by Marion Nestle
Feb 20 2015

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee releases its courageous report

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) issued its more than 500-page report yesterday.

Before I say anything about it, please note that this report informs, but does not constitute, the Dietary Guidelines. The agencies—USDA and HHS—write the actual Guidelines and are not expected to do so until the end of this year.

Here are what I see as the highlights (these are direct quotes)

  • A healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains.
  • A diet higher in plant-based foods…and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet.
  • It will take concerted, bold actions…to achieve and maintain the healthy diet patterns, and the levels of physical activity needed to promote the health of the U.S. population. These actions will require a paradigm shift to an environment in which population health is a national priority and where individuals and organizations, private business, and communities work together to achieve a population-wide “culture of health” in which healthy lifestyle choices are easy, accessible, affordable, and normative.

Some facts and statements from the report (not direct quotes).

  • Half the energy intake in U.S. diets comes from a combination of burgers and sandwiches (~14%), desserts and sweet snacks (8.5%), sugary beverages (6.5%), mixed dished made with rice, pasta, and other grains (5.5%, savory snacks (~5%), pizza (4.3%), and meat, poultry and seafood mixed dishes (~4%).
  • Nearly half of total sugar intake comes from beverages other than milk and 100% fruit juice

The report comments on issues under current debate.

  • Saturated fat: “replacing SFA with unsaturated fats…significantly reduces total and LDL cholesterol…Strong and consistent evidence…shows that replacing SFA [saturated fatty acids] with PUFA [polyunsaturated fatty acids] reduces the risk of CVD [cardiovascular] events and coronary mortality…For every 1 percent of energy intake from SFA replaced with PUFA, incidence of CHD [coronary heart disease] is reduced by 2 to 3 percent. However, reducing total fat (replacing total fat with overall carbohydrates) does not lower CVD risk.”
  • Sugars: “Strong and consistent evidence shows that intake of added sugars from food and/or sugar sweetened beverages are associated with excess body weight in children and adults…Strong evidence shows that higher consumption of added sugars, especially sugar-sweetened beverages, increases the risk of type 2 diabetes among adults and this relationship is not fully explained by body weight.[Theae findings are] compatible with a recommendation to keep added sugars intake below 10 percent of total energy intake.”
  • Food labels: “Consumers would benefit from a standardized, easily understood front-of-package (FOP) label on all food and beverage products to give clear guidance about a food’s healthfulness.” [This refers to the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine that I’ve written about previously; they disappeared without a trace.]
  • Soda taxes: “Economic and pricing approaches, using incentives and disincentives should be explored to promote the purchase of healthier foods and beverages. For example, higher sugar-sweetened beverage taxes may encourage consumers to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption.”
  • SNAP: “Policy changes within the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), similar to policies in place for the WIC program, should be considered to encourage purchase of healthier options, including foods and beverages low in added sugars. Pilot studies using incentives and restrictions should be tested and evaluated.”

The DGAC recommends (these are direct quotes but not necessarily complete):

  • Establish local, state, and Federal policies to make healthy foods accessible and affordable and to limit access to high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods and sugar-sweetened beverages in public buildings and facilities.
  • Set nutrition standards for foods and beverages offered in public places.
  • Improve retail food environments and make healthy foods accessible and affordable in underserved neighborhoods and communities.
  • Implement the comprehensive school meal guidelines (National School Lunch Program) from the USDA that increase intakes of vegetables (without added salt), fruits (without added sugars), and whole grains.
  • Limit marketing unhealthy foods to children.
  • Make drinking water freely available to students throughout the day.
  • Ensure competitive foods meet the national nutrition standards (e.g., Dietary Guidelines for Americans).
  • Eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages [from schools].
  • Nutrition Facts label should include added sugars (in grams and teaspoons).

And for all federal nutrition programs, the DGAC recommends:

  • Align program standards with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans so as to achieve the 2015 DGAC recommendations and promote a “culture of health.”

Congratulations to this committee for its courageous recommendations.

Why courageous?  See my previous comments on the objections to such advice.

The next step: public comment:

The public is encouraged to view the independent advisory group’s report and provide written comments at for a period of 45 days after publication in the Federal Register. The public will also have an opportunity to offer oral comments at a public meeting in Bethesda, Maryland, on March 24, 2015. Those interested in providing oral comments at the March 24, 2015, public meeting can register at Capacity is limited, so participants will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Here’s your chance to support this committee’s excellent ideas and demonstrate public approval for diets that promote the health of people and the planet.

Note: the reactions to the report are pouring in and I will deal with them next week.  Enjoy the weekend!

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  • This is definitely a step in the right direction. It’s going to take time to change people’s minds and habits. Slow, but sure…right?

  • Desmaris

    In The Dietary Advisory Committee’s report, they stated that they think
    that “the health and well-being of Americans would benefit from being
    charged more money in the form of a “tax” on the purchase price of sugary foods & drinks.” The premise for this, they theorized, is that people “may” purchase less of these items simply because they cost a bit more.

    It truly escapes me how they make that correlation. Paying more money for a food or drink product that still contains the same ingredients that it did prior to the tax being levied on it, will not change the fact that the ingredients that they say are harmful; are still harmful because they are still in it! The only way to see to it that a product contains healthier ingredients, is to put healthier ingredients in it – not raise the price! And, they call themselves “health experts”??! Truly; what are they thinking?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the “Dietary Advisory Committee” supposed to be tasked with health-related issues, as opposed to finances and tax-assessing? I was amazed after reading through their documents on the added sugar issue, that they have completely overlooked the most sensible solution. The sole alternatives they suggested are taxing the items, or replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners – and it is by now, well-known that artificial sweeteners are not a “healthy” solution. If they are the “health experts” they claim to be, they know that artificial sweeteners are anything but healthy; and are no benefit to one’s health and well-being.

    The solution is Turbinado Sugar; or Unrefined Pure Cane Sugar made from sugar cane stalks. I actually wrote to the Dietary Advisory Committee about this whole issue, and the following four paragraphs were said in my email:

    “Since you folks and your government associates love passing new legislation, here’s one for you to pursue: insist that all the food manufacturers in our food chain use Turbinado sugar or pure unrefined cane sugar in their recipes instead of white refined sugar. Stay with me, now; and I’ll give you a short lesson on why turbinado and unrefined pure cane sugar is healthy, and not empty calories like traditional like white refined sugar.” Then, I continued:

    “Turbinado sugar or unrefined pure cane sugar is obtained from the initial pressings of the sugar cane – and it is vastly different from white refined sugar, because they undergo very little processing and no refining. This is how Turbinado and unrefined white sugars are made: once sugar cane has been harvested, the stalks are split open and the juice is extracted through a process of slow boiling, layer by layer. Then, the juice is allowed to evaporate naturally as it crystallizes into its characteristic large crystals – that’s it! By using a completely natural evaporating process without the chemicals that are involved in the refining of white sugar, the turbinado & pure cane sugar retains the vitamins and minerals that are inherent in the sugar cane stalks. This unrefined sugar is actually good for you and nutritious! Just look at what is left in it: Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Iron, Niacin, and Manganese.
    Conversely; the white refined sugar contains no nutrients whatsoever; as any nutritional content it might once have had is destroyed during the chemical processing and refining. If Turbinado or unrefined pure cane sugar is substituted for white refined sugar, nutritional benefits will be gained – and we’d be consuming nutrition instead of white sugar’s adulterated calories. As well, it costs less, because it doesn’t undergo all that lengthy processing and refining that involves the use of various chemicals to make white refined sugar.”

    “I argue that if the government and the ‘Dietary Advisory Health Experts’, really and truly care about the health of Americans as relating to sugary food items, they should be focused on a solution instead of being focused on making more money. The resolution can be found by insisting that our food chain suppliers use Turbinado sugar or unrefined
    pure cane sugar, instead of white refined sugar in every recipe requiring sugar. Artificial sweeteners of any kind are just that: “artificial” – and I shouldn’t need to tell you that there is a wealth of information extolling the harmfulness of every artificial sweetener.” It’s a simple equation: Turbinado and unrefined pure cane sugar provide nutrients – white
    refined sugar does not.”

    “So; you say that your concern is the health & well-being of Americans? Then, suggest that the manufacturers use solely Turbinado sugar or unrefined pure cane instead of white refined – that’s the solution. Taking more money from us will not make us healthier … it’ll just make you richer. I possess a high school education – and the simple fact that an
    individual who has only a high school education had to teach fourteen “health experts” about this, is pretty appalling; no? Please consider my suggestion – it’s a good one that will benefit our health and well-being.”
    >> {P.S. It should be noted that some producers of white refined sugar are now using the words “Pure Cane Sugar” displayed on their boxes that actually contain the white refined sugar – not pure unrefined sugar cane sugar. So now consumers must be vigilant in reading the actual ingredients, and just plain knowing that this is a marketing ploy designed to sell white refined sugar under the guise of calling it “Pure Cane Sugar”. What this also tells us is that they know that the sugar that is
    unrefined and is literally pure sugar in the unrefined state, is a better and healthier product than the white refined product. While it is true that the white refined is also derived from sugar canes, the thing that renders it lacking of nutrition is the chemical refining process – so: buyer beware}
    I have never received a response from the Committee, and I’ve even sent one follow-up email, requesting a response – still, no reply. Somehow, this doesn’t surprise me – because my suggestion does not align with their agenda that’s right in plain sight – and it’s the same
    one we’re all familiar with: The Almighty Buck. It just rubs me the wrong way for an entity to profess their directive is our health and well-being, when it is quite evident that their directive is getting more of our money. I find it insulting, and when the government tries to con us, and I just am compelled to call them on it – and since I know of a real solution, I would be remiss not to address it. We must stand up for what we believe in, and let us not forget that in America, we have the most sublime document that assures that: The Constitution.

  • Desmaris

    As well, what they should be addressing are the genetically modified foods

    that are being supplied in our food chain (aka “GMO”). Read a book titled “The Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture”, Andrew Kimbrall.
    The book contains a wealth of information about the harmful aspects of

    genetically modified, or genetically engineered food crops. They didn’t title it “The Fatal Harvest” for no reason.

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  • Vidaa Joon

    All this is ok but t do they mention cutting out artificial sweeteners, flavors, colorings, preservatives, pesticides, and GMO?

  • Vidaa Joon

    *and hormones

  • Vidaa Joon

    Guys, guys, guys! People eat foods not nutrients. Eat the “perfect” measured amounts of lab-synthesised glucose, protein, fat, etc. and see how healthy and happy you feel. Or, one notch before that, always eat processed foods made days/weeks/months/even years ago like canned foods. Real food is alive, whole, and comes in a complex system from a biological organism, with consciousness, life-breath that affects how every nutrient is processed by your body. Yes, whole fresh foods are still best eaten in the right proportions, but the point is it’s not just a bunch of carbs full of lurking glucose, or whatever your fear may be.

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  • rebecca

    You missed the section where they took away the recommended maximum amount of fat consumption in the diet. That’s right. There is no longer any maximum amount because fats from healthy sources including saturated fats are actually not harmful! And the statement about polyunsaturated fats being replaced by saturated fats is blatantly missleading. Sure if you take away all polyunsaturated fats and replace them with saturated fats it’s not going to bend a good thing because you need polyunsaturated fats but that is not to say anything about saturated fats being bad. It’s just saying that you need polyunsaturated fats in your diet.

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