Nutrition Panel Toughens Up on Sugar, Meat, Caffeine
Consumers need to boost their intake of nutrients and reduce their consumption of sugar and saturated fats, according to the recommendations (PDF) submitted Thursday by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory committee to the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture. Health, sustainability, and food safety were addressed in the report, which is updated every five years.
Diet and Nutrition
Sugar has become a direct target in the recommendations. The committee recommends sharp new limits on sugar consumption, and indicated its support of the Food and Drug Administration's proposal to include a line for added sugar on the Nutrition Facts Panel. The report also raises concerns about consumers' intake of salt and saturated fats, as well as foods and beverages high in caffeine, while longstanding guidances on avoiding high-cholesterol foods have been removed.
For the first time, the committee is not only condoning but recommending moderate coffee consumption, though it also warns against over-consumption of caffeine while acknowledging that research on health risks is limited.
Emphasizing broader dietary plans, such as the Mediterranean Diet, over individual nutrients, the committee recognized vegetables and fruit as a primary source of most healthy diets, adding a need for more whole grains, low- or nonfat dairy, seafood, and legumes.
Sustainability and Environment
Defying Congress' directive to ignore environmental factors in its recommendations, as well as critiques from industry groups, the panel asserted its stance on reducing consumption of animal-based proteins and encouraging a diet high in plant-based foods, insisting a focus on sustainable foods is ultimately beneficial for the dietary health and well-being of consumers. Seafood escaped the meat critique, but was recognized for its own environmental issues as the panel acknowledged a need for both wild-caught and farm-raised fish operations.
In an analysis of food environment, recommendations include increasing access to healthy foods in conjunction with nutrition education programs, and reducing access to high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods and beverages.
The government's advisory committee includes medical and nutrition experts, whose recommendations are influential in guidances and regulations on federally subsidized programs, such as school lunches, food product labels, and more.
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