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Government dietary guidelines, unintended consequences and public policy
Date:1/30/2008

San Diego, January 30, 2008 In the years following the government promotion of a low-fat diet, obesity in America has reached almost epidemic levels. Were the federal guidelines a direct cause, a catalyst for unintended consequences or merely a well-meaning but unimportant factor" In a study published in the March 2008 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Paul R Marantz, MD, MPH, Elizabeth Bird, AB, and Michael H Alderman, MD, all from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, suggest that the government issued these recommendations based on limited scientific data and assumed that no harm would result, but the evidence now suggests otherwise. They caution that without proper studies, such guidelines may be harmful.

When dietary guidelines were initially introduced in the late 1970s, their population-based approach was especially attractive since it was presumed to carry little risk, says Dr. Marantz. However, the message delivered by these guidelines might actually have had a negative impact on health, including our current obesity epidemic. The possibility that these dietary guidelines might actually be endangering health is at the core of our concern about the way guidelines are currently developed and issued.

Dr. Marantz and colleagues argue that if guidelines can alter behavior, such alteration could have positive or negative effects. They cite how, in 2000, the Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee suggested that the recommendation to lower fat, advised in the 1995 guidelines, had perhaps been ill-advised and might actually have some potential harm. The committee noted concern that the previous priority given to a low-fat intake may lead people to believe that, as long as fat intake is low, the diet will be entirely healthful. This belief could engender an overconsumption of total calories in the form of carbohydrates, resulting in the adverse metabolic consequences of high carbohydrate diets, the committee wrote, while
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Contact: AJPM Editorial Office
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Elsevier Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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