Saving U.S. dietary advice from conflicts of interest

Food Drug Law J. 2010;65(2):285-316, ii.


A large and growing majority of people are dying from chronic diseases. To a large extent, however, whether this happens is up to us and the choices we make, since diet and lifestyle can prevent, slow, and even reverse these diseases. The government tries to inform the public about these healthy choices in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Unfortunately, the integrity of that advice has potentially been compromised by conflicts of interest among the people and organizations responsible for the Guidelines. As a result, as several studies show, the Guidelines are far less effective than other diets--especially the Mediterranean diet--at reducing the risk for chronic diseases. Improving the Guidelines would require eliminating these conflicts of interest, which would involve two statutory changes. First, Congress should give the authority to create dietary advice solely to an appropriate health agency, not the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which cannot give accurate and impartial dietary advice while also promoting agricultural interests. Second, Congress should find a way generally to prohibit individuals with ties to the food and drug industries from serving on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, as current ethical standards ignore the influence of past ties, and they are far too specific to address different forms of conflicts.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Chronic Disease / prevention & control
  • Conflict of Interest / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Diet
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Nutrition Policy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • United States
  • United States Department of Agriculture / ethics
  • United States Department of Agriculture / legislation & jurisprudence
  • United States Dept. of Health and Human Services / ethics
  • United States Dept. of Health and Human Services / legislation & jurisprudence