Government’s New Dietary Guidelines Spark Controversy

Photo (cc) by donnierayjones

The federal government’s 2015-2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released Thursday, and health experts already have started criticizing them.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services publish dietary guidelines every five years per federal law that requires them to “be based on the preponderance of current scientific and medical knowledge,” according to the USDA.

Some experts suggest that food industry lobbyists have influenced policymakers, however.

The American Institute for Cancer Research, a nonprofit that researches the link between food and cancer, commended the guidelines’ new limit on sugar intake but expressed concern over the lack of a limit on red meat and processed meat consumption.

Instead, the guidelines recommend simply that Americans “choose lean meats.”

Susan Higginbotham, AICR’s vice president for research and a registered dietitian, says in a news release:

“As an organization dedicated to cancer prevention, we are dismayed to see that the Dietary Guidelines have allowed lobbying efforts to supersede the scientific evidence, when it comes to meat and cancer risk.

“The Dietary Guidelines have a profound and positive health impact on so many children, older adults and families in the U.S.; this failure to embrace decades of research with the potential to save thousands of American lives represents a missed opportunity.”

Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University, tells CBS News that she feels the new guidelines are lacking specifics and that the junk-food industry should consider the guidelines a win:

“Because there’s no direct messaging in the dietary guidelines that says don’t eat junk food, don’t eat processed food, don’t eat meat, don’t drink sodas.”

The Department of Health and Human Services says the updated guidelines are broader than prior versions. The federal agency describes the difference between the 2015-2020 guidelines and prior versions as follows:

While previous editions focused primarily on specific, individual dietary components — such as foods, food groups and nutrients — the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines takes a wider view. It emphasizes overall eating patterns, the combinations of all the foods and drinks that people consume every day.

What’s your take on the federal government’s role in dietary policymaking? Share your thoughts in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

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