The United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services issued new dietary guidelines, which include recommendations for babies and toddlers for the first time.
Used by health care professionals and policy makers, the guidelines dictate much of what Americans of all ages will eat over the next five years and provide a foundation for federal nutrition programs.
The guidelines, which were issued Tuesday, focus on “customizing and enjoy nutrient-dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations” and “meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages, and stay within calorie limits,” according to the dietary guidelines website.
“The science tells us that good nutrition leads to better health outcomes, and the new dietary guidelines use the best available evidence to give Americans the information they need to make healthy decisions for themselves and their families,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar, in a statement.
Alcohol and sugar intake
Despite this expanded guidance including early life stages, the guidance doesn’t follow quantitative recommendations in two key areas — alcohol and sugar intake — addressed by an advisory committee’s scientific report.
The guidelines, which build on previous editions of the dietary recommendations, draw from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s scientific report, which was released in July. However, the suggestions in the science-based report can be vetoed when the actual final recommendations take shape and are published.
The committee report suggested reducing current guidance from two drinks for men and one drink a day for women to one drink a day for both women and men.
However, the newly released guidelines “did not include changes to quantitative recommendations as there was not a preponderance of evidence in the material the committee reviewed to support specific changes, as required by law,” according to the dietary guidelines website. “As in previous editions, limited intake of these two food components is encouraged.”
Adults can choose not to drink or drink in moderation by limiting consumption of two drinks or less in a day for men and one drink or less in a day for women, according to the new guidelines. Pregnant women should not drink, the guidelines say.
“The decision made by the federal government to maintain current dietary guidelines around alcohol intake reflects the current science and should be applauded,” according to a statement released by the American Beverage Institute.
“The USDA and HHS rightly rejected suggestions from the advisory committee to limit alcohol intake for men, which was not supported by the evidence,” according to the industry trade group’s statement. “New developments regarding human health should never be dismissed, but the debate should be driven by sound science, not an agenda.”
The American Institute for Cancer Research was pleased to see “recommendations for a dietary pattern rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks,” said Dr. Nigel Brockton, AICR’s vice president of research, in a statement.
But “retaining this flawed advice implies that two drinks per day are safe for men; that advice is contrary to the convincing evidence that intake of even less than one drink per day elevates the risk for several cancer types, including head and neck, esophageal and breast cancers,” he said.