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New 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines Make Some Progress but Fall Short On Meat Recommendation and Importance of Sustainability

January 08, 2016

STATEMENT FROM LYNN SILVER, MD, MPH, SENIOR ADVISOR AT THE PUBLIC HEALTH INSTITUTE AND DIRECTOR OF CALIFORNIA PROJECT LEAN

"The Public Health Institute welcomes the strong 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released on January 7 by the United States Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. The guidelines serve as one of the most important science-based tools the American public has to advise on maintaining healthy eating, and underpin many of the nation’s food policies.  Because of that role, they should not bend to politics or pressure.

"Dietary risks are currently the leading underlying risk factor of death in the United States, associated with 559,000 deaths in 2013. The guidelines place a new, stronger emphasis on overall patterns of healthy eating as a whole, rather than on individual foods or nutrients in isolation, which is the best approach to mitigating the risk of diet-related chronic disease. Still, the report did—rightly—target one of the biggest single culprits in chronic disease: added sugar. The new recommended limit of no more than 10% of daily caloric intake for added sugars highlights and addresses the role of added sugars in relationship to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay, as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension and other health problems.

"After intense pressure from industry groups and Congress, the new Guidelines failed to adopt multiple important recommendations from the Advisory Committee report. The final Guidelines weakened the important advisory committee recommendation that Americans eat less red and processed meat.

"The final Guidelines also failed to recognize sustainability as an essential component of federal dietary guidance, as was recommended. Less resource-intensive dietary patterns support nutrition and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, ecosystem harm, and land, water and energy use. Our nation’s ability to meet future food needs will depend on those environmental outcomes, particularly in the context of a changing climate."