This past weekend I had the pleasure to support American Medical Association resolution 203 to remove the requirement for a child to have a physician‘s note to receive a non-dairy milk alternative in school and to reword the Dietary Guidelines for Americans stating that meat and dairy are “options“ but not necessary or required while supporting whole plant foods as sources of protein, calcium and iron. As a plant based cardiologist I find this absolutely crucial.
I stood along side Dr. Neal Barnard of PCRM, Dr. Kim Williams, Dr. Michael Klaper, and Dr. Terry Mason among others as I represented Chicagoland’s Plant Based Nutrition Movement.
The AMA Board approved the resolution paving the way to a stronger recommendation towards a plant based diet.
At the meeting, so many physicians approached the microphone to speak in support of the resolution that the chairman had to cut off “pro” statements and asked for “con” statements…no significant “con” arguments were presented. GO PLANTS!
Here is the resolution:
Here was my statement:
“I am speaking in strong support of this resolution.
Federal guidelines PROMOTE meat and dairy products. Rather than simply listing them among the various choices for protein, calcium and iron. They get favorable treatment in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
In regard to protein, we know higher plant protein consumption is correlated with reduced mortality, I will provide the JAMA article as reference.
In regards to calcium, the Dietary Guidelines state, “Low intakes of calcium are due to low intakes of dairy.” Dairy products are promoted, even for those who are lactose intolerant. The Dietary Guidelines state, “Individuals who are lactose intolerant can choose low-lactose and lactose-free dairy products.” Why not mention soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, and all the other nondairy choices, or even better…green vegetables or other whole plant foods as calcium sources?
For iron, the Dietary Guidelines promote meat above other foods, while green vegetables and other healthful iron-rich foods are considered secondary. This guidance is far out of date, as we now know that iron status in people who avoid meat is as good as for those who do eat meat, and pushing meat means pushing saturated fat and cholesterol.
We need to stop the reductionist way of thinking about nutrition and emphasize the overall nutrition of healthy whole foods. Promoting meat and dairy to obtain specific nutrients like protein, calcium or iron and NOT promoting healthy plant sources of these nutrients causes as a secondary effect the increased consumption of harmful substances like animal protein, cholesterol and saturated fat which is overall detrimental to health increasing cardiovascular disease risk.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans should promote more healthful nutrition from whole plant foods and make it clear that meat and dairy products are options, but are NOT especially recommended or required for these and other reasons. Thus once again I strongly support this resolution.”
While this resolution is not outright recommending a plant based diet to all Americans, it surely is a step in the right direction. The USDA Dietary Guidelines for America 2015-2020 did make some significant improvements, however there are still many issues, specifically the heavy recommendations for meat and dairy.
Starting with a statement that meat/dairy are “options” but not required or recommended paves the way to the ultimate goal. The USDA should align with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics position statement who put a strong stance in favor of vegan diets in 2016 stating “It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes. Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage. Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity.”
The more we work together to shift culture, fight industry influences and show the power of plants to prevent/reverse disease, the more likely the USDA will adopt changes favoring plant based diets. Lets continue to spread the healing power of plants and aim for a strong plant based diet recommendation by the USDA.
Steven Lome DO, RPVI, RVT