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New Dietary Guidelines Are Vague, at Best

Anticipated and debated for most of last year, the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans arrived with a disappointing fizzle the first week of January. Many leading researchers and public health experts openly criticized the final document, which largely ignored the painstaking work of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) appointed to research and develop science-based recommendations for contemporary eaters.

Reviewed and modified just once every 5 years, the Dietary Guidelines not only shape the nation’s plate; they also ripple
into policy and funding decisions for school lunch programs, federal nutrition assistance programs like SNAP (food stamps) and WIC (for women, infants and children), and food and nutrition education efforts. Some of the harshest critics are calling for Americans to ignore the guidelines and to use instead the DGAC recommendations. Indeed, in his Huffington Post column the day the DGs were released, David Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP, founding director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, labeled the new guidelines “a national embarrassment . . . a betrayal of the diligent work of nutrition scientists, and a willful sacrifice of public health on the altar of profit for well-organized special interests.”

Since not everyone has time to read and distill the nearly 600 pages of the DGAC report (if you do, you can access them at http:// health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/), here is a sum- mary of key DGAC takeaways you can share with clients. For comparison, you can access the Executive Summary of the final DGs, which many in nutrition leadership feel were censored by politics and special interests, at http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/executive-summary/.

  1. Focus on an ideal dietary pattern emphasizing vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, legumes and nuts.
  2. Eat sustainably. A plant-based diet could reduce environ- mental impacts of food production and ensure ongoing and future access to sufficient, nutritious and safe food.
  3. Keep consumption of low- and non-fat dairy products( milk, yogurt and cheese) and lean meat moderate (2-3 servings total, in all, per day). Seek hormone- and antibiotic-free dairy products.
  4. Limit intake of high-fat red and processed meat and refined grains.
  5. Avoid food and drinks with added sugars (sugar-sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts). Added sugars should be less than 10% of total daily calories.
  6. Limit sodium to 2,300 milligrams per day.
  7. Consume less than 10% of total daily calories as saturated fat. Replace saturated fats with unsaturated and especially polyunsaturated fat.
  8. Focus on shortfall nutrients that Americans often lack, including calcium, vitamin D, fiber,potassium, folate and magnesium, plus vitamins A, E and C.
  9. Increase physical activity. Limit sitting time.
  10. Consume coffee moderately (3-5 8-oz cups/day), but not with too much sugar or cream!

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