by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Dietary-Guidelines

Jul 16 2021

Weekend food for thought (a good one!)

I saw this in a tweet from the Politico cartoonist, Matt Wuerker.  It’s too good not to share.

Mar 30 2021

One picture….

Mar 29 2021

Annals of marketing: honey to dietitians

A dietitian colleague forwarded this message from Today’s Dietitian.

Honey may be made by bees, but it is mainly glucose and fructose just like any other sugars.

A few “food-for-thought” questions:

  • Should dietetic publications be promoting sugars of any kind?
  • Should dietitians be recommending honey to their clients?
  • Should dietitians allow their publications to accept ads like this?

 

Feb 5 2021

Weekend reading: government incentives for alcoholic beverage companies

This report documents how government policies—in the U.S. and internationally—promote and protect makers of booze, wine, and beer, despite the demonstrably harmful effects of those products on health and society.

How do governments do this?

  • Development assistance
  • Tax breaks
  • Tax rebates
  • Marketing deductions
  • Production subsidies
  • Trade agreements

Why do they do this?  Lobbying and tax revenues.

If you want to understand why the USDA and HHS “found no evidence” for reducing the alcohol recommendation in the 2020 Dietary Guidelines, read this report.

Jan 5 2021

More on the 2020 Dietary Guidelines

I only have a few more comments about the Dietary Guidelines beyond what I posted last week.

One is my surprise that the USDA did not do a new food guide.  The existing one, after all, dates from the Obama administration.  It has not changed.

Here’s how it is explained in the new guidelines:

My translation: Eat more plant foods, eat less meat, avoid ultraprocessed foods (including sugary beverages).

This requires a translation because the guidelines say nothing about ultraprocessed junk foods, and they try hard to avoid singling out foods to avoid.

These guidelines are similar to those in 2015 and are, therefore, woefully out of date.

They do mention the pandemic, once:

The importance of following the Dietary Guidelines across all life stages has been brought into focus even more with the emergence of COVID-19, as people living with diet-related chronic conditions and diseases are at an increased risk of severe illness from the novel coronavirus (p. 4).

They do mention food insecurity several times, for example:

In 2019, 10.5 percent of households were food insecure at least some time during the year. Food insecurity occurs when access to nutritionally adequate and safe food is limited or uncertain. Food insecurity can be temporary or persist over time, preventing individuals and families from following a healthy dietary pattern that aligns with the Dietary Guidelines. The prevalence of food insecurity typically rises during times of economic downturn as households experience greater hardship. Government and nongovernment nutrition assistance programs help alleviate food insecurity and play an essential role by providing food, meals, and educational resources so that participants can make healthy food choices within their budget (p. 50).

And they do mention food assistance programs (on page 81), although they do not discuss how the USDA has been relentless in trying to cut those programs.

Nothing about food systems.  Nothing about the effects of food production and consumption on climate change and sustainablity.

Nothing about eating less meat other than implying that eating less processed meat might be a good idea.

One other point: the complexity is increasing.  Here is the history of the page numbers:

As I’m fond of saying, Michael Pollan can do all this in seven words: “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”

If we can’t do better than this 164 pages of obfuscation, isn’t it about time to stop requiring these things every five years?

Here’s what other people are saying about them

 

Dec 29 2020

The 2020 Dietary Guidelines released today

So much for my plan to take the week off.

The new 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines came out today.  See them at DietaryGuidelines.gov.  The new guidelines are much the same as the ones in 2015.

The big news: They paid no attention to the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (I covered this in a previous post).

USDA and HHS overrode the scientific decisions of the DGAC.  So much for “science-based” dietary guidelines.

I would love to know what the members of the DGAC think of this.

More later.  These come from the USDA’s press release.

And here’s the USDA’s explanation, such as it is, of why it overrode the decisions of the DGAC on sugar and alcohol

 

Jul 16 2020

Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee releases report

The report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is now available in online preprint.

It sets a record at 835 pages.

Its conclusions are highly consistent with those of previous Dietary Guidelines.

It recommends eating more of these foods:

Common characteristics of dietary patterns associated with positive health outcomes include higher intake of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, low- or nonfat dairy, lean meat and poultry, seafood, nuts, and unsaturated vegetable oils.

It recommends eating less of these foods:

The Committee found that negative (detrimental) health outcomes were associated with dietary patterns characterized by higher intake of red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, and refined grains.

It retained the recommendation: Eat less red and processed meats

It retained the recommendation to eat less saturated fat (replace with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated)

Thus, the Committee recommends that dietary cholesterol and saturated fat intake be as low as possible within a healthy dietary pattern, and that saturated fat intake be limited to less than of 10 percent of total energy intake, as recommended by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This recommendation applies to adults and children ages 2 years and older.

It tightened up restrictions on alcoholic beverages from 2 drinks a day for men to 1 drink:

The Committee concluded that no evidence exists to relax current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations, and there is evidence to tighten them for men such that recommended limits for both men and women who drink would be 1 drink per day on days when alcohol is consumed.

It tightened up restrictions on added sugars, from 10% of calories to 6%:

After considering the scientific evidence for the potential health impacts of added sugars intake, along with findings from model-based estimations of energy available in the dietary pattern after meeting nutrient requirements, the Committee suggests that less than 6 percent of energy from added sugars is more consistent with a dietary pattern that is nutritionally adequate while avoiding excess energy intake from added sugars than is a pattern with less than 10 percent energy from added sugars.

What’s missing?

  • Salt: The report says remarkably little about sodium beyond that it is overconsumed and people should “reduce sodium intake.”  It’s possible that I missed it, but I could not find suggestions for quantitative limits.
  • Ultraprocessed: The word does not appear in the report except in the references.  A large body of evidence supports an association of ultraprocessed foods to poor health.  If the committee considered this evidence, it did not spell it out explicitly.
  • Sustainability: This was off the table from the beginning but this committee recommends that it be considered next time in the context of a food systems approach to the Dietary Guidelines (p.771).

Comment

This is an impressive, solid, conservative review of the existing science highly consistent with previous Dietary Guidelines but with mostly stronger recommendations.

This committee was up against:

  • A tight time frame
  • A first-time mandate to review literature on infancy, pregnancy, and lactation in addition to that for adults
  • A first-time process in which the agencies set the research agenda, not the committee
  • The Coronavirus pandemic

At the outset, I was concerned that the committee members might be heavily biased in favor of food industry interests.  If they were, such biases do not show up in the final report.  I think this committee deserves much praise for producing a report of this quality under these circumstances.

Want to weigh in on it? 

The agencies are taking public comments until August 13.  On August 11, there will be an online public meeting for even more comments.

What’s next?

This report is advisory, only.  USDA and HHS must boil this down to the actual 2020 Dietary Guidelines.  Whereas the committee process was transparent, the boiling down process is highly secretive, or was in 2015.  It will be interesting to see what the agencies do, especially given the heavy lobbying by proponents of meat, saturated fat, and low-carbohydrate diets.

Jun 17 2020

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reports in today

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) meets today to talk about its draft report.  Register for it here.  

The agenda is here.

Reporters tell me that the DGAC report will not be released at this meeting; it is not ready.

Here’s what today’s announcement says:

The Committee will finalize their advisory report based on Committee discussion at the meeting. They will then submit their final report to the Secretaries of USDA and HHS. USDA and HHS will post the final report online, send out a public notification, and open a new public comment period for the Departments to accept comments on the Committee’s report. This action is expected on or around July 15, 2020.

This meeting is being held despite calls for delay.  Politico’s Helena Bottemillier Evich describes these calls under “Influential groups press for delay of Dietary Guidelines” (behind a paywall at the moment).

The groups are turning up the pressure ahead of the committee’s final public meeting on Wednesday, where the panel will discuss its draft conclusion statements. The committee is then expected to release in mid-July a sweeping scientific report to advise the Agriculture Department and Department of Health and Human Services on what the 2020 iteration of the guidelines should say.

Some of the Dietary Guidelines’ staunchest allies and fiercest critics — including professional groups and low-carb advocates — are urging a delay. They note that last year’s government shutdown and the continuing pandemic have made it more difficult for the committee to complete the necessary work before advising the government on the 2020 guidelines, which will last five years.

Corporate Accountability notes the undue influence of industry on the guidelines.  One of its recent reports documents ties of DGAC members to ILSI, an industry front group.

The guidelines are subject to criticism from just about everyone (me too).  I’m interested to see what this committee does.  Stay tuned.