U.S. Federal Dietary Guidelines Emphasize Healthy Eating Habits but Fall Short on Added Sugars

The American Heart Association, the world’s leading voluntary organization focused on heart and brain health, responded to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) released today by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS).

“The new federal dietary guidelines emphasize the importance of healthy eating and encourage Americans to ‘make every bite count,’” said Mitchell S. V. Elkind, M.D., MS, FAHA, FAAN, president of the American Heart Association. “We are pleased that for the first time, the guidelines provide recommendations for pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as infants and toddlers, underscoring the importance of maternal health and proper nutrition across the lifespan.”

The new guidelines, like earlier versions, stress the importance of adopting a healthy dietary pattern that is rich in fruits, vegetables and legumes and includes whole grains, low-or non-fat dairy, seafood, nuts and unsaturated vegetable oils, and low in consumption of red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains. The guidelines are consistent with the American Heart Association’s dietary recommendations, and they show that a high-quality diet at every life stage can promote health and reduce the risk of diet-related chronic disease.

“But we are disappointed that USDA and HHS did not accept all of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s science-based recommendations in the final guidelines for 2020, including the recommendation to lower added sugars consumption to less than 6% of calories,” Elkind said.

Added sugars can include refined fruit juices, corn syrup and other added refined sugars. The largest single source of added sugars in the US diet is sugary drinks, which contain excessive calories and no additional nutrients, and contribute to weight gain and diabetes. Many adults and children have little room in their diet for empty calories and need to go lower than 10% to have a healthy dietary pattern and meet their essential nutrient needs.

“It is important to recognize that these guidelines are just a first step,” Elkind said. “We need policy and environmental changes to ensure consumers can easily access healthier food. This requires collaboration among the food industry, government agencies, health organizations and consumers nationwide. Our hope is the Biden administration will prioritize nutrition and all nutrition-related policies will reflect these new recommendations. It is important that these new guidelines are integrated in future school meal policies and regulations, to ensure the health and well-being of our children.”

The guidelines also recommend reducing saturated fat intake and replacing it with unsaturated fats, particularly polyunsaturated fats. A lower intake of saturated fat and a higher intake of unsaturated fat can lower incidence of cardiovascular disease for individuals. Additionally, lowering saturated fat intake is likely to result in a lower intake of dietary cholesterol, since cholesterol is commonly found in animal foods that are high in saturated fat or consumed with foods high in saturated fat.

Sodium is another key area of interest to the American Heart Association. Reducing excessive sodium intake, of which 70 percent comes from processed, prepackaged and restaurant foods, is critical to reducing cardiovascular disease risk.

Source: American Heart Association


Read also:

Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 . . . . .

Five Key Takeaways from the USDA’s 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Report

Jessica Fu and H. Claire Brown wrote . . . . . . . . .

The 835-page report lays the scientific groundwork for the five years of federal nutrition advice. Here’s what you need to know.

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Wednesday published a consequential nutrition report that will form the basis of the next five years of federal dietary guidance. Authored by an advisory committee made up of 20 health experts, the report is a review of the latest dietary and nutrition research, which USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will then use to develop the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Updated every five years, the guidelines help determine federal nutrition policies and healthy eating recommendations for the nation.

The final weeks leading up to the report’s publication were not without controversy. In June, a number of organizations representing health care specialists called for USDA to extend the committee’s deadline to October of this year. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the country’s biggest association of nutrition professionals, cited the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the government shutdown ending in January 2019 among disruptions to the advisory committee’s work. The Nutrition Coalition, a group of nutrition and policy experts, also argued in favor of an extension to allow the committee to consider a wider range of studies and research. In numerous instances throughout the report, its authors note that “time constraints” forced them to take shortcuts in their analysis, or eschew the review of some evidence altogether.

All in all, the report makes a few notable suggestions for the next iteration of the Dietary Guidelines, while maintaining a core emphasis on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat. We break down some of the most notable takeaways from the report below. USDA and HHS will publish the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans by the end of the year.

1. Men should cut back on booze

Previous versions of the Dietary Guidelines have recommended that men limit themselves to two drinks per day, defined as a 12-ounce bottle of beer, a five-ounce glass of wine, or a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor. For women, one drink per day has been advised. The new report lowers the recommendation for men to one drink per day and keeps the same recommendation for women. More subtly, the report clarifies that people should not drink in hopes of improving their health, The New York Times reports, meaning total abstinence is generally better than moderate drinking. Previous versions of the guidelines—including one as recent as 2010—suggested that moderate drinking might help with cognitive function in old age.

2. Three meals is better than two, but sometimes snacks are meals and meals are snacks.

Thinking of adopting intermittent fasting or testing a five-meal-a-day diet? There’s no scientific consensus to back up those habits just yet, though the report concedes that more research is necessary. In general, though, eating three meals per day was associated with better diet quality than two, and late-night meals and snacks tended to include more unhealthy foods. What’s also unclear is what constitutes a meal, and what constitutes a snack. Though Americans now self-report an average of more than five meals or snacks per day, “consensus on clear definitions or distinctions between a meal versus a snack remains elusive.”

3. We’re all eating too much sugar, but it’s really bad among children

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines urged Americans to limit their consumption of added sugars to 10 percent or less of their total caloric intake. Looking forward, the advisory committee is now urging Americans to reduce their added sugar intake even further, to just 6 percent. That would require us to more than halve the amount of added sweeteners we currently consume: The advisory committee found that added sugars make up on average 13 percent of our daily energy intake, largely coming from sugar in beverages, desserts, snacks, candy, and cereals—foods that the authors say we could all cut down on.

Worryingly, the demographic group over-consuming sugar at the highest rate is children between the ages of 4 and 18, up to 79 percent of whom are exceeding the added sugar limit. A major culprit behind this, the authors note, are sweetened beverages like fruit juices and soda which can up nearly a third of their added sugar consumption. Maybe this is where mandatory added sugar labeling—which came into effect this year—can help us cut down.

4. Infants should eat peanuts, eggs, and other common allergens

Feeding peanuts, eggs, and other foods that can cause sensitivities to babies in the first year of life might lower risk of allergies in adulthood, according to the new Dietary Guidelines. Similarly, feeding children a wide variety of “adult foods” before the age of two may positively influence their tastes and habits later in life. Furthemore, infants should not have any added sugar in the first 24 months of life.

5. Sustainability is still not on the table

The report’s authors urged USDA and HHS to consider system-wide issues like environmental sustainability in the development of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines, but stopped short of making concrete recommendations on what those should look like. This comes in response to numerous public comments calling for the committee to evaluate the social and ecological consequences of dietary recommendations. In March, the Union of Concerned Scientists, a science advocacy group, called for lowering our consumption of meat and dairy, as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water use. The advisory committee, too, conceded in its report that healthy eating is contingent on environmentally resilient food production. Chances are, however, this note will be all but ignored in the final iteration of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines. After all, the advisory committee in 2015 made similar suggestions, and they were ultimately ignored.

Source: The Counter


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World Health Organization Recommends Eating Less Saturated and Trans Fats to Curb Heart Disease

Stephanie Nebehay wrote . . . . . . . . .

Adults and children should consume a maximum of 10 percent of their daily calories in the form of saturated fat such as meat and butter and one percent from trans fats to reduce the risk of heart disease, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

The draft recommendations, the first since 2002, are aimed at reducing non-communicable diseases, led by cardiovascular diseases, blamed for 72 percent of the 54.7 million estimated deaths worldwide every year, many before the age of 70.

“Dietary saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids are of particular concern because high levels of intake are correlated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases,” Dr. Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, told reporters.

The dietary recommendations are based on scientific evidence developed in the last 15 years, he added.

The United Nations agency has invited public comments until June 1 on the recommendations, which it expects to finalize by year-end.

Saturated fat is found in foods from animal sources such as butter, cow’s milk, meat, salmon and egg yolks, and in some plant-derived products such as chocolate, cocoa butter, coconut, palm and palm kernel oils.

An active adult needs about 2,500 calories per day, Branca said.

“So we are talking about 250 calories coming from saturated fat and that is approximately a bit less than 30 grams of saturated fat,” he said.

That amount of fat could be found in 50 grams (1.76 oz) of butter, 130-150 grams of cheese with 30 percent fat, a liter of full fat milk, or in 50 grams of palm oil, he said.

Trans Fats

Trans fats occur naturally in meat and dairy products. But the predominant source is industrially-produced and contained in baked and fried foods such as fries and doughnuts, snacks, and partially hydrogenated cooking oils and fats often used by restaurants and street vendors.

In explicit new advice, WHO said that excessive amounts of saturated fat and trans fat should be replaced by polyunsaturated fats, such as fish, canola and olive oils.

“Reduced intake of saturated fatty acids have been associated with a significant reduction in risk of coronary heart disease when replaced with polyunsaturated fatty acids or carbohydrates from whole grains,” it said.

Total fat consumption should not exceed 30 percent of total energy intake to avoid unhealthy weight gain, it added.

The recommendations complement other WHO guidelines including limiting intake of free sugars and sodium.

Source: Reuters


Read also at WHO:

Draft guidelines on saturated fatty acid and trans-fatty acid intake for adults and children
(pdf)
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China’s New Dietary Guidelines Could Be Good News For The Climate


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Jeremy Deaton wrote . . . . .

Chinese food has fans around the world, but in China it’s creating a problem. A recent study found obesity and other diet-related diseases are skyrocketing.

Recently, the Chinese government took a major step to reverse that trend by issuing a new set of dietary guidelines.

While dietary experts will weigh in on the nutritional aspects, buried in the pages is a recommendation with potentially huge implications for climate change.

The Chinese Ministry of Health is urging citizens to limit meat and egg intake to 200 grams daily. They are advising individuals to eat more fish and chicken and less red meat. Currently, China’s per capita meat and egg consumption amounts to around 300 grams per day, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. (National Geographic put together a detailed, interactive country by country breakdown of these data.)

While widespread adoption of a protein-rich, Western-style diet is fueling a surge in diet-related ailments, increased meat consumption among China’s burgeoning middle class is also a big contributor to climate change.

It’s difficult to predict what effect the new guidelines will have on global warming. That depends on a number of variables — how many people follow the recommendations, the proportion of red meat versus fish and poultry consumed, etc. Also, because many Chinese people currently consume less than recommended maximum amounts, not every individual will necessarily eat less meat.

That being said, here is rough idea of how the recommendations might impact global carbon emissions.


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If every man, woman and child followed the guidelines, meat and egg consumption in China would be reduced by about a third. According to the U.N., as of 2005, livestock accounted for the equivalent of 445 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions there annually. Using the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, cutting those livestock-related carbon emissions by a third would have roughly the same effect as taking 93 million cars off the road.

These are back-of-the envelope calculations, but they get at the order of magnitude of the potential change. China’s new dietary guidelines, if followed by the population, could dramatically reduce the food-related greenhouse gas emissions of the world’s biggest polluter.

Similar measures have been met with resistance in the United States. Last year, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended Americans eat less red meat and avoid processed meat products like hot dogs and beef jerky. In the final draft of the U.S. dietary guidelines, the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services lumped in red meat with fish and poultry, contrary to the advice of the committee.

Source: Climate Progress



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Why the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Keep Changing and How to Read Them

Deena Shanker wrote . . . . .

As Jerry Seinfeld might say, what’s the deal with nutrition science? One day eggs are bad, next day they’re good. Or good in moderation. Who knows?

One reason what to eat is so hotly debated is all the money tied up in it. The dietary guidelines the U.S. government issues every five years are the culmination of a process that involves not only nutritionists, doctors, and other health professionals but also the food industry and its many lobbyists.

In the latest guidelines, issued early this year, the expert panel’s preliminary report included advice to lower consumption of red and processed meats, for the environment as well as for your health. The meat industry weighed in, and in the final version only men and teenage boys were urged to eat less protein. The environment was cut out of the equation altogether.1 The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have said that the guidelines are based on a rigorous review of scientific evidence and consideration of comments from the public and federal agencies.

The science changes, too. Eggs were once considered a driver of heart disease, because of their high cholesterol content. According to some recent research, healthy people can eat eggs without much of a problem. Fats, too, are no longer entirely shunned, but broken down into good and bad. Trans fats (in processed foods) and saturated fats (in dairy and red meat) are bad. Unsaturated fats (in olive oil and nuts) are good.

The nuance, if not the cholesterol, could kill you.

People don’t shop for unsaturated fats. They shop for food. Maybe the government should keep it simple: More fruits and vegetables. Less processed food and soda. Lean meats, fish, nuts, and beans. Whole grains. Not too much of anything. Except maybe the vegetables.

Watch video at Bloomberg (2:11 minutes) . . . . .