Why the Current Dietary Guidelines are Making People Fat
by Mary G. Enig, Ph.D.
The McGovern Committee Senate Hearings, held in the 1970s, grew out of the ideas for developing nutrition policy that were put forth at the 1969 White House Conference on Foods and Nutrition. Some of the recommendations that came out of the White House conference were orchestrated by lawyers and lobbyists from the food industry. The McGovern Committee originally planned to hold hearings on heart disease and diet, but evidently changed to hearings on all the “killer diseases” and their nutritional causes, although the major emphasis still came from the National Heart and Lung Institute (as it was called at that time) and the American Heart Association, with much testimony orchestrated by the American Health Foundation. Behind the scenes, the edible oil industry and the Grocery Manufacturers of America played a major role in lobbying efforts.
The McGovern Select Committee heard erroneous testimony from various research “scientists,” most of whom had particular biases against animal fat and meat. For example, Dr. Gio B. Gori from the National Cancer Institute and Dr. David M. Hegsted from Harvard School of Public Health testified that there was “a direct relationship between dietary intake and forms of cancer and that it was their recommendation that Americans should cut down on the amount of food they eat, and specifically, eat less meat and fats” (Congressional Record 9/16/76 p S15993-4). The animal fat and cancer connection was first introduced by Dr. Ernst Wynder from the American Health Foundation using processed vegetable fat data mistakenly labeled animal fat. Colon cancer was also tied to beef in an erroneous interpretation of the National Cancer Institute Japanese-Hawaiian study which actually showed macaroni, green beans and peas to have higher risk associated with colon cancer than beef or lamb.1
Committee members ignored testimony debunking the anti-animal fat agenda even though the testimony defending meat and animal fat was supported by science and came from highly qualified researchers. The meat and dairy lobbies were very ineffective in defending their products.
The Select Committee produced a report that called for the decrease in consumption of animal fat, dairy fat and eggs. If you decrease the amount of fat in the diet, something has to increase to take its place and that something was to be the carbohydrates.
Once mandated, no government employee or government-funded researcher could contradict the US Dietary Goals. All the research from that point on had to be geared to creating educational material to match the US Dietary Goals and to produce a science to support them. If a researcher wanted another grant, the results he or she came up with would have to fit the guidelines.
Even though these goals/guidelines originally had no science to back them up, and still have no clear science to support them, they have become the law of the land.
Thus the Senate, with the help of the food industry and the complicity of a major part of the nutrition community, came up with a low-fat, high-carbohydrate Rx that produced profound changes in the way Americans ate. Vegetable oil and carbohydrate (mostly refined carbohydrate) calories replaced animal fat calories resulting in massive obesity in the populace. The US government is now proposing more of the same to combat. . . the massive obesity epidemic among Americans!