Dietary Guidelines

Recommendations heard in previous guidelines joined newer ones when the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on Feb. 19 submitted its recommendations to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Similar to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, the recommendations include eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains while cutting down on saturated fat and sodium. In newer twists, the recommendations also covered sustainability, such as eating less animal-based food and more plant-based food, and caffeine, such as concerns over the “rapid” consumption of large-sized energy drinks.

The recommendations are available on-line for public review and comment at www.DietaryGuidelines.gov for 45 days after publication in the Federal Register. A public meeting will take place March 24 in Bethesda, Md. People may register for the meeting at www.DietaryGuidelines.gov. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 should be released later this year.

The committee’s recommendations classified calcium, vitamin D, fiber and potassium as nutrients of public health concern because scientific literature has linked their under-consumption to adverse health outcomes. Iron is a shortfall nutrient of concern for adolescent females and adult females who are premenopausal.

The committee cited low intakes of food groups that are sources of the shortfall nutrients. The food groups include vegetables, fruits, whole grains and dairy.

The committee found sodium and saturated fat are overconsumed by the U.S. population. The committee recommended dietary patterns that are lower in red and processed meat and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains.

Sources of saturated fat should be replaced with unsaturated fat, particularly polyunsaturated fatty acids, the committee said. Instead of low-calorie sweeteners, healthy options such as water should be consumed to reduce added sugars in the diet. To reduce sodium, emphasis should be placed on expanding industry efforts to reduce the levels in their products and on helping consumers understand how to flavor unsalted foods with spices and herbs.

Cholesterol was determined by the committee to not be a nutrient of concern for overconsumption. Previously, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that cholesterol intake be limited to no more than 300 mg/day. The 2015 D.G.A.C. said it will not bring forward this recommendation because available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol.

The committee’s recommendations on sustainability covered protein sources and the seafood industry. The committee said the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use and energy use when compared to three recommended dietary patterns:  the Healthy U.S.-style Pattern, the Healthy Mediterranean-style Pattern and the Healthy Vegetarian Pattern. The larger impact is a result of the U.S. population having a higher intake of animal-based foods and a lower intake of plant-based foods.

The committee said it recognized the seafood industry is expanding to meet worldwide demand and that both farm-raised seafood and seafood caught in the wild will be needed to meet dietary recommendations.

“The impact of food production, processing and consumption on environmental sustainability is an area of research that is rapidly evolving,” the committee said. “As further research is conducted and best practices are evaluated, additional evidence will inform both supply-side participants and consumers on how best to shift behaviors locally, nationally and globally to support sustainable diets.”

In regard to caffeine, the committee said high intake, or greater than 400 mg of caffeine per day for adults, may occur with rapid consumption of large-sized energy drinks. The committee advised limited or no consumption of high caffeine drinks, or other products with high amounts of caffeine, for children and adolescents.

The committee found household food insecurity hinders the access to healthy diets for millions of Americans. It found immigrants are at risk of losing healthier dietary patterns in their cultural background as they acculturate into mainstream America.

Fourteen people from the fields of nutrition, medicine and public health make up the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Their work was guided by two realities: about 117 million Americans have one or more preventable, chronic diseases and nearly 115 million Americans are overweight or obese.

“Positive changes in individual diet and physical activity behaviors, and in the environmental contexts and systems that affect them, could substantially improve health outcomes,” the committee said in its recommendations.