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Dietary Guidelines Advice, Mostly Unchanged, is Mostly Praised by CSPI

Statement of CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson

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The report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is mostly unchanged from the reports of 2010 and years past, and in the ways it differs, the changes are mostly for the better. Contrary to some media accounts, the pendulum is not swinging wildly back and forth on most of these scientific questions; the basic advice to eat less saturated fat, sugar, and salt, and to eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, is largely the same.

The committee has boldly stated that a sustainable diet, higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods, is better for both our health and the planet than the current American diet. The DGAC has always urged greater consumption of fruits and vegetables, but the recommendation to eat less red and processed meat deserves to be in the final Dietary Guidelines for Americans—and not excised at the behest of the meat industry.

The strong recommendations on added sugars are important and have far-reaching policy implications. First, the report recommends limiting added sugars to a maximum of 10 percent of calories. The report bluntly recommends that Americans consume fewer sugary drinks. And it recommends adding a line for added sugars on Nutrition Facts panels, expressed in teaspoons as well as grams, and with a new Daily Value.

The DGAC acknowledges that Americans are overconsuming sodium and calls on industry to reformulate to cut the sodium. More importantly, it urges the Food and Drug Administration to act on the Institute of Medicine's 2010 recommendation for mandatory, gradual reductions of sodium in the food supply. Unfortunately, the DGAC suggests a daily limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, in contrast to evidence—and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines—that 1,500 milligrams is a healthier goal for most adults.

The committee also erred by not including cholesterol as a "nutrient of concern." It still is. About 60 percent of men are eating too much cholesterol, much of it from eggs. Cholesterol in foods still raises blood cholesterol levels, and people should consume only modest amounts of it.

The DGAC wisely recommends eating less saturated fat in meat, cheese, butter, coconut, and palm kernel oil, and the trans fat in some processed foods. Both fats promote heart disease because they raise blood cholesterol.

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).