Drinking Bacchus

2025 Dietary Guidelines: Are We Ready for This?

Dietary Guidelines ProcessYesterday, the USDA opened up the process for the 2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. They invited us all to comment on the questions they will pose to a scientific advisory committee. Then they’ll appoint that committee and put it to work on producing a report. The report goes into the sausage grinder of policy making. At the other end of that, the guidelines will emerge sometime at the end of 2025.

So what lies ahead on this three-year roller coaster ride?

Accusations of Conflicted Interests

Eating is a requirement for human existence. So everyone does it and everyone seems to have strong beliefs about the right way to do it. One way to press for the triumph of strongly held beliefs is to press for the disqualification of those who might have different views. It’s simple. The folks who disagree with you are obviously biased.

The beauty of that assertion is that it’s almost certainly true. Commercial bias, philosophical bias, righteous white hat bias – they’re all pretty easy to find on the subject of what to eat and how best to do it. Food arouses passions.

So it’s both unsurprising and unimpressive to hear that people with strong views about nutrition believe the process is rife with conflicts of interest. A group that is disenchanted with the last output from this process lays it out with a new paper in Public Health Nutrition. But Tamar Haspel made the same point much more efficiently in a recent tweet:

“I think they should just let me write the Dietary Guidelines and call it a day.”

It’s fundamental. Nothing is better for thee than me.

Arguments About What’s Missing

There’s bad news in the announcement of questions for the 2025 process if you want the 2025 dietary guidelines to address sustainable diets. That’s off the table. It’s not that sustainability is not important, says USDA. Rather, it’s “a high priority topic” requiring specific expertise. So HHS and USDA will work on it behind the scenes.

Incidentally, American dietary guidelines recently earned a low score for embodiment of environmental sustainability.

Another topic that was tough the last time around was alcohol. USDA also says this is important and will get separate attention. It just won’t be a topic of discussion for the scientific advisory committee.

Noise About Sugar, Fats, and Ultra-Processed Foods

Looking at the questions USDA issued, it’s pretty clear we will see lots of lively discussions about added sugars, saturated fat, and ultra-processed foods. This will certainly generate a lot of heat, but enlightenment is not a certain outcome.

Interesting Discussions of Dietary Patterns

Far more interesting will be the discussion of dietary patterns. There’s a lot in the questions about dietary patterns and chronic diseases, especially obesity. This could get very interesting, especially if the advisory committee has people who really understand the complexity of interactions between diet and the many other factors that contribute to chronic diseases like obesity. Or they could just fall into the rabbit hole of tired old observational associations.

So stay tuned. In a little more than three years, we’ll not only have another presidential election behind us. We’ll have an interesting new set of dietary guidelines. Meet the new boss . . .

Click here to review the proposed questions and find out how to add your two cents. For the analysis and opinion paper on conflicts of interest, click here.

Drinking Bacchus, painting by Guido Reni / WikiArt

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April 16, 2022

One Response to “2025 Dietary Guidelines: Are We Ready for This?”

  1. April 16, 2022 at 9:07 am, David Brown said:

    The proposed systematic review questions are organized into topics. One of the topics is Specific Dietary Pattern Components. A question that shouldn’t even be asked is “What is the relationship between food sources of saturated fat consumed and risk of cardiovascular disease?”
    There is no relationship because saturated fats are not bioactive molecules. Moreover, there is no correlation between saturated intake and increases in the incidence of obesity or a chronic inflammatory disease of any sort. For example, “Fatty acid composition in the Western diet has shifted from saturated to polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), and specifically to linoleic acid (LA, 18:2), which has gradually increased in the diet over the past 50 y to become the most abundant dietary fatty acid in human adipose tissue.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35312372/