Telling Americans to cut back on sugar is good advice, but new federal dietary guidelines advising reductions in sweets don’t go far enough when it comes to helping people prevent heart disease, a top cardiologist says.
“In general, I’m disappointed. Cutting back on sugar is good, but the government is also lifting its limit on eggs and saying that it’s okay to go on eating meat, and that’s not good advice,” Dr. Chauncey Crandall tells Newsmax Health.
This month the government released the latest version of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which are updated every five years. The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-20 are roughly similar to the previous version, issued in 2010, but with an added focus on dietary patterns rather than on individual foods.
Regarding sugar and other added sweeteners, it’s now recommended that Americans cut their added sugar intake to less than 10 percent of a daily 2,000-calorie intake, from the average of 13 percent were it currently stands.
“The recommendation about consuming less sugar is good. Sugar promotes metabolic syndrome, and this is a high risk factor for heart disease. Too much sugar also leads to elevated inflammation and insulin levels, which promotes heart disease as well,” notes Dr. Crandall, chief of the cardiac transplant program at the world-renowned Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
“But as for the change in egg consumption, that I don’t agree with. There are two ways to raise cholesterol, either genetically, or we get it from the foods we eat. Since heart disease is limited in people with low cholesterol, and people with high amounts develop heart disease, it makes no sense to erase limits on dietary cholesterol.”
Regarding meat, Dr. Crandall also is disappointed that government officials aren’t doing more to steer people away from consuming red or processed meat, both that are associated with higher rates of heart disease and cancer.
While the recommendations call for men and boys to cut back on meat, on the grounds they consume too much protein, the recommendations also say that both are permissible as part of an otherwise healthy eating pattern.
Red meat and processed meat have been strongly linked to cancer in new World Health Organization-backed research.
Eating processed meat can lead to bowel cancer in humans while red meat is a likely cause of the disease, WHO experts reported in October — findings designed to sharpen debate over the merits of a meat-based diet.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the WHO, put processed meat such as bacon, hot dogs, and ham in its group 1 list of cancer-causing substances, which includes tobacco, asbestos diesel fumes.
Red meat, under which the IARC includes beef, lamb, and pork, was classified as a "probable" carcinogen in its group 2A list that also contains glyphosate, the active ingredient in many weed killers.
The new U.S. guidelines do not reflect that latest research, notes Dr. Crandall, author of the Heart Health Report
They also fail to incorporate new scientific findings that show anti-inflammatory foods and “good bacteria” — such as probiotics in yogurt, aged cheeses, and sauerkraut — can lower the risk of obesity-related diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
“We are learning more and more about how the bacteria in our intestines help determine whether or not we’ll get certain diseases like heart disease, and science is finding that red meat and eggs can act upon this bacteria in a very negative way,” he notes.
But, while Dr. Crandall says he’s disappointed, he’s not surprised, given the influence that food industry lobbyists have over the government’s actions. Because of this, he always advises people to look skeptically at government reports such as the dietary guidelines.
“Last year, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, in its draft report, advised placing a cap on red meat, as well as advising against the drinking of sweetened beverages, like soda, and promoting a more plant-based way of eating. All of these points were missing from the final report,” notes Dr. Crandall.
“It’s time for us to start worry less about what the government says and more about the impact that the food industry lobbying groups have on how these standards are shaped.”
Dr. Crandall adds that lifestyle factors — including healthy diets, regular exercise, and stress management — are the keys to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, the nation’s No. 1 killer.
“I’ve been a cardiologist for over 30 years and we are finally beginning to understand what drives heart disease, and so we are realizing that limiting salt, restricting saturated fat and dietary cholesterol and sticking to a plant-based diet is really the way to go, no matter what the government’s recommendations say,” Dr. Crandall notes.
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