The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has just issued its report. The two lead agencies in the federal government, USDA and US Department of Health and Human Services will now review the report and issue the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020, hopefully right at the end of the year.
What Are the Major Recommendations?
Not surprisingly, the emphasis is on higher intakes of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, low- or nonfat dairy, lean meat and poultry, seafood, nuts, and unsaturated vegetable oils. On the other hand, the committee recommends eating patterns that deemphasize high intakes of red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages and foods, and refined grains, foods high in saturated fat, and alcohol. Sounds pretty sensible. There is emphasis on keeping saturated fat to 10% but more so on replacing saturated fat with poly or monounsaturates. The report also urges decreasing sodium intakes. The biggest changes were lowering alcoholic drink recommendations for men who use alcohol from 2 to 1 per day and decreasing added sugars from 10% of Calories to 6%. Note that both of these ingredients are high in calories and usually very low in other nutrients, so this may increase rather than decrease overall dietary intakes. The lowering of added sugars recommendations was based chiefly on modeling that suggested dietary quality improvements
What About the Process?
Nutrition Today applauds the work of the DGAC and the process. This DGAC used systematic evidence-based reviews more than any other since the first guidelines 40 yr ago. It is also the first report after the two-volume report by the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine (chaired by editorial board member Rob Russell, MD) suggesting ways to increase transparency and further increase scientific rigor. And of course, the pandemic made everything twice as difficult. Finally, the time commitment of committee members, which has always been extensive (and unpaid!) increased enormously due both to the increased rigor and the greater range of topics covered.
Doing these reviews involves an enormous amount of work. The Committee was helped by the staff, other experts and contractors in doing these reviews, but they still were very time consuming. Moreover, for the first time, pregnant women, infants and children under age 2 were also included, which added an additional level of complexity
We urge readers to look through the report and judge it for themselves. For our part, here at Nutrition Today, we are impressed, and we thank the Committee for its work.
Johanna Dwyer DSc
Editor, Nutrition Today