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A student in Brandon Valley School District, South Dakota, receives a healthy school lunch. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has offered flexibility which allows for low-fat flavored milk options rather than fat free only.

Lean meat, dairy part of healthy dietary guidelines

Draft dietary guidelines confirm role that lean meats and dairy products play in diets.

The draft scientific report presented by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) on June 17 confirmed the role dairy and lean meat can play in a healthy diet, which was welcome news to industry groups.

The DGAC is comprised of 20 health and nutrition experts and is responsible for developing recommendations to inform the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services as they develop the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs), which are updated every five years. The DGAs are designed to provide Americans with a roadmap for healthy eating. They are the foundation for federal nutrition programs, along with school, military, hospital and nursing home menus, and they form the basis for many expert nutrition recommendations. The government has encouraged public participation throughout the process.

Danielle Beck, National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. (NCBA) director of government affairs, said a key takeaway from the draft report and eight-hour meeting held June 17 was the “strong support for meat as a foundational food” and how the nutritional guidelines continue to recognize the importance of more nutrient-dense foods. She said beef is about a nutrient dense as it gets.

She said during the meeting deliberations, it was noted that more research is needed to distinguish different types of red meat and further define what constitutes lean meat. The last dietary guidelines finalized in 2015 included lean meat as part of a healthful diet but then cautioned against red and processed meat.

Beck said the industry hopes to have better qualifying language when the 2020 guidelines are finalized, because there are “plenty of red meats that qualify as lean.”

Over the last 13 months, NCBA, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program, has submitted 21 sets of public comments and more than 100 research studies in support of beef’s role in a healthy diet.

In a statement following the meeting, the International Dairy Foods Assn. (IDFA) said the conclusions offered by the DGAC “firmly establish dairy as one of the most nutritionally beneficial foods in dietary patterns, alongside fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains. IDFA is pleased to see federal nutrition guidance continue to affirm the important nutritional contributions made by dairy foods and remind Americans that a healthy diet includes three daily servings of dairy.”

In other key findings from the draft scientific report presented, the DGAC highlighted new evidence strengthening dairy’s role in maintaining bone health for adults. For mothers, the committee dispelled misinformation about dairy’s link to asthma, saying there is no association between a mother’s consumption of dairy and the development of asthma in children.

Once again, the committee found no linkage between consumption of dairy foods and incidences of breast cancer, which should put an end to a long-standing disinformation campaign to alarm and confuse the public, IDFA said.

A new topic introduced in these DGAs lays the groundwork for clearer nutrition recommendations for children from birth through 24 months of age, with the experts recommending small amounts of some foods -- including dairy foods, fruits, vegetables, nut and seed products and whole-grain products -- beginning at 6-12 months and continuing thereafter. For toddlers, dairy foods are particularly important for the vitamins and nutrients they provide.

“This recommendation could not be clearer, demonstrating what the American Academy of Pediatrics has stressed for years: that dairy plays a critical role in the diet of children to bolster long-term health,” IDFA said.

However, the group said the reported outcomes did not mention the relevant scientific studies that show the benefits of dairy at each fat level. “There is robust evidence to support the inclusion of dairy foods at all fat levels in recommended food patterns. With the DGAC’s role coming to an end, IDFA encourages USDA and HHS to remedy this oversight in the final guidelines to be released this year,” IDFA said.

The final DGAC report will be released in mid-July. On Aug. 11, USDA and HHS will hear oral comments from the public on the DGAC advisory report, with the final DGAs expected to be out at the end of the year.

 

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