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Doctors are calling for ‘a focus on plant-based diets’ in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 

Nonprofit the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) – which advocates for animal-free diets on health grounds – has released its recommendations for guidelines.

The organization highlights the connection between the consumption of animal products and diseases including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease – which it says ‘were already among America’s top killers and are now leading COVID-19 comorbidities’.

Recommendations

Among PCRM’s recommendations, is that low-carbohydrate eating patterns, or limiting carbohydrates should not be promoted in the guidelines. The organization also says guidelines should warn against consuming processed meat, which was classified as ‘carcinogenic to humans’ by the World Health Organization in 2015.

PCRM wants the guidelines to continue to promote plant-based eating patterns, saying a ‘plant-based diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, is full of fiber, loaded with vitamins and minerals, free of cholesterol, and low in calories and saturated fat’. 

The nonprofit says water should be recommended as a drink instead of milk, saying ‘dairy products are the No. 1 source of saturated fat in the American diet, which increases the risk of heart disease. Scientific evidence also shows that dairy products increase the risk of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers, asthma, and early death, and offer little if any protection for bone health’.

Lactose intolerance

PCRM also cites a resolution passed by the American Medical Association in July 2018, calling on the USDA and HHS to recognize that lactose intolerance is common among many Americans, especially African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans – and saying guidelines should ‘clearly indicate’ that ‘dairy products are optional’.

The problems of recommending dairy products to groups who are predominantly intolerant to them, is something also highlighted by plant-based physician Dr. Milton Mills, who has branded such guidelines racist.

Speaking to the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee last year, Dr. Mills said: “The vast majority of people of color in this country are intolerant to the lactose that’s in milk. Yet because they think they have to eat this stuff, they go out, eat it, get sick, and think they have some sort of intestinal problem. When I encourage them to stop eating dairy, their problems clear up.

“It’s really outrageous to encourage people to eat foods we know will make them sick, particularly when the number one reason advanced for dairy foods is its calcium content. But African American women are genetically protected against getting osteoporosis. So we’re making them sick for no good reason.”

‘Warnings against meat and dairy’

Susan Levin, MS, RD, CSSD, is director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and a dietitian at the Barnard Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

She said: “The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans need to focus more on recommending plant-based foods and also warning against meat and dairy products that exacerbate hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, which already kill hundreds of thousands of people each year and now make COVID-19 more severe and deadly.”