What Everyone Should Know About Dietary Guidelines

Written by Jennifer Lutz
The USDA’s process for updating guidelines is as mind-numbing and confounding as you might expect -which often allows industry interests to emerge successful. Amidst the boring process, double-speak, and hidden agendas, the 2020 dietary guidelines have instituted first-time regulations that threaten public health more than the federal government would like people to understand. True Health Initiative breaks it down. 
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For the first time, scientific input to the dietary guidelines will be limited. 

  • Research that can be included has been hampered to studies recommended by government agency officials- meaning appointed officials can cherry-pick data.
  • Questions asked to the committee specifically exclude:
    • Red and processed meat
    • Ultra-processed foods
    • Sodium levels for different populations 

The CDC reports that 6 out of 10 Americans suffer from chronic illness, 80% of which is preventable with proper diet according to the World Health Organization. Nearly 1/2 of all Americans suffer from heart disease.

  • By forbidding the committee to consider research previous to 2000, the committee will exclude large amounts of science-based advice on dietary fats and cardiovascular disease risk. 

The 2020 DGA Advisory Committee is composed of 20 members, 13 of which have ties to industry- according to the freedom of information act. Several committee members were nominated by 4 or more food industry groups, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the trade association of the snack food industry. The prevalence of industry ties seems much greater than in previous years.  This year’s panel is also prohibited from discussing the impact of food production on the environment and concerns regarding sustainability.

This Matters

The Dietary Guidelines are are the basis for things like directing the administration of school lunches and food assistance programs. Manufacturers create products based on these guidelines for eligibility to participate in these programs, which buy $100 billion of food a year.

More Americans are sick than are healthy, and the most vulnerable communities will be hit hardest by guidelines misaligned with science. The DGAs are meant to safeguard public health, not to ignore science, turn a deaf ear to the most pressing public issues and peddle in industry dollars.  

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