Every few years or so, a Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (the Committee) reviews current scientific evidence related to diet, nutrition, and health. The Committee then reports its findings to the Secretaries of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This year, the 2015 Committee submitted its findings in the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (see Report).
The goal of the Report is to inform the Federal government with pertinent scientific information to serve as the basis for developing a national nutrition policy. The Federal government reviews the Report and takes it under advisement as it develops new dietary guidelines for Americans. Members of the public were invited to submit comments on the Report for 75-days, until May 8, 2015. After reviewing the comments, HHS and USDA will release the new 2015 Dietary Guidelines later this year.
The Committee’s Report was revolutionary this year in two key respects. First, the Report recommended – for the first time in history – that Americans consume more plants and less meat (see Report, Part B, Ch. 2, lines 43-48). To date, the dietary recommendations have always been biased in favor of agribusiness and industry, rather than in favor of health. Finally, the 2015 recommendations align with what the science has demonstrated for decades. We are in the midst of a health crisis, with ever-rising rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and obesity. But there is a solution, and it is not a medical one. It is a dietary one. The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has systematically and comprehensively reviewed all the scientific studies exploring the link between diet and cancer. After this thorough investigation, the WCRF made the following recommendations to dramatically reduce one’s cancer risk: limit high-fat foods and avoid sugary drinks, eat a plant-based diet, avoid all processed meat, and limit consumption of red meat to less than 18 ounces each week (see Jeff Herman, Saving U.S. Dietary Advice from Conflicts of Interest, 65 FOOD & DRUG L.J. 285, 288 (2010). Other doctors have made similar recommendations for decades (see e.g. Dr. Max Gerson, A Cancer Therapy; Dr. Thomas Campbell, The China Study; Dr. Dean Ornish, Reversing Heart Disease; Dr. Neal Bernard, Reverse Diabetes; Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease; and the works of Dr. John McDougall). A shift to a plant-based diet is also a shift towards a more humane diet and will hopefully result in significant numbers of Americans consuming less animals. This shift away from meat consumption has profound implications for those who advocate a cruelty-free, humane, plant-based diet.
Second – also for the first time in history – the Report contained sustainability considerations related to this country’s growing trend of meat consumption (see Report Part B, Ch. 2, lines 85-95). We need to embrace the goals of environmental, social, ethical, and agricultural sustainability and implement policies to consistently further these goals. It is not a coincidence that the dietary recommendations contained in the Guidelines are not only better for human health, but they are also better for the planet and better for all the planet’s animal inhabitants. Americans deserve access to healthy, nutritious food – and medical experts have proven time and again that such a diet is devoid of animal products. Sustainability means that our children and grandchildren deserve access to healthy, nutritious food too. Our current system of meat production in this country is simply not sustainable, and policy and lawmakers are finally beginning to accept this truth. I applaud the Committee for their work and fully support the dietary and sustainability recommendations contained within the Report. We must always remember that “[t]he laws we write, the goals we pursue, and the choices we make help determine the health of the system we create. Sustainability is not something somebody else does for us – it is something we choose in the decisions we make and the foods we eat” (Neil D. Hamilton, Moving Toward Food Democracy: Better Food, New Farmers, and the Myth of Feeding the World, 16 DRAKE J. AGRIC. L. 117, 145 (2011). It is my fervent hope that the recommendations contained in the Report regarding reduced meat consumption are incorporated into the final Guidelines – for the health of Americans, the health of our planet, and the sake of the animals.