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Work to update dietary guidelines continues

Second of five public meetings held in an effort to advance nutritional advice ahead of 2020 dietary guidelines update.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) recently held its second series of meetings at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The DGAC will eventually make recommendations to USDA and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services for writing the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

In the July 10 meeting, nearly three hours of testimony featured touting particular products. Then, the focus turned to a fight between plant-based and low-carb supporters. Of the more than 75 commenters, nearly a third chose to highlight whether or not the dietary guidelines are ultimately helping or harming the American public.

The committee will lay out how it will use one of three scientific approaches to review the evidence for 40 scientific questions on nutrition and health. The 40 questions -- now posted online -- were reviewed during the meeting.

One of the issues raised was sodium intake, which brought up the latest attention being focused on plant-based foods and meatless burgers such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.

The National Egg Farmers noted in a newsletter, “U.S. consumers are being led to cut down their meat consumption because animal activists claim meat production is cruel and is leading to climate change. Some plant-based meats from Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have become popular, but dietitians have expressed concerns. Instead, of eating more plant-based meats, they recommend eating less processed foods and choosing more whole foods.”

In relaying the response of the science shared at the meeting, the National Egg Farmers said one university professor stated that meatless burgers "are loaded with sodium and saturated fat and more than 50% of the total calories are from fat. If you add enough sodium and saturated fat, I guess you can make most anything edible.”

In its oral comments, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. (NCBA) said an overwhelming body of scientific evidence shows that healthy diets, including red meat like beef, support optimal health and well-being.

“Beef is a high-quality protein powerhouse providing a unique combination of bioavailable iron, zinc and B vitamins essential to building and maintaining strength from infancy through our later years,” said Dr. Shalene McNeill, NCBA executive director of nutrition research.  

NCBA also emphasized to the committee that beef is rich in nostalgia and nutrients, has been enjoyed for centuries and continues to be part of most Americans’ diets, traditions and celebrations. Beef nourishes bodies and minds and optimizes health at every stage of life. Because more Americans are overweight, it is important to make every calorie count. Calorie for calorie, no other protein food delivers the same package of 10 essential nutrients, NCBA said, adding that today’s beef is leaner than ever before, yet Americans’ consumption of calories and fat from beef have declined.

“As a registered dietitian, nutrition scientist and advocate for healthy eating, it’s important for people who include beef as a source of nourishment and satisfaction in a healthy diet to know that the best science available today continues to reinforce this is a smart approach for a healthy lifestyle,” McNeill said.

The low-carb diet also gained support from commenters at the meeting, with more than 10 voices offering support for the diet.

The dietary guidelines are congressionally mandated to be updated every five years. Eve Stoody, nutritionist with USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy & Promotion, noted that there will be three additional meetings, with the last one held in March 2020. The DGAC report will be completed by May 2020 in order for the agencies to meet the mandate to release the next edition of guidelines by December 2020.

TAGS: Policy
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