By congressional fiat, federal agencies must revise the Dietary Guidelines every five years. This is one of those years. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has been meeting for a couple of years and is now nearly done.
Some unnamed person from the American Society of Nutrition must be attending meetings. The society's Health and Nutrition Policy Newsletter provides a report.
From the sound of it, this committee is doing some tough thinking about how to deal with "overarching issues" that affect dietary advice:
* The high prevalence of overweight and obesity among all Americans.
* The need to focus recommendations on added sugar, fats, refined carbohydrates, and sodium (rather than the obscure concept of "discretionary calories" used in the 2005 guidelines).
* The benefits of shifting to plant-based, rather than meat-based, diets.
* The need to help individuals achieve physical activity guidelines.
* The need to change the food environment to help individuals meet the Dietary Guidelines.
Applause, please, for this last one. It recognizes that individuals can't do it alone.
The committee's key findings and recommendations:
Translation: more fruits and vegetables, fewer processed foods, and changes in the food environment to make it easier for everyone to follow this advice.
Next steps: the committee is supposed to complete its report by May 12 and send it to USDA and DHHS. The agencies post the report in June for public comment. Then, agency staff write the guidelines and publish them by the end of the year.
Historical note: prior to 2005, the committee wrote the guidelines. I was on the 1995 committee and we drafted guidelines that the agencies hardly touched (except to tinker with the alcohol guideline, as I discussed in Food Politics and What to Eat). The guidelines have always been subject to political pressures, but with the agencies writing them, expect even more.
Let's hope the committee's sensible ideas will survive the process. I will be paying close attention to how the 2010 guidelines progress. Stay tuned.
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