by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, MD, PhD, Part 3
continued from Part 2: http://rawlife.org/detox/promotion-of-health.htm
My third case involves something fairly recent. It has to do with a couple of committees that are responsible for setting national nutrition policy. One of the committees is called the Dietary Guidelines Committee; generally run by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, which has a heavy bias toward livestock production.
That Committee, the Dietary Guidelines Committee is responsible for establishing the food pyramid; information that is now well known to the public. They basically, every five years, come out with a new updated report and give their judgment to any new science that may reflect on the kinds of foods that they could recommend that ought to be consumed.
There has been a lot of trouble incidentally with that report over the years because there has been quite a lot of controversy associated with it. It has been basically biased, I think it's fair to say, toward the recommendation and emphasis given to animal-based foods as opposed to plant-based foods. In no way has that report or that committee ever really given voice to the idea that plant-based might be a really good thing.
In any case, that's one committee. That's the committee I referred to in the question at the beginning of this lecture about having to go to court to expose who is associated with what. That committee and the more recent report was comprised of 11 members and it turned out that of those 11 members, after the court rendered its decision and forced them to reveal their associations, six of those people, the majority, had an association with the dairy industry and it generally wasn't known to the public prior to that. I really find that very troublesome. And the court also found that the chairman of the committee had accepted personally more than the maximum amount of money (from the dairy industry) that was allowed without in fact being exposed to the public.
So there were problems with the report and we had to go to court, so to speak, not me, but an organization that took them to task to get that kind of information. Incidentally, telling what associations we have with the private sector as I mentioned before, was almost a sacred thing to do on these reports. I always recall actually filling out these conflicts of interest forms and being very careful how to do it. I was always told it was very important for the public to know what associations we might have.
All of a sudden, now we're involved in a situation on a very important committee like that where we have to go to court to find out what associations they may have and what did we learn? We learned that the majority of people have a strong association with the dairy industry that could benefit from the way the report was phrased. That's one report that tells us what kinds of food we should be consuming. That report in turn comes up with some of the recommendations in considerable measure by considering the results of a second committee.
The second committee is the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences, and that committee at the Food and Nutrition Board, specifically every five years, reviews again the scientific literature and determines what net levels of nutrients we should be consuming. They're the ones that have come up with the recommended daily allowance recommendations, the RDAs, that are used extensively in food labeling and food claims. RDAs have become a part of our society in many ways and it's that committee that sets those limits.
As you might imagine, the numbers that are actually arrived at become very important in terms of indicating what is permissible to saying what is not permissible to say, and to say nothing of the guidelines that they give for major programs. And by guidelines, I might add, these two committees, the USDA and the Food Nutrition Board on the other hand, are working closely with each other, in tandem essentially.
Those two committees basically provide the fundamental information that is used to structure questions concerning the school lunch program or the hospital or prison food programs or the women and infants and children's WIC) programs, as well as to structure the kinds of claims that can be made on food labels. So, I can't overemphasize the results that these two committees come up with every five years, because they really do set the standards for a broad range of activities in the food sector in our country. They also come up with the kind of information that becomes popularly known and widely publicized.
In any case, let's go back to the most recent Food and Nutrition Board's (FNB) report of 2002.
The chairman of the FNB at that time was the same man who was the chairman of the FNB who had been sued and then had to reveal his associations with the dairy industry, along with his colleagues. His committee was getting 49% (almost half!) of their money from the dairy industry and this was certainly something I had never heard of before. It was something new and it was a lot of money.
It allowed the committee to go forward and so here we have the chairman, who has a major hand in picking the members of the committee, also overseeing the money coming in from the dairy industry to put this report together. Now maybe one can argue that that's all OK, as long as its open and we know exactly what the evidence really is. But I think for a lot of people already, there are a lot of flags going up as to what might be coming out of that report.
Now let's look and see what came out of the report, what really did they find? It turns out that during the time that that report was doing its business and coming up with the recommendations of how much protein should be consumed and how much fat should be consumed and carbohydrates, particularly the refined carbohydrates, when they were coming up with the report to come up with these numbers, at the same time the World Health Organization (WHO) was doing a similar study and were coming up also with recommendations of how much of the nutrients were considered to be in the healthy range.
The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) came up with recommendations for fat, protein and refined carbohydrates; those are the three I want to consider with you. The dietary fat recommendation was such that (this was incidentally a conclusion on the first page of their executive summary of the news release, I mean it was very prominent when it was announced) they actually raised the bar on the amount of fat that would be allowed in the diet from 30%, which previously had been established by us and many others at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) , to 35%, and using the statement that this was consistent with minimizing the risk for chronic diseases. This exact. I'm quoting verbatim from the summary.
They said that "35% fat was now permissible to be consumed in diets in order to minimize the risks for chronic disease," that of course being cancer, heart disease, diabetes and the like. They also suggested that children can consume up to 40% fat. Well, this is just a major departure from what had previously been done and all the information we had been getting during the last 20-40 years, they're suddenly coming along and telling us it's OK, we can consume diets even higher in fat than had been recommended. That was troublesome enough.
But then, let's go to the question concerning refined carbohydrates. Now, I've already talked in a previous lecture about refined carbohydrates being the bad guys as far as carbs are concerned and refined carbohydrates specifically being the sugars like glucose and sucrose and the refined parts of the carbohydrates like white starch that's been extracted from the plants (like white flour and white rice).
In any case, the refined carbohydrates is the one that's been taking the rap in recent years as many people know and of course appropriately so because refined carbohydrates get absorbed more rapidly, they get associated with diabetes and obesity. We know these things.
And higher levels of lipids (fats), such as triglycerides. So, we know that refined carbohydrates are not the kinds of things to include in our diet to any significant extent.
Well, how much was being suggested that was consistent with minimizing chronic disease, and that's again using their criteria for minimizing chronic disease? They came to the conclusion that up to 25% of our calories could be from refined carbohydrates and they explicitly said that what they were referring to was candies, pastries and things like that!
I think that anyone with any common sense would find that really quite surprising to say that 25% of our calories can be in the form of candies and pastries! Especially in the case of pastries also containing considerable amounts of lipid (fat). In any case, it was being widely reported that they had this figure of 25% as the upper limit for refined carbohydrates.
At the same time, the World Health Organization (WHO) was doing their report. They were working through these numbers: same data, same information and coming up with their own recommendations. Word got out that they were going to set a limit of 10%. Not 25% but 10%. Well, that's really when it hit the fan because the sugar industry in this country, who had been funding this Food and Nutrition Board report in part (specifically M&M/Mars was involved in providing this funding, the soft drink industry who was providing the funding) and so the sugar industry then contacted the WHO Committee as well as the WHO itself and advised them that they better change this 10% figure to the 25% figure that was consistent with what the U.S. had just done.
A friend of mine was chair of that committee and I know some of the details of this information. I've seen the correspondence that went on. The sugar industry basically threatened the Committee at the WHO, saying, "If you don't change this to be consistent with the U.S. level of 25%, we have powerful friends in the White House and in the Department of Health, and more particularly we have powerful friends in Congress. And we're gong to go to these people and get the United States to withhold funding from the United Nations and specifically to withhold funding from the WHO if they were going to stick by this 25% figure."
It's a very sordid story. On the one hand, we can raise questions of why was it set at 25% in the first place. Well, the fact that M&M/Mars and the soft drink industry and others were funding that report, I don't think it's just an accidental association: I think the information speaks for itself.
The final recommendation that they made, which I think was more startling than anything I can possibly imagine; they suggested that we could go as high as 35% of calories in the form of protein in order to minimize chronic disease risk.
Now, in the lectures that I've been giving here at Cornell, most of this information regarding the effects of protein on these diseases tend to occur in the 10-20% protein range. In other words; as we increase protein intake from 10-11% or so up to 22-23%, that's when we see evidence suggesting increases in cancer risks, increase in cholesterol concentration, increase in loss of calcium from the bones, increases of this and that and everything else. In other words, we're already consuming enough protein.
I should point out that the range of protein intake that we now have become accustomed to in this country is already in excess of what is needed.
In prior years, we always said that 10% protein was enough. That was the RDA. But, because of this worship of protein that has existed in this society for so long, most people are consuming diets somewhere between 11% and 22% whee all we need is 10%, so already we're consuming in excess.
The average protein intake in this country is about 17% and 70% of that 17% is animal-based. So, we're consuming protein rich diets now that one could argue has a lot to do with determining our risk of cancer and heart disease and many of these other diseases that I've mentioned.
All of a sudden the NB comes along and says, "Hey, we now have evidence that we can go all the way up to 35% protein, where almost nobody goes, and that's associated with minimized chronic disease risk."
Somebody might ask, "Were there any companies involved in funding this report that had an financial interest in the protein question?"
Well, one of the most powerful dairy conglomerates in the world was helping to do this report and much of our protein intake in the United States comes from dairy foods. In fact, one can argue that dairy food consumption has been justified to a considerable extent not only because of the presence of calcium. [Dr. Flora: Remember, you have learned in our classes that bones are not made from calcium containing foods, but from potassium, magnesium and silica containing foods.]
Concluding Remarks on Government and Health
Here we have a Food and Nutrition Board report sort of coming right out in our face telling us that they are going to drastically change the recommendations that we're previously had all for the purpose of reducing cancer and heart disease risk and the risk of all these other diseases that I've reviewed in this course. And, we also find that the people involved in this are associated with the industry (dairy, cola, sugar, candy, etc.) It's not terribly well known who's associated with whom and how much association they really have. We find that the industry supports this report and I find the entire process appalling. [Dr. Flora: And illegal, immoral, and is killing us.]
Now I've told you three cases. I could give you another couple of dozen of examples of this sort of thing. I personally started to get tired of seeing this type of thing go on. But it's led me to some views on why the public doesn't understand the relationship between diet and health, and I say it's for two reasons. One is, in a sense, we might argue, as a professional. The other is not quite professional, let's say it's unprofessional.
On the professional side, first let's consider this point of view: I would argue that the vast amount of our research ha been conducted with an enormous focus and undue focus on the activities of individual chemicals. Whether these chemicals be nutrients or whether they be chemicals to stop reactions from chemical carcinogens or whatever. We put so much focus on the effects of individual nutrients out of context.
So, as a result, we've lost sight of what whole foods can really do; whole foods that do work in large measure because of their presence of nutrients. I mean, it's the nutrients that are part of thee foods that make it work. But to take those nutrients out of context, whether it's being used as drugs or whether they are being used as chemo preventive agents is one of the popular terms, or whether they're being used at elevated levels of intake.
All of that stuff is going on and that's been the nature of science, and I find that my criticism of this approach to our thinking unfortunately almost goes to the heart of what science is really all about and I don't have time to get into that question particularly from the historical point of view, but rest assured that I really do believe very strongly that we put so much emphasis on single nutrient effects, what they do that are supposedly good things or whether they're doing things to block bad things that otherwise would occur.
I should tell you that it's not surprising to realize that this is the case if we know something about our economic system. In it, our free market system, discoveries of new chemicals, new products, new devices will go someplace if they have value. What kind of value am I talking about? I'm talking about the economic value that's adherent in these studies.
So, if we make a discovery about a certain nutrient doing this or a chemical doing that, it will reach the marketplace. It can make money, it does have value, but only insofar as we're able to protect that intellectual property, and we can do that. Our patent laws, trademark laws, our copyright laws are such that that's what it's all about. If we can use those laws to protect an intellectual property at least for a sufficient period of time to go to the marketplace, we can make money.
That's how information from nutrition literature and the biological information that comes from N.I.H. is really valued. It's valued, maybe not obviously at the dense top with the individual researchers doing this work, they're too concerned really with this most of the time.
The vast majority of people are honorable, hardworking, dedicated people doing the work and doing very good work, I should add.
But, the problem exposes itself now that I'm talking about the larger context of what becomes of this information that the scientists disclose. The information that becomes of value in an economic sense is information that reaches the public. Once we come to terms with understanding what that's all about and come to terms with the kind of claims that can be made, and I've been involved in that game and I've seen a lot of the evolution of regulations concerning the health claims, it becomes very easy to see why there's so much confusion.
Most of the information that reaches the public is either coming directly from health claims, most of the public aren't aware of that, or it's coming from institutions and agencies that are doing the bidding in many ways for the industry (dairy, sugar, meat, etc.) simply because they are populated by people who are setting the guidelines and the like that are used.
So that's, let's say, is the professional side.
The unprofessional side of this problem is illustrated by the FNB, illustrated by the Dietary Guidelines, illustrated by my colleagues at Johns Hopkins University where they had other agendas and other interests because of their personal compensation.
Obviously, I consider that to be unprofessional. But, nonetheless, rest assured that that happens. Fortunately, I think it only happens in a minority of people in the scientific community because I still hold in very high regard the vast number of people working in science. Very fine people, dong their work.
It's just the very small handful of people who get into powerful positions, who have associations with the food and drug industries that then in turn are compensated through honorary and other means or perhaps get money for doing their research. These people end up in very powerful positions, often times in the government, in agencies particularly the policy arena, and really mess things up.
So these are my thoughts in terms of the confusion we have to be concerned about and the questions that were raised in the beginning. I think if you go back and look at those questions, do a little analysis of the history and go interview some people and look at reports and I think you will find what I in fact have found over these years...
Peace and Love Be With You,