by carb consumption. Just maybe saturated fats like other fats before them have been getting the bad wrap for cardiovascular disease as eggs did with cholesterol.  Maybe, the real culprit is that starchy food pretending to be healthy, but in reality is just a sugar. Cue suspenseful music.    

References:

Time Magazine – Don’t Blame Fat Vol. 183, NO. 24 | 2014

2015 Dietary Guidelines – Health.gov

Cholesterol in Food Not a Problem – Ben Tinker | cnn.com

Comment