Do we need to reconsider the US food guidelines?

I think we all know that many people are dealing with more and more health issues. This is not new information, however what we really do not know is what is causing it, and of course it could be a variety of reasons. However, I would like to share with one of the more obvious ones — even though we often can not clearly see it.

The US food guidelines and Choose My Plate explain the recommendations, with some healthy beneficial information. And this is great, but what we don’t realize is that these recommendations are intended for healthy individuals. And this raises the question — are we all really metabolically healthy?

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009-2016, 88% of US adults are metabolically unfit, or in other words only 12% of people are “healthy”. The definition here of healthy generally means a healthy weight and waist measurement, no high blood pressure or high triglycerides, healthy blood glucose levels, and no long term medications. Metabolically healthy does not necessarily mean physically fit.

So these food guidelines and recommendations, that are based on healthy individuals, can be a huge help for people who are already healthy and have a good relationship with their food. But my concern is that only around 12% of the population are healthy while 88% are not. Many of those are using some type of medication on a daily basis, and a lot of them have been told that they’ll need to keep using the medications for their lifetime.

I personally believe that we need to start looking for alternative suggestions to add to the government recommendations. For example, even hospital and school food is not following the perfect recommendations, such as whole grain bread, pasta, and rice. In schools the kids are given sugary beverages, fried foods, and pizza. Yet if you look at the US food guidelines closely then consuming these foods is recommended only occasionally.

Unfortunately, the guidelines are supported by epidemiological studies rather than by evidence based medicine instead. All of the dietary guidelines are epidemiological — which is the branch of medicine that deals with the incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases and other factors relating to health. Epidemiologists attempt to determine what factors are associated with diseases (risk factors), and what factors may protect people or animals against disease (protective factors).

I personally believe they should also add a low carbohydrate and moderate to high fat diet option for individuals who have metabolic syndrome, which raises the risk factor for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and many other conditions. There are five conditions that describe the metabolic risk factor — waist measurement above 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men, abnormal triglyceride levels, low HDL, high blood pressure, and high fasting blood sugar level — and anyone with at least three of these could be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. These are the people who are in the most need of eating healthy food.

So if the official recommendations are really healthy then why are people getting more health problems than ever? Of course there are so many other factors involved — toxic chemicals, emotional and physical stress, being not active during the day, and not keeping touch with nature are just some examples.

But maybe we need to think a little differently?

Definitely a big YES — what you eat will affect your health immensely. I am not trying to tell you that everything is wrong with what they suggest, but if something obviously is not working very well then we should think of other ways and maybe add more options for people to choose and improve their health. It’s almost time to renew the 2015-2020 guidelines so I think it’s the perfect time to rethink our options.

There is no one best eating way that fits every one of us. However, if we don’t make people aware of the alternatives then it can be so hard to find them by themself. Some of us may create our own healthy diet, not necessarily follow guidelines, and feel good which is of course wonderful. But it still matters, because food industries, schools, the military, hospitals and people using food stamps don’t have the choices that some of us do.

You can learn more about how we can make the dietary guidelines healthier, and if you like you can also sign the petition for change, at forbetterdietaryguidelines.org

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Ayda Ersoy, Nutritionist (Dip.C.N., Dip.S.N.), Master Trainer (CPT ACE, NCSF, CanfitPro), Registered Yoga Teacher, Founder, Health Angel Nutrition, Fitness and Wellness, Founder, SMS (Stability, Mobility Strength) Intuitive Training System.

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