The U.S. government played a pivotal role in initiating the low fat craze in 1980 and has been perpetuating its colossal blunder ever since. Fortunately, over the last several years there has been movement at the grass roots: low carb diets are becoming a part of popular culture and are dominant on diabetes forums. Furthermore, the American Diabetes Association recently made major policy changes: it officially dropped its opposition to low carb diets in 2008, and it now says that low fat, low carb and Mediterranean diets are all acceptable for diabetics. Unfortunately, ADA’s new position is bewildering for ADA’s constituents, namely health care practitioners and patients; the ADA has no official guidance on just what diabetics should eat. The ADA presumably now wants a definitive answer to low fat vs. low carb, just as we do; it may be a collaborator rather than an adversary. This is an opportune time to get the federal government to finally take low carb seriously.
The question is just what to do. I suggest a focused campaign to convince Congress to direct Federal agencies to undertake a major long-term study of low fat vs. low carb diets for diabetes. Dr. Richard Feinman of the Nutrition and Metabolism Society has been advocating such a study, and urges that that it be conducted in collaboration with experienced researchers and practitioners on both sides. I agree wholeheartedly with his approach.
Some have suggested that we push for restructuring federal agencies to address the problem of their continuing failure to objectively compare low fat and low carb diets. I agree with the sentiment of these suggestions, and that may be the ultimate solution, but I don’t think we are likely to get far with it now. On the other hand, a focused campaign to get support for definitive diet trials may succeed now, particularly given the ADA’s dilemma.
It is essential that those who advocate low carb diets have a common, focused goal. If a number of members of Congress hear from constituents who are asking for the same thing, eventually they and their staff may move. If we are all asking for different things at different times, we will never reach the critical mass needed to convince Congress to act.
Please approach your congressional representatives – both Congressmen and Senators – and ask them for specific action. If enough of us do this, they will start hearing from each other and may eventually move.
I visited Congressman Dreier’s District Office on April 26, 2012 with the legislative package below. I also gave the staff member I spoke to a copy of Dr. Feinman’s proposed study. She didn’t know anything about nutrition, and told me the district office doesn’t handle this sort of thing anyway, but promised she would send it on to Congressman Dreier’s DC office. This was just what I expected; you can expect a similar initial response.
Summary for Legislators
Provide a one-page summary for your legislator. This example points out the cost of diabetes & obesity, has graphs showing how the growth of obesity coincides with USDA guidelines, recounts the failure of Federal agencies to consider low carb, and asks for large trials.
My Story & Requested Action
An example of what to tell legislators. Give some background information – why you are interested, the problem, why it’s important, and the specific action you want your legislator to take (be realistic).
Richard Feinman’s 15 Theses
A good primer on why low carb should be the default diet for diabetes.
In the face of contradictory evidence: Report of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee
An excellent paper by Adele Hite, et. al. on the deficiencies of the DGAC. It was published in Nutrition.
Why the Campaign to Stop America’s Obesity Crisis Keeps Failing
May 14, 2012 Newsweek cover story by Gary Taubes.
It is time to end the low-fat myth
A lot of people still respect Harvard School of Public Health and Walter Willett, in spite of what we think in the low carb community (see Gary Taubes’ March 14, 2012 blog post Science, Pseudoscience, Nutritional Epidemiology, and Meat). This Harvard headline legitimizes our cause regardless of the questionable source.
My initial goal is to get to the staffers on the House Subcommittee on Nutrition and Horticulture. Its members are:
Rep. Jean Schmidt, OH, Chairman
Rep. Joe Baca, CA, Ranking Democrat
Rep. Steve King, IA
Rep. Chellie Pingree, ME
Rep. Thomas J. Rooney, FL
Rep. Steve Southerland II, FL
Rep. Rick Crawford, AR
Del. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, MP
I live in California, which is such a large state that I doubt I can get the attention of my senators. Others in smaller states, though, may find they can have outsize influence by approaching their Senators. The members of the Senate Subcommittee on Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Food and Agricultural Research are:
Dick Lugar, Ranking Member
While you may not have a Congressman or Senator on either of these subcommittees, your representatives likely have relationships with them and their staff and could still help us.
Congressional Diabetes Caucus
There are a LOT of members of this caucus on both sides of the aisle. This may be a good venue for us.
Please keep me informed about who you contact, their reaction, and who your inquiry gets bumped to. I plan to track who is talking to whom, and to eventually get an understanding of who the key staffers are on the relevant Congressional committees and how to get action.