This week’s release of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans came with less build-up than normal. But, the guidelines are drawing reactions from mild to wild.
The 5-year update, a joint production of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS), was carried out without all the usual personal contacts because of the pandemic.
“During the unveiling of the dietary guidelines, USDA and HHS data showed the sad reality that Americans’ eating habits haven’t changed for the better, despite decades of similar guidelines,” said Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association. “But today’s reality facing the COVID-19 pandemic brings greater urgency than ever before.
“We know that diet-related conditions such as obesity and diabetes put people at greater risk of severe dieting leading to long-term chronic diseases. Now, we see clearly that healthy eating is a critical defense against communicable diseases such as coronavirus.”
First issued in 1980, Stenzel says the updated dietary guidelines “mostly repeat what we already know about healthy eating.” He says now is the time for the political will to implement the advice in federal food programs.
Jessi Silverman, policy associate at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) expressed disappointment that USDA and HHS failed to make greater cutbacks in added sugars as the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended.
“While it is disappointing that this edition of the dietary guidelines misses the mark on added sugars, people in the U.S. ultimately need much more than advice;” says Silverman. “CSPI urges the incoming administration to remove barriers to healthy eating in our stores, restaurants, and institutions, and to implement policies that actually help Americans eat according to the guidelines.”
The advisory committee recommended that individuals more than 2 years of age should consume less than 6 percent of their total calories from added sugars, but the 2020-25 dietary guidelines stick with 10 percent from earlier editions.
“There is no question that individuals would benefit from reducing their intake of added sugars to less than 10 percent, but they would benefit more by consuming less than 6 percent,” Silverman added.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) liked the new guidelines for its endorsement of a “dietary pattern rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks,” but AICR was disappointed with its treatment of alcohol.
AICR leaders accuse USDA and HHS of bowing to “industry pressure” by not reducing the two-drink-a-day limit for men. Reducing the limit to one alcoholic beverage on days when alcohol is consumed was suggested by the advisory committee.
“The scientific report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee found that the current evidence justifies tightening the alcohol guideline for men to no more than one drink per day, to match the recommended limit for women,“ AICR’s reaction statement says. “AICR recommends that, for cancer prevention, it list not to drink alcohol.”
AICR also favored the lower intake of added sugars and choosing unprocessed meats as diets high in red and processed meats come with the risk of colorectal cancer.
Meanwhile, the Boston-based organization known as Government Accountability is also critical of the reversals of recommendations on added sugars and alcohol for adults but holds its biggest criticisms for the process. It says scientists with ties to industry groups like the International Life Sciences Institute got nominated to the Guidelines advisory committee. It also contends that draft recommendations were “seemingly informed, in part, by a plethora of industry comments” and that the range of special interest lobbying will only become known when disclosure reports are filed.
“The political, special interest swamp can’t be allowed to continue making the United States a junk food haven and public health disaster,” says Ashka Naik, Government Accountability’s research director. “It’s time to radically reform how D.C. operates to favor scientific integrity, eliminate conflicts of interests and revealing do