2015 Dietary Guidelines: a gallon of lobbying and a pinch of nutrition science?

New federal dietary guidelines issued last week by the Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments, urge Americans to drastically cut back on sugar, and for the first time have singled out teenage boys and men for eating too much meat, chicken and eggs.

The biggest change is restricting added sugar: Americans consume up to 22 teaspoons a day. To meet the new 10 percent target, they’d need to cut their sugar intake by nearly half — to no more than 12 teaspoons a day on a 2,000-calorie daily diet.a59d73eee7329639a0492a8acc71f3608adc7cfc

Two surprises in the guidelines were both related to protein:

  1. The recommendation that men and boys “reduce their overall intake of protein foods” such as meat, poultry and eggs and add more vegetables to their diets.gr-meat-consumption
  2. The absence of a recommended dietary limit for red or processed meat, even though the Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended one be put in place after a controversial World Health Organization report declared that processed meats cause cancer, and red meats likely cause cancer.

Per the New York Times and NPR, the absence of a recommendation on meat consumption is related to lobbying from the meat industry (quotation from NY Times):

Last year, an advisory committee of nutrition experts assembled by the government recommended that the dietary guidelines encourage all Americans to consume more plant-based foods and less meat to help promote environmentally sustainable eating habits. That suggestion elicited intense lobbying and criticism from the food and meat industries, leading to a congressional hearing on the topic last year. In December, Congress passed a spending bill that contained a provision calling for a review of the dietary guidelines by the National Academy of Medicine and restricting the scope of the guidelines to nutrition, which essentially eliminated the advice about following an environmentally-sustainable diet.

The report also excludes other notable recommendations made by the Dietary Guidelines advisory panel that reviewed the latest nutrition science. For instance, the advisory committee had recommended including sustainability as a factor in making food choices. But administration officials nixed that idea.dietary-guidelines_larger_custom-54044ab72226fe0978a0b6aee5ed589c44fbd20b-s600-c85

The Dietary Guidelines have implications for federal nutrition policy, influencing everything from the national school lunch program to the advice you get at the doctor’s office.

A year ago, the New York Times ran a great review of the science behind the dietary guideline changes recommended by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

What do you think of the guidelines? How do they impact you?


Published by Marion Sills

I am a Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine at the University of Colorado. I work as a physician in the emergency departments of the Children's Hospital of Colorado and as a health services researcher at the University's Adult and Child Consortium for Health Outcomes (ACCORDS).

4 thoughts on “2015 Dietary Guidelines: a gallon of lobbying and a pinch of nutrition science?

  1. I thought it was interesting that girls ages 14-18 had the lowest average intake for several different food groups including vegetables and fruits. I also liked your perspective on the new meat and protein guidelines. I did not even consider the fact that red and processed meats were unmentioned. However, I did not see an actual “recommendation” per say regarding men and eating less protein, but the graph does show that their protein intake is above recommendations. I am personally happy with the new guidelines towards added sugars and hope that the new nutrition facts panel is approved soon. I am sure you’ve looked at them, but out of the three proposed changes, I prefer the one where the carbohydrates are broken down
    total carbohydrates->total sugar->added sugar.
    Thank you for the post, it was an easier to read thorough summary of the new guidelines.
    Happy Eats!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment! I like your recommended break down of the display of carbohydrate content. I wonder if more detail like that will help individuals better tailor their diet to their unique metabolic phenotype. For example, if I realize that added sugar seems to matter more in my perceived glycemic response than total sugar, I might prioritize reduction of added sugar, whereas another person, equipped with the same content information, might recognize other dietary triggers for glycemic response or other undesired outcomes.


  2. I think it will definitely help people make the differentiation between healthy and natural sugars such as those present in dairy and fruit, versus those that are added into things such as cereals, creamers, and really anything processed. The biggest impact I think we may see is a decrease in soda consumption. When a soda consumer sees 40g added sugar = 150% Daily Recommendation, they may think twice before downing that 16 oz coke!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: