New Dietary Guidelines remove restriction on total fat and set limit for added sugars but censor conclusions of the scientific advisory committee

produceThe 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines have been released, with updates including limiting added-sugar intake to less than 10 percent of daily calories, and the removal of the restriction on the percentage of calories from total fat. The new guidelines also emphasize healthy eating patterns, with the following  key recommendations:

  • A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other
  • Fruits, especially whole fruits
  • Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
  • A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products
  • Oils

Similar to previous versions of the guidelines, the eighth edition of the Dietary Guidelines continues to suggest limits on saturated fat NShome_sodiumand sodium with recommendations to consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats, and less than 2,300 milligrams per day of sodium.  The Dietary Guidelines also include a note about alcohol, explaining that if consumed, it should be in moderation —up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommendation to Slised boiled egglimit consumption of dietary cholesterol to 300 mg per day is not included in the 2015 edition, but the new guidelines note that “this change does not suggest that dietary cholesterol is no longer important to consider when building healthy eating patterns. As recommended by the IOM, individuals should eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible while consuming a healthy eating pattern.”

While the report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory processedmeat1Committee, which reviewed the scientific evidence about diet and health, recommended reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and  red and  processed meat because of adverse relations to important health outcomes, the 2015-2020 Guidelines say nothing about reduction of these foods in their primary recommendations.  As we described recently, the  WHO announced in November 2015 that consumption of processed meat is carcinogenic to humans.

Dr. Frank Hu, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a member of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee,  responded to questions about the new guidelines.

Dr. Walter Willett, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and Chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said this about the new Guidelines:

The 2016 Dietary Guidelines are improved in some important ways, especially the removal of the restriction on percentage of calories from total fat and the new limit for added sugar.  Unfortunately, Congress censored the scientific Advisory Committee’s conclusion that red meat consumption should be reduced for reasons of planetary health; this was within the scope of the committee because it is not possible to have food security if our food supply is not sustainable.  However, the USDA went further and also censored the scientific Advisory Committee’s conclusion that consumption of red and processed meat should be reduced for health reasons. 

Further, the clear scientific conclusion that sugar-sweetened beverages should be reduced were also censored in the final recommendations. The rationale for the USDA to produce the final Dietary Guidelines after the report of the scientific Advisory Committee is that they would translate the science into messages that would be clear for the American Public. Instead, the report of the Scientific Committee was very clear about the adverse health effects of red and processed meat and sugar sweetened beverages, and the USDA has engaged in censorship and obfuscation.

Clearly these Guidelines bear the hoof prints of the Cattleman’s Association and the sticky fingerprints of Big Soda. They fail to represent the best available scientific evidence and are a disservice to the American public.