Secretary Perdue: Your Leadership Urgently Needed on Advisory Committee for Next Dietary Guidelines

sonny perdue - usda logo.jpeg

By Dr. Dawn Lemanne, Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, and Dr. Jake Kushner

We have written an urgent letter to Sonny Perdue, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and we hope that you will consider joining us.

In just the next few weeks (should the government re-open), USDA will face a decision that will have a greater impact on health in America than most people can imagine: this agency will choose the Advisory Committee for the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines. This small group of 13-15 people will determine the healthy diet recommendations for the entire country, for years to come.

Dietary Guidelines are Super Powerful

blob

The guidelines are surprisingly powerful: They drive choices for school lunches, feeding programs for the elderly, hospital food and military rations, as well as influencing the advice dispensed by doctors, nurses, dieticians and nutritionists. If the guidelines are off or downright wrong, the potential impact on our epidemics of obesity, diabetes and neurological diseases is devastating.

Last committee largely favored vegetarianism

The last committee in 2015 did not include a balanced set of opinions; in fact, (11 out of 14, or nearly 80%) had consistently published work in favor of plant-based, low-animal-fat, vegetarian diets.

Guidelines are high-carb for all and not science-based

The current guidelines tells Americans to eat 50-55% of calories as carbohydrates. The guidelines fail to reach nutritional sufficiency goals on key nutrients, and they recommend only low-fat dairy and lean meat.

Change will not happen without a committee that is genuinely balanced in viewpoints, with experts who won’t simply rubber-stamp the status quo.

We know that high-quality, non-mainstream experts have been nominated, and we fear that vested interests will keep them off the committee.


Take Action Now

See our letter below. If you agree, you can cut-and-paste, rewrite, or write your own. Send it to: Sonny.perdue@usda.gov. If you like, cc or b-cc info@nutritioncoalition.us since the group has offered to keep track of submissions.

This is our best chance for improving health in America. We hope you will consider joining us.

About the Authors:

Dawn L. Lemanne, MD, MPH, is an Oncologist and Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona

Mark Cucuzella, MD, is a Family Medicine physician as well as Professor in the Department of Family Medicine, Director of Pre-Doctoral Family Medicine Education, and Faculty of the Rural Family Medicine Residency Program at West Virginia University. He is also a Lt. Col. of the US Air Force Reserves

Jake Kushner, MD, is Medical Director, McNair Interests, McNair Medical Institute Scholar, Houston, TX

Copy and paste text below into your own email. Edit as you like.

Dear Secretary Perdue,

The most crucial decision you will make over the coming weeks is over which experts will serve on the advisory committee for the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). The Guidelines can only be as strong as the scientific evidence that underpins them. Appointing at least one expert in the quality of scientific data—i.e., an evidence-based expert who knows how to distinguish between “weak” evidence and “strong”— is essential to ensuring that the Guidelines passed under your administration will have the necessary scientific rigor to make them credible.

This is an awesome responsibility, as the committee will virtually determine the next DGA. So much is at stake. If you choose wisely, you could very well be the American hero who reversed the nation’s obesity and diabetes epidemics.

Primarily, I ask that you appoint an expert in evidence-based policy. I understand that Stanford professor John Ioannidis has been nominated by The Editor-in-Chief and Associate Editors of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, because he is accepted as a world leader in critically evaluating the veracity and quality of scientific evidence that supports the utility of diet and nutrition in addressing issues in health and disease. I strongly support this nomination in order to increase the rigor of the Guidelines.

In addition, I ask that you appoint experts in topic areas that the USDA staff has designated for review. I believe the areas of greatest need of review to take advantage of up-to-date expertise are: saturated fats and the low-carbohydrate diet.

Thus, I ask that you appoint to the 2020 DGA Committee 1) a proven expert on low-carb diets who has recently published on the topic and is an authority on the current scientific literature, and 2) an expert on saturated fats who does not simply reiterate status-quo thinking on this topic.

I am among the fast-growing number of Americans who worry that simply rolling forward the same failed guidelines of the past will result in yet another five years of ever-rising rates of obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, etc. As a nation, we are past the breaking point in dealing with these diseases.

[Personal story here if you would like to share. About your history and health results by ignoring the guidelines.]

Secretary Perdue, please do not issue yet another set of recommendations that wrongly vilify whole, natural foods such as regular, whole-fat dairy, meat, and eggs. For 40 years, we have lived with guidelines that have labeled these traditional foods as unhealthy, even though the science underpinning that notion has always been weak and uncertain. The “lack of scientific rigor” in the Guidelines was recently confirmed in a critical report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.[1]

The forces that continue to wield the weak science against these natural foods are mainly ideological and corporate interests. We, the American public, are the victims.

We understand that steering a bureaucracy will require your strong leadership to overcome resistance to change. Please stop the weak science that is destroying America.

The failure of the guidelines to combat nutrition-related diseases over the last 40 years is a clear sign that we need a greater diversity of opinion among the members on this committee. In fact, your own staff stated, in the charter for the 2020 committee, that it needed “fresh points of view.” We agree.

The fact that these guidelines don’t reflect the latest and most rigorous evidence is a travesty of science and a tragedy for public health. Truth is a kind of justice, and we ask that this justice be served for the American people.

We hope you will stand with us on this most important issue.

Sincerely,

[Your name]
[Affiliation]
[City, State]

[1] The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, “Redesigning the Process for Establishing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” September, 2017, http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/Reports/2017/redesigning-the-process-for-establishing-the-dietary-guidelines-for-americans.aspx]

Post updated/edited on 1/21/19 and 1/28/19

Download a PDF version of this blog post