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April 2021 Question of the Month: Are the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Tough Enough?

The CSPI calls some decisions “disappointing.”

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Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Without much fanfare, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services recently released the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Dietary Guidelines are updated every 5 years and are intended to provide science-based guidance to promote healthy eating and reduce cases of chronic disease.

Largely consistent with previous editions, the current guide extols the virtues of a dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, low- or nonfat dairy, and seafood and lower in red and processed meats, refined grains, saturated fat, and sodium. Notably, this is the first edition to include dietary advice specific to pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants, and toddlers under 2 years.

However, instead of heeding the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recommendation that individuals over 2 years of age consume less than 6% of total calories from added sugars, the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans retain the previous edition’s advice to limit added sugars to less than 10% of total calories. Noting the U.S. obesity epidemic and increasing rates of type 2 diabetes, the advisory committee—consisting of nutrition and medical experts from academic institutions—urged that the daily limit be lowered in the new guidelines.

The committee also recommended reducing the guideline for men’s daily alcohol intake from two drinks to one, but it remains at two drinks or less a day for men and one drink or less a day for women. That’s a decision that organizations like The Center for Science in the Public Interest called “disappointing.”

The agencies that write the Guidelines decided not to adopt the committee’s proposed changes for sugar and alcohol because there was a view that the scientific evidence produced since the last dietary guidelines was not substantial enough to support adjustments.

Some are lamenting that the Guidelines continue to ignore the nuances of culture and ethnicity in how many Americans feed themselves. Ethnic variations have been suggested for years, but with little progress.

Are you satisfied with the dietary recommendations made in the latest Guidelines? Do you believe this edition missed the mark on alcohol and added sugars? How can the USDA guidelines be more inclusive? What would you like to see included in future editions? Send your answers to Sandy Todd Webster at [email protected]

See also: Key Takeaways From the New Dietary Guidelines

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