Since 1980, a new set of dietary guidelines, determined by a carefully selected advisory committee, has been released to the public every five years. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines play an influential role in how millions of Americans eat and feed their children, but the set of expert advice released in February 2015 may be wrong, according to a review published in the British Medical Journal.

"These guidelines are hugely influential, affecting diets and health around the world,” BMJ 's Editor-in-Chief Dr. Fiona Godlee said in a press release. “The least we would expect is that they be based on the best available science. Instead the committee has abandoned standard methodology, leaving us with the same dietary advice as before: low fat, high carbs.”

Godlee went on to say that not only did the review find the committee’s conflicts of interest were a concern, but its advice was also “driving rather than solving the current epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes.” Nina Tiecholz, author of the BMJ feature, echoed these sentiments saying that the committee repeated the same advice it had given for decades: eat less saturated fats found in meat and full-fat dairy products, and eat more plant foods.

The 2015 committee failed to base its recommendations on the same methods that had been used for the last 35 years.Normally, these committees use the Nutrition Evidence Library, a system of  peer-reviewed studies objectively evaluated by leading scientists and set up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a form of checks and balances. Instead, the most recent committee relied heavily on reviews from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology. Both are financially backed by food and drug companies, which brings the committee’s potential conflict of interest into the spotlight.

Among the many issues highlighted by the BMJ report was the committee’s stance on saturated fats. It failed to conduct a formal review using scientific-based evidence, which ultimately demonstrated its lack of acumen in making recommendations for the public. Bereft of the proper scientific backing, the committee went on to say the link between the consuming saturated fats and developing heart disease was “strong,” while ignoring conflicting evidence culled over the last five years that disputes the strength of the association.

The committee repeated the same fallacies in its recommendations to eat fewer carbohydrates. By doing this, it skipped over dozens of studies published in the last five years that proved a diet low in carbohydrates was equal to or better than other diets designed to control type 2 diabetes, promote weight loss, or improve risk of heart disease. The committee’s failure to reflect the most relevant and unbiased scientific literature available prompted Congress to schedule a hearing on the guidelines in October.

Tiecholz concluded, "It may be time to ask our authorities to convene a fresh, truly independent panel of scientists free from potential conflicts to undertake a comprehensive review, in order to ensure that selection of the dietary guidelines committee becomes more transparent, and that the most rigorous scientific evidence is reliably used to produce the best possible nutrition policy."

Source: Tiecholz N. The scientific report guiding the US dietary guidelines: is it scientific? BMJ. 2015.