Updating the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

A Chance for Physicians to Comment in Favor of Sustainable, Science-Backed Solutions

As a nation, we’ve never been more confused about which food choices lead to optimal health. With the recent controversy surrounding cholesterol, it’s easy to see why. This is one reason I presented today at the Public Meeting for Oral Testimony on the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Committee at the National Institutes of Health.

The final 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans will come out later this year, but the public now has an opportunity to weigh in on the Dietary Guidelines Committee’s recommendations. The Dietary Guidelines have an extraordinary impact on food choices consumers will make and dietary habits our next generation will form. The guidelines manifest into meals purchased for our nation’s schools, senior centers, and hospitals, not to mention choices you’ll see readily available at the local corner market and grocery store.

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We should be supporting sustainable, healthful foods that fall into these four food groups.

Unfortunately, these menus often fall short on painting the picture of perfect health. Instead, they still serve a surplus of fat, sodium, and cholesterol, which, despite recent headlines, is still a nutrient of concern. If we want to combat metabolic syndrome—the perfect storm of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess weight, and elevated cholesterol—we have to act now. Nearly 70 percent of Americans struggle with weight, a risk factor for many forms of chronic disease, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. And half of Americans who maintain a healthy weight are still at risk for at least one metabolic risk factor.

While the expert report for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is heading in the right direction with a focus on plant-based dietary patterns, it still needs some work. Especially when it comes to educating the public about the dangers of dietary cholesterol, the “necessity” of dairy products, and explaining the leading sources of saturated fat, in plain language: high-fat cheeses, meats, oils, and dairy products.

Click here to read my testimony, and make your voice heard by submitting a public comment. The deadline is extended until May 8, 2015.

Dr. Barnard presenting his testimony on the Dietary Guidelines.

Dr. Barnard presenting his testimony on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

Follow the conversation on Twitter by searching for #DGAC2015 and #PlantBasedRx.

Our Friends and Supporters Are Simply Sublime

Last Friday, friends and supporters gathered together for an event benefitting the Physicians Committee. Hosted by Nanci Alexander at her award-winning vegan restaurant Sublime in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the event completely sold out with attendees from all over the country. This show of support for the Physicians Committee’s work is truly inspiring.

Sublime owner and event host, Nanci Alexander, and Neal Barnard, M.D.

Sublime owner and event host, Nanci Alexander, and Neal Barnard, M.D.

A special thanks to Nanci for hosting the event—and thank you to everyone who attended. But even if you couldn’t be there, I would still like to express my appreciation for all of the folks who support the Physicians Committee, whether it’s by donation, volunteering, speaking up in support of our campaigns, or through sharing our content on social media. Together we can accomplish big things!

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The room was packed at the Physicians Committee’s benefit at Sublime Restaurant.

The room was packed at the Physicians Committee’s benefit at Sublime Restaurant.

Good Health Isn’t Always Just Luck

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Many people have at least one superstition that influences their behavior or well-being. But finding a heads-up penny from the year you were born won’t increase your longevity or reduce the risk of disease if you’re not eating a healthful diet.

A low-fat, plant-based diet is associated with lower risks of heart disease and diabetes. However, a recent study from the American Institute for Cancer Research shows that fewer than half of Americans know that a diet high in plant-based foods can reduce cancer risk. And despite the mountain of evidence showing a link between red and processed meat and colorectal cancer, only 35 percent of Americans are aware of the risks that come with eating hot dogs and bacon.

Superstitions can be murky, but the science is clear. Here are some studies published within the past three months that link plant-based diets to disease prevention:

Vegetarian Diet Protects Against Colorectal Cancer
Vegetarian Diet Leads to Weight Loss
Whole Grains Protect Against Heart Disease
Vegetarian Diet Reduces the Risk of Heart Attack
Plant-Based Diet Reverses Angina
Plant-Based Diets Lower Risk of Heart Disease in Obese Children
High-Fiber Diets Increase Lifespan

Good health isn’t just dumb luck. Fortunately, we can empower ourselves with the knowledge that we can influence our risk of disease. Just fill your plate with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.