Blog: Dean BestSugar, cholesterol, meat feature in new US dietary guidelines

Dean Best | 7 January 2016

Consumer watchdog CSPI broadly welcomed new guidance

Consumer watchdog CSPI broadly welcomed new guidance

The US government has today (7 January) formally announced its latest dietary advice for consumers in the country - and changes to the guidelines on added sugars, cholesterol and meat jump out.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are updated every five years, recommend added sugars make up less than 10% of calories, a firmer piece of advice than that contained in the 2010 guidelines, which simply suggested consumers reduce their intake.

On cholesterol, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 had recommended intake be limited to no more than 300 milligrams a day. This time around, the advice is not included, although the guidance does state consumers "should eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible while consuming a healthy eating pattern". It adds: "In general, foods that are higher in dietary cholesterol, such as fatty meats and high-fat dairy products, are also higher in saturated fats."

On added sugars and cholesterol, the changes were expected, given the advice put forward last year for the US government to consider by the group of nutrition experts that formed the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee.

The DGAC's report also recommended consumers reduce their consumption of red and processed meat, which had caused alarm in parts of the meat sector.

The new guidance did not continue with the DGAC's recommendation on red and processed meat but it did contain guidance to reduce meat consumption, notably including for particular demographic groups. "Some individuals, especially teen boys and adult men, need to reduce overall intake of protein foods by decreasing intakes of meats, poultry, and eggs and increasing amounts of vegetables or other under-consumed food groups," the report said.

Another controversial issue for the meat industry had been the DGAC's call for the impact foods can have on the environment to be included in the new guidance. In October, the US government pre-announced it would not follow the recommendation, prompting criticism from environmental advocates, with some suggesting government had felt pressure from industry.

Elsewhere, the new advice included a recommendation for saturated fats to account for less than 10% of daily calories - which was included in the 2010 guidance - and advice to eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day.

US consumer advocates at Center for Science in the Public Interest broadly welcomed the guidelines, although it expressed disappointment at the new advice on cholesterol.

However, CSPI argued the new guidance on meat indicated Washington had "partially resisted the political pressure".

Michael Jacobson, CSPI's president, said: "The advice presented in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is sound, sensible, and science-based. If Americans ate according to that advice, it would be a huge win for the public’s health."

However, of course, therein lies the rub. There are signs more US consumers are interested in their health, with perhaps the clearest evidence in the growing sales of fresh foods with simpler ingredients at the expense of more processed items. Nevertheless, obesity remains a problem and government officials at federal, state and local level will have to work hard to develop programmes to that successfully communicate these guidelines.

Within industry, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the industry body representing US food manufacturers, gave the guidance qualified support.

Dr. Leon Bruner, the GMA's chief science officer, said: “GMA appreciates the work of the US Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services to review more than 29,000 comments on the 2015 DGAC.

"The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are an important tool that consumers can use to achieve a healthy and balanced diet and these guidelines should be based on sound nutrition science and be practical, affordable and achievable.

"GMA raised concerns that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee's recommendations on sustainable food and taxation were outside the committee’s expertise and commends USDA and HHS for not including these provisions in the final guidelines."

He added: "We look forward to closely reviewing the details of the guidelines to see how the topics of sugars, sodium, lean/processed meats, and caffeine are addressed. GMA had expressed earlier concerns that the advisory committee’s recommendations in these areas were not based on the best available science."


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