Experts found that the report influencing the next version of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines lacks significant association with relevant scientific evidence and literature, particularly in crucial areas that need comprehensive review. According to The BMJ, this indicates that the committee behind the report has exhibited reluctance in considering proof that refutes the existing guidelines, therefore creating misleading information.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines are key drivers in consumer food choices, food labeling, medical recommendations and scientific researches in the United States and in most Western nations. Because of their influence on the health and nutrition industry, it is imperative that the guidelines are based on "strong" science, as the U.S. Congress proposed in June.

But before the updated guidelines are released this fall, experts have already started to question the science behind the report.

The guidelines are based on a report made by an advisory committee tasked to review the latest scientific studies on nutrition and formulate recommendations that not only promote health but fight disease as well. 

Journalist Nina Teicholz writes in The BMJ that the committee's report utilized "weak scientific standards," which is opposite of the government's recent actions to boost the review process. This then subjects the report to internal biases and external agendas.

Additionally, according to the 2015 report, the committee did not utilize established procedures for a majority of its analyses.

Since the beginning, the process of formulating the guidelines lacked comprehensive methods for reviewing the nutritional and pathological sciences. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture made an effort to make the review process systematic by establishing the Nutrition Evidence Library (NEL). The NEL was set up to pave the way for systematic methods, guided by a set of standardized processes for determining, choosing and reviewing significant researches.

However, the committee behind the 2015 report stated that they did not use the NEL protocols for more than 70 percent of the topics, even for the most controversial nutritional concerns. Rather, they turned to systematic reviews performed by external professional groups such as the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.

Teicholz notes that these two institutions "are heavily supported by food and drug companies," an issue pointing to potential conflicts of interest.

"It has a big impact on the diet of American citizens, and those of most Western nations, so why does the expert advice underpinning U.S. government dietary guidelines not take account of all the relevant scientific evidence?" questions Teicholz.

In the end, Teicholz says that the recommended diets in the guidelines are backed up by limited evidence-based data that minimally support the claims that these actually promote better health. Aside from that, the NEL evaluation of the suggested nutritional food practices exhibit reduced essential information.

Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture | Flickr

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