20 Jul What to Expect in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines?
Every five years, the federal government releases nutritional guidelines based on research and scientific evidence. These guidelines are important as they address significant nutrition-related health issues facing the U.S. population such as diabetes, cancer, food insecurity, and cardiovascular disease. The guidelines also provide the basis for federal nutrition policy, food assistance programs, education, and outreach. Before the government releases their final guidelines the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), composed of nationally regarded health and nutrition experts, review the science and make recommendations that may or may not make it into the final version of the dietary guidelines. Last week the DGACs report was released, with some interesting new recommendations being made. Here are some major takeaways from this year’s report:
The Repeat Performers
Most of the nutrition information has not changed. It’s not surprising that the big winners in a balanced diet are high intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, seafood, lean meats and poultry, legumes, and unsaturated vegetable oils. Truthfully, this has been the case for decades! Alternatively, limiting consumption of foods high in saturated fat and added sugar like processed meats and sugar-sweetened foods and beverages have continually been shown to decrease the risk of all-cause mortality and many chronic diseases, most notably heart disease.
The DGAC report did make a surprising recommendation to decrease added sugar from 10% to 6% of total calories. The recommendation for added sugar first appeared 5 years ago in the 2015-2020 dietary guidelines to be no more than 10% of your total calories. For an average 2,000 calorie diet that would mean 200 calories or 50 grams maximum from added sugar. The current recommendation to decrease added sugars to 6% of total calories would mean a maximum of 120 calories or 30 grams from added sugar. This is a reduction from 12.5 to 7.5 teaspoons of granulated sugar, for example, per day.
In line with 2015-2o2o recommendations, the DGAC report still recommended less than 10% of calories from saturated fat per day. In addition, they recommended to keep cholesterol intake to a minimum. They suggest replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats (specifically polyunsaturated fatty acids) to help lower total cholesterol and LDL, or bad cholesterol. Replacing saturated fats, however, with refined carbohydrates is not recommended as it can increase triglycerides and decrease HDL (good cholesterol).
0 to 24 Months
One of the biggest changes in these guidelines are the new recommendations for pregnant and lactating women and children ages 0 to 24 months. This is the first year since the guidelines were established that these populations have been discussed. The committee recommended that infants should be breast fed for the first 6 months of life as the duration of breastfeeding can influence the reduced risk several chronic diseases.
Another interesting recommendation that is very much in line with current research is the introduction of high allergen foods. Research shows that introducing high allergen foods like peanuts as early as 4 to 6 months can actually reduce the risk of the allergy significantly. Even if an infant is at low risk for food allergies, they can still benefit from early introduction to these foods.
In addition, a recommendation made was with regards to fish consumption. The DGAC found that current research suggests consumption of low-mercury fish such as salmon, sardines, and pollock can support cognitive development in young children.
Pregnancy and Lactation
Based on the scientific evidence, it is important that pregnant and lactating (nursing) women consume foods within general, healthy dietary patterns before and/or during pregnancy which may help reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, and preterm birth. In addition, the DGAC noted that there appears to be no association between consumption of common allergenic foods, such as dairy or eggs, and risk of food allergies, asthma, and related atopic disease.
According to the DGAC report, evidence suggests that drinking less is better for health compared to drinking more. Further, research found that among folks ages 20 to 64 years of age, alcohol contributes more than 20% of total calories from beverages. As such, the committee made the recommendation to lower the guideline for men to a maximum of 1 drink per day. The recommendations for women of a maximum of 1 drink per day remained the same. One drink is defined as 12-fluid ounces of beer, 5 fluid ounces of wine, and 1-1/2 fluid ounces of 80-proof liquid (like rum or vodka). This new recommendation to slash the maximum daily amount of alcohol for men by 50-percent is not well received by everyone in the scientific community.
Another area that was finally addressed by the DGAC is how often should you eat? The current guidelines discuss the types of foods and how much to eat, but how often you eat is also important. On average, research shows that Americans report 5.7 eating occasions per day (that includes meals and snacks). Further, research shows that 64% of the American population report eating three meals per day verses 28% of Americans who eat only two meals per day. Compared to those who ate two meals per day, those who ate three meals per day had a better quality diet.
There was also some interesting data on late night snackers. Ninety-three percent of Americans snack with 2 to 3 snacks eaten per day, on average. Late night eating tends to include alcohol, and foods high in added sugar, sodium, and saturated fats. These are the all nutrients and foods that should be consumed in moderation.
Bottom Line: It is important to stay abreast on discussions pertaining to the health of our nation. Interestingly, over the years the recommendations haven’t dramatically changed. The DGAC report is only proposed changes, but the final version of the 2020-2025 dietary guidelines for Americans will be released over the next six months or so. Stay tuned for an updated post when those are released. It is always interesting to see which of the committee’s recommendations made it into the final version.