The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has submitted its recommendations to USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to form the 2015 dietary guidelines for Americans.
The agencies will now consider the report and begin the process of developing updated guidelines. HHS and USDA encourage input from other federal agencies, as well as comments from the public, as they form the guidelines scheduled to be released later this year.
“For decades, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have been at the core of our efforts to promote the health and well-being of American families,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in a joint statement. “Now that the advisory committee has completed its recommendations, HHS and USDA will review this advisory report, along with comments from the public—including other experts—and input from other federal agencies as we begin the process of updating the guidelines.”
Not surprisingly, a diet high in fruits and vegetables was highly recommended by the committee. However, some recommendations are sure to make enemies out of some members of the food industry.
The committee identified a healthy dietary pattern as one “higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains.”
The committee’s report gave the OK to dietary cholesterol and states it does not consider it a nutrient of concern for overconsumption, based on recent medical research.
Sodium consumption, which some thought would take a hard hit, got a softer blow from the committee, which recommended a total of 2,300 milligrams a day. Caffeine got a stamp of approval from the committee as well, with the report suggesting a few cups of coffee a day could be part of a healthy diet.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) expressed several concerns with the reports. “We are concerned that some of the conclusion statements and recommendations of the [committee] are not properly based on the best available science, particularly in the areas of sugars, sodium, lean/processed meats and caffeine,” the association said in a statement. “We also are concerned that the 2015 DGAC improperly made recommendations on sustainable food production and ingredient safety, which are outside of committee’s expertise.”
The North American Meat Institute expressed its displeasure at how the role of nutrient-dense lean meat was reduced to a footnote and not a headline. The institute also echoed GMA’s concerns about processed meat.
“As they develop the final policy report, we urge the Agriculture Department and the Department of Health and Human Services to acknowledge lean meat’s role in a healthy diet and to undertake a careful review of the information about processed meats that was reviewed by the committee,” says Barry Carpenter, institute president and CEO. “Consumers should rely on common sense and make all meat and poultry a part of their healthy, balanced diets with confidence.”
In a continued effort to battle obesity, sugar received most of the committee’s wrath, with a suggestion of limiting added sugars to only 200 calories a day. Higher consumption of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, as well as refined grains, was identified as detrimental in almost all conclusion statements with moderate to strong evidence, according to the report. To reduce consumer consumption, the committee suggested a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages as one way the government could institute a number of policy changes to get people healthier.
Legislation on sugar-sweetened beverages like soda has been proposed in the past, with Berkeley, CA becoming the first city to institute a soda tax last year. Earlier this month, a Connecticut state representative proposed a one-cent-per-ounce tax on soft drinks and candies that are high in calories and sugar to combat obesity. If passed, the bill would make Connecticut the first state to successfully tax candy.
The American Beverage Association fired back at the committee’s attack on sugar and the way it says the panel “went beyond its charge and authority to develop dietary recommendations based on scientific evidence by advocating for public policies such as taxes and restrictions on foods and beverages.”
ABA says the committee did not consider the body of science when it came to sugar and was critical of the way it examined the safety of low- and no-calorie sweeteners and caffeine. “As with any other source of calories, sugar-sweetened beverages can be part of an overall diet,” the association says. “Moderation and balance are key.”
The public is asked to review the report and submit written comments for a period of 45 days after publication in the Federal Register. The public will also have an opportunity to offer oral comments at a public meeting in Bethesda, MD on March 24. Those interested in providing oral comments at the public meeting can register at www.DietaryGuidelines.gov.
The committee’s recommendations can be found here.