Diet Mythology | Adele Hite on the Diet Doctor with Dr. Bret Scher

Check out the Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Politics played as much a part in developing the American Dietary Guidelines as science
  • Surveys by the CDC showed Americans aren’t healthier, but rather they are fatter and sicker
  • The one-diet-is-right-for-everyone is a mistaken concept
  • If you’re getting fat on a low-fat diet, it’s the wrong diet for you!
  • When choosing a diet, find one that focuses on essential nutrition and metabolic health
  • Before worrying about diseases people might get in 30 years, nutritionists and doctors should concentrate on adequate protein and essential minerals and vitamins on an every day basis
  • “My dream is that when people walk into a doctor’s office with a disease or sickness, that they get offered dietary advice FIRST” – Adele Hite


Adele Hite has a PhD in nutritional epidemiology and a background in nutrition, dietetics, and public health. Check out her website or find her at Diet Doctor

Host: Dr. Bret Scher

What did you write your PhD thesis on?

  • Adele researched the American Dietary Guidelines by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services and how they define healthy diet
  • She found that politics played an equal role as science in developing the guidelines
  • “My research says that the biggest influence on a guidelines update is the previous guidelines -they don’t want to confuse the public” – Adele Hite

What happened between 1980 and 1990 in nutrition?

  • The guideline’s first edition was in 1980, the 2nd edition in 1985
  • The early 1990’s brought a warning that something went terribly wrong: the obesity crisis
  • “We discovered Americans weren’t becoming healthier and there were more metabolic diseases”  – Adele Hite
  • Irony:  When the media discussed diet habits from 1975 through 1990, the narrative was all about how America was getting healthier!
  • But surveys by the CDC showed Americans weren’t healthier, they were fatter and sicker

Did the guidelines make us sick?

  • Proponents of the guidelines said no claiming no one followed the guidelines
  • Others said that Americans were eating a low-fat diet, but didn’t necessarily eat less fat

Did the guidelines create an atmosphere that promoted obesity?

  • The guidelines definitely gave some sectors of the food industry a leg up
  • The egg and milk sectors were disadvantaged compared to the corn and wheat interests because they couldn’t advertise as “healthy”
  • The beef industry started promoting leaner cuts
    • Pink slime – was originally a benefit to the beef industry because it allowed them to say they were offering consumers leaner meat – in line with the guidelines

History of the Dietary Guidelines

  • In the 1960’s, the guidelines were originally meant for clinical situations
  • By the 1970’s, America had an energy crisis and meat was expensive – resulted in Meatless Monday
  • People were already starting to eat less meat anyway– “There was a mystique to eat like the Beatles” – Adele Hite
  • It was a white, well-educated, upper middle-class population that took up these guidelines
  • “The guidelines targeted lower income, minority populations – because white professionals already knew how to eat” – Adele Hite
  • In 1980  Regan was  elected with trickle down economics and trickle down nutrition

A Competitor to the AD Guidelines

  • In 1980 The Food Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine came up with a powerful document : Toward Healthful Diet
  • The document promoted two simple ideas:
    • 1.            Eat variety of foods for adequate nutrition
    • 2.            Eat a diet that won’t make you fat
  • But Toward Healthful Diet did not choose a particular diet so the American Dietary Guidelines won out

Repercussions of the Flawed Guidelines

  • “ The most insidious thing is that American Dietary Guidelines shifted attention, they said if you follow these guidelines, you can avoid getting all these diseases. If you get diabetes, it’s your fault because you didn’t follow guidelines” – Adele Hite
  • Wealthy people could take it into their own hands; however, people who relied on government assistance or government programs for food and school lunch programs were stuck
  • If you’re poor, you are already at a disadvantage because there’s often no time to cook farm fresh meals or go to the gym

Where do nutritionists go from here?

  • The AD Guidelines need to be eliminated
  • People should go to a nutritionist or doctor for advice for a diet that works for them
  • Medicare should pay for this
  • Before worrying about diseases people might get in 30 years, nutritionists and doctors should concentrate on adequate protein and essential minerals and vitamins for their patients every day
  • WIC’s doesn’t let clients spend food supplement dollars on eggs because of cholesterol- but eggs are super nutritional for women and children
  • The guidelines focus primarily on fruits and vegetables as a cure-all panacea but people need protein, too

Adele Hite’s Dream Scenario

  • My dream is that when people walk into a doctor’s office with disease/sickness, that they get offered dietary advice FIRST” – Adele Hite
  • The one-diet-is-right-for-everyone is a mistaken concept
  • There is no evidence of low- fat OR low carb diets acting as a long-term preventative for disease
  • There is evidence for low-carb diet helping against someone battling diabetes right now
  • A low- carb diet will offer you better nutrition
  • Carbs have calories that don’t provide nutrition

The most important things to focus on when choosing a diet:

  • Adequate essential nutrition
  • Metabolic health (which includes the weight component)
  • Whichever diet you choose it should give you both adequate essential nutrition and promote metabolic health

What’s more important, metabolic health or weight?

  • “It’s a tangled web. People like to focus on obesity – it’s easy to measure. You can tell someone isn’t eating right. Both low fat and low carb proponents pounce on it.” – Adele Hite
  • You can not look at people and tell what they eat
  • Poor metabolic health precedes obesity!
  • Studies show that even with no weight loss, a low-carb diet improved metabolic health
  • Obese individuals benefit from more protein in the diet
  • If you’re getting fat on a low-fat diet, it’s the wrong diet for you!

Covid-19 and Pre-existing Conditions

  • Stats show that people with diabetes or obesity had worse outcomes when confronted with Covid-19
  • Changing diet during this stressful time might be very difficult for some
  • You should try and reduce your risk regardless of Covid-19 because of the importance of metabolic health over the long-run

Buffalo Wings

  • Low- carb folks love wings but they were actually created in the early 1970’s out of the low-fat movement
  • Prior to 1970’s, poultry producers wouldn’t supply just wings because you had to buy the other chicken parts they were attached to
  • The low-fat craze made boneless, fatless chicken breasts a boon item, so now there were wings to spare, the rest is snack history

Shop Local Food Sources

  • Rely on your local farmer and grocers – it’s healthier and helps to decentralize the food chain
  • Buy low-carb products at local food coops or CSA s, not a corporate entity
  • The pandemic has a local food supply’s salience

Don’t generate Food Fear! 

  • This is another fallout from the AG guidelines – we’ll eat whatever a package is promoting even if we don’t know why:
    • Cholesterol-free
    • Gluten-free
  • Under extreme heat, vegetable oils can be rancid and harmful – but from a dietician point of view, this fact can create unnecessary food fears
  • Think critically about food
    • E.g: Is two tablespoons of salad oil harmful on your salad or is it worse to eat fewer vegetables because you’re worried about the salad oil?
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Notes By EWerbitsky

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