Ag Policy Blog

In Defense of New Dietary Guidelines

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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After a year of consternation and fights over this science and that science, most farm groups saw the final 2015 Dietary Guidelines released on Thursday and concluded, "We're good with that."

The guidelines were consistent with the views of most Americans that it's OK to eat food, sometimes too much, mostly meat.

It's even OK to continue moderately drinking alcohol, as the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. pointed out. As the council stated, "The 2015 Guidelines define moderate drinking for adults of legal drinking age as up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. According to the Guidelines, if consumed in moderation, alcohol “can help individuals achieve healthy eating patterns.”

I'm prone to banking those two-drinks per day and compressing them all into one day, but otherwise I'm good.

Still, the guidelines can be confusing for the average American. USDA's website is far more confusing than Michael Pollan's "eat food, not too much, mostly plants" recommendation from "In Defense of Food." The movie, which has ben running PBS, does provide a fascinating overview about how national nutrition standards have changed over the past century.…

One news release that caught me off guard Thursday was from the group Moms Across America, which is outraged that the dietary guidelines do not include any condemnation of biotech crops.

The real debate was over meat and it was saved. This time last year, there as a big hubbub over the scientific advisory committee recommending people reduce eating red and processed meats. The compromise was that the final guidelines recommend eating a broader variety of proteins such as seafood, nuts and beans.

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau, said the group was pleased that leaders at USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services listened to the concerns of farmers. “Dairy and lean meats remain key sources of important nutrients in a healthy, balanced diet. The recommendations for both dairy and protein were unchanged but include guidance in making well-balanced choices for a healthy lifestyle," Stallman said. "These new guidelines give helpful direction while keeping some flexibility for the foods we all enjoy."

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association actually commended two federal agencies in the same news release over the final guidelines. The North American Meat Institute pointed out, "Consumers can continue to enjoy meat and poultry as they do today."

“The Dietary Guidelines confirm that a variety of dietary patterns can be followed to achieve a healthy eating pattern. Consumers who choose to eat meat and poultry, as 95% of Americans do, can continue to enjoy our products as they have in the past,” said Meat Institute President and CEO Barry Carpenter.

The guidelines recommend eating fruits, vegetables, lean meats and other proteins and low-fat dairy products. People should limit "added sugars" to 10% of calories and limit saturated fats to 10% of calories as well. Also, sodium should be limited to under 2,300 milligrams a day.

USA Rice cited its satisfaction that the guidelines recommended the average American adult consume six one-ounce servings of grains daily, with half of those servings coming from whole grains.

Sugar guys aren't happy. As National Public Radio reported, the guidelines translate into recommending a significant reduction of sugar for the average American. "To meet the new 10 percent target, they'd need to cut their sugar intake by nearly half — to no more than 12 teaspoons a day on a 2,000-calorie daily diet," NPR stated.…

The Sugar Association issued a statement, citing the lack of scientific evidence supporting the dietary recommendations. "We maintain these 'added sugars' recommendations will not withstand the scrutiny of a quality, impartial evaluation of the full body of scientific evidence. As with past examples of dietary guidance not based on strong scientific evidence, such as eggs, the 'added sugars' guidance will eventually be reversed. The lack of scientific rigor in this process has and will continue to result in consumer apathy, distrust and confusion."

Snack cakes, cookies and 32-ounce sodas likely will be avenged.

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN.


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