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New "Dietary Guidelines" Recommends Eating Less Sugar & Meat

CSPI Praises Specific Recommended Limits on Added Sugars and Saturated Fat at 10 Percent of Calories Each

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Americans should be eating more fruits and vegetables and less added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, according to the federal government’s new Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The once-every-five-years publication, written jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services with the advice of an expert panel of scientists, provides the government’s basic nutrition advice and forms the basis for much federal, state, and local food policy.

Notably, the 2015 Guidelines released today recommends consuming less than 10 percent of calories each from added sugars and saturated fat. The evidence is strong, the Guidelines states, that diets with less meat are associated with reduced risk of heart disease and stroke. Moderate evidence indicates that those eating patterns are associated with a reduced risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer, according to the publication. Teen boys and adult men also “need to reduce overall intake of protein foods by decreasing intakes of meats, poultry, and eggs and increasing amounts of vegetables or other underconsumed food groups,” according to the Guidelines.

“The advice presented in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is sound, sensible, and science-based,” said Michael F. Jacobson, president of the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. “If Americans ate according to that advice, it would be a huge win for the public’s health. That said, the federal government’s basic nutrition advice has remained largely unchanged for the past 35 years. The problem is that the food industry has continued to pressure and tempt us to eat a diet of burgers, pizzas, burritos, cookies, doughnuts, sodas, shakes, and other foods loaded with white flour, red and processed meat, salt, saturated fat, and added sugars, and not enough vegetables, fruit, and whole grains.”

Last February, the expert panel advising the government agencies recommended that Americans consume less red and processed meat to protect both the public’s health and the environment. Almost immediately, the scientific report was attacked by the meat industry and its allies in Congress. Though the final Guidelines does not address environmental sustainability, the overall advice on eating less meat indicates USDA and HHS partially resisted the political pressure, according to CSPI.

CSPI also praised the Guidelines for recommending that Americans consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day and for urging people with hypertension and pre-hypertension to consume less than 1,500 mg a day.  Those two groups account for about two-thirds of the adult population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CSPI was disappointed that the Guidelines downplayed the importance of consuming less dietary cholesterol, especially from eggs. That advice was dropped from the “Key Recommendations.” However, the Guidelines does not recommend eating eggs in unlimited quantities, as some earlier media reports speculated. Instead, the Guidelines advise people to consume “as little dietary cholesterol as possible while consuming a healthy eating pattern.”

CSPI says the important thing now is for federal, state, and local governments to adopt policies and programs that would make it easier for Americans to eat according to the Guidelines. Measures might include limiting sodium levels in packaged and restaurant foods, stopping junk-food marketing to children, giving SNAP recipients discounts for buying fresh produce, taxing sugar drinks, teaching school children to cook and garden, and mounting mass-media campaigns to improve diets. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended several of those measures.

CSPI also said that it hopes that USDA’s new MyPlate MyWins program, which is similar to the current MyPlate program, will help encourage children to eat the kind of diet that the Dietary Guidelines has urged for 35 years—more produce, whole grains, beans, and lower-fat animal products along with less sugar, salt, and saturated fat.

“Of course while the government publishes this earnest and well-intentioned advice, the soft-drink, restaurant, snack-food, meat, and cheese industries will continue to spend billions of dollars promoting foods and beverages that directly contradict that advice,” Jacobson said. “Those sophisticated marketing campaigns make it harder for Americans to eat diets that will protect against obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other serious diet-related problems.”

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