Updated USDA Dietary Guidelines Skewed Toward Large Pre-diabetic Population

a variety of nutritional labelsThe updated Dietary Guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) contain a strong bias toward the pre-diabetic and type 2 diabetes populations. Citing the 35% of the U.S. adults who have pre-diabetes, as well as the increased incidence of diabetes among children and adolescents, the USDA has further blurred the line between diabetic and non-diabetic diets.

Previous versions of USDA Dietary Guidelines have moved toward encouraging all Americans to observe a diet strikingly similar to a diet a doctor often recommends to a pre-diabetic patient. However, the new Dietary Guidelines, with their fervent injunctions against sugar, solid fats, refined grains, and sedentary lifestyle, read uncannily analogous to the diabetes literature that diabetes-related medical organizations and societies have been producing for decades.

The only new USDA guideline specifically directed at people with diabetes instructs them to limit their daily sodium intake to 1,500 mg, rather than the 2,300 mg general guideline. However, the authors quickly point out that many Americans, no just diabetes, should restrict their sodium intake to 1,500 mg daily. People who are 51 and older, have hypertension, live with diabetes, are African American, or suffer from chronic kidney disease should restrict their sodium intake. This combination of people makes up 51% of the American population.

This seventh edition of the USDA Dietary Guidelines directly tackles the obesity and overweight epidemic that plagues the United States. When  they use phrases such as: “It is clear that healthy eating patterns and regular physical activity are essential for . . . reducing risk of chronic disease,” it sounds like the Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsack, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, are borrowing pages out of the well-worn diabetes health and prevention playbook.

Physicians will often need to clarify the USDA dietary guidelines for their patients—especially active children, adolescents, and adults who do not suffer from metabolic-related health problems. These patients may need permission, and even encouragement, to deviate from the diabetic and pre-diabetic American dietary norm in order to get the calories and protein they need.

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