Steak on the grill

Source: Pond5

This guest post was written by Kit Broihier, MS, RD, LD, Courtesy of Maine Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Have some time for a little reading?

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released its 500+ page report recently, and while some of you might think it’s a snooze-fest (and no, I didn’t read the entire thing page-by-page either), it has big implications for the health status of Americans. Why? 

The Dietary Guidelines form the backbone upon which rests a good deal of national nutrition policy — including those of public food and nutrition programs like school lunch and also for numerous public health education campaigns.

The Committee (made up of 14 recognized experts in the field of nutrition and health) has been at work for the last year and a half or so, reviewing pertinent new science in order to present its Scientific Report (the 500+ pages) to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. This report is not the actual Dietary Guidelines themselves, which first appeared in 1980.

The Guidelines are revised every five years, according to a Congressional mandate. According to the Department of Agriculture, the Dietary Guidelines provide “… advice for making food and physical activity choices that promote good health, a healthy weight, and help prevent disease for Americans ages 2 years and over, including Americans at increased risk of chronic disease.”

All meetings of the Committee have been open to the public via webcast technology to foster transparency, and if you’d like to submit written comments on the process and work of the Committee, you are invited to do so. Public comments will be accepted through midnight E.D.T. on April 8, 2015.

What’s new and different about the Committee’s suggestions?

The Scientific Report’s Executive Summary (a condensed version of the report) gives a synopsis of the Committee’s suggestions. There are the usual, all-encompassing suggestions about consuming a variety of foods and balancing food intake with physical activity. Those things will always be smart moves and the basis for a healthy diet and lifestyle. What’s unusual is the commentary and suggestions on the following:

  • We’re encouraged to eat a more plant-based diet and cut back on red meat and processed meat. This is a bold move for the Committee — we’ll see how much of their suggestion actually ends up in the official Dietary Guidelines.
  • Consider the environment and sustainability when making food choices. This is another new area of comment for the Committee — it’s a bit off the human health mark, but an important topic that does relate to food quality and, of course, the health of the environment in which our food is grown and raised.

Other important points 

  • Moderate coffee consumption (3-5 cups per day) is given the green light for safety and is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes in adults (just watch the added cream and sugar). However, the consumption of caffeinated beverages by children and teens should be low to none —and energy drinks are specifically called out as being linked with caffeine toxicity and cardiovascular issues.
  • Dietary cholesterol is no longer a nutrient of concern (this recommendation was a long time coming, and other countries had taken cholesterol off their list of concerns some years ago.)
  • Focus on limiting saturated fats in the diet as opposed to total fat (aim for less than 10% of total calories per day), as this appears to be a more effective way to positively impact cardiovascular health.
  • Nearly half of total sugar consumption comes from beverages other than milk and 100% fruit juice; they recommend limiting sugar and sugar-sweetened drinks to less than 10% of total calories per day.

What do you think of the new recommendations? Add your opinion to the comment box below.

This guest post was written by Kit Broihier, MS, RD, LD, Courtesy of Maine Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.