New Fed Dietary Guidelines Ignore WHO and Scientific Advisors

Every 5 years, the USDA and HHS together release an updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). Legislated in 1990 under the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act, the report contains nutritional and dietary information and guidelines for the general public.

The 2015-2020 Guidelines 

  1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. All food and beverage choices matter. Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
  2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount. To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts.
  3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns.
  4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain.
  5. Support healthy eating patterns for all. Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities. 

What’s Changed 

Unlike earlier releases of the Dietary Guidelines, which focused on food groups and nutrients, placed in a pyramid and then most recently in a plate, these guidelines introduce the concept of three food patterns or styles: Healthy U.S., Healthy Mediterranean and Healthy Vegetarian.

Specific recommendations do include limiting sugar and saturated fat to 10% each of daily calories and sodium to less than 2,300 mg daily. Unlike the 2010-2015 Guidelines, the current version does not limit dietary cholesterol consumption to 300 mg/daily. Rather it recommends eating as little as possible while engaging in a healthy eating pattern.

What’s Missing

The Guidelines are based on a review of current scientific research and the input of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. As Committee member Dr. Frank Hu of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has noted, the Committee recommended that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, as well as red and processed meat should be specifically limited due to their adverse effects on health. The Committee also noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) in November 2015 announced that eating processed meat is carcinogenic to humans. Their recommendations were ignored.

The Chair of Nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health, Dr. Walter Willet, has accused the USDA of censorship and obfuscation. “Clearly these Guidelines bear the hoof prints of the Cattleman’s Association and the sticky fingerprints of Big Soda. They fail to represent the best available scientific evidence and are a disservice to the American public,” he says.

To learn more about the Guidelines, see

For specific nutrient tables by age and sex, see

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