ON Dec. 15, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) met for its seventh and final time publicly to discuss the 2015 "Dietary Guidelines for Americans."
As feared based on the discussions this year, the committee took a step that goes against the science and could encourage Americans to eat less lean meat.
For the second time, DGAC presented and agreed to evidence showing healthy dietary patterns with red meat intake above current U.S. consumption levels, medical doctor and Texas cattle producer Dr. Richard Thorpe explained, but then the committee went against its own review of the science and "is recommending healthy diets should be lower in red meat than they are today."
Shalene McNeil, National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. executive director of human nutrition who was involved in dietary guideline discussions in 2005 and 2010, said this latest meeting reached a consensus to strike lean meat from recommendations for inclusion in a healthful diet.
McNeil said that conclusion "is not consistent with the advice given for the past 30 years" and added that lean meat has been recognized as part of a healthy diet since the recommendations began.
She noted that lean meat is the only group that actually meets the current dietary guidelines as beef accounts for just 5% of what Americans eat, averaging less than 2 oz. of beef per day.
McNeil, who is also a registered dietician, said dietary guidelines have progressively trended toward a more plant-based diet, which has brought unintended consequences.
She said as the recommendations have called for more white meat or fish intake over the last 40 years, people are actually consuming more calories from refined grains, added sugars and added fats. She works with clients who admit to needing more protein, but instead of eating more meat, they opt for a protein bar, which has more carbohydrates and calories.
Beef checkoff-funded research conducted by Pennsylvania State University researchers found that eating lean beef every day can be good for heart health by improving cholesterol levels. Subjects following the "BOLD" (Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet) plan experienced a 10% decrease in low-density lipoprotein ("bad cholesterol") during the study period.
McNeil said the BOLD results were not included in the evidence for DGAC to consider because of what committee members said were technicality issues with the study. However, other scientists outside the committee have not been able to figure out the rationale.
Thorpe added that DGAC "has turned a blind eye to their own evidence library criteria, arbitrarily excluding peer-reviewed, sound science on the health benefits of lean beef. To recommend that Americans eat less of a heart-healthy protein — the only area of the existing guidelines currently consumed within the recommended amounts — demonstrates that this committee has its own agenda, and it is not guided by the evidence."
Now, the committee is finalizing its recommendations to send to the secretaries of agriculture and health, and final guidelines are expected in early 2015.
If there is no indication that lean meats should be part of a healthy and balanced diet, it could have a lasting impact on school feeding programs and foods served to the military, McNeil warned.