Dietary Guidelines for Americans—What’s to Come?

by Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RDN, FAAP on Dec 13, 2017

Food for Thought

Every 5 years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture update the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A scientific advisory committee is recruited and installed in the 2 years before the DGA are released. This committee reviews the nutrition literature and provides nonbinding recommendations to the federal government. The committee’s report is posted publicly and is open to public comment. Eventually, the HHS and USDA publish the updated guidelines based on the scientific advisory committee’s recommendations, often with changes or omissions. (For a history of the DGA, see "Lessons From 40 Years of Dietary Guidelines" by Sanna Delmonico, MS, RDN, in the November issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.)

The release of the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans committee report raised much more public concern than previous editions. Many stakeholders criticized the scientific evaluation, the committee members' qualifications and potential conflicts of interest, and the scope of work. In response, Congress assigned the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to evaluate the process used to develop the DGA and recommend improvements.

The National Academies recently released its assessment, which includes these recommendations:

  • Improve transparency in recruitment of scientific advisory committee members and use a third party to review nominations ; identify, disclose and manage financial and nonfinancial conflicts of interest; and increase opportunity for public comment on the selection (rather than having the HHS and USDA simply appoint members).
  • Clearly explain when the DGA omit or accept only parts of the conclusions of the committee’s recommendations.
  • Use more rigorous scientific methods to review and evaluate the literature so that stakeholders and all Americans can have more trust in the recommendations.
  • Use the most sophisticated and up-to-date processes to continuously improve the recommendations, rather than updating everything every 5 years.
  • Focus the DGA on the entire population—including infants and toddlers and those with chronic diseases—not just healthy Americans ages 2 and older.

These recommendations will likely improve the process of developing the DGA going forward, should they be adopted by Congress.

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About the Author

Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RDN, FAAP

Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RDN, FAAP IDEA Author/Presenter

Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD is a board-certified pediatrician, registered dietitian, and ACE Health Coach. She is committed to providing evidence-based nutrition and fitness information to health professionals and consumers alike in a way that is logical, practical and directly applicable to readers’ lives. She has authored over 100 publications and book chapters, all which are based on the latest scientific evidence and presented in a manner that is easy-to-understand and apply. She is Director of Healthcare Solutions for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) having written the nutrition chapters for each of ACE’s textbooks, the ACE Fitness Nutrition Manual and Specialty Certification, and recorded several Webinars and online courses. Furthermore, as a spokesperson for ACE, the largest fitness certifying and advocacy organization in the country, she informs broadcast and print media outlets throughout the U.S. on pertinent nutrition and fitness issues. She is author '"Eat Your Vegetables!" and other mistakes parents make: Redefining How to Raise Healthy Eaters'. She presented a similar topic at IDEA World 2009; the video is available for purchase through IDEA. Certifications: ACE, ACSM and NSCA