In 2014, I was fortunate to speak to Canadian cattle people at the International Livestock Congress in Calgary. I held up a new book, and suggested reading and digesting it, as it held the keys to rescuing our industry from the clutches of 50 years of erroneous dietary-health theory.
The book, The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, explained how the low-fat, high-carbohydrate, fewer animal products theory came to be, based on faulty science and big political influence. It is a scathing indictment of the nutrition and medical community, as well as the U.S. government’s role in propagating these dietary theories.
Nina Teicholz spent nine years researching the book. Once it was circulating, she began warning animal agriculture about the next set of Dietary Guidelines being finalized (2015). Her information was that this Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) was very radical and was actually considering more restrictions or even eliminating red meat in the Guidelines.
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines are a collaboration every five years between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Health and Human Services department. A new DGAC is appointed for every set, and are supposedly health and nutrition experts. In reality, many are, but some are activists and radicals more interested in advancing pet health theories, masters at ignoring some science while touting other science. This DGAC, a nutrition and health panel, actually made recommendations against animal agriculture products based on supposed environmental impact, something the secretaries of the two departments agreed to quash.
The elephant in the room is that since the Guidelines have been adopted, the American population has trended to obesity and diabetes, with nearly half the adult population suffering from one or both.
The high-carb, low-fat, fewer animal products establishment in the nutrition and health community and government responded with high indignation to Nina’s book. But they figured after selling some books and stirring us cowboys up — Nina typically gets standing ovations at cattle conventions — she would go away.
Not so Nina.
Last fall she wrote a well-researched, peer-reviewed article for TheBMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal. The article examined the shaky and/or non-existent scientific underpinnings of current and past Dietary Guidelines. She exposed how the 2015 DGAC manipulated the studies on which their report would be based, including certain studies and excluding extensive studies investigating the inefficacies of high-carb, low-fat diets or the lack of correlation between higher-fat, especially saturated fat diets and obesity, heart disease and cancer.
Stunned at their exposure, the 2015 committee and defenders of the high-carb, low-fat establishment went ballistic, 180 of them signing a letter requesting TheBMJ retract the article, objecting to alleged inaccuracies.
Teicholz responded with a peer reviewed rebuttal that mainly served to further expose the hypocrisy of the Guidelines process and its perpetrators. TheBMJ published only one correction, which turned out to be more about semantics and risk interpretation than fact. All of the rest of the article, over 700 points of fact according to Teicholz, has stood.
Another criticism of the article dealt with whether the DGAC should directly review some of the largest government studies on saturated fats involving thousands of people for up to 12 years or rely on someone else’s analysis. No DGAC has examined them directly. Other studies examined in 2010 were small studies meeting substandard, weak inclusion data.
In fact, most of the furor really involves whether certain studies should “count,” how they were conducted, why other studies should be ignored and what was being measured or counted.
When the annual Nutrition Policy Conference announced its convention program, with a nutrition policy panel discussion including Nina Teicholz, the establishment reacted. Other panel members, Barbara Millen, chairman of the 2015 DGAC; Margo Wooten, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest — a food activist group that organized TheBMJ retraction letter — and Angie Tagtow, executive director, USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, according to the conference organizer, refused to participate if Teicholz did. So Teicholz was removed.
When word got out, the nutrition and health professionals aware of the “other” studies and tired of policy based on only some of the science leavened with political correctness, responded. Within days, some 4,000 people signed an online petition to reinstate Teicholz on the panel.
The conference organizer demurred.
But Nina’s no wallflower. She’s part of a new Nutrition Coalition, nutrition and health professionals dedicated to seeing policy based on all the solid science, not just some science and poor science. The day before the Nutrition Policy conference, Teicholz and several nutrition researchers and clinical practitioners held their own news conference and webinar regarding the “other” science.
Perhaps most striking, was the explanation of the clinical diet and health practitioners that the Guidelines would literally make their obese, pre-diabetic and diabetic patients sicker.
The bottom line: we, the red meat industry, have a fight on our hands. This war will take time and effort. But that’s so much better than being assumed through conventional “wisdom” that we are a nutrition and health liability. We have leadership like Teicholz and a growing list of professionals tired of poor advice and cognizant of a growing body of evidence showing we are part of the solution, not the problem.