DGAC: Public and private sectors must work together to achieve a population-wide culture of health

Dietary Guidelines for Americans should factor in sustainability, says DGAC report

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

DGAC: Diets that are higher in plant-based foods and lower in red and processed meats are better for you and the planet
DGAC: Diets that are higher in plant-based foods and lower in red and processed meats are better for you and the planet
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) – an panel of experts tasked with developing recommendations about what Americans should eat – has submitted its report to the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA), which will publish the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans later this year.

We’ve listed the DGAC’s key recommendations below and will follow up with reaction as the day progresses.

You can download the full report HERE​.

  • Americans should take the sustainability​ of food production into consideration when making food choices, says the DGAC: No food groups need to be eliminated completely to improve sustainability outcomes over the current status… but as the focus of the dietary guidelines is to shift consumer eating habits toward healthier alternatives, it is imperative that, in this context, the shift also involve movement toward less resource-intensive diets. Moderate to strong evidence demonstrates that healthy dietary patterns that are higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods are associated with more favorable environmental outcomes (lower greenhouse gas emissions and more favorable land, water, and energy use) than are current U.S. dietary patterns.​ (Click HERE​ to see what the North American Meat Institute thinks about this... Spoiler alert: it's not happy)
  • Americans should adopt a diet that is higher in plant-based foods ​and lower in red and processed meats: The overall body of evidence... identifies that a healthy dietary pattern is 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 meats; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains.
  • The government should drop recommendations that cholesterol​ intake be limited: Available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol… cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for over-consumption. 

Mitch Kanter, Ph.D, executive director at the Egg Nutrition Center​ told us: "This is an affirmation of many years of research indicating that the relationship between dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol is tenuous at best, and is consistent with recommendations of expert groups like the American Heart Association."

  • Americans should reduce consumption of sodium, saturated fats and added sugars:  Few, if any, improvements in consumers’ food choices have been seen in recent decades. On average, the U.S. diet is low in vegetables, fruit, and whole grains, and high in sodium, calories, saturated fat, refined grains, and added sugars. Under-consumption of the essential nutrients vitamin D, calcium, potassium, and fiber are public health concerns for the majority of the U.S. population, and iron intake is of concern among adolescents and pre-menopausal females.
  • The government should align food assistance programs such as SNAP and WIC​ with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • Consumption of 3 to 5 cups of coffee​ per day or up to 400 mg per day caffeine​ is not associated with increased long-term health risks​, the committee said, but warned against added calories from cream, milk, and added sugars.
  • At the level that the U.S. population consumes aspartame​, it appears to be safe. However, some uncertainty continues about increased risk of hematopoietic cancer in men, indicating a need for more research.
  • Sugars should be reduced in the diet and not replaced with low-calorie sweeteners​, but rather with healthy options, such as water in place of sugar-sweetened beverages. ​(Click HERE​ to see what the American Beverage Association thinks about the above recommendations... Spoiler alert, it's not happy either.)

Two thirds of US adults are overweight or obese

The DGAC’s work was “guided by two fundamental realities”,​ said the report, which noted that the nutrients for which adequacy goals are not met in almost all dietary patterns are potassium, vitamin D, vitamin E, and choline:

obesity-istock-Don Bayley

“First, about half of all 11 American adults —117 million individuals — have one or more preventable, chronic diseases, and about two-thirds of U.S. adults—nearly 155 million individuals — are overweight or obese.

“These conditions have been highly prevalent for more than two decades. Poor dietary patterns, overconsumption of calories, and physical inactivity directly contribute to these disorders.”

Transforming the health of the population, it said, "will entail dramatic paradigm shifts in which population health is a national priority and individuals, communities, and the public and private sectors seek together to achieve a population-wide culture of health through which healthy lifestyle choices are easy, accessible, affordable and normative—both at home and away from home."

What happens next?

dga_announcement

The DGAC - which comprises 14 experts in nutrition, medicine and public health – has held seven public meetings over the past two years. Its recommendations are non-binding.

Updated every five years, the Dietary Guidelines contain the latest, science-based nutrition recommendations for the general public with the goal of preventing disease and promoting healthy, active lifestyles. They are written for and used primarily by nutrition and health professionals, policy makers and educators.

The public can provide written comments HERE ​for 45 days after the DGAC’s report is published in the Federal Register and will also have an opportunity to offer oral comments at a public meeting in Bethesda, Maryland, on March 24, 2015. 

Stay tuned for more reaction and analysis at FoodNavigator-USA this week.

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1 comment

Great news from DGAC

Posted by Jennifer,

At least one of the DGAC recommended eating patterns contains no meat, fish or chicken. A step forward. Those eating 100% plant-based know how amazing it is, time for govt to communicate to public. A step forward, and of course those invested in animal product are unhappy. Time to swap livestock for crops! :-)

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