Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee 2020 – Dr. Palmer’s comments

Dr. Palmer spoke before the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee 2020’s Fourth meeting. It took place in Houston, Texas on the afternoon of January 24th, 2020.

Below you’ll find the following:

  • a video of Dr. Palmer’s comments from his Instagram account.
  • The text of Dr. Palmer’s comments.
  • a video of all the scientists and physicians commenting at this session

My name is Chris Palmer. I’m a physician and researcher at Harvard Medical School. As you all know, we now have epidemics of obesity and diabetes in this country. 

Most people assume these problems are fairly straightforward – they are, after all, lifestyle diseases. They revolve around choices – what people eat and whether they exercise. Simple explanations, with simple solutions. Eat less. Exercise more. 

Well, I’m here to tell you that it is not so simple. You see, back 25 years ago when I was a young physician, I was following the dietary guidelines to a tee… eating the recommended diet and exercising regularly. I was meticulous about it because I wanted to avoid the fate of the suffering people that I saw in the hospital every day. And yet, the guidelines didn’t work for me. I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol even though I was only in my 20’s.

After years of the guidelines not working, I was told that I had to go on medications. In a last-ditch act of defiance, I changed my diet to a low carbohydrate diet. Low and behold, after 3 months, all of my cardiac risk factors improved dramatically. I’ve never looked back, and I’ve remained healthy, off medications, for 23 years now on this diet. 

As a physician, I want to understand what happened. Why did the guidelines fail me, and what can we do about it going forward? One clear problem with past guidelines is that they weren’t based on the best science. They were based on correlational studies, not randomized controlled trials. Everyone knows that correlation doesn’t equal causation. I wish the past guidelines committee knew that. We also know that when diets leave people feeling hungry, they are destined to fail. If people often feel hungry, maintaining a normal weight is next to impossible. 

We now have science showing that hunger is driven by many hormones and their effects on the brain. One of these is insulin.  When the brain is insulin resistant, it is hungry. So what can we do about this? One solution already proven to work is eating a low carbohydrate diet. You see, the science now explains why this diet has worked so well for me. But it’s not just me.

As a physician, I have seen this work in countless patients. I have a patient right now who has lost over 150 pounds and has kept it off for over 4 years. He’s still going strong. And by the way, he also has schizophrenia. Most people see him as profoundly ill and unmotivated. Yet he did this, and is still doing it, because it works. With accurate and effective advice, even he can maintain a healthy weight now. And oh… by the way, his cardiac risk profile improved dramatically too. 

I ask you to prioritize the science, and include a low carbohydrate diet as at least one option in the new guidelines. The American Diabetes Association has done this, and so should you. Hundreds of millions of people are counting on you to get this right.

Video of comments made by all of the speakers during the January 24th, 2020 afternoon comment period.

Dr. Palmer’s comments begin at 46:13.

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