First published in 1980(www.dietaryguidelines.gov) and updated every five years since, the guidelines are a collaborative effort between the Department of Agriculture and HHS. Although the guidelines’ main purpose is to aid in the development of federal food, nutrition and health policies and programs, individual family physicians and other health care professionals can use them to help patients make healthy lifestyle choices, which can reduce the risks for some chronic diseases and improve overall health and well-being.
“Science-based dietary guidance is critical to ensuring a healthy future for America,” said Brandon Lipps, the USDA’s deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, in a news release.(www.fns.usda.gov)
The 2020 report, which was released earlier this month, differs from previous efforts in two regards.
First, the advisory committee used a “lifespan approach” in its evidence review. Whereas previous guidelines emphasized the importance of diet and lifestyle in individuals beginning at 2 years of age, this new approach expanded the committee’s review to examine evidence on the effects of nutrition during pregnancy and in the earliest stages of life.
The advisory committee concluded that, based on the evidence, consuming a nutritious diet during these stages is essential to support healthy growth and development throughout infancy and childhood. As a result, the 2020 report includes two sections that address dietary recommendations for pregnant and lactating women and children as old as 24 months. This marks the first time since the guidelines were established that these specific populations have been discussed.
Second, the committee made dietary patterns a focal point of its 2020 report. The committee wrote that this emphasis acknowledges that people do not consume single foods by themselves, but in combinations that vary over time. The committee also wrote that the various components of a dietary pattern create complex relationships that are better predicters of overall health status and disease risk than individual foods or nutrients.
The report contains one complete chapter on dietary patterns in general and another chapter on USDA food patterns for individuals 2 and older. Other chapters cover specific types of foods and beverages.
Opportunities for Comment
The USDA and HHS are encouraging members of the public — including FPs and other health care professionals — to submit written comments(www.dietaryguidelines.gov) on the scientific report by 11:59 p.m. EDT on Aug. 13.
To ensure the guidelines have a strong foundation in science, emphasis will be placed on comments accompanied by scientific justification, rather than on the number of comments submitted in favor of or in opposition to a topic or conclusion.
Written comments may be submitted electronically(beta.regulations.gov) or mailed to Kristin Koegel, USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Center for Nutrition…