“Since the US Dietary Guidelines were introduced in 1980, the obesity and diabetes rates in America have more than doubled,” with 72% of American adults now overweight or obese and 52% of Americans having diabetes or prediabetes, according to the letter. “Clearly, the Guidelines are not working and are in need of a dramatic overhaul.”
Whether or not the guidelines are ‘working’ or whether Americans are following them, they are reviewed every five years and an advisory committee of experts from diverse backgrounds currently are in the process of crafting recommendations for the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines based on their scientific review.
As such, the letter argues, now is the time for “USDA to step up … and do the right thing.”
By which Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., and the others who signed the letter mean they want the new “Guidelines to address the entire population, and give people viable options – not a one-size-fits-all approach,” Colette Heimowitz, VP of education and nutrition at Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., told FoodNavigator-USA.
“We believe controlling carbohydrates should be a part of it,” she added.
The demand in the letter may be a tall order given it goes directly against existing recommendations. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines specifically warn against a low-carbohydrate diet, and the previous version also argued that low-carbohydrate diets are not recommended.
However, Heimowitz argues, the science has evolved since those guidelines were drafted and new research supports reversing this recommendation.
“Earlier this year, the American Diabetes Association recommended that lowering carbohydrate intake can help manage diabetes, in addition to other eating approaches,” according to the letter.
In addition, it argues, “the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) released a consensus study report in 2017 that recommended the Guidelines address the needs of all Americans and cautioned against a one-size fits all approach.”
In particular, Heimowitz urged the USDA to “pay attention to the 88% of the nation that are not metabolically healthy and then 52% who are diabetic or prediabetic. And look at all the current science from the past few decades that are clinical, peer-reviewed studies and not epidemiological studies.”
Delivering a broader message for change
The open letter is only a small part of a greater campaign to by Atkins Nutritionals and others to amend the Dietary Guidelines to include a more favorable view of a low-carb diet, according to Heimowitz.
She explained that “as an organization, we also have been active on Capitol Hill, providing public comments and attending the hearings for the Dietary Guidelines.”
She added that the organization opted to publish publicly the letter to USDA “because this is a major issue for our nation and we want consumers to understand its importance.”
The letter also is part of a greater effort to “push the government to stop playing politics with our health and base their recommendations off the current science to fix the dire obesity and diabetes epidemic in America,” according to the company.
Heimowitz explained that “the Guidelines are run by government agencies, which are inherently political, with various interest groups involved.”
Ostensibly, this includes Atkins, which is a mission-based organization that markets packaged low-carb foods across categories through many major retailers.
Nonetheless, Heimowitz said, “We truly believe in the value and importance of these Guidelines and believe that change can happen. They inform every important national health organization from the American Heart Association to the military to [the] school lunch program.”