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The Latest Dietary Guidelines Spat: Communication Challenges

Rowe, Sylvia B. MA; Alexander, Nick BA

doi: 10.1097/NT.0000000000000161
Nutrition Communications

With the release of the eighth Dietary Guidelines for Americans, nutrition communicators may feel overwhelmed by the growing complexity, both in terms of dietary science and politics. In this article, the guidelines and the evolving communication challenges are reviewed, along with obstacles to public understanding of the government’s dietary advice and the sometimes-unacknowledged communication successes. Observers’ critiques of the policy document emanating from the scientific report are discussed, The article explores some of the unintended consequences encountered in trying to communicate evolving dietary science and evolving dietary guidance. Finally, some bottom-line, simple suggestions are offered for communicating in an environment of increasingly complex political, environmental, and scientific circumstances.

Sylvia B. Rowe, MA, is currently president of SR Strategy, Washington, DC, pursuing communications and issues management consulting on a broad range of health, nutrition, food safety, and risk issues. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Boston.

Nick Alexander, BA, is former senior media counselor for the IFIC Foundation, Washington, DC. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University and is a former network correspondent with ABC News. For more than the past decade, Mr Alexander has tracked and written about science communications issues and the evolving challenge to public acceptance of credible science.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence: Sylvia B. Rowe, MA, 1100 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 430, Washington, DC 20036-4120 (

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