16 Apr 2015 Dietary Guidelines: What You Need to Know & What You Can do NOW
Coming fall 2015, the government will be publishing an updated version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans—a set of nutritional, diet and lifestyle recommendations for adults and children two years and older that focuses on preventing or managing obesity and chronic disease, two important public health issues in America. The guidelines will also serve as the foundation for nutrition education and food assistance programs.
So, why are we talking about the Dietary Guidelines now?
Though there’s still a bit of time until the final version is released, in February a committee of experts called the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) released a report with recommendations on necessary updates or revisions for the next Dietary Guidelines. Although the final decision of what is included is up to the government, the DGAC recommendations are thoroughly reviewed and considered in this process.
What were the key messages? major take-aways?
Expanding on previous years, the report looked not only at new scientific evidence regarding food and health, but also factors for encouraging healthy behavior change.
Ideal dietary pattern: The DGAC recommended an ideal dietary pattern that is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, legumes, and nuts; Moderate in low- and non-fat dairy products, like milk, yogurt, and cheese (2-3 servings per day) and lean meats; Lower in high fat red and processed meat, foods and drinks with added sugar, and refined grains.
Dietary cholesterol- no longer a nutrient for concern: An important revision in the DGAC report was the recommendation that we no longer need to limit dietary cholesterol. The committee concluded that there is a lack of strong evidence connecting the dietary cholesterol we eat, and the level of cholesterol in our blood. Instead, the total amount and type of fat that we eat seems to be more important (such as saturated verses unsaturated fat). Further, cholesterol plays an essential role in the body, involved in cellular processes, brain functioning, and hormone production, among other functions.
Nutrients to limit: unlike cholesterol, the report maintained that Americans should limit saturated fat to less than 10% of your total calories for the day and sodium (found in salt) to less than 2,300 milligrams of per day. The DGAC also recommended keeping added sugars to less than 10% of total calories, a more severe restriction than previous years.
Nutrient of Concern (or Shortfall nutrients): the DGAC also identified certain nutrients that Americans often lack in their diet, in particular calcium, vitamin D, fiber, and potassium, which have all been linked in research with negative health effects if not consumed in adequate amounts. Other shortfall nutrients were vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, folate, and magnesium.
Next Steps for the Dietary Guidelines
These are just a few of the topics covered in the report. For a full summary, you can read the Executive Summary online at health.gov here.
Also keep in mind that there are a few more steps after this. Public comments will be accepted until May 8th, 2015 on the Scientific Report. Then, it will go to the Department Health and Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), who will jointly issue the final 2015 Dietary Guidelines. More information, Q&A, and updates can be found here.