In January, the new Canada Food Guide was released to the understandable level of scrutiny, acclaim, and criticism that a document like this generates. For me, the new guide is a very big step in the right direction.
I have been in the field of health-care directly and indirectly for about 40 years. Most of this time I have had my “ear to the tracks” of what was happening in the nutrition field. As is common in the field of science, new discoveries will frequently undo what were previously held as lock-solid theories. This is really how knowledge advances. Scientists (real scientists – not those under the wing of lobby groups or corporations) are trained to question their own findings. This is exemplified, in part, by the “null-hypothesis” – a scientist will have an idea about an outcome and will create a study in the attempt to disprove their own thinking. In this way, science evolves. What are seen as inconvenient changes by the pseudo-scientist are seen as advancements by the true scientist. Because of this, very few things stand the ongoing test of scientific scrutiny. It’s not that things are completely refuted (sometimes they are) but that elements are added or subtracted from the original thought. And, once in a rare time, some things stand both the test of time and the test of scrutiny. Over my time in this field, only a few things have been repeatedly challenged and remain as scientifically valid today as they were 40 years ago. One of them is a foundational element of dietary science – “plant-based diets”. There are elements that have been added and minimally modified, however the fundamental basis is this – people who eat plant-based diets are healthier and live longer than those who do not.
This is where I am so happy to see the change in the new Canada Food Guide. At the start of the project, those entrusted to come up with the new guide made an exceptionally important decision. It was that they were not going to place any emphasis on the science that was industry driven, nor were they going to entertain input from industry lobbyists. Now, this does not mean that I am an anti-industry person, but it certainly does mean that I am pro-science. The Canada Food Guide Committee scoured the (real) scientific literature and came up with recommendations that are reflective of what is understood by the scientific community. Some of the elements are based upon science that has been advanced or modified in the last 5 years. And, a significant emphasis is based upon what has been true for at least 40 years – plants should form the bulk of the daily dietary intake of Canadians.
There are other fundamental changes to the guide that are consistent with contemporary science. There is a significant statement made by the eliminationof refined sugar in both solid and liquid forms – and interestingly, this includes the elimination of products such as fruit juices. There is also a big statement being made in the reduction of the volume of protein and at the same time, suggesting a move toward plant-based proteins whenever possible. What has been known for quite a while by the scientific community but has been refuted by contemporary health care and national food guides is the great value in the consumption of larger volumes of fat in the diet. The new Canada Food Guide has shown it’s understanding of current science by the inclusion of fat as a fundamental dietary substance and by encouraging its’ consumption.
So, way to go Canada! The new Canada Food Guide is a document that should be celebrated. There are elements that I would change however in the composite, we are most certainly headed in the right direction.
Dr. Michael Breen is the co-owner of the Chiropractic Family Care Centre and has been in Private Practice in Calgary, Alberta for over three decades. Dr. Breen graduated from the University of Calgary Faculty of Kinesiology in 1981 (Honours) and from Palmer College of Chiropractic – West in San Jose, California in 1986. His foundational clinical work is in the field of Health Optimization. He uses his background in athletics and chiropractic to aid his patients in recovering physical capacity and uses his background in nutrition and functional medicine to aid his patients in the recovery from chronic illness. He is the co-founder of the Healthy Transformations program. Dr. Breen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.