We put 10 of the most common nutrition questions to Prof Grant Schofield and Dr Caryn Zinn. Here’s question 8: What’s wrong with our dietary guidelines?
Unfortunately, we’ve decided over the last 40-50 years to demonise fat, concentrate on macronutrients […] and ignore the role of processed food.
There’s quite a lot wrong with them. First of all, they’re not based on the best available evidence, which is a problem. It leads to serving up of food that is going to make our health worse under some conditions. Generally, places like public hospitals, schools, prisons – any publicly funded facility – will adhere to those guidelines. And unfortunately, we’ve decided over the last 40-50 years to demonise fat, concentrate on macronutrients, and to a certain extent micronutrients, and ignore the role of processed food.
We should start talking about the social and other important aspects that eating play in our lives.
Going forward, we should be moving away from the macronutrient-based guidelines and concentrating on encouraging food that is less processed, more related to being recently alive, animal or plant.
We should also start talking about the social and other important aspects that eating play in our lives. It’s not a clinical meal where we analyse macro and micronutrients.
If you look at the dietary guidelines in Brazil, for example, there are three guidelines that relate to eating unprocessed foods. Not one, but three guidelines attributed to that. In fairness to our New Zealand dietary guidelines, when they most recently got updated, there is a guideline about eating whole, unprocessed foods, but there’s a bit of a disconnect in how that plays out in the rest of the guidelines. For example, healthy whole grains, is that whole, unprocessed foods? Well, not how you see it in the supermarket.
Another area where it falls down, in that it’s not informed by the latest evidence, is the focus on low-fat dairy products. We know that a full-fat dairy is protective in the mouth for dental health. We know it’s protective for diabetes. We know it’s protective in children for weight gain. We know that it’s associated with better health outcomes right across the board, yet we still recommend the exact opposite today.
Bottom-line, we’re on the way forward, but we’re not quite there yet.
Take your nutrition knowledge to the next level.
- Prof Grant Schofield and Dr Caryn Zinn are the lead instructors in the Certificate in Advanced Nutrition.
- Take a look at the short course PK205: Public Health Nutrition with Prof Grant Schofield