The federal government rejected the advice of its scientific advisors and published new dietary recommendations that sound like a familiar renunciation of nutrition. She advised Americans “keep every bite counted” while rejecting expert recommendations to greatly reduce their consumption of sugar and alcoholic beverages.
The “Nutritional Guidelines for Americans” are updated every five years, and the final iteration came Tuesday, ten months after a pandemic that poses a historic health threat to Americans. Even those who dodged the coronavirus themselves are drinking more and putting on weight, a phenomenon often referred to as “quarantine 15”.
The dietary guidelines affect the eating habits of Americans, affect the guidelines for grocery brands and school menu items, and indirectly affect how food manufacturers formulate their products.
However, the latest guidelines do not address the current pandemic or any new scientific consensus on the need to establish dietary habits that reduce food insecurity and chronic disease. Climate change is not included in the recommendations that do not address sustainability or greenhouse gas emissions, both of which are closely related to modern food production.
A report by a Scientific Advisory Board last summer recommended that the guidelines encourage Americans to drastically reduce the consumption of sugar added to drinks and food to 6 percent of daily calories, down from 10 percent today.
High rates of overweight and obesity in the United States are linked to serious chronic conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The conditions also increase the risk of developing severe Covid-19 disease.
The committee also called for men to limit their daily alcohol consumption to one drink per day, making it clear that consuming higher amounts of alcohol, on average, is associated with an increased risk of death compared to drinking lower amounts. However, the current recommendation remains one drink per day for women and two for men.
Officials from the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services rejected both the sugar and alcohol caps.
Perhaps confusingly, the guidelines say: “The preponderance of evidence supports limiting the intake of added sugars and alcoholic beverages to promote health and prevent disease. However, the evidence reviewed since the 2015-2020 edition does not currently justify any quantitative changes. “
For the first time, the new guidelines state that children under the age of 2 should avoid consuming added sugars, which are found in many grains and beverages.
The main sources of added sugar in the American diet are sweetened beverages – including sodas and sweetened coffees and teas – desserts, snacks, candies, and breakfast cereals and bars. Most Americans even beat the 10 percent benchmark. Sugar makes up an average of 13 percent of daily calories.
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Critics were disappointed that federal agencies had ignored the recommendations of the Scientific Advisory Board. “I’m stunned by the whole thing,” said Marion Nestle, professor emeritus of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University and author of several books on government nutritional guidelines.
“Despite repeated claims that the guidelines are scientifically sound, the Trump agencies ignored the recommendation of the scientific committee they appointed and instead reverted to the recommendation of the previous guidelines,” she said.
The composition of the nutrition advisory committees was controversial earlier this year as many of the experts had ties to the beef and dairy industries. However, the scientists went further in their advice than in previous committees, particularly with recommendations to limit sugar and alcohol, said Dr. Nestle.
“These were big changes, and they got all the attention when the report came out last summer for very good reasons – and they were ignored in the final report,” said Dr. Nestle.
“The report was introduced as science-based – they used the word science a lot and made a big point of it,” she added. “But they ignored the scientific committee they appointed, which I found amazing.”
In other respects, the new guidelines are consistent with previously issued federal recommendations. Americans are encouraged to eat healthier foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seafood, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and lean meats and poultry.
The guidelines urge the nation to consume less sugar, saturated fat, sodium, and alcohol, and limit caloric intake.
For the first time, the guidelines take a “life-cycle approach” and seek to outline comprehensive advice for pregnant and breastfeeding adults, as well as children under 2 years of age.
One of the recommendations for pregnant women, pregnant women, and nursing mothers is to eat plenty of seafood and fish, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids but low in methylmercury and which can have deleterious effects on a developing fetus. This eating pattern has been linked to healthier pregnancies and better cognitive development in children.
The new guidelines emphasize the health benefits of breastfeeding, which have been linked to a lower risk of obesity, type 1 diabetes and asthma in children. Foods that are potential allergens, such as eggs and peanuts, should be introduced in the first year of life – after four months of age – to reduce the risk of allergies.