Nutritional guidelines – Do we need them?

Upon scrolling through the internet and searching for health and nutrition gurus’ you will eventually see people challenging these existing advices. Yes, their own lifestyle change it might have worked for them individually and they might even have a few happy customers, but does it have the same believability than that of a long-term scientific research? Sometimes the reason why these findings become public is that it challenges the existing norm. And obviously, they sell

What are they and why do we have them?

Food-based nutritional guidelines are short, science-based, practical and accessible messages to guide people on healthy eating and associated healthy lifestyles that keep them well-nourished and healthy and can help prevent malnutrition in all its forms” (1) These guidelines are made specifically for different geographical, nutritional, cultural and economic conditions in which they operate. This will inevitably affect dietary guidelines (1,2,3,4,5). Hence, you would not want to have your whole plate of food imported from the other side of the world.

Enjoying a Mediterranean diet while living in Southeast Asia might not be the best idea since there are a lot of local flavors and dishes to enjoy. Also, Is it worth the carbon footprint?

Information from David L. Katz’s The Diet That Failed America? Try Swallowing Next Time (8)

What else?

It is important to understand that when talking about nutrition, there is no way to clearly state that a certain product or substance in itself has a certain health benefit. This is due to the fact that nutrients interact differently when preserved as foods (6,7,) – you eat food, not just nutrients.

Additionally, there is a lot to learn in what kind of health effects different combinations of macronutrients and micronutrients have on the body. This is also why the World Health Organization chose to focus on foods instead of strictly nutrients. (6,7.)

How are they made?

Nutritional guidelines are created by leading international scientists using the best possible evidence available at the moment (7) – which is how any field of science works. However, the same nature of ever-evolving science is that any old theory can be overruled due to emerging new information. And no, a single study is simply not enough to give a full assessment on a diet’s safety or effectiveness (9). Otherwise we would have theories that change way too rapidly to really take them into action. These guidelines are a result of multiple longitudinal studies that have taken years and years to finish.

This means that any other type of diet could also become the norm if it had the same scientific background and proof behind it.

So what?

There is far too much false information online when it comes to overall nutrition and diets. In addition to this, there seems to be a general trend of bashing conventional wisdom, knowledge and  time-honored scientific research when it comes to nutrition. The truth is, there are no shortcuts into being healthy, or if that is your goal, losing weight. Changing one small thing in your diet is rarely enough to make a lasting impact – whether good or bad. It is the combination and consistency that counts. So next time you hear about a diet that ”nutritionists and personal trainers don’t want you to know”

Be critical.


  1. Food and agriculture organization of the United Nations, Influencing food environments for healthy diets, 2016
  2. WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean 2012, Promoting a healthy diet for the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region: user-friendly guide.
  3. Pan American Health Organization, Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama 1999, Food-based dietary guidelines and health promotion in Latin America
  4. WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific 1999, Development of food-based dietary guidelines for the Western Pacific Region
  5. WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia 1998, Development of food-based dietary guidelines for the Asian region: Final report
  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015.
  7. World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1998. Preparation and use of food-based dietary guidelines: Joint FAO/WHO Consultation (WHO Technical Report Series 880)
  8. David L. Katz, MD, The Diet That Failed America? Try Swallowing Next Time. Cited on (1.1.2017)
  9. Bonnie J. Brehm, Randy J. Seeley, Stephen R. Daniels, and David D’Alessio (2003) A Randomized Trial Comparing a Very LowCarbohydrate Diet and a Calorie-Restricted Low Fat Diet on Body Weight and Cardiovascular risk Factors in Healthy Women. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 88, Issue 4.

Additional Links: Cited on (1.1.2017) Cited on (1.1.2017) Cited on (1.1.2017)


4 Replies to “Nutritional guidelines – Do we need them?”

  1. Many people have good intentions; others are simply attempting to generate revenue. Research is a good start but also fails us (frequently) in the long run as new science establishes new protocols. Although the term, “moderation” needs some type of definition to have any real meaning, it is likely the most practical approach for the general population. Focusing on REAL FOODS and variety among healthy sources of Proteins, Carbs and Fats is the most likely nutrition plan the average consumer has the ability to follow over the next 40 years (meaning, the LONG TERM.) Ketogenic, Paleo Mediterranean, etc… attempted outside a cultural lifestyle that follows these type of plans will likely grow tiresome and fail in the LONG TERM for the average person. Teaching people to incorporate (comfort) foods they enjoy into a healthier nutrition plan prevents deprivation while accomplishing healthier biochem profiles. This approach has received significantly less resistance from the average consumer while contributing to an improved quality of living.

    1. Well said! I agree with the fact that you should also incorporate not-so-healthy foods into your diet. In small quantities this will not have too bad of an impact in overall health. I’d prefer a nice balance in active lifestyle and health that also gives some room for indulgence. It’s food after all – it shouldn’t drive people crazy.

      However, a lifestyle change has to come from within, which might prove to be especially difficult for health teachers to promote.

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