What about U.S. Dietary Guidelines?

Current research suggests that U.S. food based dietary guidelines do not promote optimal health.

Each year, noncommunicable diseases contribute to 50 million deaths2, over 800 million disability-adjusted life years (years lost to disability or poor-health)10, and an increased burden on public health systems2.


Research demonstrating the correlation between noncommunicable diseases and diet has been culminating since the 1950’s, spurring the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Health Needs to issue the first set of dietary guidelines in 19771. Upon their release, the press conference stated: “Most all of the health problems underlying the leading causes of death in the United States could be modified by improvements in diet [. . .] The public wants some guidance, wants to know the truth”7.

Resultant guidelines suggested decreasing total calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar, and salt while increasing poly-unsaturated fat, fiber and starchy food consumption8.

Following the 1977 recommendations, outrage from industry emerged, claiming that these guidelines were “unfortunate and ill advised;”3, that the committee was “depriv[ing people] of what they like”3. Succumbing to the culmination of political pressure, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Health Needs was dismantled. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) was subsequently awarded jurisdiction over food dietary guidelines and recommendations were revised.


Following the switch in power, guidelines were no longer focused on disease prevention, but became centered around industry preferences3 and assumptions of what the public wanted to hear4. Today, USDA guidelines are still heavily influenced by the food industry and less by scientific research. As a results, the public is left believing that 2-3 servings of meat, poultry, fish, or eggs will improve their health. Unfortunately, the science strongly disagrees.

I am a strong believer that nutritional recommendations should not be adjusted based on expectations of adherence4 or industry preference. Rather, they should provide sound, evidence-based advice by unbiased individuals and allow the public to make their own decisions. Unfortunately the interests of the USDA are centered around selling factory farmed meat rather than keeping the public healthy. If you seek optimal health, I therefore advise you to look beyond the food pyramid and turn to science.

Current U.S. Food Based Dietary Guidelines

The U.S. Food Pyramid


  1. Cohen, E., Cragg, M., Hite, A., Rosenberg, M. and Zhou, B. (2015). Statistical review of US macronutrient consumption data, 1965–2011: Americans have been following dietary guidelines, coincident with the rise in obesity. Nutrition, 31(5), 727-732.

  2. De Onis, M., Blössner, M. and Borghi, E. (2010). Global prevalence and trends of overweight and obesity among preschool children. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 92(5), 1257- 1264.

  3. Greger, M. (2013). The McGovern Report. NutritionFacts.org. Available from: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-mcgovern-report/ [Accessed 16 April, 2017].

  4. Greger, M. and Stone, G. (2015). How not to die: Discover the foods scientifically proven to prevent and reverse disease. New York: Pan Macmillan.

  5. Lu, H. and Daugherty, A. (2015). Recent Highlights of ATVB Atherosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology, 35(3), 485.

  6. Roberts, W.C. (2008). The cause of atherosclerosis. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 23(5), 464-467.

  7. United States (1977a). Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. Dietary goals for the United States, 1st ed. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available from: http://zerodisease.com/archive/Dietary_Goals_For_The_United_States.pdf [Accessed 16 April, 2017].

  8. United States (1977b). Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs: Dietary goals for the United States, 2nd ed. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available from: https://naldc.nal.usda.gov/naldc/download.xhtml?id=1759572&content=PDF [Accessed 16 April, 2017].

  9. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture (2015). 2015– 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th ed. Available from http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/ [Accessed 20 April, 2017].

  10. World Health Organization (2016a). Global Health Estimates 2015: Disease burden by Cause, Age, Sex, by Country and by Region, 2000-2015. Geneva: World Health Organization. Available from: http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/estimates/en/index2.html [Accessed 16 April, 2017].

  11. World Health Organization (2016b). Media Center: Cardiovascular Diseases. Geneva: World Health Organization. Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs317/en/ [Accessed 17 April, 2017].