DGA Commenter Number 64

Stumbling Toward a Rumble on Dietary Guidelines

The expectations are low, so it’s not getting much attention. The 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is trying to wrap up its work on a report. That report goes into a black box at FDA and USDA. Then sometime around the end of the year, the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans will pop out from that black box.

The last chance for public comments – on the record – closes tomorrow. Then on the 17th, the committee will meet via webcast to unveil and review its draft report. You can be sure that the report will start of a bit of a rumble – simply because it cannot possibly please every faction of dietary interest groups.

Flashpoints on Plants and Meat

Already the political-style campaigns are under way with aims to influence the final guidelines. The Nutrition Coalition is advocating for more inclusion of low-carb recommendations. This group finds fault with the advisory committee’s process. It’s asking FDA and USDA to delay the report and start an investigation.

The Coalition’s core issue is that the committee has concluded saturated fats are a concern for heart health. There’s nothing new in this finding, but Nina Teicholz and her followers really want to see this long standing point of consensus overturned. Teicholz is Executive Director of the Coalition.

All of this is part of political jousting about how strongly the guidelines will favor plant-based diets and recommend against red and processed meats. Naturally, advocates for plant-based diets are pushing hard for strong warnings. Their concern is broader than just red and processed meat. It extends to all meat and dairy products. They also want the committee to stay away from endorsing low-carb diets.

Right now, the committee says it sees no evidence for favoring low-carb or low-fat dietary patterns. But it does suggest that less red and processed meat (among other things) is associated with less obesity. We need more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seafood, and legumes, it says. For all these conclusions, it found limited evidence in children and moderate evidence in adults.

Low Expectations

Right now many other things are commanding our attention. Demonstrations about lethal racism and a pandemic that’s killing thousands of people daily come to mind. On top of that, the expectations for these guidelines are not high. The current administration does not have a strong record for following science generally. Its record on nutrition science is no different.

So it’s no surprise that the 2020 Dietary Guidelines are not getting much attention. But they will get published. And they will have an effect on nutrition policy for some time to come. So we advise paying attention.

Click here for the findings of the advisory committee to date, here to comment through tomorrow, and here to register for next week’s draft report meeting.

DGA Commenter Number 64, photograph © Ted Eytan / flickr

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June 9, 2020