The U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) work together to update and release the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (Dietary Guidelines) every five years. (See our post about the 2015 Dietary Guidelines here.) Each edition of the Dietary Guidelines is intended to reflect the current state of nutrition science and provide advice on what to eat and drink to promote public health and reduce risk of chronic disease. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are currently in effect until the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines are released.
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) is tasked with providing USDA and HHS with a scientific review of specific topics and supporting scientific questions on nutrition and health. While the final report of the scientific review was expected on June 17, 2020, instead the DGAC hosted a webinar outlining its findings and providing an understanding of what might be in the final report to be presented to USDA and HHS in July. To put it simply (and this won’t surprise anyone who spent time looking at the food pyramid on the back of your cereal box) the current advice remains eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes, seafood, and lean meat; and eat less added sugars, refined grains, sodium, and red and processed meats. And drink less alcohol.
Concerns have been raised that the DGAC is influenced by industry and the current administration. Those with concerns point in part to the issues that the scientific report will not address, including red meat, sodium levels, and the impact of food production on the environment. There are, however, two recommendations discussed in the June 17, 2020 webinar that are surprising given those concerns. The first is the recommended amount of energy from added sugars. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommended no more than 10% of energy intake be from added sugars (recall that this forms the basis of FDA’s reference daily intake value for added sugars). This year’s recommendation seems to be 6% of energy, which is even less than the level recommended by the WHO.
On the issue of alcohol, for those who already drink alcohol, the DGAC recommends no more than one drink per day – “at all levels of consumption, drinking less is generally better for health than drinking more.” This is a change from prior years, when the recommendation for men who drink alcohol was two drinks or less per day.
The final scientific report by DGAC due in July 2020 is a resource that helps to inform the final Dietary Guidelines — it is not a draft of the Dietary Guidelines. The next step in the Dietary Guidelines process is the forwarding of the final and full scientific report to HHS and USDA in July, followed by a period of public comment. HPM will keep you abreast of the process as it moves forward.