Wednesday, January 27, 2010

November 7, 2009

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

This is my second letter to you. The first elicited two form letter responses dealing with health care reform and immigration. Apparently, the White House does not receive sufficient correspondence regarding the quality of the food supply and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans debacle to warrant developing form letters for those issues. At any rate, in this letter I focus on the government's terrible dietary advice.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans document is extremely important because the Guidelines are viewed as the final word as to what constitutes healthy eating in both the United States and in many other countries as well. Unfortunately, the Guidelines contain four major mistakes that need to be corrected.

The most important error is the doctrine that saturated fat is a health hazard because it raises cholesterol levels and supposedly clogs arteries. For more than three decades the public has been relentlessly bombarded with messages to that effect. The problem is, there is no hard scientific evidence behind this allegation; only the backing of the edible oils industry, sugar interests, vegetarian activists, the food manufacturing industry, and almost two generations of public health professionals trained to regard saturated fats as evil.

Soon after I began studying nutritional controversies more than three decades ago, I concluded that excessive sugar intake is a major dietary factor in heart disease. About 18 years later, after developing a leg ulcer, I learned that excessive omega-6 vegetable oil consumption promotes the inflammation associated with heart disease and other chronic conditions as well. Yet the Dietary Guidelines have never contained a strongly worded warning against excessive consumption of either food ingredient. Well, things are changing. Dr. Robert Lustig has an excellent 89 minute presentation entitled "Sugar: The Bitter Truth" and Dr. Bill Lands has a 37 minute presentation entitled "Why Omega-6 Fats Matter to Your Health." Both presentations are easily accessed by web search.

So far I've covered three of the Dietary Guidelines mistakes, demonizing saturated fat, failure to warn the public about added sugars, and the recommendation to replace healthy saturated fats with omega-6 vegetable oils. The fourth mistake is the standard advice to reduce percentage of total fat intake to control weight and prevent heart disease. Again, Dr. Christopher Gardener has an excellent presentation entitled "Battle of the diets: is anyone winning at losing?"

Thanks to a handful of astute researchers and health care professionals, and some grass roots educational activity, there is growing awareness that the findings of science are not being properly utilized. For example, a student guest blogger on the American Society for Nutrition web site recently noted, "Truly, I am neither an obesity researcher nor a public health policy expert. But I do read material on this issue every now and then, and recently, I asked myself, why? United States is blessed with enormous research resources, facilities, and funding, but still, why can’t we address the issue of obesity?"

Another student in an earlier blog post provided at least a partial answer when she observed, "Over the past decade the use of low fat milk has become more prominent than the use of whole milk because there is substantial scientific evidence that consumption of foods high in fat causes weight gain and increases the risk of heart disease and cancer. However, there is some controversy over whether processed low-fat pasteurized milk can meet the needs of developing offspring and whether it should be consumed during pregnancy and development....According to a cohort study of 12,829 US children aged 9 to 14 years, weight gain is associated with excess calorie intake and consumption of low fat or skim milk, but is not associated with drinking whole milk products. This finding although surprising is consistent with some animal findings. Pigs fed reduced-fat milk gain weight easily while pigs fed whole milk stay lean. Male rats fed whole milk had significantly lower concentrations of plasma triglycerides...than rats fed low fat milk. The effects of whole milk on lipid profile and body composition are not well understood, but the process of removing fat from milk may in part be responsible for some of the observed effects. Milk is an emulsion of butterfat globules and water-based fluid. Butterfat contains unique nutrients that support thyroid function and help the body develop muscle rather than fat…"

Sadly, negative publicity about saturated fat and heart disease has whipped up so much hysteria about the fat in animal products that a New Zealand researcher (Professor Rod Jackson) was prompted to say, "We have a health tax on alcohol and cigarettes and there should be a health tax on butter. It’s the most poisonous commonly consumed food in New Zealand . It’s about the purest form of saturated fat you can eat and it has no protein and no calcium. Butter has had all the good things taken out and just left the poison.

So here we are with an ever-increasing demand for medical services, an excessive national debt, and government dietary recommendations that make people fatter and sicker. You could do something about this, Mr. President. At various times you've said , "The American people understand that it is my job to get it right...our agriculture sector is...partly responsible for the explosion in our health care costs...junk fueling an epidemic of obesity, putting far too many Americans, young and old, at greater risk of costly, chronic conditions."

As mentioned earlier, we at the grass roots level are doing our best to educate the public and improve the quality of the food supply. Unfortunately, we have to battle against government policies that promote wrong-headed notions about nutrition and discourage the production of high quality food. Some presidential action on these matters would be greatly appreciated by us and extremely beneficial for the country.

David Brown
1925 Belmar Dr
Kalispell, MT 59901
Nutrition Education Project