Well, well, well, it looks like the USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has decided to move their third of five meetings this year online today and tomorrow for a special two-day web seminar in an act of apparent openness about the process of determining the national nutritional recommendations for all United States citizens starting in 2010. Unfortunately for them, they are doing their best to continue avoiding that huge low-carb elephant in the room and, quite frankly, it is a purposeful act of defiance that I believe is utterly shameful, disgusting, and disgraceful in light of all that we know about the detrimental role excessive carbohydrates are having on the weight and health of the American people.
About a year ago, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) put out a call for nominations to serve on their 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and quite a few highly-qualified physicians and nutritional researchers were submitted to them for consideration, including Eric C. Westman, M.D., M.H.S from Duke University, Mary C. Vernon, M.D. from The University of Kansas, Richard D. Feinman, Ph.D. from SUNY Downstate, Stephen Phinney, M.D. from The University of California-Davis, and Jeff S. Volek, Ph.D. from The University of Connecticut, just to name a few. I had no doubt in my mind that at least ONE of these experts on carbohydrate-restriction who have all published multiples studies on the effectiveness of limiting carbs and increasing fat consumption as a means for weight control and optimizing health would make it among the final 13 committee members. But when the list of experts was revealed in November 2008, not a single low-carb researcher, nutritionist, or medical professional appeared on the panel. Although it was not a huge surprise, it was VERY disappointing.
Then in January I shared a few suggestions like submitting your comments to the advisory panel telling them about your experience livin’ la vida low-carb, showing up in Washington, DC to give oral testimony before the committee, or even attempting to hold a rally for low-carbohydrate nutrition to run simultaneously–all ambitious and daring ideas to focus the attention on the incredible health benefits of carbohydrate restriction that we’ve seen for ourselves in our own lives and in the many friends, family members, and others who have been changed for the better because of this way of eating. But would doing any of these things make a real difference at the inevitable end result? It certainly couldn’t hurt.
The third meeting of the 13-member 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is happening this week and I’m listening to it online right now. You can sign up to listen to all the presentations on Wednesday, April 29, 2009 throughout the afternoon and all day on Thursday, April 30, 2009 by registering here. Keep in mind that the lectures are presented by people who are not necessarily friendly towards the low-carbohydrate nutritional approach–in fact, as I am typing this there is a lecture from Dr. Frank Sacks from Harvard who published this ignoramus study comparing various dietary approaches. He’s thumping his chest about how it doesn’t matter what diet you are on, they all work when you keep calories reduced. OH BROTHER! This is what we’re up against and it’s borderline criminal to keep suppressing the new revelations we know about low-carb diets now.
Since so much has happened over the past five years with carbohydrate-restricted nutritional approaches, then surely some of this research would be presented to the panel, right? Well, look at the agenda for yourself and you’ll see there’s nary a mention of the fabulous work of Westman, Volek, Feinman, Phinney anywhere. Why? What is the USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee so afraid of? To call this a disappointment is a severe understatement.
While all these virtually meaningless research presentations are made during this afternoon’s session, it’s what will be happening during the Thursday discussion when specific topics are debated. Here’s the schedule for April 30, 2009 on EST:
9:40 a.m. Sodium, Potassium, and Water
Discussion Leader: Larry Appel
10:30 a.m. Nutrient Adequacy
Discussion Leader: Shelly Nickols-Richardson
11:05 a.m. Energy Balance and Weight Management
Discussion Leader: Xavier Pi-Sunyer
11:40 a.m. Carbohydrates and Protein
Discussion Leader: Joanne Slavin
1:45 a.m. Ethanol
Discussion Leader: Eric Rimm
2:20 a.m. Fatty Acids
Discussion Leader: Tom Pearson
3:10 a.m. Science Review, Cross-cutting Issues
Discussion Leader: Linda Van Horn
The session on “Carbohydrates and Protein” from 11:40 a.m.-12:15 p.m. should be of great interest to those of us who are livin’ la vida low-carb. A mere 35-minute presentation and discussion of these two macronutrients is woefully inept. Maybe we could make our voices heard if a bunch of us show up during this portion of the meeting. Here’s an interesting e-mail response one of my readers received from the discussion leader of this group this week when he inquired about the negative role of carbohydrates on health:
“We are working hard to change the guidelines to meet the most current research findings. Early progress is that our subcommittee is called ‘protein and carbohydrate’–supporting that these discussions cannot take place in isolation. As you know, food as eaten is very complicated–most grain products consumed in the US are high in trans or saturated fat and also sodium. So getting back to basics would be a great change. Wish we could make it a little more difficult to find all those calories – we are working hard to consider environmental factors to improve diet. I appreciate your comments–please keep me posted as our work progresses.”
It doesn’t appear that the carbohydrate-restriction research is going to get the attention it adequately deserves and this is disheartening. Former 2005 Dietary Guidelines panel member Janet King asked during a symposium lecture in 2008 whether it may be beneficial to separate the scientific review of the latest research from how that information should be communicated to the public in a set of nutritional recommendations. One committee would focus on gathering all the data that would serve as the basis for the Dietary Guidelines and a second committee that would be charged with the responsibility for translating that science into practical steps for Americans to follow. It’s kinda like Congress makes laws and the Supreme Court interprets the meaning of those laws based on the U.S. Constitution. It’s certainly not a bad idea and I’d LOVE to have one of the aforementioned low-carb researcher experts interpreting the data for the public to understand the ramifications of their dietary choices.
If you can make it online to the meeting on Thursday, then CLICK HERE and we’ll see if they’ll allow for questions. I posted one question during today’s event and it posted on the screen for all the panelists to see. But there was no mention of it at all. Gee, why is that big fat elephant in the room (LOW-CARB!) continuing to be ignored? Incidentally, I’ll be interviewing Dr. Brian Wansink who served as executive director of the Center For Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) heading up the 2010 panel for my podcast show next month and the interview will air on August 13, 2009. He has not been pleased with the way things have transpired with the panel and will be on my show to talk about it. It should be interesting to say the least.