As the rest of the country engages in the same old partisan bickering about how best to rearrange the Titanic’s deck chairs, we have a chance to redirect course and avoid the iceberg. The USDA is considering some major changes to its dietary recommendations, and they’ve put out a call for comments from the public—an unprecedented request. Even better, they’ve requested comments on specific nutritional topics that they’re presumably interested in amending for the upcoming 2020 guidelines, including the safety and efficacy of low-carbohydrate diets and the current maximum recommended intake of saturated fats.
If you’re wondering why you should care whether an overbearing governmental agency thinks you should eat saturated fat or eat fewer carbs, it’s not you I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about the people who don’t know better, who assume what they read in doctor’s office pamphlets is the unvarnished truth.
The USDA dietary guidelines are designed for professionals who administer and recommend diets to their patients. They’re used to develop federal food programs and health policies. State and local governments, schools, businesses, charities, and dozens of other organizations with the power to shape the food and food-related information we consume all use USDA dietary guidelines as, well, guidelines.
You may have a good grasp on the science of food and the diet that works for you—but millions of people do not. Millions rely on the experts and the medical professionals and bureaucrats to make their decisions for them. If those authorities are operating with bad information, what do you think happens?
The obesity epidemic happens. The type 2 diabetes epidemic happens. Low-fat chocolate milk in the lunch line happens. Statins for toddlers happens. Fat acceptance (not the same as self-acceptance) happens. An exploding mobility scooter market happens.
This isn’t a magic fix. This information—the right stuff, the helpful stuff I and other folks in the community have been doling out for years—is readily available, and not everyone wants to listen or buy in. That isn’t going to transform just because the USDA changes their tune. And the tune isn’t going to change dramatically no matter what happens. You won’t see the USDA recommending bone marrow and keto anytime soon. But it will start shifting things in the right direction. And it’ll expose a large number of people who’d never heard anything but the official line about low-carb diets and saturated fat to a radically new position that could really improve their health and make eating both more enjoyable and more effective.
And there’s an even bigger reason to get involved and submit a comment: Vegetarian activists and passionate defenders of the status quo (yes, they exist) are out in full force submitting comments arguing against low-carb diets and the relaxation of limits on saturated fat consumption. They already wield a home court advantage—everyone “knows” vegetarians are healthier and holier—so we need to push back.
Most of the other luminaries in the ancestral health community are also asking their readers and followers to participate. This has the chance to be a big wave of influence, provided everyone willing and able follows through and makes a comment.
Thanks for reading and commenting, folks. You know what would be cool? Sketch out what you’ll write to the USDA in the comment section down below, then submit it as a document for consideration. That way everyone gets inspired to submit.
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.