Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee meeting

Briefly live-blogging a portion of the webcast of the third meeting of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (agenda .pdf).

Presentation by Adam Drewnowski, University of Washington: "There are people who cannot afford many of the foods that are being recommended." Still, for the most part, he doesn't overstate the case that economics drives nutrition problems, noting that there are healthy affordable foods (once one gets above the most desperate minimal budget levels). Committee member Lawrence Appel asks a skeptical question about whether people would really eat much differently if healthy food were free. Drewnowski: "Energy dense foods do taste good. I admit that. Yes, they do."

Presentation by Frank Sacks, Harvard School of Public Health. Says blood pressure benefits are accentuated at particularly low sodium levels. This contrasts with the Salt Institute's input to the committee, arguing that only a fraction of people benefit from salt reduction, and that low-salt diets may have harmful side effects. Reacting to an argument that young and middle-aged people needn't limit salt, because their blood pressure is less responsive to sodium intake, Sacks notes dryly: hopefully, if they survive, the 45 year olds will live to become older.

Sacks also summarizes a growing body of research suggesting that patterns of weight loss and regain over time are similar across weight-loss diet strategies (Ornish, Atkins, Weight Watchers, etc.). Although the Dietary Guidelines have traditionally reflected a reductionist approach, emphasizing nutrient recommendations, Sacks doesn't shy away from the implications of his summary. In response to a question about whether the old Dietary Guidelines recommended range for fat calories is still correct, Sacks takes a line that one might equally have heard from Michael Pollan: perhaps we don't even need a recommended macronutrient range for fat. "Recommendations should be based on food."

Presentation by Patricia Crawford, University of California. In the same vein: "People want food-based specifics for the translation of nutrient guidelines."

1 comment:

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