The federal government's new dietary guidelines, issued today, are already being criticized. The brunt of the disapprovals focus on the decision by the USDA and HHS to not follow its scientific advisory committee's recommendations to reduce alcohol consumption for men from two drinks per day to one (matching the guidance for women) and cutting added sugar in the diet from 10% to 6% of daily calories. According to the USDA's deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, these recommendations did not meet the "preponderance of the the evidence" standard required by law.
The popular press, including this article from the Wall Street Journal, are suggesting the true motivation for the decision was pressure from food industry groups, who lobbied against the new limits. My fear is that these accusations, which USDA and HHS have denied, will overwhelm the discussion about the new guidelines and cause consumers to ignore the many positives found therein. The new guidelines advise people to eat a diet of primarily fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and poultry, low-fat dairy, seafood, nuts and vegetable oils. They specifically suggest limiting added sugar and alcohol, along with saturated fats and sodium, and staying within recommended calorie limits. These aspects of the new guidelines should be non-controversial and embraced by the public.
My hope is that these messages, which dominate the new guidelines, will not be drowned out by the criticism of the decisions on alcohol and added sugar. Indeed, the guidelines are revised every five years. Perhaps by 2025 the preponderance of the evidence standard will be met and the advisory committee's recommendations will be adopted then. In the meantime, however, consumers should follow the new guidelines and eat a healthy, balanced diet.