Feds’ dietary guidelines actually can hurt ‘vulnerable populations’

By WND Staff


The federal government publishes calorie information and dietary guidelines to help Americans eat and live healthier.

But those guidelines could be causing harm because they “are based on questionable science and fail to account for the unintended effects they might have on vulnerable populations,” contends the Competition Enterprise Institute.

A new report by the think tank finds “federal dietary guidelines and government-mandated calorie disclosures can adversely impact people who suffer from restrictive eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.”

Michelle Minton is a coauthor of the report, “How Federal Policy Puts Eating Disorder Sufferers at Risk.

“One-size-fits-all government dietary policies, like the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and mandatory calorie listings required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, may be aimed at encouraging healthier dietary choices, but those policies can pose real danger for people with restrictive eating disorders,” she said.

An estimated 8 million Americans suffer from “clinically significant eating disorders,” the report explains, “that drive them to develop and maintain unhealthy, sometimes fatal, eating habits.”

In fact, “restrictive eating disorders have among the highest mortality rates of psychiatric disorders, with individuals suffering from anorexia four times more likely to die than even those with major depression.”

That’s why “over-simplistic” government recommendations can be a problem.

Even those without issues can suffer from the advice, said report co-author Connor K. Kianpour.

“When it comes to the general public, overly-broad guidance is often ignored and does little to alter peoples’ consumption patterns,” he said.

The report states: “By recommending restriction of certain foods or ingredients, the Guidelines may unintentionally justify the disordered behaviors of those with eating disorders. Calorie mandates may also trigger disordered eating behaviors among those suffering from such disorders, at risk for restrictive eating behaviors, or recovering from them. Given the high risks associated with restrictive eating disorders, like anorexia, the costs may outweigh the benefits for the general population.”

The solution is to shift public policy “toward an approach that treats nutrition as highly personal, because it is.”

“Encouraging a better understanding of nutritional concepts and a healthy, personalized approach to dietary behaviors would help individuals better understand how to make the food choices that best serve their needs and goals,” the report says.

“This would allow people to make their own informed dietary choices and more effectively manage their own health, while respecting their autonomy and individual needs.”

CEI said various government guidelines already had failed to adjust to the times.

Then, “as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act required most foods to have prominently displayed calorie listings, avoiding this potential trigger is now much more difficult, if not impossible, for [restrictive eating disorder] sufferers.”

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