Just before 2020 closed out, the 164-page 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) were released by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The purpose of these guidelines, released every five years, is to provide, “advice on what to eat and drink to meet nutrient needs, promote health, and prevent disease”.
From added sugar to alcohol and saturated fat, the latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans fails to provide the best recommendations for human and societal health.
And while most Americans rarely give a thought to the the DGAs when shopping for food or cooking dinner, these guidelines play a critical role in determining which foods are prioritized in all national food programs, including school breakfast and lunch programs and food assistance programs, which provide food for over 70 million Americans a year.[3-5] Understanding how those guidelines are created is therefore critical to understanding how American nutrition policy works (or, as the case may be, fails).
Who Creates the DGAs?
Before the USDA and HHS finalize the DGAs, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee—made up of twenty nutrition and medicine experts—meet to review the latest studies on nutrition and health. This past July, they released The Committee’s Scientific Report summarizing their findings. The USDA and HHS, guided by that report, then create the final DGAs for the public; simply put, top health scientists make evidence-based recommendations to inform how our government gives nutrition advice to Americans. Sounds simple enough, right?
Unfortunately, not so much. By the time the final DGAs are released, there are often large discrepancies between the Advisory report and the guidelines that determine national food programs, and these discrepancies have seriously negative impacts on our health. Here are the big three from the 2020–2025 DGAs:
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