How Can You Protect Yourself Against This Really Bad Advice?
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the official federal directive on how to eat, starts out with a promising goal. The Guidelines observe "about half of all American adults--117 million people--have one or more preventable, chronic diseases," and pledge to use the "most current scientific evidence" to advise Americans on how to lose weight and get healthy.
Unfortunately, the Guidelines then go on to perpetuate the nutritional confusion and myths that result in so much unnecessary disability, medical costs, and premature death. While some reviewers note that the Guidelines are as not as bad as they could have been, the American people deserve far better than this. If you saw someone driving the wrong way on a freeway, and they slowed from 60 to 55 miles an hour, would you say "Good, this is a step in the right direction"? Or would you shout "Stop, turn around now before you kill someone." The Dietary Guidelines are as far off the mark - and as deadly - as the wrong-way driver.
Here are seven of the most dangerous mistakes in the Guidelines.
ONE. Urge people to eat known neurotoxins, pro-oxidants, and carcinogens
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin which has no place in the human body. However, the Guidelines, while acknowledging all fish contain mercury, urge you to eat seafood for omega-3 fats. Eating so-called "low mercury" fish, as the Guidelines advise, is likely to be of little effect, as there is no safe amount of mercury to send to your brain. Pregnant women are specifically directed to eat seafood, even though mercury passes through the placenta into the vulnerable brain of the fetus. Fish get their omega-3's from plants, which are the original source for all omega-3's, and so can you.
Heme iron is another metal that the Guidelines mention as essential to nutritional adequacy. The problem with heme iron is that it increases the amount of oxidation in your body. This can result in DNA damage, injury to artery walls, and increased cancer risk. Heme iron is naturally present only in animal foods, and your body absorbs it indiscriminately, regardless of need for iron. Thus, toxic excess can easily accumulate. In contrast, your body absorbs the non-heme iron in plants as needed. Thus plant-based iron is far safer in terms of health, and can easily be consumed in adequate amounts on a whole foods diet. Why don't the Guidelines simply give the basic facts about iron, without pushing the most dangerous kind?
The Guidelines allow for processed meats, a known carcinogen, as part of a "healthy" diet as long as salt and saturated fat are kept within designated limits. Consumers are also urged to eat meat and poultry as "protein foods," even though cooking these animals foods generates known carcinogens such as heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and N-nitroso compounds. The higher the cooking temperature (think broiling, grilling, and barbecuing), the more carcinogens are formed both on the animal foods and as part of cooking fumes. The Guidelines totally fail to warn you of these facts.