New dietary guidelines – the fairies are rejoicing

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Nonsense, n; That which is not sense; spoken or written words which make no sense or convey absurd ideas; also, absurd or senseless action.

I am writing nonsense, but it is because no sense within my mind will answer the purpose. 

Hawthorne (1871) 

All around are heated discussions and angry tweeters, heads are being slammed on desks, palms being slammed on faces (preferably ones one) and Einstein’s definition of madness is being quoted frequently.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the new and updated dietary guidelines.

Someone once said that science pretends to be more reasonable than it is, and so ends up being more unreasonable as a consequence. I am more inclined to replace science with scientists.

There is so much to be said about dietary guidelines and I am sure much will be said in the near future. I will not go into details and argue what statements are sound and supported by science and which are not. But I do find the entire process very interesting and I wonder if a time comes when people will look back at this while giving themselves a good facepalm and thinking, “What the hell were they thinking?” I can’t wait till the future gets here.

I was at the Norwegian Health Directorate yesterday to get a copy of the new national guidelines and to hear what the perpetrators had to say. As expected, they served fruit and bad coffee. It was interesting to hear how the authors boasted about the foolproof methodology they had used. How only the best information from the best sources, like the World Health Organization and the World Cancer Research Fund, was used. It got me thinking how remarkable it is that in some peoples mind, as long as the methodology is good the conclusion is equally good. But good methodology does not translate into good science. It might help, but in the case of WCRF report, for example, it clearly did not. I checked, and it is full of arbitrary mess ups like translating correlation directly into causation, not to mention its use of thermodynamics and its cherry picking articles and miss referencing.

The Norwegian guidelines were neatly divided into 13 simple, easy to follow points (loosely translated):

1: Diet should be primarily plant based and contain lots of vegetables, fruit, berries, whole grain and fish, and contain limited amounts of red meat, salt, added sugar and energy dense foods.

2: It is recommended to maintain a balance between energy intake and energy expenditure.

3: Eat 5 portions of vegetables, fruit and berries a day.

4: Eat minimum 4 portions of whole grain products each day.

5: Eat the equivalent of 2-3 dinner portions of fish per week.

6: It is recommended that low fat dairy products be a constituent of the daily diet.

7: It is recommended that one chooses lean meat and meat products and limit the intake of red and processed meat.

8: It is recommended that one choose plant oils and margarines.

9: Drink water.

10: Limit intake of added sugar.

11: Limit intake of salt.

12: Supplements might be necessary to ensure nutrient intake for parts of the population.

13: A minimum of 30 min of physical activity per day is recommended.

There you have it. The recipe for good and healthy living. The diet should be plant based. I know there are humans in the world and even small societies that do live on a primarily plant based diet and who seemingly are in good health. But in no way does this imply that a plant based diet is healthier than one animal based. It doesn’t even prove that a plant based diet is healthy, just that it might be possible. Of course the guidelines are not based on anthropologic evidence, but on a fear of animal fat and meat. It is not based on scientific data supporting a link between the intake of animal fats and disease, but on a completely irrational fear that fat might be deleterious to health, a fear created by a wonderful combination of a scientific field consisting of people who have forgotten what science is but who are still constantly cheering each other on in close cooperation with media and marketing interests.

The one vital part missing in the dietary guideline picture is what we do when the brilliant foolproof methodology gives us a conclusion. This is not when we rest on our laurels, but the time for some actual science to take place. This is when we have to check if the conclusion makes sense in light of what we know from all the different areas of science.

There is no evidence of this last part taking place in the guideline process. But the guidelines are not worthless. In fact a good and scientifically sound way to base your diet and lifestyle would be to use the guidelines in the following way:

Mind the advice about cutting sugar as well as the advice about exercising. Don’t mind the fish and the water and the vegetables, do the complete opposite of the rest:

– Diet should be animal based.

– Grain intake should be minimal

– Butter and animal fats should be substituted for plant oils and margarine.

– Do not pay attention to energy intake and expenditure,

and remember to get enough salt.

9 kommentarer

  1. The government is kind of «shooting themselves in the foot» by giving these advice, as people will get more overweight and more sick, which then again will increase the burden of the public health system. Ah well, glad someone (you) can provide valid critique;speak up and tell the truth! And I totally agree: Eat meat and butter!;)


  2. I think Alan's point is a language clarity thing. I think you really want to say that «butter and animal fats should be substituted for plant oils and margarine» – not the other way around. The way it's currently written makes it sound as if you concur with the guidelines on this point…

    Good blog – keep on rambling.


  3. De har jo bommet på det viktigste rådet av alt: NYT maten (ergo: drikk (og server) god kaffe!). Overhørte forresten en samtale på toget i går.
    «Ja, jeg skal slanke meg 6 kilo før sommeren».
    «Jeg også. Eller, jeg vet ikke hvor mye da. Men det burde hvertfall være 4 kilo! Hørte du forresten om X? Hun har gått ned 17 kilo på 3 måneder hun»
    «Ja, det er jo alt for mye. Hun ser ikke pen ut lenger. Skjønner ikke hvorfor hun får det til men ikke vi. Hun spiser jo ikke brød lenger, det er hvertfall ikke sunt å kutte ut».
    «Kanskje vi bare skal spise grønnsaker på lørdagene? Og spise lavfett? Lavfett er jo sunt»
    «Ja, og så må vi begynne å trimme. Kanskje hver dag»…
    Tror det glapp ut av meg en høylytt latter da gitt. Og sunne som de damene var sov de faktisk 2 timer på toget, midt på formiddagen. Godt tegn på masse energi og overskudd pga «sunn» mat 😉


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