U.S. nutrition guidelines fall short of giving good advice and conflict with the motivations of food manufacturers, nutrition and public health specialists wrote Thursday.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture develops nutrition guidelines that creates a conflict of interest, the authors write, because the agency also promotes commodities like corn and sugar - common ingredients in unhealthy foods.
Walter Willett, nutritionist at Harvard School of Public Health and David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Children's Hospital in Boston criticized the nutrition guideline development process in an article published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Other agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Institute of Medicine should develop the country's nutrition guidelines, Willet and Ludwig said.
The result is that the current guidelines emphasize what to eat rather than which foods to avoid or reduce, Ludwig said.
No commodity wants its products to be targeted for reduction, Ludwig said. We've got to start eating less of something.
The new guidelines represent a mix of progress and lost opportunities, the two write. The guidelines are a big improvement over earlier versions of the food pyramid, said Ludwig who added he applauds the promotion of vegetables, lean meat and fish.
However, the guidelines fail to explain differences among carbohydrates, the two write.
For example, they don't emphasize whole grains like flax seed and oats over white bread and potatoes - a common cheap loophole in the vegetable requirement for public school meals.
Many other countries model their own nutritional guidelines after those of the U.S., says Ludwig.
Getting it right in the United States will not only benefit Americans, but to a considerable degree, the world, he said.