The U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s (DGAC) scientific report, which is open for public comment until this Thursday, has already received many public comments this week, including from beef and dairy groups.
Sixth-generation California rancher Kiah Twisselman told officials with the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and the U.S. Health & Human Services about her firsthand experience with the benefits of beef in her diet and urged them to do more to encourage beef as part of a healthy diet as they finalize new federal dietary guidelines. Twisselman testified on behalf of the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. (NCBA).
“I know firsthand how important it is for dietary guidance to be practical, flexible and clear,” Twisselman said in a public online hearing Aug. 11. “Two years ago, I began my journey to better health. I’ve lost over 125 lb. through small life changes, regular exercise and a healthy diet. I’ve also built a successful weight loss and life coaching business to empower others to do the same.”
Twisselman urged federal officials to build on the DGAC recommendation to include lean meat in a healthy diet by clearly identifying beef as a lean meat option and highlighting ways to achieve that recommendation by naming specific lean meat cuts like sirloin or 95% lean ground beef. She also called on officials to highlight beef as a common, readily available source for essential nutrients like iron, zinc and B vitamins.
The final draft guidelines recognize beef’s role in a healthy diet, including the essential role its nutrients play in every life stage. NCBA has provided extensive written and oral commentary through both the Center for Public Policy and the Beef Checkoff Program. NCBA, on behalf of the checkoff, submitted 21 sets of unique comments, providing more than 100 research studies that comprehensively review the scientific evidence supporting the critical role beef plays in a healthy diet.
Susan Backus, vice president of regulatory and scientific programs of the North American Meat Institute (Meat Institute), provided comments on behalf of the group's members, saying the benefits of meat and poultry consumption as part of healthy, balanced dietary patterns cannot be overstated, especially in vulnerable population groups.
Backus expressed concern about the lack of clarity and inconsistencies in the scientific report’s conclusions regarding meat and poultry intake.
“The report notes that protein foods are generally consumed in the range of recommended amounts,” Backus said. “Yet, there are certain populations where specific nutrients and components pose special public health challenges, like adolescent girls and older adults who have low intakes of protein and vitamin B12, respectively.
“These findings, combined with the dietary patterns’ conclusions that healthy patterns are ‘lower’ in red and processed meats, are confusing and provide mixed messages. USDA and HHS have the opportunity to translate the report’s findings into clear, concise language that demonstrates the role meat and poultry can play in healthy dietary patterns when consumed in recommended amounts,” she said.
Government officials need to take into account evolving science that shows the benefits of dairy fats when it releases its final report, Miquela Hanselman, manager for regulatory affairs with the National Milk Producers Federation, said during the virtual meeting.
“The committee correctly, in our view, maintained dairy as its own group and did not allow the inclusion of any plant-based beverages or foods other than fortified soy beverage,” Hanselman said. “Furthermore, the committee gave a nod to dairy’s nutrient density and included it in food recommendations developed for 6-24 months."
Still, there’s work to do, she added.
“The committee did fall short on one topic: the recognition of the newer science on dairy fats. Although we are pleased that the committee didn’t lower the saturated fats daily limit, we wish they had included the newer science on dairy fats in their recommendation,” Hanselman said. “While the committee did acknowledge the need for more research and analysis on fat sources and food matrices, they failed to include the breadth of science that already exists in this area in their review. For this reason, we urge USDA and HHS to review the scientific literature on dairy foods at all fat levels and draw their own conclusions.”
In remarks by Dr. Joseph Scimeca, senior vice president for regulatory and scientific affairs with the International Dairy Foods Assn. (IDFA) in Washington, D.C., he said the committee’s exclusion of the consumption of dairy productions at various levels of milkfat content was “curious, considering the DGAC report indicated there is an important and growing body of evidence on the favorable cardiovascular disease outcomes related to specific types of fatty acids, food matrices and specific sources of fat. This is an important area that should have been considered by the committee since there is growing evidence to support a positive health impact of milkfat that is different from other saturated fats.”
IDFA did commend the DGAC for making recommendations for infants and toddlers. “The committee report held that as infants begin to eat complementary foods in addition to formula or breastmilk, it is important that dairy foods, such as yogurt and cheeses, be among those first foods introduced to infants between six and 12 months of age,” Scimeca said.
The final 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are expected to be released later this year. Individuals have until Aug. 13 to submit written comments on the guidelines.